Supplier of the Year Second Runner-Up: Visions/Awardcraft

A passion to be the very best helps make this firm one of the market’s elite.

As employees of Visions/Awardcraft (asi/93986) enter the Celina, OH-based headquarters, they’re greeted by a mesmerizing 19-foot tall stainless-steel structure known as “IMAGINE.”

The sculpture symbolizes the power of imagination, creativity and vision – three vital traits in building successful promotional products, and three qualities that have led the supplier to win the Counselor Distributor Choice Award in the Awards & Recognition category for the past four years. In 2017, Visions/Awardcraft had its highest revenue growth in over a dozen years, reaching well into double-digits while cultivating a legion of devoted distributors. As a result, the company maintains five-star ratings in every ESP performance category, ranging from overall satisfaction and communication to delivery and problem resolution.

“It’s nice to work around good people with experience who are open to ideas,” says company President Ryan Hole. “These people are open to making changes that get them out of their own comfort zone because they care so much about the company and our customers.”

There have been some major changes since Hole joined the company nearly a year and a half ago. A digital advertising specialist, he was brought in as sales development manager before being promoted to president in September after leading the company’s record sales surge. Hole attributes that growth to tripling the company’s outbound customer service efforts, and approaching potential and existing clients over the phone rather than through email.

“The digital world strays from face-to-face, and it’s all based on price,” Hole says. “We’ve tried to break out of that world with more live communication. We’ve been reaching out to customers who may have not purchased in the past few years to figure out how to mend that relationship.”

Alternative Approach
One of the biggest challenges has been getting not only employees but also customers to leave their comfort zone. While the company receives a lot of repeat orders, those orders typically haven’t expanded over time. Hole says the sales team has changed that by preparing alternative ideas and solutions before reaching out to clients. As a result, the company landed its largest customer ever this year.

“They were probably tired of hearing from us, but we just kept giving them unique ways to build an award they were doing,” Hole says. “We broke out of our comfort zone and showed them needs they hadn’t realized. It’s rewarding when you see those ideas on television or when we get a photograph of somebody famous with the award.”

More People, More Goals
In order to manage the increasing sales, Hole needed to expand personnel. The company has added four customer service reps and 10 production workers at its Ohio headquarters, and nearly quadrupled its workforce at its Philippines facility. Beefing up staff has limited the need for outsourcing, allowing for more quality control and reducing lead times by half.

“We have a lot of people with a lot of tenure here,” Hole says. “We have the best customer service, people that really care about the end-customer and go out of their way to check on orders. I need more people like that, people that treat this like it’s their business.”

As long as there are minds willing to be molded, Hole is happy to share his expertise. Before Visions/Awardcraft, he spent nearly 15 years training media consultants in online sales. That’s what drives him – helping others achieve their goals. “I have a lot of experience trying to make companies run faster and leaner, positioning it better for the end-user,” Hole says. “My plans are always to grow – I help people along their career path. If I’ve got somebody who wants to be a manager, I start coaching them immediately.”

As for the future, Hole plans on continuing the company’s success, aiming for another year of double-digit growth and raising its customer experience rating from 97 to 98. “I’m fast-paced and I hate to lose,” he says. “We want to be the leader of the industry, coming out with items that nobody else has.”