May 11, 2017
UAB Fiesta Ball Banner May 11, 2017

Paul Zani remembers the moment like it was yesterday.

He was in a Sales 101 class at UAB one day in the late 1980s, in front of a video camera, making a product pitch in front of classmates and the professor.

And he was good at it. In fact, he was great at it.

“That one experience gave me confidence that there was a path to success for me,” he recalls.

The path led to a long career with Bard Medical, where he leads the division that sells Foley catheters. With a team of 90 employees charged with growing sales of a 100 year old product, Zani still seeks to feel challenged every day, an attitude that keeps him as energized as he was the day he found his niche back in Sales 101.

The only child of a single mother, Zani grew up in Birmingham, and found his first success running cross-country for John Carroll Catholic High School. His coach was a UAB student athlete who thought he had talent; that led to a meeting with the UAB track coach, who signed him on a scholarship.

“That meant I would be debt-free at graduation, which I knew would make a lot of other things possible,” he says. “I valet-parked cars at Bottega and Highlands Bar & Grill to pay for books, room and board. I did a lot of networking parking cars; in fact, that’s how I met my wife. I parked her car at Bottega.”

His first career plan was to become a chiropractor. “After college chemistry and biology, no way,” he says with a laugh. “I had no idea what else to do, but defaulted to marketing, and then I took that sales class.

“Running had taught me three things: To begin with the end in mind, which makes you set a loftier goal and stay focused on it. To make sure you can accept feedback, and to evaluate yourself against yourself, not others. And finally, to stay uncomfortable and push yourself. And then I learned to apply those principles to a different kind of challenge – to my career.”

Some 24 years later, Zani and his wife, Donna, who live in Franklin, Tenn., with their four children, made a gift – matched by Bard Medical -- to name one of three Sales Role Play Rooms in the new Collat School of Business. The Betty B. Zani Sales Role Play Room is named for his mother.

Used in classes such as Professional Selling Principles and Advanced Selling, the rooms will be equipped with video cameras to record and stream video back into a sales leadership classroom for real-time analysis and feedback. Top sales professionals will provide real-world feedback as the program strives to model the marketplace.

“The role play rooms are the war rooms – where you master your craft before you go out into the real world,” Zani says. “Having outside specialists help evaluate and critique the presentation not only helps the students with their skills, but provides networking that leads to jobs after graduation.

“I’ve visited the school and spoken to classes, and I’m inspired by how the professors are connecting with students,” he adds. “I see great mentoring happening – innovative thinking and a sense of community, a focus on helping students find their purpose, figure out what they’re good at, and learn how to think. I find that worthy of investment.”

To support Collat School of Business: David I. Allen, 205.996.5399; diallen@uab.edu