As part of Print+Promo’s ongoing feature, Executive Perspectives, we get to know a leading professional in the print and promotional industry. This month, we talked to Bruce A. Reed, president and CEO of Stouse LLC, New Century, Kan. Read on as Reed talks strategy, technology investments and the importance of giving back.
How did you first get started in this industry, and what path did you take to land in your current role?
Bruce A. Reed: In 2005, Bary Marquardt and Will Lewis [hired me] to be the chief operating officer [of Stouse LLC] and run the day-to-day operations. With my degrees in engineering and business administration, and a background in running business units for a large company, it was a good fit. It was a great experience to work with and learn about the industry from true entrepreneurs who had grown the business from a handful of employees and minimal sales to what it is now. In November 2015, the company was purchased by a private equity firm in conjunction with management.
How do you set goals for yourself? For your business?
BAR: My personal goals have been driven by the desire to have a positive impact on others, and I also try not to focus on things that are out of my control. I believe that setting goals for a business is much more difficult. To be successful, you must start with a well-defined strategic vision that is communicated and understood by the entire organization. Our goals are short-term, easily measurable and meaningful for each group in the company. We have quarterly incentive plans, which are based on growth and quality measures.
How does the economy continue to affect the industry?
BAR: The economy obviously has a big impact on the industry, but we can’t just rely on a strong economy to be the driver of our growth. As a supplier, we are challenged by change and we must be innovative. Whether it is new products, more efficient production, higher quality standards or embracing technology, suppliers must innovate in these areas or be left behind.
What do you expect to be some of the biggest challenges the industry will face?
BAR: I think that technology will be the biggest challenge—[and] at the same time, it will be the biggest opportunity. I just look at the positive and negative impacts of the Internet. We have seen both sides and it is a game-changer. On the positive side, it can create a user experience that makes everything “simple”; it enables accurate and efficient communication; it provides an opportunity for a strong partnership between distributor and supplier; and, finally, it provides tremendous mass-marketing presence. On the negative side, it can result in a weak or forgettable user experience; it can cause too many competitors to be focused on price alone; and, finally, it facilitates companies going direct, which hurts the market share created by the distributor/supplier network we embrace and believe is the cornerstone of our industry.
What do you think is the most exciting, cutting-edge thing your company is doing right now? Why?
BAR: I think that the two most exciting things that we are doing right now are technology improvements and changes in our marketing program. On the press floor, the digital capabilities are being expanded. We have more than doubled our capacity in the last two years. We believe, after extensive testing, these expanded capabilities fit well with our traditional screen and flexo printing capabilities.
The changes in our marketing program are centered on education. Whether it is the great samples being sent with [trade] publications or the increasing numbers we are experiencing in our webinars, the focus is on educating our customers on what we can do together. It is critical for us to strengthen the supplier/distributor relationship being challenged by others who are selling directly to end-users.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
BAR: I am a pretty simple guy. I enjoy being with my family, reading and walking the dog. I have been happily married for 30 years. We have two children who have graduated from college and are pursuing their own careers. I enjoy playing golf, but age and my lack of interest in practicing have taken its toll on my game. The one thing that people would be surprised to know is that I am a retired high school football and basketball official. You will never hear me yell at a referee at a game.
One other thing that people need to know is how much our employees do for the local community. For the last 23 years, our employees have supported Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., which is the largest pediatric hospital in the Midwest. It started with an employee, who had a grandchild injured in an accident, suggesting that the employees do something for the hospital. Annually, employees sew 500 gift bags and fill them with toys for the patients. In addition, through various fundraisers, employees support other needs of the hospital. In 2015, 32 transport wagons were purchased to move the small children around the hospital and 50 dialysis dolls were also provided. Stouse employees are proud to help others in need.