Ocean Palmer is the pen name of Denver-based author, speaker, and internationally known sales leadership coach Ted Simendinger. He has taught, coached, and lectured all around the world.
The nom de plume, he says, was born of necessity: “When your legal name is Theodore John Simendinger III, it takes a long time just to read a title page.
“Ten or so years ago my agent was shopping The Rise and Fall of Piggy Church as a potential movie project and suggested I use a pen name. ‘Ocean Palmer’ came to mind instantly — it was catchy and easy to remember — so now I use it for most of what I write.”
Born in Philadelphia and raised in Severna Park, Maryland, Ocean Palmer left home at 17 to attend a small private college (Jacksonville University) in northeast Florida. A business major with a triple minor — psychology, economics, and marketing — he worked his way through school as a full-time meat-cutter for southern grocery chain Winn-Dixie.
“That job saved my college career,” he said. “Our freshman biology final consisted of finding blood vessels and organs in the split open corpse of a fetal pig. I had no clue where that stuff was — but I did know how to dismember a pig. I cut him up just like you’d see him in the grocery store: teenie-weenie pork chops, tiny spare ribs, miniature hams — you name it.
“When the bell rang I was a bit scared to turn it in, but knew my choice was to sell it or flunk. So I smiled a big smile and proudly presented the tray and dissected piglet to my professor. I didn’t lie about why I cut him up, either.
“’I don’t know where that stuff is you were asking for,’” I said, “‘but I do know how a pig is put together.’
“Lucky for me, he loved it. We cut a deal: He would give me a “C” if I promised never to take science again. We shook on it, I fled gleefully, and kept my word. Never again set foot on that part of campus.”
Ocean graduated on time with a general business degree and triple minor and returned home to Annapolis to work for The Capital, the city’s daily newspaper. Virtually nothing he had studied transferred to the job.
“Great fun, no money,” he said. “Poverty is the newspaperman’s shadow. Took a pay cut from being a butcher — a tradesman — in order to be almost famous. Fed the ego but not the tummy. Monetarily, it was a typical C student move.”
The son of a salesman, Ocean quickly tired of being almost famous but always broke and decided to pursue a corporate career. He returned to Florida and joined Xerox Corporation.
“I wanted to work for someone who was the best in the world at what they did; and I was lucky enough to get two offers at the same time, Xerox and Johnson & Johnson. J & J warned they’d relocate me often — which didn’t appeal to me since I was trying to mend an unmendable relationship with a former girlfriend.
“I went with Xerox. The company taught me the profession of selling. But Xerox forgot to mention the relocation thing … and moved me six weeks after I started, from Jacksonville down to Ocala in central Florida. The move didn’t bother me because I planned on working with them for only a year or two. The idea was to make enough to quickly return to writing.
“But one year turned into twenty, and one move turned into five. I had fun, learned a ton, and earned a wonderful living. My career path proved to be a marvelous learning lab — I am an inquisitive man who loves and respects the profession of high-performance selling. I was innately curious how talent evolved. I especially enjoyed working with and learning from some extraordinary talents.”
Ocean had an outstanding Xerox career, including a year as Xerox’s #1 salesman. He was also selected to be a senior sales instructor at the company’s prestigious international training center in Leesburg, Virginia and twice sent overseas.
“That job (teaching) was priceless. Like any smart instructor I learned more from my students than the curriculum shared.I also learned how the company built its escalator of great sales talent. I was and remain relentlessly curious about high performance salespeople, and maximized every opportunity to learn how Xerox, IBM, and other top companies transformed raw potential into role model professionals and producers.
“Two years after taking that training center job, I exited back out into the field a far stronger professional.”
Ocean returned to field leadership and orchestrated many of the corporation’s largest outsourcing contracts. He remained tied to teaching — he was a key member of the training organization’s advisory faculty — and re-wrote much of the sales school curriculum.
“I always seek a better way,” he said. “The market moves and what works moves, so companies have a choice: They can proactively adapt and stay one step ahead, or maintain the status quo and fall behind. Selling is not a static, stationary profession. What it takes to win morphs. High performance selling rewards strategic progress in objective, measurable ways. This is tenfold-true today. It is the movement of the marketplace — the positioning, repositioning, and evolution of behavioral change and influence — that inspires everything I do.”
Ocean left Xerox in 2000 to go out on his own.
“Two things hastened my exit,” he said. “One was that the corporation’s C-level execs got caught cooking the books for personal gain. Their greed-over-ethics behaviors were distasteful, to put it mildly. Not long after I was in Hawaii when a co-worker shot and killed seven of nine at a team meeting. It was a human tragedy of the greatest degree, and one that affected me a lot more than I thought at the time.
