Leadership, Government and Technology: Excerpted Interviews From Our Annual Top Distributors Piece
The release of our annual top distributors list is only a few weeks away. It's exciting for me because it's one of the points in the year where I get some of my best interviews, talking to super-interesing people like Greg Muzzillo of Proforma and Jason Black from Boundless Network.
I thought it might be cool to release some of these interviews before they see print. Below is the full interview of one of my annual favorites, Jerry Mulligan, V.P. of sales/new business development of Chamberlain Marketing Group:
Promo Marketing: How do you set goals for yourself? For your business?
Jerry Mulligan: As this is an election year, I'll put our goal-setting strategy at CMG in political terms. We view goal setting as somewhere between a European social democracy, where everyone participates and collaborates, and a benevolent dictatorship on the other extreme where at the end of the day our sales team recognizes they have to accomplish certain minimally acceptable sales levels. We begin preparing for the new year's goals early in the fall with a review of current client's programs, sales and opportunities. Each salesperson submits both a financial sales goal as well as a "key strategies" plan account by account. We revisit the plan on a quarterly basis throughout the year. Other long term business goals are based on evaluating gaps in our current offerings, technology, personnel resources and developing department by department specific goals. In 2012 we are undertaking an extensive technology conversion to a new ERP platform ... it will require a monumental effort by all.
PM: What's the biggest way technology is changing your business? What do you expect the biggest technological change to be in the near future?
JM: Technology is both a blessing and a curse. There are now literally thousands of tools and applications that enable us to get to market better/faster/cheaper. So it's a great gain in productivity. The curse is that our clients now have higher expectations for new technology (social media, transparency, customization of reporting etc.). There is a perpetual cycle of ongoing investment in new technology. Additionally, the availability of international "sourcing" websites has allowed customers to conduct their own searches for lowest cost products—often times without properly vetting the reliability and compliance of the manufacturer. Finally, mobile shopping apps will continue to grow and explode in 2012 and beyond. It's estimated at 25 percent of the market now and will continue to grow.
PM: In 2011 and 2012, government from the national level down has been vocally condemning its own promotional products as "unnecessary government waste." What do you think about this? Generic government scapegoating and placation, or something more threatening?
JM: I couldn't agree more. It is unnecessary and wasteful for government to be promoting itself ... we are in the business of promoting "brand identity." The only brand identity I care to see from the federal government flies in the front of every school, post office and stadium in America. It's the flag of the United States of America. We don't need "brand identity" for the department of Homeland Security. Our industry should be focused on how to help businesses—small and large—grow and succeed. At CMG we do not rely on the government for our sales success.
PM: What's one of the biggest leadership lessons you ever learned, and how did you learn it?
JM: One of the most important leadership lessons I have learned early on was "Where there is smoke, there is soon to be a raging fire," and a leader's job is to go get the biggest, wettest blanket they can to put out the fire. Leaders need to recognize that one of their most important roles is to understand that anytime a process involves a human being (and everything in our industry does), mistakes are inevitable. When they do happen, we need to address them quickly, openly and honestly. I tell our sales staff the last thing a client ever wants to hear after a mistake is "I'm sorry!" Our customers don't care if we're sorry ... they want to know "What happened. Why did it happen? What have you done to fix it this time? What are you doing to ensure it won't happen again?"
If you can respond quickly and answer all of these questions, you can actually make a client more loyal than if they had not encountered the problem to begin with. Too often leaders hide when problems arise ... that is exactly when "leadership" is needed the most!
That's all for this week guys! Thanks for reading and check back in mid-may to see the full collection of interviews.
Monday Mike Fact: Saw the Avengers this weekend. Drop everything you're doing now and go see it immediately. Don't turn off your lights, don't lock your door, don't even put on shoes. Just start running now until you are in a theater, eating popcorn and waiting for the Hulk to punch someone in the face.