Executive Perspectives: Ross Silverstein of iPROMOTEu
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 Ross Silverstein, president and CEO of iPROMOTEu, Wayland, Massachusetts. Here, he traces his path to promo success, shares his industry predictions, and explains why reputation matters.
How did you get started in this industry, and what path did you take to land in your current role?
Ross Silverstein: After graduating from both business school and law school, I began my career working as a corporate attorney for a major law firm in Boston where I concentrated on financings and acquisitions. I later left to join a client, RE/MAX real estate organization, where I was an executive and helped expand RE/MAX into parts of the U.S., Canada, Europe, and the Middle East. While my career was flourishing, I was nagged by an internal entrepreneurial feeling. I knew I wanted to start and grow a business — a substantial business, my own business — but I just didn’t know what kind of business. I had certain criteria in mind and kept searching. Upon discovering the promotional products industry, I realized that it checked all the boxes. It was a large and growing industry, and it was fragmented, inefficient, and unsophisticated. After extensively studying the industry, I quit my job — when my wife was pregnant with our fourth child — to start iPROMOTEu. We could have gone out of business many times during the early years, but we persevered. We’ve grown from an idea to become one of the industry’s largest and most respected distributor organizations. It is a wonderful success story. The American dream is not just for first-generation Americans, and I personally experienced it.
How do you set goals for yourself? For your business?
RS: I look at the big picture, the ultimate goal, and then I figure out the general path and the individual steps to get there. I break the process down into small, manageable, distinct tasks, and I tackle them one at a time so I can realize and experience continuous progress. While I am pursuing the larger goals, I also need to tend to the daily tasks. These tasks are certainly important, but they are tasks that I view as “maintenance” as opposed to “progress.” I view maintenance as being analogous to doing the dog paddle in a swimming pool — you’re staying afloat, but you’re not getting anywhere. Progress, on the other hand, is analogous to swimming from one end of the pool to another — now, you’re getting somewhere. Speed and moving quickly are also very important. As the saying goes, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll still get run over if you’re not moving fast enough.”
How does the economy continue to affect the industry?
RS: I don’t pay too much attention to the general economy because the industry is extremely large and diverse. iPROMOTEu has hundreds of affiliates throughout the U.S. and Canada selling thousands of diverse products to customers in every industry imaginable. This massive diversification insulates iPROMOTEu from negative impacts of a weak economy. For example, iPROMOTEu performed quite well during the Great Recession in 2009 and during the COVID pandemic in 2020. When the economy is humming along, prosperity abounds. When the economy is struggling and sales are sluggish, more distributors and salespeople choose to affiliate with iPROMOTEu. They do so because of all the resources and support we provide to help them thrive, from marketing tools to back-office support, to order financing.
What do you expect to be some of the biggest changes or challenges the industry will face?
RS: One change that I anticipate is an increasing number of independent distributors joining larger distributor organizations so they can benefit from the size, resources, and clout of these larger companies. Small, independent distributors won’t be able to keep up and compete effectively on their own. As for challenges, suppliers will continue to struggle with staffing, production, and customer service. This will create an opportunity for those suppliers who can attract talent, operate efficiently, and outperform their peers.
What keeps you up at night?
RS: Thinking about all the things — big and small — that I need to address, that I didn’t get done, or that I forgot to do. Also, when an affiliate is unhappy for one reason or another, I really take that personally and it bothers me.
What do you think is the most exciting, cutting-edge thing your company is doing right now?
RS: First, iPROMOTEu recently unveiled its cutting-edge iSUITE order management system. This new technology tool helps our affiliates enter orders faster and easier, manage orders more effectively, and operate their business more productively and more profitably. Second, iPROMOTEu continues to hire the best, most experienced, most respected individuals to work with, support our affiliates, and to lead iPROMOTEu into the future. We already have the best team in the industry, [and] it just keeps getting better. Third, iPROMOTEu continues to welcome the top-producing and most professional distributors and salespeople to its affiliate network. iPROMOTEu has an excellent reputation for professionalism and success. That reputation continues to enhance by the strength of our remarkable affiliate community.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
RS: I am an avid boxer, left-leaning regarding social welfare issues, and ran a weekly current events discussion group at a maximum security prison while in law school.
Elise Hacking Carr is editor-in-chief/content director for Print+Promo magazine.