Top 50 Distributors 2017 Interviews: No. 1 – InnerWorkings Inc.
Every year, Print+Promo releases its 2017 Top 50 Distributors list. To give you some insight into what it takes to make it to the top, we spoke to Eric Belcher, CEO of InnerWorkings Inc., No. 1 on the list.
What was your company’s biggest accomplishment over the last year?
Eric Belcher: We’re convinced that no matter how good our software is, how many countries we’re doing business in or how great our client list is, none of it matters unless we’re the employer of choice for ambitious talent. When we’re all pushing in the same direction—when we’re locked in on our clients’ goals—we win. I truly believe that we wouldn’t be where we are without our focus on talent. I’m more proud of our team today than I was this time last year. And I was really proud then, so that’s saying a lot.
What goals do you have for your business in 2018 and beyond?
EB: We can’t stand still as a company—we’re too young, too ambitious. Our business model, software and client solutions need to evolve beyond what they are today if we want to continue to lead. Staying a step ahead of the next wave of innovation flowing into best-in-class marketing departments takes a lot of passion and a lot of hard work. We’re ready!
How must distributors adapt to stay relevant in a mature industry?
EB: Let’s redefine the industry—look for the white space. None of us are anchored by machinery, just our own willingness to explore and learn, to pivot and excel. Given our focus on our clients, and our knowledge of brands and marketing objectives, who better than our community to execute in categories that are adjacent to print and promotional materials? Digital services, in-house creative studios, luxury packaging, retail environments and the store of the future, software for marketing professionals—none of this is static or mature, and represents a huge opportunity for all of us.
How do you make tough choices in your organization?
EB: We make better decisions when we make them as a team, and we make faster decisions when individuals push forward with what they know is best. We try to balance the two. In either scenario, we can’t be afraid to fail. We need to feel OK with admitting when something doesn’t work, then adapt and change course. That’s hard for all of us—including me—and will always be a work in progress. I often find myself saying, “I made a bad call. Let’s try a different direction.”
What is the best book you’ve read recently?
EB: “Shoe Dog” was a really interesting read. You get the sense that Nike almost didn’t happen—[Nike founder and board chairman] Phil Knight’s pursuit of his dream could have gone sideways a dozen times in the early days. It’s a great lesson about the importance of persistence in pursuit of our goals.
To hear what other leading distributors had to say, check out our 2017 Top 50 Distributors list—complete with bonus information like an in-depth analysis and top 10 rankings for four leading product categories.