2020 Top Distributors: AIA Corporation CEO Nancy Schmidt on Customer Relationships and More
Each year, Promo Marketing compiles the top promotional products distributors into one comprehensive list. We asked some of the 2020 top distributors for their thoughts on the industry, their plans for the future and more. Here, we talked to Nancy Schmidt of AIA Corporation, the No. 7 company on our 2020 Top Distributors list.
In 2019, AIA invested heavily in technology, upgrading its order entry and order management systems, integrating them with enterprise-grade company stores and supporting them with additional marketing and sales planning resources. The moves appear to have paid off, as AIA grew its sales from $194.9 million in 2018 to $210.7 million last year (8 percent), good for No. 7 on our list. Still, it wasn’t all tech. Nancy Schmidt, who succeeded Matt Gresge as AIA’s CEO in May, primarily credited the company’s success in 2019 to decidedly more human factors.
“It starts with the culture of AIA, the core values we share and how hard we work to attract, retain and grow those who share these values,” Schmidt said. “We’ve extended this idea of culture and community to AIA’s leadership team, and are so pleased to have assembled a talented, high-functioning team that cares deeply about the AIA community, cares deeply about one another and is completely committed to providing an extraordinary experience for AIA owners.”
Outlook: Schmidt said one AIA’s top goals through 2020 is to be a strong source of working capital for its affiliate owners, especially as suppliers shift payment terms to require large advance deposits for PPE, which has come to dominate industry sales. AIA also wants to continue providing new product information and marketing support for its owners as the market continues to change, while continuing to invest in its tech stack and, above all, its relationships.
“The greatest lesson, which is true now and will always be true, is that deep and wide customer relationships that are founded on consultative problem-solving are winning the day, and will always win over time,” Schmidt said. “In contrast, simply ‘collecting orders’ instead of building productive relationships throughout your customer organizations is self-limiting, and will create many challenges in trying to weather the current storm.”