As part of Print+Promo’s ongoing feature, Executive Perspectives, we get to know a leading professional in the print and promotional industry. This month, we talked to Greg Gill, president and CEO of thumbprint, Apopka, Fla. Here, Gill opens up about industry challenges and the power of technology.
How did you first get started in this industry, and what path did you take to land in your current role?
Greg Gill: I got started in the business over 30 years ago by answering a blind ad in the newspaper for a sales position for a print distributorship in Orlando. I have an accounting background, so I had no idea what printing was, to be honest with you. I used to sell PCs and software—and that business, the PC market, was not doing well. IBM was actually coming out of that market and it was time to look for another job. I just happened to look under “sales” and saw there was an opportunity—a repeat type of business. [I later served as] vice president of DSI out of Norcross, Ga. I eventually wanted to take a different role in how clients were treated. I thought about opening my own business—I had a couple of clients that were not in a non-compete and I approached them about how I wanted to do my own thing. They came with me and that’s how I started [Performance Press] in 1994. About two and half years ago, we rebranded to thumbprint.
How do you set goals for yourself? For your business?
GG: Well, I don’t do that by myself. My biggest goal is to build a company that has a culture of how I would like to work. I started my business because I wanted to be treated a certain way and wanted my clients to be treated a certain way—a level of service that I always wanted to have, and that was always to be great. That’s the type of culture [at thumbprint]. ... My goal is to develop a nurturing culture, a fun place to work, with individuals who are smart. And the goals for the business are all set around accelerated growth—we believe in double-digit growth and how we get there. My team gets together and we talk about how we’re going to take it to the next level, how we’re going to grow the business and what parts we should invest in, what we are doing to broaden our horizons. So, really, it’s a joint venture. I have a leadership role, but my staff, or the “leadership team” as I call them, make a big difference in determining the goals we have.
How does the economy continue to affect the industry?
GG: The economy definitely affects the industry, I think, in terms of budget restraints. It’s really helped our business actually because what’s happening is you have fewer people and companies performing more roles and they want help. [Because of the] services we offer, we are able to give a value add to clients in times where their roles and people are pushed really thin today. Everybody knows how employees are taking on bigger roles, so the economy has an effect, obviously. That’s the good effect of the economy [for us]. When the economy is down, marketing budgets get cut, which does affect the promotional side of our business. So, we’re always looking for different silos of new revenue that will be economy adverse, if you will.
What do you expect to be some of the biggest challenges the industry will face?
GG: I think our biggest challenge is to stay current and relevant in technology today. I think the Internet is our biggest challenge. The products are the products, but how we interface with future clients technology-wise is going to be crucial and that’s how we’re positioning ourselves.
What keeps you up at night?
GG: I know what keeps me up running a business is cash flow. There’s really nothing that keeps me up at night about the industry. I just think that we’re going to adapt, so that’s part of our culture. We will adapt to different positions depending on where the industry goes.
What do you think is the most exciting, cutting-edge thing your company is doing right now? Why?
GG: Right now it is definitely our technology module—our ability for online ordering systems, and I would say nine out of our 10 deals are closed because of technology. That’s a big deal for us. And what it does for our customers, as far as reporting, controlling, things of that nature, controlling brand ... so, technology is No. 1. It’s definitely the reason why we’ve grown.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
GG: [I have] a very strong faith. Also, charity involvement—homeless shelters, hospital foundations, etc. Another one of our charities is a homeless center for basically abandoned wives and women. That’s a special interest of mine. Also, one of the things I really like is mentoring young people. I love that.
Elise Hacking Carr is editor-in-chief/content director for Print+Promo magazine.