Print and Promo Coordinator
Regency360, Raleigh, N.C.
As a project coordinator for Regency360, Ernie Cornelius wears many hats. One day he’s helping out in the print shop and the next he’s participating in customer meetings or covering other team members’ projects. He has been with Regency since it became a distributor in the print and promo space almost nine years ago, and his nominator believes Cornelius’ “selfless” nature has been instrumental to the company’s success. But before he started serving up positive vibes, he was making magic in the kitchen. A graduate of Johnson & Wales University’s College of Culinary Arts, he worked at several restaurants and hotels, including the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, D.C., not too far from his family’s print trade shop. Cornelius, who had grown tired of working long restaurant hours, decided to make the transition from chef to printer. Unfortunately, the company went out of business just two years later. Cornelius spent the next six years holding various print-centric roles, like stripper, plate maker and proofer. In 1998, he moved into print production and customer service for several companies, including Artisan Printing and Todd Allan Printing. Along the way, he was promoted into managerial roles, and worked as the production/scheduling manager for multiple companies—all of which led him to Regency360, where his team supports all of the company’s corporately owned offices and franchises with a client base totaling more than 4,000.
A typical day: As project coordinators, we have various types of projects that we handle. My main concentration has always been print since that is what my many years of experience are in. Recently, we incorporated a team approach, which has allowed me to expand into the promotional products side, too. With Regency being a full-service print, promotional and apparel distributor, we receive jobs that are decorated and imprinted on any kind of substrate. That creates many challenges, but it also keeps the job very interesting. You must be flexible, willing to learn and adapt and, most of all, produce a quality product that the customer is expecting.
His approach to customer service: My approach is to always tackle the tough tasks first. It’s easy to go the other route, but I have always found that if I get a jump on the tough ones, it makes my day easier to handle. There are days when we get up to 500 emails, so we work at a breakneck pace.
Also, I like to go through my existing projects first thing in the morning. I like to have a comfort level with existing projects before jumping into new ones. The key to this trade is details, so the more specifics that you can provide in your communications, such as quote requests or purchase orders, the better.
How he keeps calm and stays inspired: It can be a tense and draining job. I think that the key is to set a high standard for yourself. The thing that keeps me engaged and inspired is that there is constant opportunity to learn new things. Even though I have been in the print field for nearly 25 years, I am amazed that I am always being exposed to new opportunities to learn and grow. Technology is always changing, so you need to stay abreast of all of the new capabilities.
Concerning the tense and draining aspect of the job, it’s like anything else—you need to find joy in what you do and, of course, have a well-balanced life that is not just centered around work.
Why he loves his job and the industry: Again, I love the opportunity to learn new things. The industry is very fast-paced and challenging. My days fly by, so the challenge is getting everything done in the work day. There is a great sense of accomplishment at the end of a successful day.
His proudest career achievement: As discussed, the industry is a fast-paced one. One particular role was intense and demanding and required meeting some very tight production schedules. It was my job to do what it took to meet these demands, [and that meant] asking a lot of our personnel. This company did a yearly awards ceremony, which included the employees voting for the “Employee of the Year.” This award typically did not go to someone in my position, but I won it that year! I’m very proud of that achievement.
His best advice: There aren’t any shortcuts. You need to roll up your sleeves and work hard. Take advantage of all the opportunities to learn new things. This will not only enhance your own personal success, but will also contribute to the success of the team.
What he does for fun: I like to play drums. We have a cool church that I have played drums at for the last six years. We don’t just do church music. I have had the opportunity to rock out to “Enter Sandman” by Metallica and “The Pretender” by Foo Fighters. Pretty cool stuff. I also love soccer. I used to play and coach. Now I’m enjoying watching the grandkids.