executive perspectives: The Prime Time for Profits
Bob Lederer learned a crucial business lesson at a young age: You can sell something and make money, particularly if there's no cost.
Growing up with his family in an old-fashioned apartment building on Park Avenue in New York City, Lederer was accustomed to taking elevators. Over time he noticed the elevator men never had any lunch, which sparked an idea. He ventured off to the local grocery store and charged a few pounds of hamburger meat to his mother, then cooked the meat, toasted some rolls and sold burgers to employees by himself. The profits were immense because there was no cost. But, he quickly learned another lesson: You can't charge everything to your mother, especially without her knowledge.
Years later, Lederer graduated with a degree in sociology from Bucknell University. Unsure of what to do with his new diploma, Lederer joined the army as a second lieutenant, where he had a six-month tour of duty, and got back into business upon his return.
After a series of unsatisfying jobs, in 1980, Lederer started his own business, Prime Resources Corporation (Prime Line), with only four or five products. Everything, such as production and art, was outsourced. The company eventually outgrew its small space in Greenwich, Conn., and Lederer relocated to a bigger office in Stamford. Around 1990, the company moved to Bridgeport and has since developed into a line of approximately 1,000 products.
Here, Lederer provides some insight about himself and the industry.
Print+Promo (P+P): What principles did you use to build the business?
Bob Lederer (BL): To build the business appropriately, we concentrated on providing great service because the products that we had were not so unusual that people couldn't get something similar from another company. ... People started gravitating toward us, knowing that they were going to get good service, but the creativity of the product also was important. In the early '90s, we came out with a lot of new products. By this time, I was on the board of directors of PPAI, and at one of the meetings, Ted Olson, the president of PPAI at the time, gave each of us a stress ball and I thought, "Gee, that's a cute item." It wasn't in the industry as far as I knew, and I sourced it when I got back home and I said to my staff here that I thought we had a winner with this stress ball. I showed 11 people the ball—and all 11 turned it down and thought it was a dog, so I decided to try a small quantity. We started with about 10,000 of the globe stress balls and the plain stress balls. Within a matter of days, it was an instant hit so we actually built the line on new products. ... There were a few other people who had dabbled in it, but we came out with it in strength.