Mike Petrocelli is a 1984 graduate of Lexington Christian Academy. An athlete at LCA, Mike won the first George Durwood Award for Male Athlete of the Year in 1984. After graduating from LCA, Mike went on to Eastern Nazarene College before transferring to Gordon College where he earned his B.A. in Sociology. He owns Petrocelli Marketing, which he opened with his dad Rico Petrocelli (former Red Sox short stop and third baseman). Mike also recently started a new a staffing firm, Petrocelli Workforce Solutions.
What brought you to LCA?
When you grow up as the son of a famous person, you can end up as a pretty confused kid!
I was heading down the wrong path in the town that I lived in. I was searching for myself and asking “who am I?” I know who my father is and so does everyone else, but who am I? Who am I becoming?” Thank the Lord, literally, that I was able to come here. My parents sent me here because they saw me going down this bad path. I struggled here too but finally the Lord got a hold of me. I heard a clear choice and I accepted Him as my Lord and Savior. From there on, there’s a different path and the heart changes. This is where it started for me.
The teachers put everything they had into teaching. They took the time to talk to you. A lot of people laid the groundwork for my faith here. Chapels helped me to see how people lived out their Christian faith out in the real world. I ended up accepting Christ at a Billy Graham crusade and laying it all down and saying “Lord, I have really messed up, take my life, I can’t get through without you.”
Do you ever look back on any particular experience at LCA that shaped who you are?
Yes, Kenneth McCowan was tough as nails. It was tough love but he prepared me for college in ways I needed because my dad had a very unconventional career path. I’ll never forget Mr. McCowan’s heart for kids. He really shaped a lot of people and he was a tremendous influence on me.
I started playing basketball here, which little did I know would be the platform to get me to college and play all four years. I was greatly mentored and influenced by my coaches here—Josh McPherson ’78, Reg Henley ’69 and Paul Rouse ’68. When you grow up like I did, there’s gravitation toward anybody who is real. There’s always people who want to hang out with you because of who your dad is but these guys were really genuine.
How did you get into sales?
I took a job with John Hancock Life Insurance right after college. I found that I liked sales but that there was a major difference between intangible and tangible sales. I found our pretty quickly that intangible sales were not the way for me. I then went and ran a sandwich shop for a year. Each of these experiences didn’t work out for me but they helped me learn how to run a small business and manage people. Following the sandwich shop, I started with a company selling hardwood floors at the wholesale level. This gave me experience in distribution and dealing with distributors.
What is the story behind Petrocelli Marketing?
My dad and I had always talked about starting a business together and he decided he wanted to start a promotion business in 1999. I didn’t feel like I could leave my current job yet but I helped get it started. He ran the business for about 2 years without me but we’d meet after hours and discuss strategy. From March through October he would be busy with baseball and he was doing so well with the new business that it was time to hire the first employee. The business was then doing so well that it looked like I could leave my job and start officially working for him. I had to take a major pay cut but I was confident we would do well and be successful. Around 2007 he handed it off to me. We’ve had our ups and downs with the economy crashing but we’ve come back to where we were before the crash and we’re seeing a huge amount of growth. And because I’m crazy, I’ve just started a new company with a partner called Petrocelli Workforce Solutions. It’s a staffing firm but I really can’t take all the credit. My partner has done a great job and I give him a huge amount of credit for our success.
How has your name influenced your business opportunities?
The name is great but it’s not as great as people may believe. Your name may get you in the door but it doesn’t matter who you are, you need to follow through to be able to stay in the game and the conversation. I’ve never gone into a meeting or a sale and told people who my father is because that doesn’t make my business better than the next guy's. You’re only as good as your relationships and your approach. We’ve always been about people and service.
How does being a Christian in a secular workforce influence what you do?
I have been asked to do things that shock me, like doctoring invoices. I will not do that, even if it means losing thousands of dollars, because it always catches up with you. It’s all about the integrity that Jesus showed us. He stayed the course until the very end, and He has promised to never leave us or forsake us. It’s living out your faith, knowing that He will guide and honor the promises He made to His children. My dad walked that walk and that is what equals success in life. Jesus is the REAL hero that all of us should be proud to follow!