Counselor Power 50: Alan Chippindale

Meet The Head Of BrandAlliance

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Alan ChippindaleBrandAlliance arrived on the 2012 Top 40 list at number 30 with $44.8 million in sales. The company, helmed by Alan Chippindale, is the second-largest distributor in Canada, and it approaches business in a unique way.

"Back in early 2008 there was a group of people – four distributors – and we started talking about creating a unique business model on the distributor side," Chippindale says. For months the principals involved spent time getting to know each other, the nuances of each company and what each offered its client base. The discussions focused on eventually creating a company that was different in how it approached business, the value it offered its clients and the idea that there was real business value to the entity beyond being a purveyor of promo products.

The merger of the four was announced to personnel a year and a half before it took place. They wanted to grow the BrandAlliance brand from the ground up, creating a mission statement and core values on which to build the new company. One of the themes that emerged was that distributors are in business to create brands for clients, but too often they don't consider themselves to be a brand. That changed with BrandAlliance.

The merger finally happened in March 2010, and when the new entity opened its doors, a new idea was born. "Our tagline is ‘Build Your Brand Together,'" Chippindale says, noting that there isn't a focus on products; the focus is on a culture of collaboration with clients. For him, the difference between a good client and a bad client is that the good client actually believes in the word "together." Chippindale says that while there is not one person in charge of attaining goals, it's a collective effort and the leadership team is built from within and that it will continue to grow.

Operating in the Great White North isn't all that different from the U.S., Chippindale believes. "I think there is less difference than people say there is," he says. In fact, it's his opinion that Cleveland is more similar to Toronto than it is to cities on the West Coast. The one major difference is that everything is bilingual in Canada, and the company's success is due to the nationalistic approach it takes toward the marketplace. For instance, when the new company's original name did not translate well into French, leaders shortened it to BrandAlliance.

Other reasons for success include organic growth, account penetration and team selling – as well as further alliances. "We are strategically pursuing mergers and acquisitions," Chippindale says, noting that the company made three acquisitions this past summer in order to cement a stronger presence within a needed market.

The outlook for 2013 is conservative, yet Chippindale is forecasting growth. "We think the industry is going to be flat, although we do think it has stabilized," he says. "We're budgeting for growth."