Top 50 Suppliers 2017 Interviews: No. 8 – ADG Promotional Products
Every year, Print+Promo releases its 2017 Top 50 Suppliers list. To give you some insight into what it takes to make it to the top, we spoke to Bill Mahre, president of ADG Promotional Products, No. 8 on the list.
What was your company’s biggest accomplishment over the last year?
Bill Mahre: We continue to grow and be profitable. In any marketplace that is a major accomplishment. From a product standpoint, the launching of our new Luminate products has been a big hit. Two different pen styles, battery charger and flashlights with light-up messaging features using new technology provides end-buyer clients that unique marketing element and “wow factor” to highlight their brands in a simple, but very impactful, manner. When we launched the Luminate Delta pen in January at PPAI, the lines at our booth to get a personalized pen sample were overwhelming. We knew then it was going to be a big win in the marketplace. More products to come in 2018.
What is your company’s top priority for 2018?
BM: Our tagline is “Quicker—Easier—Better,” which we will continue to emphasize. The core is to continue to find ways that we can make it easier for distributors to do business with ADG. Identify products that can be brought to market that have a distinct point-of-differentiation and provide end-buyers with creative marketing and messaging tools. Sounds easy, but it is a daily priority for ADG’s people.
Besides sales numbers, what makes a top supplier?
BM: Everyone would initially probably say customer service, which should actually be expected and the standard of any organization. Our emphasis has also been on trying to get things right the first time in an expedited manner. If distributors and their clients know what to expect from ADG, and we can deliver that consistently over time, our reputation and business results will continue to grow. A good example of that vision is our ADG Service Advantage Fee. A few years ago, I was frustrated with the large number of industry add-on fees suppliers were using and the complexity they brought to our business model. The ADG team analyzed what it truly cost to bring an order through the system, and what we found has helped us immensely, as we now have one simple order charge ($15G) that covers set-ups, rush charges, third-party billing, proofs and drop ships. Distributors know clearly what to expect from ADG and have really enjoyed not being inundated with multiple fees on their orders. [It’s] not a complicated model, but it clearly works for distributors.
What is the biggest challenge facing the industry today, and how can we work toward a solution?
BM: [I’m] not sure there is just one major obstacle, but a couple come quickly to mind. Recently, there have been a number of equity firms and large organizations entering the promotional products space (i.e., Walmart). I have heard some people get excited because they think that these folks “love promo items and our industry growth,” which is why they are entering, but another thing these moves tell us is that there are a lot of inefficiencies in our distribution model. (That is kind of how Walmart and equity firms have been successful.) We need to drive out unnecessary costs by being more disciplined and find ways to leverage technology so that bringing products to market via the supplier/distributor model will continue to be a value add going forward. That leads directly into a connecting area, which is the need to create and install standards for our industry. Technology continues to exponentially get deeper into buyers’ everyday lives, and in many ways provides simpler experiences. Going forward, we need to look at everything we do and try to make it quicker, easier and better.
Whom do you admire most as a business leader?
BM: [I admire] leaders who continue to do what is best for their people through mentoring, training and maintaining high ethical standards. I was fortunate enough to spend the first 14 years of my career at Procter & Gamble, and one of our previous CEOs had a wonderful saying: “You can take away my brands and factories, but if you leave me the people, we can rebuild this company within 10 years.” [That] says a lot about what is really important for an organization to be successful.
Is there anything you would like to add that we haven’t already discussed?
BM: Compliance and product safety will continue to be major topics in our industry. Making sure we have proper testing results/documentation and identify[ing] ways to ensure that quality products continue to be provided will be the standard by which top-notch companies will be evaluated. When a poor quality product enters the market and makes the news, it negatively affects everyone in our industry.
To hear what other leading suppliers had to say, check out our 2017 Top 50 Suppliers list—complete with bonus information like an in-depth analysis and top 10 rankings for four leading product categories.