While entertainers celebrate their work on awards shows televised nationally, the business world has similar honors — albeit with a little less fanfare. One of the top distinctions is a Stevie Award, which recently was won by a 2005 Naperville Central High School graduate.
Roger Zhang, 26, was recognized in a ceremony Feb. 21 in Las Vegas as a Gold Winner and Sales Representative of the Year for his work in sales and marketing at SurePayroll Inc. The company provides online payroll services for businesses throughout the country.
Zhang said winning a “Stevie” award has been a big boost to his confidence and has helped stretch the limits of what he hopes to achieve.
“I’d like to be a leader or management role in the next five years,” he said.
The Stevie Awards organization coordinates several of the world’s leading business awards shows annually, including the International Business Awards.
More than 100 members of seven specialized judging committees determined the Gold, Silver, and Bronze Stevie Award placements from among the finalists.
“Given that the pool from which winners were selected, it makes this award even more significant,” said Jason Copeland, a 1992 graduate from North Centra, who has managed Roger for the past few years. “The thing that distinguishes him is his work ethic . He’s driven and tenacious, and he wants to be the absolute best at what he does.”
Copeland also recognized his protégé’s ability to generate more business by getting referrals through customers Zhang already has served.
“Roger has generated about 1,200 new customers in the past 2 ½ years, which is amazing given the economy,” Copeland said. “He’s been very easy to manage and is very methodical about what he does.”
Zhang’s relatively short work history began after attending the University of Illinois in Champaign, where he earned a degree in business administration and marketing. He worked a few sales jobs where he sold Internet advertising by cold calling businesses around the county before landing his job with SurePayroll.
“This job appealed to me because the results are based on how hard you work, and the more you put into it — the better the results,” Zhang said.
He also said that he never saw the economy as a barrier to his own success.
“In terms of the business and referrals I’ve been to be able to generate the last few years, I never saw the ‘outside’ influences as any excuse,” he said. “No matter what was going on, I’ve been focused on what I wanted to do and have not let the ‘outside’ affect the game plan. I’ve kept setting goals, which have helped me achieve success.”
Zhang, who now lives in Des Plaines, said he was groomed by his parents to work hard.
“I believe that living here in Naperville has probably had the biggest impact in terms of what I have accomplished so far,” Zhang said. “All of the teachers I had wanted us to be the best and the quality of education was great.
“My parents also stressed the mentality of not being ‘entitled’ to certain things, but that if you work hard, you deserve what you get.”