Under 40: Eric Shonebarger, Hit Promotional Products
Eric Shonebarger, 37
Chief Information Officer
Hit Promotional Products, Largo, Fla.
A University of South Florida graduate with a B.A. in economics, and an advanced degree from Southeastern University, Eric Shonebarger has been making his mark in the promotional products industry for 14 years. Supplier Hit Promotional Products found its now chief information officer through a jobs board.
“I fell in love with the company, the people and the industry,” Shonebarger said. “I haven’t left.”
In his current role, his primary responsibilities are developing the technology strategy and managing overall IT operations and development to support Hit’s business objectives. A multiple industry award winner, Shonebarger has built quite the résumé. His recent initiatives include improving service delivery through embracing effective and efficient use of technology, ERP implementations and promoting online opportunities to increase self-service capabilities for distributors. He also has contributed to the development of services for PromoStandards, a group of promotional products suppliers and distributors working together to make data exchange easier between both parties. Designed specifically for the promotional products industry, these standards allow inventory, order status, order shipping, product data, purchase orders and invoices to be transmitted electronically.
Why he loves the industry: The industry is fast-paced and constantly changing. I love the breadth of products and the complexities that arise from developing technology solutions and business processes for configurable products. In the end, it is about people—and there are some amazing people in this industry.
Age roadblocks and advantages: I am always impressed with the wisdom that people have from being in the business longer than I have been alive. Regardless of how much you study or how hard you work, nothing beats having done it before. At the same time, I think at my age (as opposed to being younger) you’re more cognizant of knowing that you don’t know it all, while at the same time you’re eager to try new things.
His biggest career influence: The Schmidt Family, as owners of Hit Promotional Products, has been the most influential in my career development over the past 14 years. They have given me amazing opportunities and support, and their willingness to reinvest into the business is incredible. I can never remember a time when I needed a new software package, hardware or employee, and they have said “no.”
His most meaningful business accomplishment: My involvement in PromoStandards. To see the industry using standards that I helped architect to conduct business electronically is amazing. I have also been honored to work with some of the brightest minds in the industry. Many of us started off as competitors, but, over the years, [have] developed a friendship and a mutual respect for each other.
His differentiating factor: We’ve been focused on technology and innovation for the past decade. Firms that are able to successfully transact business through supply chain integration will have a significant strategic advantage over those that are unable to act by decreasing order touch points and lower costs. Technology will continue to play a larger role, but at the same time it doesn’t replace relationships. Finding the right mix between the two and using technology to strengthen business relationships will be the key to success.
What he does for fun: I spend as much time as I can with my wife and two children (ages 7 and 10). We are heavily involved in various community outreaches in order to provide assistance to those in need through our church.