2020 Women in Print and Promo: Christine O'Brien, Ennis Inc.
Regional Sales Manager
Ennis Inc., Midlothian, Texas
Christine O’Brien has built quite the résumé over her 38-year career. As told by her nominator, she served on several focus groups as a female leader in print. She successfully merged multiple sales teams into a single division that handled more than 700 calls per day. She led the implementation of a CRM system and designed a completely new sales tracking and reporting structure. She also initiated a $35,000-per-year UPS cost-saving program and earned multiple President’s Club awards. But, most importantly, she has always approached her work with intelligence, integrity and grit. “[Christine] believes that helping others reach their goals is as important as achieving one’s own,” her nominator said.
O’Brien, a business and accounting major at Burdett College, embarked on her print career right after graduation. But it wasn’t the rich history or tales of old-world craftmanship that first drew her to the industry. For O’Brien, the type of company she joined mattered most. Was it financially strong and progressive? Dennison Manufacturing, better known today as Avery Dennison, checked off those boxes. O’Brien’s grandfather introduced her to the manufacturer, where he was employed as a typesetter.
“My grandfather’s passionate stories and praise for how Dennison supported the community during the depression resonated,” she reflected. “My first job started under a group of senior male influencers who allowed me to be poached by other departments at Dennison, [including] service, marketing and ultimately sales as a trajectory in my career.”
Sales brought O’Brien the most success, achievement and enjoyment. She stayed with Dennison for 11 years before accepting her current position at Allen-Bailey Tag & Label, which was later acquired by Ennis Inc. in 2018. As part of the national sales team, O’Brien, who covers the northeast region, works with existing and new print distributors, guiding them through a print application or solution at the right Ennis Inc. print facility.
What Brings Her Joy Professionally and Personally
My joy comes from working with a company that supports and encourages me to be the best. Ennis and print both allow me to have an impact with many industries, markets and clients. Everyone needs print in one way or another. I have been very fortunate both in my personal and professional life. I believe what you put in is paid back twofold and more. My husband worked many years on the print equipment side, and now my son is in sales for 3D printing. My daughter works in the software field in the electronic heath records market. Any downtime is most often spent with family in Cape Cod, gardening and cooking.
Her Proudest Career Achievement
While on a business trip, I was seated on an airplane with a stranger on my return trip. We struck up a conversation and spoke of all business generalities. Late in the conversation, I asked him what company he worked for. I told him we have been trying to build a partnership with [his] company but have been unsuccessful. The gentleman must have trusted me because he told me to call and speak with person X and tell him I told him to call. While back in the office, I called the contact he provided and as the person was close to hanging up, I told him person Y suggested I call and they were all ears. My prospect asked, “Do you know who you were traveling with?” My response was, “Not really.” “You were seated beside the owner’s son,” [he told me.] The prospect was a $1 billion company. I landed the account and they have been a very big customer for our business. You never know when an opportunity will be right in front of you, but I’ve learned to always be looking.
On Working in a Traditionally Male-Dominated Industry
When I first started my career, I was in an office along with 10 more tenured men. At first, it was intimidating, but they actually helped build my confidence. Shortly after, they all became my mentors.
Her Job Advice to Women
The best advice I would pass along is to understand and know your audience. Everyone has a different weakness [or] strength, and to quickly learn what motivates a coworker helps you better relate and work with them. Also, a good sense of humor helps.
Her Favorite Leader
A great leader listens, adjusts and then implements with input from many. Choosing a favorite leader is difficult because there are so many that offer a different perspective. I will say I respect and admire Suze Orman and her journey to success. Suze’s story demonstrates perseverance, grit and gumption, a few of my character qualities.
Her Upcoming Goals
In the next year and beyond, I want to contribute to the success and growth at Ennis. My plan is to develop and strengthen existing and new relationships while learning their challenges and obstacles. I would like to run a half marathon with my daughter. We ran the Disney 10K in the fall 2019. I’d also like to do more volunteer work.
How She Maintains a Work/Life Balance
In every market, whether it be print and promo or technology, the needs are changing rapidly. I always want to stay educated and be sure my skills don’t become outdated. In order to do that, I read a lot of publications and self-awareness books. More importantly, I solicit feedback from all generations. My two children can be brutally honest. COVID-19 has been difficult watching the challenges and deaths of many. These times have allowed me to reflect and spend the time to really evaluate and organize my sales plans for when we can get back to our new normal of business.
I appreciate and am honored to share my journey. My success couldn't have been achieved without the support of many I have had the pleasure of working with and meeting along the way. Ennis now is the next step in my career for which I am grateful to be working with all the wonderful influencers and printing experts.