What It Takes To Be A Powerful Partner

PowerfulPartners_2016“Partner” may be the most potent word in the English language. One person may be able to accomplish quite a bit, but he or she is still just one person. Add a second person—a partner who shares the same goals—and the strength of that force doubles. Whether you call this person a partner, collaborator, comrade or colleague, he or she takes on an active role, especially in business, and shares in the risk of a venture and also in the outcome and success. Together, strong partners can make for a heady combination.

This month, PPB showcases six individuals who have so strongly succeeded with that critical partner connection that they were nominated and selected as some of the best examples of how suppliers, distributors, business services companies and consultants can work together as powerful partners.

What do these six do (or not do) that makes their partnerships so valuable? Turn the page to hear it directly from this year’s standouts and their nominators.

Jonathan Beyer

Strategic Account Manager


Trevose, Pennsylvania

Nominator and distributor partner: Linda Jones, MAS, partnership assurance manager, Geiger

jonathan-beyerA 10-year veteran of supplier alphabroder, Jonathan Beyer has spent the past three years in the customer-centric role of strategic account manager. His ability to cultivate relationships and grow the business of alphabroder’s customers have made him a well-respected leader in the industry.

Linda Jones, MAS, partnership assurance manager at distributor Geiger, has relied on Beyer’s expertise for a number of years and singled him out for recognition because of three key qualities he brings to the relationship. “He’s very quick with responses, helps with projects from start to finish and always sends other suggestions when an item is out of stock,” says Jones. “He also provides ideas, keeps an eye on the order and follows up after the order has shipped.” She points to a recent example. “When we asked Jon for ideas and pricing on a 10,000-piece order, he provided lots of details and at least five different item suggestions, plus pricing, production time, full descriptions of the items, free samples and virtuals. He thought of everything,” she says. “We got the order and everything ran smoothly. Jon is great! Love working with him!”

Jonathan Beyer On Partnerships

What are the most important qualities in a good business partner? 

Trust. Honesty. Humor. My partners know that they can trust me to access every resource alphabroder has available to achieve their goals. I am always honest about how I can help, what we can do and how we can do it. And, just as importantly, I try to connect in a humorous way. A bit of humor can go a long way.

One of the keys to success is great communication. Good business partners work together to find out-of-the-box strategies. By asking the right questions and having all of the necessary information, you are able to present solutions that work.

What do you do that sets you apart from others in the way you work with clients?

As a supplier, I listen to my clients and work with them to fill their needs. Having access to alphabroder’s complete assortment of promotional apparel products and our full array of value-added tools makes us stand out in a crowd and is unlike anything in the industry. Our goal is to make sure we can satisfy the customer’s needs in a timely manner to facilitate growth.

I always make a keen effort to listen. As a supplier, it’s important to hear what my clients have to say. I’m always striving to build lasting relationships and find creative solutions that work. Basically, my number one goal is to help my partners grow their businesses. It’s a win-win.

Is there something your client does that makes it easy for you to provide exemplary service?

Linda is great at supplying all of the information needed to complete a project. She is always available to answer questions and discuss all options that might be available. We are able to work together and come up with the solutions needed. We are both there for each other and use each other as a resource.

What advice do you have for others who want to achieve a true partnership with their clients?

Contact, communication and follow-up. Make sure you reach out to your partners, find out their needs and follow up in a timely manner. Become their “rock”—that reliable resource they can count on to help them succeed.

