Under 40: Steven Flaughers, Proforma 3rd Degree Marketing
Steven Flaughers, 39
Proforma 3rd Degree Marketing, Canton, Ohio
Steven Flaughers found a home in the industry right after college. Freshly armed with a Bachelor of Science in aviation/technology from Kent State University, he became a sales representative for a Proforma owner. A year later, he assumed the role of office manager. But it was the declining market that ultimately pushed Flaughers to purchase the distributorship from the original owner. Since then, Proforma 3rd Degree Marketing has grown considerably—more than 200 percent over the past three years alone—through an aggressive M&A strategy, and shows no signs of slowing down. “We will continue our growth methods into 2017 with a goal of completing two new acquisitions and adding two new sales professionals,” Flaughers shared. The Proforma affiliate even earned a spot on the 2016 Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing companies.
Why he loves the industry: I love how flexible we can be as distributors. We provide our clients with commercial printing, promotional items, apparel and multimedia services—all under one roof. I love how our industry changes and evolves year after year and how we are able to bring these trends back to our great clients. We truly are a part of their marketing team.
Age roadblocks and advantages: The largest challenge with my age is breaking into the “good ‘ol boys” clubs with larger clients. The advantage is that I’m old enough to be taken seriously in the industry, but, at the same time, I can still keep a pulse on the trends emerging with millennials. I’m able to communicate to both generations. I can still strike a conversation with anyone face to face, yet I can build engagement through social media.
His biggest career influence: All of my fellow Proforma owners, but specifically, my great industry friend, Bruce Irvine, owner of Proforma Irvine Group in Atlanta. ... We started a “Mastermind Group.” Our goal was to speak twice a month to discuss what we had going on and how we could “move the needle” of success. When I have a new business opportunity, I contact Bruce to have him be my second set of eyes. We are both very competitive in nature, so we push and challenge each other and, together, both of our businesses have grown by more than a million dollars in revenue.
His most meaningful business accomplishment: I’m very proud that I was able to not only enter Proforma’s Million Dollar Club, but go straight into the Multi-Million Dollar Club. Being in the Multi-Million Dollar Club was a big goal of mine from day one in the industry. It was not easy, and I had many failures along the way, but with hard work, dedication and the best supporting cast in the industry, we not only hit our goal, we over shot it by a million dollars.
His differentiating factor: You must continually find ways to be relevant. It’s a juggling act. You need to be willing to always try new things, fail, review and then make changes to succeed. We are doing everything from traditional cold calls, to direct mail, social media prospecting and direct mailers (and we have a few other fun tricks up our sleeve for 2017). You have to talk to people. You must be able to communicate with the older crowd, yet be “social” enough online to reach the new crowd.
What he does for fun: On the weekends, I like to return to my family farm in Clay County, W.Va. ... The farm life keeps my feet on the ground and is always a reminder to remain humble. I also enjoy playing the guitar and singing, whether it’s in the car or at church on Sunday morning. In my spare time, I like to be outdoors. It allows me to think clearly and discover my next big idea.
(The following profile appeared in Print+Promo’s “Rise Up” cover story in the February 2017 issue.)