A Junior Achievement classroom volunteer for the past nine years, Nick Colletti gets a kick out of seeing young students’ eyes light up when they learn a new concept. Colletti has served on Junior Achievement of Central Iowa’s board since 2005, and he recently was selected to succeed Peter Cownie as president of the nonprofit organization. He moved back to Greater Des Moines from Chicago in 2004 as a national sales manager with Xerox Corp., where he had started his career. Most recently, he was assistant vice president for sales leadership with Clive-based NCMIC Group Inc. 

How did you get involved with Junior Achievement?  

I had moved here from Chicago in 2004 as a national accounts manager with Xerox. One of my biggest accounts was Meredith Corp. My primary contact there, Brad Wyckoff, was on the board for JA and encouraged me to serve on the board. And six years ago, I got to co-chair the largest fundraiser for JA, which is their Junior Achievement Golf Classic. In that six-year period, we’ve averaged $150,000 per year.

How did you come to compete for this position? 

Peter Cownie asked me if I knew anybody we could get on our short list. I said I couldn’t think of anybody but I’d keep it in mind. ... After thinking about it over lunch that day, I called him up and told him, “What if I told you that I’d be interested in finding out more about the position?” ... I think the advantage that I had when my name came forward was the continuity – I knew the staff here in the office and they knew me. They knew how hard I worked in the classroom and the golf outing. 

What’s the status of the organization? 

Several years ago, we had really experienced a valley, some real tough times. Peter (Cownie) took us out of that valley and got us to a place where we’re not drowning in red ink; we’re in the black. But we had the support of business leaders who see our mission, all those messages we give to kids in school, and they embrace that. They want us to continue delivering that message. We have a wonderful board; it’s unbelievable how supportive these guys are.

How did you initially get into sales? 

I was a journalism major at Drake, and loved it, but it was tough sledding when I graduated and there just weren’t a lot of jobs. As a matter of fact, I think I had just one journalism job offer, and it was for $5.50 an hour on the production staff of the 6 and 10 o’clock news at WEEK-TV in Peoria. Long story short, three of my fraternity brothers worked for Xerox Corp. and said, “You have to work for this company.” ... So I got a job with Xerox in Des Moines. 

What did Xerox teach you about sales?

If there’s anything Xerox taught me, it’s all about process; it’s about having plans, goals and objectives and doing those kinds of activities that will lead directly to the desired outcomes for sales success. ... And the things I learned at Drake about communication really helped me – I learned a ton and apply it in my job every day. 

What grades do you enjoy volunteering with the most? 

I’ve done the curriculum for grades one through seven. But I keep getting asked back by this core group of teachers for second and third grade. Those kids are terrific. The second-graders learn about things like why assembly-line production is faster than unit production, and JA puts it in a context that the kids just love (making pretend doughnuts). Their eyes light up, and they go home and tell their parents about it. They love it. 

Do you plan to continue as a classroom volunteer? 

I’m already signed up multiple times. I love doing it, and now, it’s going to be part of my workday. If a teacher says, “I can only do this at 2 in the afternoon,” I can go do it now. 

What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time? 

I love watching my kids in their activities and sports. My eighth-grader, Mark, is a big hockey player. In the winter, we’re heading out most weekends going to his tournaments in various cities. My son Trevor is all basketball; he’s on the sophomore team at Valley, and he’s on an AAU select team in the summer that travels all over. So going to all their activities dominates both my wife’s and my schedule. Personally, I love to play golf, and our golf outing is of course part of the reason for that.