2019 Top 50 Distributors: ASB President Justin Zavadil Talks Continued Growth
In business, the thinking has long been, “If you build it, they will come.” But mindsets are shifting as executives learn the proverbial “they” don’t come automatically. For those lucky enough to spark consumer interest with a new product release or technology investment, the work doesn’t stop there. The truth is, if you constantly innovate, remain authentic and hire the right team, “they” will stay.
Just ask the firms that comprise Print+Promo’s Top 50 Distributors list. They’ve made this a part of their process, and it shows. Collectively, the class of 2019 generated $3.83 billion in revenue, a 7.1 percent increase over the 2018 tally. We reached out to five of our highest earners to learn more about their strategies. Here is what Justin Zavadil, president of American Solutions for Business, had to say about his recent accomplishments, greatest obstacles and plans to remove them.
What was your company’s biggest accomplishment over the last year?
Justin Zavadil: [We experienced] continued double-digit growth and expansion of our sales tool offering. We have grown revenue by more than 10 percent for multiple years in a row, and this last year was no exception. While doing this, we have reinvested in the company to offer more technology and tools that make it easier for our sales associates to be in front of customers working for them, instead of working on the back end of their business.
How is your company positioning itself to continue to stand out in 2020?
JZ: We have major upgrade projects in development on both our back-end technology, as well as our front-end e-commerce tools.
How do you maintain a long-term vision and focus for the company in the face of constant change?
JZ: We try to be as proactive as possible, but it is really our customers who drive the vision. The customer needs change, and we have a culture of helping our sales associates and end-user customers by adapting to fit those needs. The beauty of employee ownership is that we don’t need to show a large bottom-line profit like private-equity-owned or public companies. We put the majority of our profits back into the business, so our sales associates can be successful.
Why do you love the print or promotional products industry?
JZ: I love it because of the variety. There is always a new product category or problem to solve. We have the ability to be very creative as marketing service providers, and it never gets boring.
What do you see as your greatest challenge as the company’s leader both today and moving forward? How do you intend to overcome these obstacles?
JZ: We just need to continue to diversify. Our products and offerings have a tendency to commoditize, and we need to be able to find new product offerings where our sales associates are necessary and can add value.
We have a strategic initiative to search for new products or business models that will keep us relevant. For example, we started a division that our sales associates have access to that sells permanent retail fixtures and displays.
Knowing what you do today about leading in this industry, what advice would you give to your past self?
JZ: My dad always says, “Plan your work, and work your plan.” I think it’s important to have a plan, but to be open to changing it with the marketplace. Also, make sure you hire the right people. I am confident that we have the strongest leadership team of any distributor in our business, and that makes all the difference.
What is something that people may be surprised to learn about your company?
JZ: My family no longer owns American Solutions for Business. We are 100-percent employee-owned and have been since 2001.
How do you decompress after a stressful time at work?
JZ: I live on a small hobby farm with my wife, Alisha, and our five-year-old daughter, Willow. We have three horses, 11 Icelandic sheep and a 225-pound Great Dane named Winston. We like to spend time outside with the animals. They are a great stress reliever at times. I also like to play golf when I get the chance.
Is there anything you would like to add to give our readers a better sense of your business approach and the industry at the large?
JZ: We are very open to change and are extremely patient. We always say that we don’t have to be the largest company, but our goal is to be the last company standing. Our ownership model has more outlasting power than any other model out there. Our home office works for our sales associates, instead of our sales associates working for the home office.