I started in the business about twelve years ago as a welcoming service, just going around welcoming people into their new homes. Then one of the merchants who we welcomed people for needed an item to give away, so after several requests, I finally offered to get some yardsticks for him. I had a bad deal from the specialty advertising distributor who I went to; it really got to me. He misquoted time, cost, and shipping, just about everything. So I figured that if he could stay in business running it like that, then there had to be room in the business for a guy who at least tried to be honest. I started out working for this distributor who made me so mad. I was doing the selling, getting my product through him, and getting a sales discount. I actually lost money on that harder and probably half of the first fifty orders that we turned. Because of this, I went through a couple of other firms that were giving a much better discount. I finally started going direct to the supplier companies.
Advertising Specialty Institute. This is a profit-making organization that supplies a comprehensive catalogue of items for the industry and assigns supplier numbers.
I started out working summers when I was eighteen. When one of my uncles retired from the business, I acquired his accounts and started writing the direct mail pieces and handling some of the catalogue work, but that was after being here four or five years. I grew up with it. Everywhere I went to school, my dad always sold pencils to the school to pay a part of my tuition. He used to take me to trade shows when I was a little kid.
Q - What are your responsibilities?
A - I am vice-president of sales. Because we are a small company, I end up doing anything and everything. I load freight if necessary. For instance, right now I have an order for forty clock radios for a bank. When the order comes in, I've got to take the radios out of the boxes, attach a plate with the bank's logo on it, repackage them, and put them on freight so they can go out to individual customers for the bank. And because it is sort of complicated, I will probably end up doing the invoicing too. I try to spend as much time out of the office as I can, because I tend to get tied up on the telephones a good bit. We do depend on a lot of our business being repeat business. For instance, when I sell calendars to a bank, I hope I don't have to go through the two-day process of having them pick out a new calendar every year. I try to make my time count with the repeat business, so I can go out and canvas some new customers. This week I've probably had fifty appointments.
Primarily a specialty advertising distributor represents a number of companies that have products available; generally any tangible product that can carry an imprinted message. I would say most distributors are buying merchandise from factories and are selling it in turn to their customers or clients. A few companies are developing into a total sales promotion or marketing type of company that can do more for the client. They become more of an addition to a corporate marketing or advertising staff.
Playing golf? No! Basically, if I am not writing business, I am working on promotional deals or promotional items or looking for ways to further enhance the marketing of my particular client's products. I am looking for particular items or doing research. I'm constantly studying about our industry. I may be putting together a flyer for a particular account, working on a logo design, or just looking for new suppliers who have a particular product that will enhance my client's image. I handle the chores of being president-signing checks, making decisions, buying fielding complaints, and writing correspondence. So most of my time I spent on the overall picture of the company. I also write about 45 percent of the company's business.
I am in a very fortunate position in that I make very few cold calls. We are an established firm. We have been in business over seventy years now and have a very good reputation. A lot of our manufacturer: send us leads where the customer has already expressed an interest. We know that we can just go in, and, although we may not get that particular item, we know that they are aware of who we are and what we are doing. Customers call us with a particular need, and, from that point on, they really give us latitude. I would hate to think that with our industry as flexible as it is, someone would come to us and say, "I want this item," without even hearing us out concerning what else is available, because there is so much that is available. What they may be suggesting may be all well and good, but it may be ten years old.