Power 50: No. 44 Jill Albers, Shumsky

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

#44: Jill Albers, Shumsky (asi/326300)

2016 Rank: N/A
Title: VP of business development
Industry Experience: 14 years
Birthplace: Celina, OH

Another newcomer to the list, Albers has established herself as the go-to person at Shumsky and one of the top young executives in the entire industry. But she’s not the type of exec who manages from a corner office. Instead, Albers is a boots-on-the-ground salesperson who’s acutely aware of buying trends, technology changes and customer challenges. In this Q&A, Albers lists the markets she thinks are primed for growth and reveals the one thing she’d change about the industry.

Q: What are the largest challenges distributors are facing today?
A: I’d say information technology costs. Distributors are faced with trying to make the creative nature of our trade operationally excellent. Every customer wants an integrated website with cross functionality. Suppliers are now launching new product lines not only one or two times a year, but three, four or even five times. Connecting all that can be demanding for the small to mid-size distributor. Online security is a must and compliance is costly. If distributors aren’t able to quantify their value proposition in the future, they’ll have challenges.

Q: Where are the best opportunities for growth in the promo market right now?
A: First, I think human resources. Companies are more focused on retaining and motivating great talent now more than ever before. Tapping into the organization goals, brand and strategy of a client you’re working with will always produce opportunity. I also think healthcare. Due to the amount of aging seniors in America today, healthcare will be a large opportunity for the promo industry in the years to come.

Q: What’s one thing you’d change about the industry?
A: I love this industry, even with all its quirks, but if there were one thing I had to change it would definitely be how low the cost of entry into this market is. Everyone is dabbling in promotional products today and it’s reducing the profitability of the category. I’ve often heard from procurement departments that the promo products category is more saturated than any other.

Q: What will be different in the promo industry five years from now?
A: Distributors are going to have to make the change from product selling to solution selling if they haven’t already done so.

Q: How can the promo industry attract more talented, younger people into sales?
A: Due to the current high costs of college, entry level sales jobs are going to have to provide a salary with career path options to grab the young talent. Once a company has a quality employee, it needs to hold on to that individual. Our industry has a history of being a “learn as you go or by who you know,” type of field. Organizations can retain top talent by providing effective training.

Q: What is Shumsky doing to innovate?
A: We provide ‘white glove’ service to our clients. Marketing departments are being tasked with doing more with less. We’ve really focused on being a marketing partner that’s an extension of their brand and creating innovative solutions that do just that. We are focused on helping organizations globally tackle their internal and external brands with tools that tie locally procured and in-country products together for one cohesive global solution – while saving money doing it.

Q: What’s the biggest pushback you get from clients?
A: Time – clients want more of your time than ever before. They’re expected to make data-driven decisions and need you to help them budget, plan and strategize. We are seeing this from an executive level down to account management. Clients work a crazy amount of hours and need you to as well.

Q: As a working mom, how do you juggle work and home life?
A: It takes a village to raise a family. I live in a village of 1,500 people and I have an amazing network of family and friends that I utilize to make it all work. Shumsky also offers flexible work hours so I can travel to see clients one day, work from home the next or at the office in Dayton – whichever works for me at any given moment. I also have to thank my amazing husband, Ryan, who puts up with my crap. Early in my career, traveling with two little kids at home was not easy. He is the glue that makes it all work.