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Channel Colleagues Mourn The Loss Of Ken Norberg: ‘He Had A Positive Impact On Everyone He Knew’

Norberg, a sales star for Atrion and Carousel Industries, is being remembered as a ‘legend’ for his kind nature and ‘strength of character.’

Ken Norberg—a longtime sales star in the IT channel who was beloved for his radiant personality and willingness to go the extra mile for others—died on July 29. He was 55.

Norberg had spent two decades at prominent Rhode Island-based solution providers in a variety of sales roles. That included 17 years at Warwick, R.I.-based Atrion, followed by three years with Atrion’s acquirer, Exeter, R.I.-based Carousel Industries.

After joining Atrion in 2000, Norberg helped to transform the culture of the company at a pivotal moment—just as the solution provider was shifting from a traditional reseller into a more services-oriented provider, said Tim Hebert, who was president and CEO of Atrion.

“Ken, by his nature, helped create that culture,” Hebert said. “The team absolutely loved working with Ken. It didn’t matter what role you were in—whether you were in finance or inside sales support or fulfillment, or any back-office role—Ken treated everyone as equal and part of the process. He really helped us usher in that new phase and culture.”

Hebert recounted an occasion in the summer of 2003 when Atrion held a team-building exercise, with activities including a difficult ropes course. Norberg instantly took the lead on helping his teammates, ultimately leading the group to success. More so than many in the sales profession, Norberg was always “focused on teamwork.”

“When we’d have a new salesperson come in, Ken would be the person who would help take those people under his wing and coach them, mentor them, and be there for advice on a deal,” Hebert said. “He’d even help new salespeople by giving them accounts and helping them get started. No one ever asked him to do that. He just did it, because that’s the person he was.”

Since sales “can be a highly individual sport, it was a really remarkable trait to see,” Hebert said.

Linda Marty, a sales professional who worked with Norberg at Atrion from 2000 to 2008, recalled him as a “wonderful, full-of-life kind of guy.”

“His aura kind of radiated out to everybody. He just had a positive outlook and was always willing to help,” Marty said. “We used to have company functions and he was always the life of the party. Always.”

Norberg also stood out with his commitment to customers, she said.

“His customers loved him. … He was top [in] sales through the majority of the time that I was there,” Marty said. “He was just a great guy and really cared about what he did. Some salespeople have the notion that they’re just there to make the sale and let it go. He didn’t have that attitude. He made sure that he took care of things from start to finish.”

Hebert recalls originally recruiting Norberg after seeing how effective he was at Atrion competitor Network Six—and getting a sense of his strong character.

“He was just one of those guys that had a strength of character that you wanted to be around. And that’s what really drew me to him,” Hebert said. “As I worked with him more, I realized it was more than just the strength of character. One of the challenges I found early in my career at Atrion was finding salespeople that knew how to solutions-sell. There were a lot of salespeople out there that were really good product salespeople, but they couldn’t sell full solutions. And Ken had a natural ability to do that.”

A few years into his time at Atrion, Norberg was promoted from account manager to what the company called an executive partner—a “high-end sales role, where it’s really creating a partnership with the senior executive team at customers,” Hebert said. “He worked very closely with me to help our entire sales team migrate to become more like him in the sales role.”

During Norberg’s tenure, Atrion grew from about $17 million in annual revenue to about $170 million in annual revenue, Hebert said, leading to the acquisition by Carousel in October 2016.

After Norberg joined Carousel—serving there as senior executive partner—Carousel Chief Revenue Officer Jim Marsh said he “quickly heard a lot about ‘this legend Ken Norberg.’”

“When I finally had the chance to meet him, I immediately saw this large man with a deep voice that could command a room effortlessly,” Marsh said. “I got to know Ken, and what I learned is that he was indeed a legend simply because of the person he was most naturally. He was thoughtful, inclusive and always wanted to help people—it didn’t matter who you were, what title you held, your level of influence or your stature in life.”

Nancy Contillo, chief human resources officer at Carousel, said she had known Norberg since high school—and said he was “very much the same Ken we all know today” even from a young age.

“Same big smile, voice and hug,” Contillo said. “He was the life of the party, a man of great integrity, and just one of kindest people I have ever met. He had immense love for his family and friends, and he truly leaves a gaping hole in so many hearts.”

Norberg is survived by his wife, Adrienne; his children Kenneth Gregory Norberg, Alycia Mae Norberg, Ericka Jeanne Norberg and Dara Rose Arpin; two grandchildren; and five siblings.

Favorite pastimes included activities around the water, such as visiting the beach and scuba diving, and spending time with friends and family.

“He was a phenomenal father, grandfather, husband, family man. Everything he did was for his family, at the end of the day,” Hebert said.

Hebert last spoke with Norberg three weeks before his death. During the chat, the conversation turned to the question of legacy.

“One of the comments that he made to me was, ‘I’ve worked so hard to get to where I am in life. I’ve been very successful. I’m very happy with all the things that I’ve accomplished—both on my personal and professional level. But what I really want to do now is work on my legacy,’” Hebert said, recalling the conversation. “My comment back to him was, ‘Ken, don’t discount the legacy you’ve already created.’”

Ultimately, “the legacy that Ken created, and that he lived every day, was that he had a positive impact on everyone he knew—everyone he came in contact with,” Hebert said. “He made it his mission to have that positive impact.”

“And that’s how I remember Ken—as that person that wanted to make a difference, wanted to help people, wanted to see people succeed.”

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