Randy Conley

Vice President New Business Development


Breckenridge, Colorado

Nominators and distributor partners: Ron Baellow, president, Bright Ideas LLC; Peter Bunker, business development, Shads Advertising Co.; Jules Fabbri, president, South Paw Canada; Tim O’Neill, president/CEO, Image Masters; Rick Bowman, president, ProCorp Images, Inc.; Pat Hughes, president, Custom Specialties; Geoffrey Patack, partner, Broadway Marketing Ltd.; Tom Wagner, owner, Quality Concepts, Inc.; Scott Moscow, owner, Booke Promotions; James Greaves, CEO, Brand Makers

randy-conleyWorking in true partnership with his distributor clients is a goal Randy Conley takes seriously—and the qualities and practices he brings to the role have made a lasting impression on his clients. Facilisgroup is an industry business services company focused on providing distributor clients with industry expertise, practical leading-edge technology and efficient processes through an integrated end-to-end model that includes software, business automation, buying leverage and more. Conley has been with the company for eight years and in that time has sharply honed his skills and forged lasting relationships with a number of clients.

“Partnering with Randy, along with the whole Facilis team, has been a game changer for our company,” says James Greaves, CEO of Brand Makers, who joined Facilis in 2012. “We have had one good experience after another. He is genuinely interested in our success and is extremely responsive to even our most difficult challenges. He is there in good times and bad times.”

Quality Concepts, Inc. Owner Tom Wagner says he’s been working with Conley for the past five years and in that time Conley has been instrumental in providing business analysis and suggestions on how to improve the bottom line. “He has been able to digest my company’s economic data and provide concrete suggestions on streamlining my business practices to increase profitability.” He adds that Conley has not only been someone he can turn to for industry guidance but he’s become a friend as well.

Geoffrey Patack, partner with Broadway Marketing Ltd., says Conley provides great advice from experience, not opinions, and he’s always available and responsive. Pat Hughes, president of Custom Specialties, also likes Conley’s diligent follow-up and follow-throughs—and something else. “Randy will never cross lines of confidentiality of supplier or distributor information,” says Hughes. “I had an issue with a competitor a few years ago and Randy skillfully provided his opinion on the matter without crossing any ethical lines.”

Tim O’Neill, president/CEO of Image Masters, is another who salutes Randy’s effective style. “Randy truly models professional sales behavior,” he says, adding that when Conley was recruiting O’Neill’s company to join Facilis he was respectful of his prospect’s time. South Paw Canada President Jules Fabbri calls Conley a constant mentor. “He never turns away from assisting or providing advice when called upon. He didn’t just sell us on the system and walk away. He is with us every step of the way to ensure we meet my expectations.”

Randy Conley On Partnerships

What are the most important qualities in a good business partner? 

Trust (you can’t be a partner without this), respect (their time, knowledge and success); listen (this is how you learn); value (you have to add it in every conversation).

What do you do that sets you apart from others in the way you work with clients?

I tell them what I think and not what they want to hear. For distributor owners, it can be lonely at the top. They often need a sounding board when dealing with management challenges and can’t go to staff, and don’t always want to take the work issues home with them. So they can call me and have a conversation with someone who has been in their shoes and understands the issues.

But they don’t want to be pandered to—they want to know what I think even if it goes against what they were thinking. This type of relationship is what true business partnership is all about. I get them thinking and then get out of the way. My job is to add value by making them think about their options. They know their business the best and are very successful but often they want to be challenged to either confirm their thoughts or to consider another direction. So I tell them what I think, review what others have done in the past and often refer them to other Facilisgroup distributors to get different opinions and discuss the topic further.

At the end of the day, it’s their business and they get to make the decisions. Hopefully I have helped them make better decisions more often by getting them to think about their options.

Is there something your clients do that makes it easy for you to provide exemplary service?

They understand the areas where I can help them and add value (strategy, management, technology) so our conversations tend to focus on the right topics. They know I travel for a living so they often send me outlines of the discussion topics via email and then we schedule a call to discuss. This gives me time to research the topic a bit and be prepared for the call. They share ideas and don’t mind me sharing them with others. I learn a lot from them, and the Facilisgroup community is all about the sharing of information to help everyone be more successful.

What advice do you have for others who want to achieve a true partnership with their clients?

Trust and respect have to be earned, and that takes time. So be patient, ask lots of questions, listen and then add value where appropriate. It’s a lot easier if they feel like you understand them and their challenges, and it really helps to have been in their shoes. You need to be able to relate to them on their level if you want a true partnership to blossom.

