2019 Top 50 Distributors: Proforma CEO Vera Muzzillo on Leading Through Technology
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 Vera Muzzillo, CEO of Proforma, had to say about her recent accomplishments, greatest obstacles and plans to remove them.
What was your company’s biggest accomplishment over the last year?
Vera Muzzillo: We have had many big accomplishments this year, but I can confidently say that technology is the common denominator among every accomplishment we have achieved within the past year. The ongoing development of our $12 million business management technology platform, ProVision, our proprietary company store program, ProStores, and our ever-growing 80-member technology team that helped with the development and support will always be some of Proforma’s greatest investments and accomplishments.
Some of our affiliate owners’ largest account wins and successes this year came from our technology solutions. Whether it was a $6 million virtual reality contract or our largest-ever, $24 million contract with a multinational financial institution, technology was the consistent competitive edge that our owners had in the industry.
How is your company positioning itself to continue to stand out in 2020? How do you maintain a long-term vision and focus for the company in the face of constant change?
VM: Proforma is positioned as the industry’s technology and business success leader focused solidly on helping to maximize the success of our affiliate owners. We will maintain our leadership in technology and business success by continuing to make the massive investments that no one else in our industry has made. Additionally, we are fortunate to have an Owner Advisory Council that helps us keep current on what’s happening at the owner and customer level, and helps us with long-term strategic planning.
Why do you love the print or promotional products industry?
VM: We love that the industry provides us with the opportunity to use our technology to empower our affiliate owners to achieve their best business success and increase their efficiencies. We love that the industry fosters and rewards entrepreneurism, creativity and fun!
Knowing what you do today about leading in this industry, what advice would you give to your past self?
VM: One piece of advice I would give to my past self is to rely on subject matter experts and affiliate owners to help guide our path and plan to success. Five years ago, we didn’t have an 80-member technology team. This team was built from the ground up with the intent to work hand-in-hand with our affiliate owners to provide solutions that they actually needed, not just what we thought they might need. No one knows their business and their needs better than they do, so take the time to listen.
What is something that people may be surprised to learn about your company?
VM: I think people would be most surprised to learn that Proforma has more million and multimillion-dollar independent distributors than any other company in the industry. We currently have more than 190 owners in our Million and Multi-Million Dollar Club, and we conduct business around the globe.
How do you decompress after a stressful time at work?
VM: We live and breathe what we do, and we love to talk to our distributor affiliate owners and suppliers outside of normal work hours. Work is a way of life for us, and we enjoy every minute of it.