After a brief hiatus, Print+Promo is excited to bring back its "Women in Print" feature. This year, we added the promotional market to the mix. In the profiles below, some of the top female executives in the business discuss their jobs, how they got their start, and what advice they'd give women new to the industry.
Adrienne Barker, MAS
Corporate Vice President, Barker Specialty Company, Cheshire, Conn.
Years of experience: 30+
An average day: Emails are checked 24/7-let's put that on the table right now. There is no time except when I am sleeping that I am not checking my emails. I try to balance my time between sales calls, events to attend and office time working on presentations, entering orders, artwork and following up with clients. I leave some time each day for personal marketing to my clients while making sure that I add new business cards to my LinkedIn and my contact list. I'm active on social media daily to make sure I keep up my online presence. I also try to read one new industry-related article each day so I stay up-to-date with what is happening in our "promo" world.
How she got her start: I got my start in the industry at 20 when my dad asked me to come into the business and work with my brother Gerry to learn the [ropes].
Her advice to women just starting out in the industry: Always be true to yourself. Know the industry and be proud of the services we offer. Most importantly, make sure you get to know your suppliers, their reps and their team that is there to help you. The suppliers will help you grow your business.
CEO, MadeToOrder Inc., Pleasanton, Calif.
Years of experience: 27
An average day: Alarm goes off, I try to get an hour of exercise in first thing so I feel good for the rest of the day. Check overnight email, then head into the office. I do work with a "high" and "normal" task list throughout the day. But as everyone knows, many times you get waylaid by fires that need to be attended to immediately. The best part of my day is working with all the delightful and hardworking people at MadeToOrder (MTO). After the workday, like all mothers, I race home and figure out what to make for dinner.
How she got her start: When I first moved to the Bay Area from Chicago, I worked as a salesperson for a supplier company, Shaw Umbrella Co. Later, for distributor firm The Harwood Company, and now MTO.
Her advice to women just starting out: Recently, we hired four bright, smart, young ladies at MTO. I look at them and I think they have so much opportunity in this business. They are learning the business currently by working in the back office, but after some experience and gained knowledge they will be able to work in any aspect of the business, whether they choose to manage the business behind-the-scenes or build a book of business as a sales partner.
Jo-an Lantz, MAS
Executive Vice President, Geiger, Lewiston, Maine
Years of experience: 36
An average day: I travel a lot so if I am working in the office ... get up at 4 a.m., leave the house (I live south of Boston) and commute about 2.5 hours. When I get to the office I try to park at a different door each time so I enter at a different entrance. I speak to as many associates as possible, so it takes about 45 minutes to get to my desk. My day is full of face-to-face meetings and email.
Leave for my return drive around 3:30. Phone calls are stacked [during the three-hour drive home] between 3:30 and 6:30.
Home, dinner with the family, and then I squeeze in a run. (I am training for the Boston marathon so I train six days a week.) After my run, more email, then bed.
If I am traveling, I work out at 5 a.m. My day is full of being with people. Email and phone calls between periods or after-dinner meetings.
How she got her start: Geiger was the first full-time job after college. I had no intention of staying, but ... I fell in love with my colleagues and the industry.
Her advice to women just starting out in the industry: Find a career path in this industry you love, whether it is sales, customer service, IT, finance or HR. Work hard and network. Your relationships will help tremendously. Have fun. Join your local regional association or PPAI. You will receive far more than you give.
President/CEO, Leaderpromos.com, Columbus, Ohio
Years of experience: 21
An average day: Always crazy-busy, but a lot of fun.
How she got her start: I started in college selling promotional items to fraternities and sororities, and then branched out corporately. This ended up as a full-time career when I graduated.
Her advice to a woman just starting out in the industry: Head down and don't look back. Women are good at achieving the goals they set, so it's important to know where you want to go and to make a plan on how to get there.
President and CEO, IBF, A Safeguard Company, Boise, Idaho; president, PSDA, Chicago
Years of experience: 24
An Average Day: In a conversation with Print+Promo, McLaughlin explained in detail her standard work day. Deeply involved in the running of the company, she manages everything from the sales staff to product-stock levels of the business.
How she got her start: I graduated from Boise State University in 1990 with a BFA in advertising design. I was working at a photography studio during my final year of college and the year after. My mom was a client of IBF's, and one day a salesperson for IBF came in to show her a proof. This was back in the days of paste-up and layout. He was describing the process to her since the proof was late, and she mentioned that she knew what he was explaining. He asked her how? She replied that her daughter (me) had a degree in graphics and did quite a bit of work like this. The salesperson gave my mom his card and told me to call IBF. They needed help in the graphics department. I called him and we talked for an hour. He arranged an interview with the general manager for me. I interviewed with her for two hours. The general manager arranged an interview with the owner of IBF. I came in, talked with him for five minutes and he offered me the job. The rest is history.
Her advice to women just starting out in the industry: Get involved in an association that can help you learn the industry and provide networking opportunities. I would also counsel them to always have an open mind, actively demonstrate a willingness to learn and take on new opportunities, and find a mentor or two that can offer professional advice.
President, Advanced Business Graphics Inc., Coppell, Texas
Years of experience: 25
An average day: We believe that our work, our days and our client solutions reach beyond average, even after the 25 years I've been in the business. "Average" isn't part of our vocabulary. The creative ways we serve clients means every day is fresh and rich with potential.
How she got her start: I started in the printing and promotional industry because I loved the model of not being tied to equipment and being able to deliver to the client exactly what they need in the consumable arena to serve them and their stakeholders.
Her advice to women just starting out in the industry: My advice to women considering this business is: "Go for it!" Use your energy, verve and passion to build relationships. Especially in the new, collaborative economy we live in, women are ideally suited to leverage our natural gifts to connect with others. We are great at building trust and profitable relationships. Going the extra mile is another natural strength many professional women can use to differentiate themselves and stand out. There are so many resources available to women in business compared to the way things were when I entered the business. It is truly rewarding for people like me to help and see so many using their talents to create the next generation of print and promotional distributors. After all these years, I honestly can say that I'm as excited about our opportunities as I have ever been.
Director of Marketing, Vitronic Promotional Group, Mason, Ohio
Years of experience: 11+
An average day: I oversee our marketing department, which includes our product development and graphics team as well as our sample department. I manage all of the ins and outs of marketing that includes print ads, search engines, email blasts, catalog and flyer production and trade show management, along with overseeing the development of new products that are so essential to our business.
How she got her start: I started the old-fashioned way, answering an ad for an outside sales position in the newspaper. I was in retail for 15 years and was tired of working on the weekends, so I sent in my résumé and the rest is history.
Her advice to women just starting out in the industry: I would tell a woman to go for it. This is such a fun industry with very passionate, kind and smart people-men and women alike. As a woman, I feel respected in the industry and we are all friendly competitors, so it is just a great group of people. I have established so many life-long friendships both with distributors and suppliers, and I am grateful for that every day.