Marvin Spike Lifetime Achievement Award: Fran Ford

Meet J. Charles Crystalworks' Fran Ford

Fran FordSales and golf have been successfully interwoven throughout Fran Ford's career. As the son of a career Army officer, Ford moved around a lot. "By the time I reached high school, I lived in six different places, and I had to sell myself to meet new friends," Ford says. "I couldn't be bashful. I became a salesman at a young age and ended up following my dream, and have been a salesman all my life."

Ford started playing golf at age 11 and got a job at a military golf club. Eventually, the sport earned him a scholarship to the University of Hawaii, and even led him after college to a job for a sporting goods company. That's where Ford was first exposed to the ad specialty market, soon becoming a distributor himself in the industry. One of the suppliers he bought products from was Sam Jaffa. Jaffa asked Ford to join his company, and in 1983 he became a rep for the supplier. "I never dreamed of doing anything else, and I've been doing this for 37 years," says Ford, now vice president of J. Charles Crystalworks (asi/62985) after stints with multiple suppliers over the years.

Through a series of companies being sold or merged, Ford landed at Bemrose after Jaffa was sold; was recruited by Glen Holt to work with him at Lennox; started a company with Gary Martin; joined BTS Group, which was later bought by Norwood; became a partner at Castelli Diaries; sold out his side and went to Visions Awardcraft; moved to Phoenix and married his "dear friend" and started doing consulting until he was approached by J. Charles in 2009.

"I met so many people, and I was lucky because I got to see a start-up company and how you have to compete with the stalwarts. I got to see a company get sold, and I learned a lot from that," he says.

Ford's deeply-felt passion for this industry is highlighted by his desire to mentor and "pass the baton on to the next generation" and inspire younger folks to see the opportunities available to them. "I don't want to die with all this knowledge locked in my head," he says. "I've seen a lot of change in this industry, but there's one thing that has not changed, and it never will: This is a relationship industry."