“Because of that horrible day — and what I learned about the shooter’s life in the months that followed — I knew it was time for me to go. I walked away at the height of my career because I saw a big gap that I felt passionate about filling. Corporations trained workers to perform work-related tasks, but seemed negligent developing the whole person. I left Xerox and went out on my own, determined to gap-close those two.
“Leaving the protectionist umbrella of a guaranteed check and big money is not for everyone. But I didn’t see it as a choice, I saw it as the next stage of life. So I invested three years researching and preparing the necessary intellectual property to fill the life skills behavioral gap I was driven to pursue. From that day to this, all of my research, ideas and innovation, and concept development have been targeted at using life skills as a bridge to better business and living.
“Life skills melded to pro selling is the heart, soul, and uniqueness of my work. The support of this approach is why companies choose to hire me.”
Ocean has coached, taught, and lectured on five continents and spent four years working throughout all of Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.
“Sales depends on influencing behavior. But in order to teach someone how to influence behavior, he or she must know what causes it in the first place. In order to assure global relevance, I distilled key learning concepts into universal behavioral truths.
“The reason for writing and teaching this way is vital: I seek the highest possible “stick rate” in everything I teach — the ‘stick rate’ being the maximization of retention and application. Irrelevant things go in one ear and out the other, never pausing to stop. I want the life skills to go in the eyes and ears and then turn north to the mind and south to the heart. When those two things — head and heart — are aligned, life gets easier. And when life gets easier, life gets better.
“To maximize the stick rate I emphasize the “why.” I explain why some things work and other things won’t. Since I ground key learning principles in a life skill context, when something is relevant, you will embrace it. And when you do something in your real life, you bring it to work. What I suspected has proven to be true: This is a smarter, better approach.
“When you teach concepts that help people grow — and that growth lifts a global sales force — there is no more fulfilling profession. The energy around positive change is exhilarating. Help a sales professional improve and he or she stays better forever; and the same holds true for others, whether they sell or not. Positive, self-motivated motors power careers and help sustain high quality results.”
In his spare time Ocean enjoys fishing, dabbles in Thoroughbred horse breeding, reads and writes, plays an occasional round of golf, and invests a significant amount of time in charity work. An organization he founded in 1991 has raised and donated over $1.6+ million to a wide variety of needy charities.
“Helping others makes me feel good,” he says. “So does writing. I write every day in some form or another, usually in support of behavioral concepts that relate to positive living and professional selling.
“But I am also a storyteller and love to write strong characters, which are usually based on blends of people I’ve met. These enable me to balance my work life by creating fictional characters and positive, multicultural stories with happy endings because that’s the way I want the world to be. I simply want people to get along, and be happy.
“Words are a salesman’s tools,” he says. “Words are very important. The more I write, the better I am able to use words and express ideas. Reading and writing are equally important to high-performance salespeople. Command of the language provides multiple options when it comes time to expressing a clever or differentiated idea.”
Three of Ocean’s books have been optioned for movie development, as has an original screenplay set in London. In 2010 he was honored as one of Jacksonville University’s “75 Distinguished Dolphins” and lectures there to both English and business classes. The award was bestowed in conjunction with the school’s 75th anniversary, when JU recognized 75 alumni perceived to add value to the school brand while demonstrating a high level of professional success and personal integrity.
“I am a relentlessly positive guy who enjoys making people laugh,” he said. “It was an honor to be recognized by my college for a career built around doing what I love to do. The company they put me in is humbling, to say the least.”
In 2015, the university announced he will be inducted onto the business college’s Wall of Fame, and hopes his success will help inspire the next generation of business and community leaders.
“I live a happy life,” he added. “All of it — coaching, teaching, consulting, or crafting a good speech — inspires personal growth. I am fortunate to earn a living chasing things I am passionate about, and generating global friendships with people I admire tremendously.
“Pro selling is a great and honorable way to earn a living because it is fair. It is color blind, gender blind, and age-blind. All selling cares about is whether or not you can do it. Selling rewards those who invest in themselves and their profession. It is an honor to support such a wonderfully honorable way to earn a living.”
Ocean Palmer’s life skills guide “Managing the Worry Circle (How to Improve Your Life by Worrying Less)” has maintained tremendous popularity since its release during the bottom of the recession. The follow book to Worry Circle, titled “The Impact of Technology on Behavior & Happiness,” was released in late summer, 2016. He has continued research in this field, especially as it relates to coaching Millennials, and has contributed a scientific whitepaper on the topic.
“I wrote both books to help people,” he said, “and I am tremendously proud to say the work has. Both have legs of continued interest and seem destined to keep doing so. People from all walks of life around the world have learned to better understand how their heads work en route to discovering a quicker path to personal happiness. And since technology has reshaped behaviors — and political opinion — so remarkably, the insight I explain in “The Impact” provides clarity in explanation that is vital to know and share.
“Because the work helps others so much, sharing these life skills around the world makes me tremendously happy.”