The Marketing Institute: What does the owner/director of a leading Branded Merchandise company actually do?
Bob Gee: We supply a variety of branded promotional products to clients in all sectors and areas of Ireland (www.connectpro.ie). We work closely with our clients to ensure they get the best results from their investments in Promotional Merchandise. My role can be quite all encompassing and it’s easy to get bogged down on day-to-day details. I keep telling myself I need to pull back and take an overall view, observe where the company is going, what resources and skillsets are important and whether we are on the right track. I think I can be quite good at my job when I do that. The problem is I keep getting drawn back into the day-to-day stuff.
MII: What were your key career moves to get to your current role?
B.G: My background is in Logistics and Manufacturing, working with Multinationals here and across Europe. I learnt how to manage a supply network to deliver quality products on time and within budget. The big worry was that I never saw myself as a sales person and that worry held me back for a long time. In fact I learnt that we all sell something in one way or another. Even when you are not customer facing you still need to sell your ideas and build support. The kind of consultative selling we engage in is a good fit to my past experience.
MII: What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?
B.G: We have built up a really good customer base through good customer service, understanding our customers and delivering on our commitments. We are very happy to have a set of loyal and supportive customers but now want to expand beyond that footprint. That is the biggest challenge I face. How do we communicate our message to an audience who have yet to hear about us?
MII: What key skills do you need to be effective in your role?
B.G: I think we need to combine our strengths in logistics and sourcing with good marketing and selling skills. At this phase of development I think we need to become ever stronger in marketing ourselves to a diverse set of organisations.
MII: Describe a typical working day.
B.G: I wish I could have a typical working day; they all seem different. Truth be told I probably enjoy it that way. The variety is a real bonus. Of course I should be striving for a more disciplined approach with carefully planned days and weeks, but that would just be boring. A major attraction to this business is that you never know what inquiry will come in the door in the next hour and what efforts that may lead you to.
However typical days break down into either customer meetings or reviews of the various parts of the business. I love meeting customers and would do only that if I could. The rest of the business does need to be attended to however and I find that consumes more and more of my time.
MII: What do you love most about your role?
B.G: I love the variety and how we interact with so many different organisations. We get to see people in large and small organisations, whether it be business, public sector, education, charities, etc. I get great satisfaction working on ideas and finding new ways (and sometimes old) for clients to get value from their spend on Promotional Merchandise.
Looking ahead, where might your career path lead to next?
B.G: I think I will be in the role for the next few years but having to learn new skills all the time. The challenge right now is to develop my Digital Marketing skills. It’s an exciting area and I have some interesting ideas I want to try out.
MII: To whom do you look for professional inspiration in your role?
B.G: As I have said above the priorty right now is to develop our Digital Marketing skills. It’s an area that is moving so fast it’s hard to see who you should look to for inspiration. I find the various discussion groups, especially on LinkedIn, are helpful but it pays to remember that everyone is on the same voyage. Good ideas can come from everywhere.
I am also involved with The Alternative Board (www.thealternativeboard.ie) which is an organisation which brings together like-minded business people to offer advice and support to each other. Its amazing how different businesses often have essentially the same challenges facing them and how experienced people from different backgrounds can have really good insights into your business.