2019 Women in Print and Promo: Deborah A. Gelinas, American Solutions for Business
DEBORAH A. GELINAS
Director, Strategic Sales – NE, American Solutions for Business (ASB), Glenwood, Minn.
How she got her start: Honestly, [when I was] growing up, my passion was to be in health care, but during school I took a part-time summer position at a very large print company doing various jobs and changed my direction to business management. I ended up staying with the same company and [eventually] started to elevate to higher positions within the organization. I started at the bottom in the factory and, after school, took positions in the office where I spent [time] working in accounting and then customer service. I spent several years in customer service until I was then promoted to manager, where I managed a team of 32 employees. After that, my passion became sales, which I followed, and my first position [was] with a printing company called Data Documents. I was given a virgin territory that I had to develop from the ground up. It took a lot of hard work and determination, and [there were] many days of frustration, crying and feeling defeated. But, I would not give up and that has been my resolve my entire career—perseverance will always pay off. I went from that position to a regional sales manager position with a competitor of ours, Standard Register. I managed a team of 30 to 40 people, from customer support to sales reps. I grew the region from $8 million in sales to over $30 million. I have always been in a sales or sales management position since then, and decided to join ASB five years ago and have loved every minute of being here. This company is, by far, unlike any other firm I have worked for in my 30 years. The sense of belonging and support we receive by the leadership of this company is, bar none, the best in the industry.
What brings her joy professionally and personally: Truly, it is the relationships I have developed over the many years in this business. I have long-term clients that respect me as much as I do them. My clients know that they can trust what I advise them, what I offer them and know that I keep them as my No. 1 priority. My life has always been about keeping things upfront and honest, no matter how it may affect me. I would rather be known for how clients can count on me rather than have a lack of confidence in what I am supporting them with.
Her proudest career achievement: Long-lasting clients and their friendship [stand out]. People who make the statement that this business, or any sales, is not about relationships are dead wrong. Relationships in every walk of life, whether business or personal, when people believe in you and know you support them ... those will always be rewarding to me.
On working in a traditionally male-dominated industry: When I started my business journey, I would have to say I was certainly a minority in a man’s world. It was tough, honestly. In my first sales management position, I had 10 male reps, all of whom worked for a male predecessor. Being from a family of five children, four [being] older brothers, I learned how to stand up for myself in this environment for sure. So, even though some of the reps who worked for me didn’t start out respecting my ability to lead them and help them grow, they did learn to over time. I was committed to supporting them and showing them, or let’s say proving to them, that I had value and was able to give the direction to help all of us grow and make money. In my first sales management position, I was the only female sales manager in the entire organization—talk about having to prove yourself. After taking my region from $8 million to $30 million in a matter of a few years ... that quickly provided the respect that any other male manager received.
Her job advice to women: In today’s environment, there are many women, which is fantastic. My advice is to learn as much as you can, regardless of who it comes from—male or female. Everyone has something to offer; learn from it and make it your own style. Have integrity in what you do, and always be honest and upfront with your clients. This can be an incredibly rewarding career if you are committed to making it work. Work hard, and always make room for learning new things, because there is always something to learn.
Who she turns to for career advice: I have had many folks over the course of my career that have helped me succeed, from managers to peers and even an in-house lawyer who helped me understand the dos and don’ts of managing employees. But, my most treasured advice came from my father, Joseph Picariello. He was also in the print industry as a vice president of manufacturing. He worked for a company called National Blank Book, which was bought out by a company called Dennison, which then was bought by Avery and called Avery Dennison. He headed up the office products division. ... He was a wealth of knowledge and had continued success throughout his career.
Her upcoming goals: I want to develop additional accounts that have the same potential as my existing ones. And, further grow my relationships with those accounts and take on new employees that can manage my accounts with the same integrity as me.
How she maintains a work/life balance: Wow, that is a hard one. In this business, you have to be able to balance the two and know that sales is not an 8-5 job; you don’t clock out at 5 and expect that your client will not reach out to you. I learned that a long time ago, especially in working with the health care market. They do not close; they are open 24/7 and, in some respects, expect you to be as well. I have always been committed to assuring the client is taken care of. For many years when I have taken time off, vacation or otherwise, I still will answer calls and emails when necessary. It’s just the way I feel I have always needed to handle my clients. It’s not like it is bothersome to me. You can have great rewards by making yourself available.
Final thoughts: This is a great business to be in. You can make it what you put into it. Make it a part-time job or a full-time job, make some money or make loads of money; it’s all what you want and put into it.