2020 Top 50 Distributors: Proforma on Empowering Success for Employees
Over the last decade, industry talk has turned to extending the value proposition of the supply chain partnership. Companies are no longer categorized as “manufacturers” or “distributorships” (except when it comes to Print+Promo’s respective Top 50 lists); rather, “marketing service providers” has become the preferred descriptor. MSPs are expert communicators who excel at hearing the voice of the customer and responding to that voice. But what happens when organizations slash marketing budgets because of downswings in revenue or the economy? A savvy MSP maximizes adaptability because they know success depends on pivoting quickly and efficiently in the face of disruptive change.
Just look at the distributors, or MSPs, that comprise Print+Promo’s 2020 Top 50 Distributors chart. Before COVID-19 ravaged the world, personal protective equipment (PPE) never had a place in their product lines. Now, it’s a lifeline–and, for some, it has taken them above fiscal year projections. That’s not to say these business leaders have it all figured out. They are humans grieving lost routines, social connections and a sense of security like the rest of us. They lie awake at night worrying about the welfare of their employees.
To provide additional context, we spoke to Greg Muzzillo, founder, and Vera Muzzillo, CEO of Proforma, No. 1 on the list.
Technology drives so much of what Proforma does. What role is technology playing in a time when the rate of change is unprecedented, and little is known? Would you say your past investments have given you an advantage in today’s turbulent business climate?
Vera Muzzillo: Technology is the game changer across all businesses worldwide. At our core, we are a sales and marketing company that is powered by the best technology. Our $20 million investment in technology is providing the key advantage for our owners’ success in today’s business climate.
How has the COVID-19 climate impacted Proforma?
VM: Although COVID-19 has been a terrible pandemic that has affected the entire world, Proforma has emerged stronger than ever through our entrepreneurial spirit, ability to pivot and our laser focus on our distributors who are the best in the industry. PPE has emerged as a product category that we have capitalized on with our distributor owners, and our efforts in this area have resulted in the emergence and growth of more than 100 of our Million Dollar and Multi-Million Dollar Club owners.
How can your supplier partners better assist you right now to ensure you remain successful? Are there areas where they’re excelling?
Greg Muzzillo: First and foremost, we understand that most of our valued supplier partners are struggling to get through these times. However, I believe that with diminished sales, the suppliers have a keen eye on what products are selling and what end-user customers are buying to keep their own businesses safe and productive. We’ve established some amazing relationships in our more than 40 years in the industry, and our supplier partners have all risen to the challenge to help wherever they can—conducting webinars, creating valuable information, and helping to educate our owners and their sales reps on new and creative ideas to continue to uncover selling opportunities.
How do you motivate and inspire teams to achieve big goals, especially when things feel so heavy right now?
VM: We motivate and inspire our teams to achieve big goals by empowering them, and listening to their suggestions and constructive feedback. We have always believed that our teams work with us, not for us, and they are our greatest asset. We are surrounded by the best and brightest in the industry, and we are so lucky to have their ideas, feedback and even critiques.
What is the biggest professional risk you’ve ever taken?
VM: The biggest professional risk we have taken is wiring almost $10 million for cargo planes to bring PPE to the States to allow our distributor owners to become the partner of choice in the PPE arena. Great business is informed risk-taking, and we understand that measured and calculated risks result in high rewards.
What goal(s) are you most excited for in 2021?
GM: As our team quickly pivoted to create a variety of programs and resources that have helped our distributor owners, one of the pivots included expanding our e-commerce offering to include online stores, including PopUp ProStores and Advanced ProStores. To date, we’ve launched just over 2,000 company stores and are confident that 2021 will bring us well beyond the 5,000 mark for online stores.
What is the greatest lesson that 2020 has taught you?
VM: One thing that 2020 has done is affirm the belief that every challenge presents an amazing opportunity. As business leaders, it is our responsibility to identify these possibilities and to empower our distributors with the best tools to achieve their goals and recognize their potential even in the midst of turmoil and crisis. It is our obligation to ‘right the ship’ and help the entire organization to pivot to new areas that present new opportunities.
How are you decompressing during these unprecedented times?
GM: At Proforma, we love what we do! Our most important job is to empower the success of our distributor owners and their sales representatives. When we do that, and we see them excel during challenging times such as these, it is very gratifying, and it is a source of great joy for us.
Is there anything you would like to add to give our readers a better sense of your business approach and the industry at large?
GM: At Proforma, our philosophy has always been to focus on the success of our owners and sales reps. Because only when our owners grow their success are we able to grow our success.
View the full 2020 Top 50 Distributors list here.
Click here for stats, trends and analysis from the list.
Elise Hacking Carr is editor-in-chief/content director for Print+Promo magazine.