Aaron Kucherawy   

Manager of Customer Success


Toronto, Ontario

Nominator and distributor partner: Mitch Silver, vice president marketing, Printable Promotions

aaron-kucherawyWhen Aaron Kucherawy joined industry business services company commonsku, he brought to the job several years of serving internal customers at consumer brand companies including Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Coca Cola Bottling Company United. Those skills, combined with his tech expertise and youthful exuberance and curiosity, have proven to be the magic mix for Kucherawy.

“Whenever we have a question about the commonsku platform, Aaron not only answers the question, but asks us why we want to know, and takes the time to understand specifically what we are trying to accomplish,” says Mitch Silver, vice president of marketing for Printable Promotions. “Aaron is super responsive and specific with his answers to questions. If he doesn't know the answer, he gets back to me quickly.” Silver also likes some other traits Kucherawy brings to the table as a partner. “Aaron’s creative problem-solving abilities were instrumental in adapting our business processes to the commonsku platform, and his upbeat, friendly personality and sense of humor helped us stay relaxed and positive during a tough software transition.”

Aaron Kucherawy On Partnerships

What are the most important qualities in a good business partner? 

When I think of a good business partner there are three qualities: honesty, great communication and being supportive. A partner is someone who wants to be successful with you. In any relationship, being upfront with each other always helps, talking openly and not shying away from conversation all lead to being successful. Helping each other be successful and celebrating when they are successful also helps.

What do you do that sets you apart from others in the way you work with clients?

Not to say others don’t do it, but I really am myself when I work with clients. Talking to clients on the phone or in person, what they see or hear is what I am like inside and outside the office.

Is there something your client does that makes it easy for you to provide exemplary service?

Absolutely! Working with Mitch has allowed me to set expectations and help guide his team as they moved over to our system. He is never afraid to ask a question or ask for my opinion, and is always receptive of my feedback. Plus, we trade the occasional hilarious email.

What advice do you have for others who want to achieve a true partnership with their clients?

Be yourself. Talk to people you partner with, get to know them and let them get to know you. Partnerships are about working together, and the results get better the more you care about the other person’s success.

Marsha Londe


Tango Partners

Atlanta, Georgia

Nominated by: Jay Nathanson, CEO, Target Marketing

marsha-londeBefore starting Tango Partners, an industry consultancy firm, in 2005, Marsha Londe spent 25 years in distributor sales and management. Those decades as a distributor gave her a unique perspective and clear appreciation for the challenges distributors face—and proved invaluable when she moved to the other side of the desk as a consultant. Today, she helps distributors respond to requests for proposals, and assists in solving their challenges and improving their performance in sales, marketing, training and business development.

Among her clients is Jay Nathanson, CEO of Target Marketing, who calls Londe “… one of the smartest and most enthusiastic professionals in our industry.” He says his company has retained her for many years to provide strategic assistance on complex RFPs (“Many of which we have won.”), creative copy for ad campaigns (“For which we have also won awards.”) and overall marketing strategy and campaign development.

“This year, Marsha and I worked closely together to develop a strategy to attract new customers in the event planning niche. Our brainstorming sessions were exciting, and always ended with great ideas, and her follow-up included notes and action items. Her communication is always timely and to the point.”

Most important for Nathanson is the trust factor. “I trust Marsha with the most sensitive strategies that we develop and deploy,” he adds. “I wish all my partners were this powerful.”

Marsha Londe On Partnering

What are the most important qualities in a good business partner? 

The most important quality is honesty. Everything else is secondary. Integrity, candor and openness make it easier to identify and address both issues and opportunities. The business person who is candid about a company’s challenges, as well as potential, is more receptive to a frank exchange of ideas.

What do you do that sets you apart from others in the way you work with clients?

