Q: How did you discover the promo products industry?
A: In the late ’80s when we had 20 forms salespeople in rural areas of Minnesota, North and South Dakota and Iowa, I asked a local competitor who was selling only promo to join the American Family. I stressed to our print sales associates that we needed to learn about promo products because of their marketing and branding value. Promo products were like “walking billboards.” Promo is now about 40% of American’s total sales.
Q: What’s the best part of your job?
A: Now as CEO and Chairman of the Board, I can focus on what I’ve always loved about our industry and our “unique American model” – that being relationships and opportunities.
Q: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career?
A: Everything begins and ends with the face in the mirror, so focus on your world and try to leave wherever you are or whatever you’re doing in a better place than when you found it. My father’s advice was to “do the right things for the right reasons, because the only thing of real value that you can pass on to your family is a good name.”
Q: What’s your proudest accomplishment?
A: Being blessed with a 50-year marriage and 40 years in our industry creating American’s unique hybrid model as an employee-owned company. I’m proud to be recognized representing American.
Q: What’s your best advice?
A: Find your American dream and pursue it. America is still the best country to live and work in, but we all have our own dream. Find your niche and “plan your work and work your plan.”
Q: Biggest industry trend in the next five years?
A: Continued industry consolidation and integration with end-user customers and manufacturers to provide the e-commerce one-stop-shop site solution.
Q: What’s the most interesting thing about working in promo?
A: The variety of product solutions, which evolve and change constantly.
Q: What’s one thing the industry needs to do a better job with?
A: We need to standardize a process to help simplify how distributors and suppliers integrate with each other.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
A: Survive and share the “American story.”
GUILTY PLEASURE: Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon
CELEBRITY: Harrison Ford
VACATION SPOT: Lake Tahoe
FOOD: Thin crust sausage onion mushroom pizza