Power 50: No. 38 Brandon Mackay, SnugZ USA

Welcome to the 2017 Power 50 list, which ranks the most influential people in the industry.

#38: Brandon Mackay, SnugZ USA (asi/88060)

2016 Rank: 34
Title: President/CEO
Industry Experience: 23 years
Birthplace: Salt Lake City

For the second straight year, Mackay lands on the Power 50 list as he’s positioned his company as one of the most progressive in the industry. Mackay correctly read the personal care category as a growing niche, introducing the SnugZ Zen line in 2015. In both 2016 and 2017, SnugZ won Counselor’s Best Marketing Video contest, setting a high bar with slick presentations. Here, Mackay talks company culture, personal challenges and the quest for work/life balance.

Q: What’s your outlook for the promo market in 2018 and beyond?
A: I think it’s going to continue to consolidate. Our larger suppliers are getting bigger, buying better, surviving on leaner margins and controlling most of the large distributor sales. They’re on the positive side of the Pareto.

Q: What big trends do you see in the market – good and bad?
A: Good, I believe our products and services are more valuable than ever. Corporate branded gear is everywhere and highly accepted. It’s not just for the Fortune 100 anymore – it’s the small cheer group or peewee baseball team looking for custom gear from head to toe. Bad, the cost of doing business is not getting easier for either suppliers or distributors. Our incomplete order rate on inbound orders has not gone below 90% in the past five years. In addition, our margins continue to get squeezed.

Q: What’s the greatest challenge suppliers are facing right now?
A: Our largest pain points are directly related to purchase order quality and margin pressure tied to the customer. Internally, we’re facing a tremendous amount of wage pressure in addition to healthcare premiums that are uncontrollable. The days of long margins are in the rear view mirror so we must internally continue to focus on process improvement.

Q: What’s the greatest challenge you face as a boss?
A: I think the biggest challenge is to find and chart direction. Once we have that, my greatest challenge is to keep those who are on the bus in the bus and heading in the right direction. I absolutely love what I do and who I work with, so I’d have to say that my challenges are low.

Q: How is SnugZ different today from when you first took over the company?
A: I was here when we had six employees and now we have over 500. I’ve been through the death of our CEO and a buyout. Other than size, I don’t think that much has changed. SnugZ is my life and family. Everything I am and everything I want to be is associated with SnugZ. The promo industry has been an amazing ride for me and I’m excited to see where we go from here.

Q: SnugZ has been on Counselor’s Best Places to Work list often over the years. Why is the culture so good?
A: I think SnugZ is the coolest and best place to work in the promo industry, hands down. Our culture rocks because of the people. People often say that, but at SnugZ, it’s 100% true. We look out for one another and do our best to make sure everyone is respected and given the opportunity to excel and reach new levels – not just in their jobs, but in life.

Q: It seems like SnugZ devotes a lot of resources to making good marketing videos. Is that social presence translating into sales?
A: Yes, I believe so. I know we’ve been on the forefront of some crazy ideas in the past and always want to push the creative process. We love video content and the awareness it brings not just to SnugZ but to the industry. We’re on a mission to prove to the world that branded goods are not just good – they’re awesome, and are produced by some of the best companies you’ve never heard of.

Q: Having a family, how do you strike a good work/life balance?
A: I don’t think there is balance. I’ve been around for 23 years. The first 18 were a blur and family was the first to pay the price. It’s more about making the best use of your family time versus balance. I didn’t see many games, recitals, graduation programs or other cool experiences, but I did put a major focus on creating lasting memories when we did have time together. If I can be outside, I’m at peace, and we as a family have had some amazing times in the outdoors. So I guess the wide open spaces of Utah gave us balance.