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 talked to Tom Goos, president of Image Source, Kirkland, Wash.; and immediate past chairman of the board for Promotional Products Association International (PPAI), Irving, Texas. Here, Goos talks about new initiatives, the value of promotional products and why he feels a responsibility to the industry.
Tom Goos: It is always a journey, and I believe your path almost always occurs because of “collisions.” These are interactions (collisions) with people that shape your future. For me, it was a collision with my now business partner, Brian Haner. I was a recent college graduate with a business degree and a passion for marketing. I had no idea of the breadth of offering the industry provided. My understanding was he sold pens! Early on, I worked for Adventures in Advertising, Idea Man and Halo before partnering up with Brian and starting Image Source. In the beginning, it was just the two of us, and we have had steady growth over the last 19 years, and we now have a staff of 42, and sales of around $18 million annually and growing.
How do you set goals for yourself? For your business?
TG: I am very goal-oriented, so I set goals in every aspect of my life—both personally and professionally. I have fitness goals, personal financial goals, monthly goals, [annual] goals, profit goals, etc. I believe [that] to set goals, you need to begin with the end in mind. What do you want to accomplish? Then, work backwards. I love to set a carrot for myself and for my team to accomplish, and I think goals provide that.
How does the economy continue to affect the industry?
TG: The economy has a major impact on the industry. In 2009, when the [recession] hit, the industry was down nearly 30 percent, and now the economy is strong, and the industry continues to modestly grow. Many media categories continue to decline, and the promotional products industry continues to thrive. I believe companies see the value of promotional products and the clutter-buster effect it has on their marketing efforts. Ninety-nine percent of the industry is small business and, frankly, 92 percent is very small business, so economic policies and the U.S. and global economy have a major impact on us.
What keeps you up at night?
TG: How did you know I am up at night? First, I feel responsible to create a good work environment for my team at Image Source. Forty-plus people rely on me to navigate the company through the rough waters of the business world. I also feel responsible to the industry. I was the chairman of the board of PPAI in 2016, and was able to travel the country and different parts of the world sharing the value of promotional products and the impact [they have] on companies and individuals. I am invested in this industry not just [to] survive, but thrive.
What do you think is the most exciting, cutting-edge thing your company is doing right now? Why?
TG: We are growing and evolving as a company. It is exciting to see the growth and innovation that comes with that. Our core competency is delivering as a creative merchandise agency. We live and breathe that differentiation, and it is resonating with our clients. We also recently launched a consortium of promotional product partners (aka buying group) called Reciprocity Road. It consists of nine unique promotional product agencies throughout the U.S., with total annual revenue exceeding $200 million. We live our brand name of “reciprocity” by creating transparency with our supplier partners, sharing and learning with each other, and offering our teams additional value-added resources. We also have a pay-it-forward philosophy and commitment that is focused on giving back to our communities. It is unique and different than anything else I have seen in the marketplace.
What would people be surprised to learn about you—hobbies, special interests, etc.?
TG: I am a duathlete and triathlete. I train five to six days a week—running, biking, swimming and cross training. I have a passion for athletics and competing, even in my ripe old age of 45. I love the scientific approach to training my body to respond to my mind. I use lactate threshold testing to know how far I can push my body. My other passion is cars. They create more than transportation; they evoke an emotional response similar to promotional products.