Executive Perspectives: Jo Gilley of Overture Promotions
As part of Print+Promo Marketing’s ongoing feature, Executive Perspectives, we get to know leading professionals in the print and promotional industry. This month, we interviewed Jo Gilley, CEO of Overture Promotions, Waukegan, Illinois. Here, she explains how data informs her business decisions, reveals her “top-secret” past and previews the future of the company.
How did you get started in this industry, and what path did you take to land in your current role?
Jo Gilley: I’m relatively new to promo. After a three-year stint at the CIA after grad school, I began working in marketing, focused on technology companies. I did that for 16 years, working at agencies, corporations and a couple start-ups, including the company that created the website for Rolling Stone magazine, as internet music started taking off. There were three more years of non-tech marketing jobs, including a stint at the WNBA Chicago Sky, which was the first time I had responsibility for promotional products. (And a mascot!) I was an original investor in Overture, with the encouragement of my husband, who was working on the supplier side. In 2017, I did some consulting work for the company, and was named CEO five years ago.
How do you set goals for yourself? For your business?
JG: Overture’s senior leadership team has an annual planning process to set goals for the year ahead. We do a SWOT, we review our core values to ensure we’re walking our talk, and then we set goals for the next year, with strategies to reach them. We present the strategic plan to staff, and then review it quarterly to ensure we’re making progress against our goals. The SLT also tracks action items from our weekly meetings to keep each other accountable.
As for me personally, I am a list maker. I’ve got a list of my action items from the strategic plan, and my goals for improving how I manage. Each week, I print out my meeting calendar and add a list of action items for the week.
How does the economy continue to affect the industry?
JG: Supply chain issues and their impact on inventory and availability continue to make our work harder. We are seeing an improvement in the labor market and getting good candidates for our job openings. We are keeping an eye on inflation and the potential for recession, along with everyone else.
What do you expect to be some of the biggest changes or challenges the industry will face?
JG: Our supply chain will continue to be a challenge, as will the ongoing impact of COVID-19 (and potentially Monkeypox), on events. I know how we have changed our processes internally to accommodate the impacts of those challenges, and I imagine other distributors are making those same kinds of changes. And I know we are all working to diversify our supply chain and focusing on how to make our industry more sustainable.
What keeps you up at night?
JG: I worry about keeping our distribution center staff healthy as COVID cases rise, since they are onsite every day. We are in the midst of some acquisitions, and I spend a lot of my non-work hours thinking about ways we will work together for synergies and growth.
What do you think is the most exciting, cutting-edge thing your company is doing right now?
JG: Overture’s acquisition strategy is quite different than what is typical for distributors, and we are excited to see it unfold in the next few months. We also have some unique partnerships in process.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
JG: My interests aren’t really surprising — I like to read, travel, learn languages — and learning to play the banjo is next up on my bucket list. What’s surprising is my early job history — I worked in the White House during my college summers, and was in the room when [former President Richard] Nixon announced his resignation to staff. Then I worked at the CIA for three years, watching a Soviet brigade in Cuba on satellite and aircraft imagery.