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  • Writer's pictureHeather Petrone

Behind the Scenes Spotlight with Senior Project Manager, Jeff Phillips

Updated: Sep 28, 2023

If you told Jeff Phillips many years ago that he’d be working in retail merchandising and growing strong partnerships with one of the top drug stores in the nation, he probably wouldn’t believe you. You see, in college, Jeff had his sights set on working in speech pathology, however, the moment he started working with children, he realized he had zero patience for it. So, he went into marketing and fell in love with the people-side of the business after he landed a job with Osco Drug. Jeff moved around several places across the country and in 1989 he joined Prism Retail Services based in the Chicago area. He was in charge of the Midwest and Eastern regions and then another opportunity arrived where he focused on building relationships with clients. Jeff loves people, and soon he knew everyone in the field and corporate. Because of his curious and extroverted nature, he became SVP of client services, however, the company was acquired by Footprint Retail. The environment really changed and so he only stayed there another 2 years since he no longer felt a match with the company. Shortly after, he met former CEO and Apollo Chairman, Mike Sunderland at a NARMS conference. Mike asked Jeff what he could bring to the Apollo business and Jeff uttered a big drug store retailer's name. Mike kind of chuckled and said, “A lot of people say that.” Jeff replied, “No I can do it – I’m you’re guy.” Jeff said “We pitched to a former client who was a friend of mine and the rest is history.” Jeff has been with Apollo since 2016 and really relishes in in trying to grow more revenue. “It’s kind of how I’m wired,” he said, “I can’t not push our business and we’ve been successful with this account.”

When I asked him what skillsets he has that has really helped him thrive in his career, Jeff replied, “I believe I have an innate ability to figure out and navigate people. What makes them tick. It’s curiosity, and I pay attention to queues. I also have an incredible memory and I like developing the relationships with people because it fits who I am.” Jeff really loves the people-side of the business, but he realizes people come with issues. "It’s never boring, and I really love being part of a team," he said. Jeff also stated he loves finding common ground with people as well. When he met with the new Apollo CEO, Chris Olivier, through a Teams call, they both figured out that they have dogs named “Lulu.” Jeff perked up and said, “Lulu meet Lulu,” picking up his little pug.

It's easy to tell Jeff really craves community, and since he lives alone and works remotely, he loves to get on camera and see faces. He said, “You feel like you’re a bigger part of something when you can see people’s faces. I want to look into people’s eyes and feel human.” When I asked where he got his people skills, Jeff said his parents. “My parents were both curious. My dad managed people and I modeled him. I loved to see how they responded to him.” Jeff said it really comes natural to him. “I enjoy the puzzle of figuring people out – slowly putting it all together. What triggers them, and a lot of it is their childhood and something not fitting then and it continues to trigger when that one thing is broken. I like to figure out that piece of it and help people through it. I like to say ‘thank you’ and I really do appreciate people. Rarely do I send an email that doesn’t say thank you. It literally is heartfelt when I talk to clients and reps.” He went on to further say, “When I look a rep in the eye and I say thank you for what you’re doing sometimes they freeze. Our world is so busy sometimes people don’t take the time. It’s so important.”

When I asked Jeff what he thinks the difference is between a manager and leader, he said, “A manager puts the pieces together. A leader inspires to make those pieces work. To me the key is to connect with people, ask them about their life, recognize them for things that have happened in their life, and inspire them to be greater.”

One take away I really learned from Jeff is that curiosity and appreciation are essential ingredients in the recipe for building strong and meaningful relationships. Curiosity fosters a genuine interest in getting to know someone on a deeper level, encouraging open conversations and the discovery of shared interests and values. It demonstrates an eagerness to learn from and about the other person, which can lead to greater empathy and understanding. On the other hand, appreciation reinforces the positive aspects of a relationship, making individuals feel valued and cherished. When we express gratitude and admiration for the people in our lives, it strengthens the emotional bonds and encourages a more positive and harmonious connection. Together, curiosity and appreciation create a foundation of trust, connection, and mutual respect that is vital for the growth and longevity of any relationship whether business or personal.

If you’d like the opportunity to work with Jeff on your store’s project, feel free to email us at Looking for merchandising work? Reach out to a recruiter at Be sure to check out our next hiring event Tuesday Sept. 26 from 9a-5p. More information can be found on our career page!

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