Hot List - Head Honchos

Meet These 9 Company Owners

Head Honchos

When you're at the helm of a company, regardless of size, the pressure to provide top-quality products and services for clients and motivate employees can seem like impossibly Herculean tasks at best. The nine company owners shown here have found a way to consistently exceed expectations for their own businesses and the industry overall.

From Taylor Tadmor, owner of Tekweld, who led his company to nearly 60% growth between 2009 and 2011, to Heather Sanderson, this year's Counselor Distributor Woman of Distinction who runs Overture Premiums & Promotions with such devotion that her employees have made it a mainstay on the Counselor Best Places to Work list, to Lion Circle's Rich Carollo, who's leading the charge for Made in the U.S. products that are competitively priced, to 30-year-old Ryan Moor, founder and CEO of Ryonet, whose embrace of new technologies has led his screen-printing supply company to grow to nearly $25 million in only eight years, these owners come out of the boardroom, get their hands dirty and know what it is to build – and sustain – successful ad specialty companies.

Consider that surfers Gabe Gerhardt and James Fox, co-owners of the Counselor Fastest Growing Supplier in 2012 – US Flash & Technologies – achieved 1,000% sales growth between 2008 and 2010 by adhering to the simple business mantra of giving clients what they want. Harry Ein, owner of Perfection Promos, is a self-proclaimed "one-man operation" on call 24/7 for his customers. Terry Chen, who's running the only apparel company on this year's Counselor Fastest Growing Supplier list, did so by mastering the fine art of inventory management.

And Sanjay Srinivasan, president of Global Promo? Well, he's so persuasive that when he and his team created customizable sunglasses for clubs in Miami and Orlando, they ended up on the famous faces of Lil' Wayne and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. These movers and shakers are setting the pace for the industry. Catch them if you can.

EXPANDED WRITEUPS

Rich Carollo, Lion Circle
How long have you been in the industry? What's your favorite thing about it?
Honestly, my whole life. When I was a kid I used to come in with my father and push a broom or make catalogs. I guess you can say this industry is in my blood. My favorite thing in this industry has to be seeing the creative products in use. I love working with distributors with wild ideas, and when the project is done, it's a great feeling to know that I was involved in that project. I am constantly amazed on the type of products in this industry all trying to get their marketing message across, and the new ways companies are implementing them.
Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
I see this company adding three times the number of products we have now, with new products that fit under our umbrella and showing this industry (if not the world) that you can have plenty of great choices on products made right here in the United States.
What's the best advice you've received since being in the industry?
Take care of the small customers. Everybody wants to hit that Grand Slam order, but there's a lot of other business out there if you make it easy for the little guys. And hire smart people. My success is completely linked to the people I have around me.
What would you change about the industry if you could?
Tell everyone to stop whining about all of the negatives. This industry is mammoth, and there's plenty work out there to be had. There are a hundred things in this industry that can go wrong, but get past the obstacles, find your right contacts, colleagues, customers.
What song best describes you?
AC/DC's Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. OK, it really doesn't describe me, but I've always loved this song, and it's got an awesome beat. I guess you can say the guy is a problem solver? Hard worker? Not afraid of getting his hands dirty? OK, I'm stretching now, but it's making me laugh.
Who would play you in a movie?
My brother-in-law always tells me I look like Rob Lowe. I personally don't see it, but I'll gladly take it.
Favorite TV show?
I really enjoy the re-runs of Arrested Development. Being in a family business, I can completely relate.

Terry Chen, Landway
Terry Chen, general manager at Landway (asi/66238), spends his busy days managing field sales representatives, negotiating bids and special projects, overseeing marketing and advertising efforts and working with the company's supply-chain team. He is also involved in new product development, approving and signing off designs and putting together business analysis and research, and he takes time out of each day to talk to a few customers over the phone. He is a fan of Pixar movies and loves authentic Mexican food.

