National Account Manager
Carlson Craft, North Mankato, Minn.
Years of Experience: 44
How she got her start: At the time that I started working at Carlson Craft, I did not have any previous experience in the printing business and, actually, I was interested in being a teacher. I remember, though, when I first started working, I was intrigued by the presses in the production area and the printing jobs that we produced for our printing partners. I am very happy that I decided to make my career in the printing business and feel that it was a good decision for me personally. About 25 years ago, I had an interest in learning more about the promotional products industry and helping distributors become more profitable and successful by selling print. As I learned more about the distributor, it became so evident to me that they could benefit by selling print (e.g., personalized holiday and all-occasion greeting cards, invitations for business and social events, and napkins and accessories). Today, I am proud that print and promo are both products offered by distributors to their customers.
Her proudest career achievements: Early on in my career at Carlson Craft when I started to have an interest in the promotional products industry, I realized that, as a supplier, Carlson Craft needed to have customer service support that would give top service to distributors. I decided that I would take on the challenge to educate and make changes within the company so that everyone knew the distributor market better and how to best service their needs. I have done internal training sessions, so that employees have a good understanding of the promotional products industry. I also have made sure that, as a supplier, we share our products with organizations within the industry that bring suppliers and distributors together. I am hoping when I retire that my legacy is that I cared about the distributor market and looked at ways to make selling print easy and profitable for distributors.
On working in a traditionally male-dominated industry: Although, I have heard about the “good ol’ boys club” in the industry, I personally have been lucky to have not faced any challenges or obstacles as a woman in the industry. I believe that my confidence in what I had to offer to the industry was accepted and that distributors and other suppliers appreciated it. Seems pretty old-fashioned to think that a woman today cannot overcome this outdated stigma.
Her job advice to women: My advice would be that if you have an interest in helping others that you consider a career in print and promo. Today, the printing business is exciting with all the new technology and printing options available. You will feel gratification knowing that you are helping people with their printing needs.
Her industry mentors: I am amazed at how receptive people are in this industry when you reach out to them for help. It is hard to name everyone who has helped me over the past 44 years, but here are a few people whose names stand out to me.
Norman Cohen, ASI owner, and Tim Andrews, ASI president, were both wonderful mentors to me when I started to learn more about the promotional products industry—they both were so willing to answer my questions. I remember calling the ASI office late one day and asking questions about the industry because I was working on a presentation that I was giving. To my surprise, I had the opportunity to speak to Norman and he gave me such great information, which made my presentation very powerful and effective.
Bill Mahre, president of ADG Promotional Products, has been influential as a mentor to me and has helped me to learn more about the overall industry. I have appreciated his openness to share his knowledge and expertise. Bill has shared advice on how to be a strong supplier in the industry from his own experiences. But if I go back to the beginning of my career in the printing business, it would be Glen Taylor, chairman of the board for Taylor Corporation. Glen taught me early on that our printing partners were important and that it was our job to make sure that we gave good service and produce a printed product that our partners’ customers would be impressed with and love.
Her biggest lesson learned: I think that the most important lesson that I learned is to treat others like I want to be treated. When I am working with a distributor on a printing job, I want to give them the help and support that I would expect if I were in their shoes. I remember one time I was packing up at a trade show and a distributor approached me about a printing job that they needed done. I stopped what I was doing and helped them and they appreciated that I had done that for them—it resulted in a large-quantity napkin order. I think another lesson that I learned is to appreciate the people on my team at Carlson Craft, and I make sure that I share compliments that I receive. It feels good to share with a manager in production that someone loves the printing job that they received from us, so that they can share with the printer that printed the job.
How she maintains a work/life balance: I have been very blessed to work for a company that lets me balance work and life. I do have a wonderful husband who has been very supportive of my career and has always encouraged me to take on new challenges and opportunities. When my children were younger, and I traveled for work to trade shows, they were excited for me to come home with promotional products with “YOUR COMPANY NAME PRINTED HERE.” They are older now, and they still comment about some of the cool things that I brought home from those work trips.