The best-laid plans can veer off course when least expected—just ask Jerry Spears, CEO of the Mabelvale, Arkansas-based distributorship B&B Solutions.
Spears, who had just completed his undergraduate studies, was looking forward to the next phase of his academic career. He accepted a part-time sales position at an office supply store and enrolled in an MBA program. The U.S. military, however, had something else in mind for the young student. “A few things happened that changed my plans, like marriage, getting my notice to have a physical for the draft and my ultimately joining the Louisiana National Guard,” Spears recalled.
Spears eventually retired his combat boots, hoping to return to sales. He had several full-time opportunities to choose from, but settled on one with Moore Business Forms, located in Shreveport, La. Spears held various management positions over a 13-year period before parting ways with the company. He switched to the independent side of the industry and worked with International Business Forms in Little Rock, Ark., for 18 months. He then became a distributor in 1981. As Spears put it: “This industry has been very good to me.”
What else did Spears have to say about the industry? Read on for his take and to find out what the future holds for B&B Solutions.
Print+Promo (P+P): How do you set goals for yourself? For your business?
Jerry Spears (JS): The goal I have for myself at this time is to complete my preparation to hand off a very successful company that has minimal problems with systems in place to continue a steady, profitable growth into the distant future. I would like to spend my next couple of years recruiting good salespeople to be ready as some of our more mature sales representatives get ready for retirement. I have always had the philosophy that if you are not growing, you will soon be in decline. We are always looking for ways to diversify our product line and also expand our geographic footprint.
P+P: How does the economy continue to affect the industry?
JS: The economy continues to be problematic for many reasons. We have fewer manufacturers located in the U.S. than ever before—therefore, more imports with less opportunity to sell products used in the manufacturing process. We have a contracting workforce because of the reduced opportunities for jobs. More data is being stored internally with less need for filing systems. The need for traditional printing is in decline. Diversity and creativity are our hopes for the future in printing.
P+P: What do you expect to be some of the biggest challenges the industry will face?
JS: As I said previously, the traditional print continues to be diminished. There are a few new items that are being touted, but some have not had their full potential developed. One of those is 3-D printing. It will be good for making models to scale in the architecture and engineering disciplines, and for manufacturing on a small scale. Aside from those areas, I still do not know too many other applications at this time. For our company, one of our biggest challenges is finding good people to continue the business we have going and to help identify new areas we can expand into.
P+P: What keeps you up at night?
JS: I am concerned about the future of the company, not as much for the problems in the industry but from the standpoint of having good people involved in our company to keep us solid in the marketplace and also being [able] to recognize good opportunities when they pop up. We too often are in the backside of opportunities rather than recognizing cutting-edge opportunities as they arise.
P+P: What do you think is the most exciting, cutting-edge thing your company is doing right now? Why?
JS: I would say we do not have too many “cutting-edge” things in the works at this time, but we do have a lot of good business opportunities that we have so far been able to take advantage of. We have been able to procure a significant amount of business through the technology that we now have in place. We spend a lot of our time and effort in automating our online offerings for our customers and prospects.
P+P: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
JS: I am a very simple person with most of my downtime being spent with my wife and family. I am involved in a few nonprofit entities, including an inner-city ministry, the ALS Association and my church. I am a sports fan, but not radical. My wife and I love traveling, having traveled to all 50 states, to five of the Canadian provinces, to Central America, to Europe and to Australia. We spend a lot of time with our two daughters, their husbands and our four grandsons. Most years we take a family vacation with all of us going to a beach, a theme park or snow skiing. Those things make my life very fulfilled.