People - All in the Family
Meet The Team At Debco
This family-owned supplier celebrates an impressive number of industry awards.
Concord, ON-based Debco (asi/48885) can claim several industry superlatives. It offers one of the Canadian supplier market’s most diverse product lines and it’s also one of the most awarded suppliers in the industry. But the accolades were far from Debbi and Steven Gallen’s minds when they established the company in their basement in 1983.
Steven, the president of the burgeoning company, sold travel bags, ticket wallets and luggage tags to Canadian travel agents, and hired his father Gil as a sales rep. In 1988, the growing team began to sell to the wider ad specialty market with a more varied product line.
But through it all, one aspect of the company’s mission has not changed: unparalleled customer service. Debco distinguished itself early on by offering samples at no charge and forgoing overnight freight costs for those samples.
“This was pretty extraordinary at the time, and still is,” says Stan Gallen, senior VP of sales & marketing, who visited distributors all across Canada. “I went to see them regardless of distance. I believed it was important to make sure they knew that we’re an honorable and ethical supplier.”
While Debco’s commitment to its clients hasn’t changed, certain aspects of the industry have, notably the number of suppliers in each product category. “At one point, we were ‘the bag guys’ and someone else was ‘the pen guy’,” says Gallen. “That’s now obsolete. Also, the influx of American suppliers into the Canadian marketplace has increased the need for efficiency and has put downward pressure on prices.”
Debco has thrived, though, and Gallen credits much of the company’s continued success to what he calls “The Gallen Work Ethic,” which he describes as “all-encompassing,” saying that, at its core, it’s about “working without an eye to the clock.” Its achievements also depend on its dedicated employees; from early on, management has looked not only to hire the best talent, but also to retain them for the long-term. And it’s working: A significant number of staff members have been with the company for more than 20 years.
The company relies on its employees to keep it successful in an increasingly competitive marketplace, while expecting quick responses to customer inquiries as well as an empathetic approach to vendor relations. “We always have an eye to the next order,” says Gallen. “How the current order goes will determine whether we do in fact get the next order.”
To encourage team spirit, Debco maintains a fun office environment. Photos of milestones line the walls, and a social committee plans annual events. “We celebrate employee’s birthday and years of service milestones with plaques and speeches,” says Gallen. “We also host an annual barbecue and Christmas party, and an open invitation to our industry’s annual awards gala. It makes the staff feel that they’re part of something greater than their individual jobs. It’s very synergistic.”
It’s been a busy time for those employees who accept the annual invitations. Over the past 21 years, Debco has won Supplier of the Year in Canada 19 times. “It’s an amazing achievement and we’re very proud of our team,” Gallen says. “From top to bottom, everyone ensures customer satisfaction and provides a level of service that we feel is unmatched in the industry. Our hands-on approach shows that we’re an involved and caring company that wants to make sure our distributors always look good in front of their clients.”