This question makes me smile. My approach was novel when I started in sales over 35 years ago, but now it’s routine advice. I’m an engaged listener. First, I ask questions. Then I listen as the client responds, taking notes to recall the details and so that I don’t interrupt the thought process. Of course more questions follow, and through this progression, we identify problems, solutions, goals and opportunities.

Is there something Jay does that makes it easy for you to provide exemplary service?

Partnering with Jay is fun! He is an insightful thinker, open to recommendations and clear when he’s ready to conclude a topic. He’s committed to ongoing improvements and training, and fiercely dedicated to delivering exceptional service. Because Jay is honest with himself about any circumstance, he can process clearly to address complex situations. Though he can reach his best conclusions on his own, he values our exchanges as an opportunity for feedback, pushback, perspective and a periodic dose of insight. I thoroughly enjoy our time together.

What advice do you have for others who want to achieve a true partnership with their clients?

Love what you do! Care about your clients. Genuinely want to share the information garnered over years in the industry or in whatever area you’re expert. Be understanding of client pressures, whether internal business concerns or that request for proposal their largest client just issued. Be excited with them when the news is good. Be part of their team, not just when working on a specific project but ongoing when you note something that’s of interest or a benefit to them.

Ira Neaman


Vantage Apparel

Avenel, New Jersey

Nominated by: Steve Lipic, president, Lipic’s Engagement

neaman_photo-webFew industry professionals have the historic vantage point of Ira Neaman, who opened his apparel company in New York City in 1977 and has witnessed the fashion and apparel trends that have influenced wearables and decorating techniques over nearly four decades. Although he didn’t set out to sell within the promotional products industry distribution channel, once he discovered it, the industry was a perfect fit for his business.

As the company grew so did Neaman’s network of industry professionals who sought out his expertise, advice, services, products and friendship. Among them was Steve Lipic, president of Lipic’s Engagement, a privately-held St. Louis, Missouri-based distributor founded in 1863. “Ira and Vantage have been our partner on all of our major programs,” explains Lipic, who has led his family-owned marketing and promotions company for the past 21 years. “We work extremely closely with all areas of our organizations to bring exceptional value to our clients.”

Like most partnerships, this one comes down to trust. Because Lipic trusts Neaman and his team at Vantage, it handles the distributor’s service award program as well as a uniform program that has gone through many custom iterations and changes over the past 20 years. “Ira has demonstrated that he will stand with me to resolve any issue that arises,” says Lipic. “We work together to make sure all challenges are a win for all involved. This program would not be possible without his partnership.”

Lipic values Neaman as not only a partner in business but as a personal mentor as well. “Without his advice, guidance and friendship, I would not have enjoyed the success that has come our way,” he says. “I don’t know another person in this industry who has a greater love for the industry than Ira. He has personally helped me and many others learn more than I ever would have.”

Ira Neaman On Partnering

What are the most important qualities in a good business partner? 


What do you do that sets you apart from others in the way you work with clients?

I enjoy collaborating with customers and in-house teams to find new and exciting ways to use apparel for branding. With an intimate knowledge of both the apparel manufacturing/design process as well as extensive hands-on experience with decoration, I look to make the sales process easier for our customers.

Is there something Steve does that makes it easy for you to provide exemplary service?

Steve is an excellent communicator and always makes happen what he says.

What advice do you have for others who want to achieve a true partnership with their clients?

Understand the value of collaborating with your partners right from the beginning of a project or opportunity. Listen closely and be responsive.


Cory Reese    

Senior Program Director    

Amplifii Marketing Solutions

Lawrenceville, Georgia

Nominated by: Ryan Lester, CAS, Inside Sales, Showdown Displays

cory-reeseCory Reese spent three years honing his business development acumen at Palmetto Sports Fundraising before joining distributor Amplifii in 2013. The company was founded 30 years ago as a pre-sort mail company, but over the years found its niche in providing solution-based project management—including promotional products, print, mail services and online company stores. Today it’s a full-service marketing solutions provider. Amplifii’s website states that the company’s most consistent trait is its “ …dedication to love and serve our people and our customers.”

