Executive Perspectives: Nathan Goldberg, president of Specialized Office Systems Inc.
As part of Print+Promo’s ongoing feature, Executive Perspectives, we get to know leading professionals in the print and promotional industry. This month, we interviewed Nathan Goldberg, president of Specialized Office Systems Inc., Phoenix; and president of the board of directors for PSDA, Chicago. Here, he advocates for continuing education, talks about the need for efficiency and explains why he’s not interested in excuses.
How did you first get started in this industry, and what path did you take to land in your current role?
Nathan Goldberg: When I was a child, my dad owned a Safeguard distributorship in Iowa. I remember going to his office to “work.” My dad would pay me by buying me a soda at the end of the day. When we moved to Phoenix, he sold his Safeguard franchise and started Specialized. On breaks from school, I would work in the warehouse and print shop and fell in love with the business, working with my dad and our awesome team. When I graduated from college, my dad hired me for a six-month project to facilitate a new e-commerce website, and implement a new ERP and CRM system. Nineteen years later, we’re still working on all of those items.
How do you set goals for yourself? For your business?
NG: I have an amazing wife and three young children, so most of my personal goals are centered around those four people. When it comes to my business, we work with our senior management team to declare the outcomes we’re looking to produce and the direction we want to move the organization. We also take the commitments we make to our employees, customers and suppliers very seriously. I always tell people this is not a get-rich-quick deal. This is an opportunity to build something real, that people can rely on, where we can positively affect the lives of our customers, employees and suppliers.
How does the economy continue to affect the industry?
NG: While there is no question that the economy can affect our businesses, I’ve never been too keen on people using the economy as an excuse. I truly believe that when you put together innovative solutions that make a real difference in your customers’ businesses, people will always need what you’re offering. When you’re just trying to “sell products,” pricing becomes the primary conversation, and then the economy will have a big effect on your business.
What do you expect to be some of the biggest changes or challenges the industry will face?
NG: I believe that online sellers will continue to chip away market share based on price and that the way we—and many other companies—will continue to win is by adding value to that conversation. We can sit down with customers and give them real help in fulfilling their initiatives and help them build real, innovative solutions to solve their business challenges. The online sellers haven’t been able to produce these outcomes yet. They tend to be very specialized with limited product options and are using price as a way to get new business. I do believe that we must continue to invest in technology to automate processes to reduce our overall costs to process a transaction. We must work closely with industry suppliers and software companies to create tighter integrations and controls to make all players more efficient by leveraging the power of technology to create stronger connections.
What keeps you up at night?
NG: Usually, it’s one of the 14-month-old twins! The biggest challenge we have is finding good people who share our philosophy on strong customer service. Generally speaking, people don’t invest in themselves the way that is necessary to stay on top of industry trends and new technologies. We push our team to get better and more knowledgeable every single day, and there are some great resources out there. However, you have to do it! … I do it for myself every single day, but I simply cannot do it for you, so you must invest in yourself if you want to continue to grow your career and income.
What do you think is the most exciting, cutting-edge thing your company is doing right now? Why?
NG: We have spent a lot of time and energy trying to become more consultative in our sales approaches. We’re not here to “sell you” anything. We’re here to learn about your business and think about if we can help you and what that might look like. Many of our new customers are coming on board because of an innovative program that we’ve put together specifically to take care of their business needs or initiatives. I also really enjoy going to trade shows and finding innovative products that I can bring back to our existing customers or use to prospect new customers.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
NG: With three kids who are two years old and younger, I don’t have a lot of free time. However, I’ve always had a love for driving. ... Over the years, I’ve had some opportunities to drive some pretty amazing vehicles, but I’m happy driving just about anything with four wheels! Before I had a driver’s license, I took up golf so I could drive the golf carts.