Harry Ein, Perfection Promo
One of the young stars of the ad specialty industry, Harry Ein founded his company Perfection Promos in 2010 and is already on track for $1.5 million in sales this year. A self-proclaimed "one-man operation," he is a people-person who prides himself on forging relationships with his clients and ensuring that he does whatever possible to meet their needs, going as far as to promise, "If my phone rings on a Sunday, 10:00 at night or 5:00 in the morning, my clients can always count on me to pick up and offer my services." He says the thing he loves to hear the most from his clients is, "Harry stresses, so I don't have to," and advises that anyone who is new in the industry should "be confident in yourself, work hard and schmooze with as many people as possible."

Gabe Gerhardt, U.S. Flash & Technologies
In the hyper competitive world of flash drive suppliers, Gabe Gerhardt's go-to question when talking to distributors is, "How can we make it easier for you?" A seemingly simple question has lead Gerhardt and his company to over 1000% revenue growth from 2008 to 2010. When asked about how Gerhardt and co-president James Fox manage to both co-exist in ownership rolls and still lead such an innovative company, they offered a unique explanation: Gerhardt surfs a short board and Fox surfs a long board and, of course, "everyone knows you can't run a company with two long boarders." With Gerhardt's passionate care and personal investment in his clients, there is no crash in sight for US Flash & Tech's wave of success.

James Fox, U.S. Flash & Technologies
When asked what the largest factor in the massive success of US Flash & Technologies is, president James Fox offered a succinct explanation, "I'll do anything they ask me to." Referring to his distributor clients, Fox prides both himself and his company on being experts in the flash drive field and creating the most user-friendly, education and support based environment for his customers as possible. With his selfless devotion and care for the quality of his product and the satisfaction of distributors, Fox has helped U.S. Flash earn its place as Counselor's Fastest-Growing Supplier, awarded earlier this year.

Ryan Moor, Ryonet
Ryan Moor, founder and CEO of Ryonet (asi/528500), is a business prodigy: He started out washing windows and making t-shirts on the side for his band; now, at the tender age of 30, he's at the helm of a multi-million dollar screenprinting company. He recommends that industry professionals, in order to concentrate on building a business and improving it, install the appropriate processes and systems in their companies and have teams to run them. If (when) a film is made about his life, he would like Ryan Gosling to be cast as him.

Heather Sanderson, Overture Premiums & Promotions
Founder and CEO of Overture Promotions family, Heather Sanderson has successfully built a fast-growing and unique distributor operation. Being a staunch believer in workplace camaraderie, Heather advises others to "create a work environment that has great culture and is a place where employees are genuinely happy" and Overture's frequent spot amongst Counselor's Best Places to Work list exemplifies her success. When taking a break from the fun-loving office of Overture, Sanderson can be found either kicking back along the Amalfi Coast or pursuing her hobby of gourmet cooking.

Sanjay Srinivasan, Global Promo
As president of Global Promo (asi/208407), Sanjay Srinivasan recently took his promotional campaigns to the next level. After he and his sales team marketed customizable sunglasses to local clubs in the Orlando and Miami areas, they grew their sales exponentially; their efforts culminated in appearances of the sunglasses on celebrities, including rapper Lil' Wayne and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, at the recent NBA All-Star Weekend. His favorite book is Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, and he loves to surf in Bali, Indonesia.

Taylor Tadmor, Tekweld
How long have you been in the industry? What's your favorite thing about it?
"I've been in the industry for 8 years. My favorite part is that the industry feels like a family and the customers are friends."
Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
"With a much larger product offering and operating out of multiple parts of the country to be able to offer faster production and better shipping rates."
What's the best advice you've received since being in the industry?
"Never make promises you can not keep."
What would you change about the industry if you could?
"I would not allow foreign vendors to sell to the distributors because they are able to get a PO box."
What song best describes you?
"Can't Touch This," by MC Hammer.
Who would play you in a movie?
George Clooney
Favorite TV show?
Homeland