It’s an aspiration that has molded the company’s culture and is reflected daily by Reese in his work with his clients. Also among those on the receiving end of that dedicated service is Ryan Lester, who works in inside sales for supplier Showdown Displays. While it may seem non-traditional for Reese to be providing service to Lester, the two know that give and take on both sides is the way true partnerships are built.

“Cory is very forthcoming with information and gives me his expectations so we can partner together to meet his clients’ needs,” says Lester, adding that this way no time is wasted. “He responds quickly to questions I have and presents as much info as he can in the beginning so I’m sure we are quoting on the right products from the start.”

The two have worked together since Reese joined the company on countless projects for some of Reese’s retail clients who use Showdown Display’s table covers and other products in store openings and new product rollouts.

“We have a program with Cory that we were hoping would renew,” says Lester. “He let us know where we need to be to win this project. He is up front with us and he is willing to give and take. He realizes there are less expensive options available, but [he knows] we offer a great value. He lets his customer know that quality trumps price.”

In addition to efficient communication and the high energy level Reese brings to the projects, Lester also likes the distributor’s laid-back personality. “He’s very successful, but he keeps things light.”

Cory Reese On Partnering

What are the most important qualities in a good business partner? 

When choosing a business support partner, I look for someone who values communication and follow-through above all else. If the person I am working on a project with can give me the attention necessary to get the right information to my customer, we can typically find a mutually beneficial price that works for both parties.

What do you do that sets you apart from other distributors in the way you work with suppliers?

I always try to understand that as much as I am trying to work hard and achieve results for my end user, my chosen suppliers are trying to work just as hard for me. It creates an understanding that they really do have my interest in mind and aren’t just focused on achieving high profits for their companies all the time.

Is there something Ryan does that makes it easy for you to provide exemplary service?

Ryan always goes to the next level to give me the opportunity to compete in tight turnaround and lower margin situations. His communication ability and quick follow-through makes him a go-to whenever a need arises in his area of focus. He is always willing to ask if there is more he can do to help me win the bid and that goes a long way.

What advice do you have for other distributors who want to achieve a true partnership with their suppliers?

Remember that, at the end of the day, the person on the other end of the phone has a life and a family just like you do. It’s easy to get caught up in achieving results and trying to earn business but it starts with realizing that I can’t do my job without my supplier doing theirs. I need them just as much as they need me. I always try to take a moment to let my suppliers know how thankful I am for their willingness to work hard and get me the best price and quality that my customers are looking for. I don’t want to be the distributor that suppliers dread hearing from. I always seek to be a great partner and advocate in the industry for suppliers who are willing to do a little bit more to make sure my customers are always well pleased.

The Eight Elements Of Strong Partnerships

  1. Trust. Good partners have confidence that the other looks out for their best interests—even when the other is not watching. One must truly care about the other’s success.
  2. Dedication. When both partners are equally committed to an outcome and willing to give whatever it takes, there’s much less chance of failure.
  3. Collaboration. The old saying that two heads are better than one plays out here as well, especially when partners bring expertise from different sides of the industry.
  4. Honesty. A partner who is not authentic, scrupulous and of highest moral character can bring down the best laid plans.
  5. Shared goals. Working in tandem with someone else who is equally dedicated can make the quickest work in solving a problem or reaching a goal.
  6. Integrity. Powerful partnerships rely on honor, truthfulness and reliability in all dealings.
  7. Candor. When there is a problem in a partnership, it’s best to be forthright and open about it so the situation can be resolved. Learn how to clear the air without negatively affecting your business relationship.
  8. Communication. The key here is timeliness, follow-through and follow-up. Any distributor who is left wondering where their order is, or a supplier who is still waiting for artwork approval days later, knows the importance of prompt and thorough communication.

Tina Berres Filipski is editor of PPB.