Profile - How We've Managed Rapid Growth

A Technology Focus Continues To Bring Consistent Gains

Jim FranklynIn 2006, InkHead Promotional Products (asi/231159) increased its sales by an astounding 522% – a remarkable achievement in itself. Arguably even more impressive, though, is how the Atlanta-based company has steadily improved its revenues since, including a 109% gain in sales between 2009 and 2011. How has the distributor been able to successfully manage its expansion?

"We have a comprehensive e-commerce marketing strategy," says Jim Franklyn, vice president of sales at InkHead.

Specifically, InkHead has concentrated on three areas: strong capital investments, collaborative selling and creativity in reaching out to customers. "The idea that there can't be relationship-building in Internet selling is an illusion," Franklyn says.

Confident in InkHead's strategy, Franklyn expects the company to reach $8 million in sales in 2012. Here's his take on how InkHead has kept its momentum going, year after year.

Q: How has InkHead sustained growth without compromising quality service?
A: We've done it through efficiency gains in technology advancements, coupled with employee profit-sharing incentive programs and diversified marketing channels. Unlike traditional promotional companies, everything we do is based on a matrix overlap and teamwork.

Q: Did you put in place a specific plan that's furthered growth?
A: Yes, the four partners at InkHead all have very different skill sets. We spend 100% of our time in the skill sets we are strong in. Our three co-founders are software engineers. Their focus is on our website, e-commerce marketing and custom programming. I am a sales and marketing professional and have spent the last four years building the front end of InkHead.

Q: How have you built your infrastructure to keep up with demands?
A: Our infrastructure was built from the ground up with scalability, volume and speed in mind. It is a fully-integrated relational system that covers every aspect of our business from e-commerce to order processing, customer relationship management, customer service, art processing and billing.

Q: How have you kept financials in check and maintained positive cash flow?
A: Since we are primarily a transaction-based company, more than 80% of our orders are prepaid. We have an awesome CFO and finance and operations manager. They have assembled a team that works very well together just like our sales teams do.

Q: Have you increased your staff or added instead to the responsibilities of current employees?
A: From 2009 to 2012, we have grown from nine employees to 21. We are forecasting 25 employees by the end of 2013 and possibly 30 or more by the end of 2014. Ideally, we like to promote from within.

Q: How have your sales and marketing strategies evolved as you've grown?
A: Our primary focus is to insure people continue to visit Search engine optimization will always be an important component of our marketing strategy. In addition, you need to keep your eyes on content, blogging, social media, videos and, if you have deep pockets, pay per clicks.

Q: Is there such a thing as growing too fast?
A: If you were to research how most of the companies in our industry grew rapidly, it would be through acquisitions. Some have done pretty well, and some are no longer with us. All of InkHead's growth has been organic. Our biggest challenge continues to be how to leverage and optimize all the data we have at our disposal. For now, that is a problem we are glad to have.