The Trend Report Podcast

Episode 123: The Design POP and More with Alexandra Tseffos

Summary Keywords

signage, company, business, industry, work, people, furniture, office, products, great, graphics, environment, identity, opportunity, group, sign, years, love, experience, ceo

Sid Meadows, Sam Richardson


Sam: We are emotional creatures. And since we're catering to humans, that is the emotion you feel. Are you inspired? Or are you unmotivated, uninspired. And that may sound like, you know, a bunch of marketing fluff. But I tell you, as I came over here, I realized how valuable that is for businesses, suppliers, vendors, employees, boosters, trustees, we're all emotive creatures, and there's so much connection to that environment.

Sid: Hey, friends, and welcome to the Trend Report podcast, where we have real conversations with real people about all things contract interiors. My name is Sid Meadows. And I'm your host. I'm a business strategist and certified professional coach, and a longtime student of the office furniture industry. And I'm excited that you're joining us today. And my hope is that you will gain some insights, inspiration and motivation that will help you grow and your business growth. So let's dive into today's conversation.

Sid: Hey, everybody, and welcome back to another episode of the Trend Report. I'm really glad that you're joining me today for another installment of our ever popular CEO Chat series. This time, I'm glad to welcome Sam Richardson, the President and CEO of The Identity Group to the show today. Hey, Sam, how are you?

Sam: Sid, I'm doing great. I'm really excited to be here.

Sid: Well I'm glad you're here. You're relatively new to me, we actually have not even met in person. We tried an econ and that didn't work out. And admittedly, I don't know who The Identity Group is. So me and the listeners are all going to learn a lot today. So I'm excited to have you here. And let's just kick it off. One of the questions I like to ask everybody that I get to meet is, how did you get into the furniture business? Well, hang on, let me frame that because you're actually not in the furniture business. Yeah. Get into the contract interiors industry,

Sam: Right. Yeah. I mean, we're in a lot of different businesses. And we're not making furniture by any means. But we are definitely tapping into the innovation of the furniture channel through independent rep groups and to expand our signage and experiential service graphic services through furniture. But let me take a step back. Yeah. NeoCon was awesome. It was a bit of our launch party, if you will. I've been there before with other companies. We had a great booth on the seventh floor for the first time. We were up on the 11th floor with MRL, which was outstanding. We did all of the interiors for the MRL booth and have really started forming new partnerships in this channel as an experiential graphics and signed company. So you know, my, my excitement for joining you and your listeners is really impressive. Glad to be here.

Sid: Well, so thank you very much. So how did you get to where you are today, because you spent many years at Hewlett Packard, it looks like selling, printing and ink and stuff like that. Let's talk a little bit about your journey.

Sam: Well, you know, my journeys, probably not too dissimilar from a whole lot of people, I went to a good school, I'm a Midwest guy from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, played college football, and that kind of gave me my first real zest for the very tough life of business can be a lot of fun with some wins, and also can be really tough to adjust and migrate those losses as well. But that brought me out to school in upstate New York. And from there, I went into the paper industry, like any graduating college student, I wanted to make some money, and any money was good money. And I knew that I could sell, I knew that I enjoyed people. And I knew that I wanted to learn more about business after going to a really good liberal arts school in Hamilton College. And so I got my first opportunity working for Champion International, in Stamford, Connecticut, and that company very quickly got purchased by International Paper, headquartered out of Memphis. And so I worked for International Paper, never living in Memphis, but living really all over the US and then a small period of time about a year and a half overseas as an expat in Brussels, Belgium, mostly in the capacity set of salesmen that evolved to then two operations. At one point I ran a paper plant in Selma, Alabama, for a year and a half with International Paper, just continuing to feed my interest level and I suppose, fair to say ambition to someday be a CEO and learn all the aspects of the income statement, the balance sheet, and I've always loved manufacturing of any. So that was my first kind of cut of the teeth of corporate America.

Sid: So I have a very strange question for you. I grew up in the South, right? And in the south, there are paper mills all over the place. And it is by far the worst smell that you will ever smell, you know, when you are near a paper plant, right? It had to be really difficult working in a plant.

Sam: Well, you get used to it, but I'd say the paper guys or the paper industry folks will tell you that's the smell of printing money.

Sid: Of course they will. I love that. I love that. But you know if any of you are from the south are ever driven by because they're law paper plants in the south. But if you've ever driven by a paper plant, you know exactly the smell that I'm talking about.

Sam: I do. I was just done in Pensacola with my family for a beach trip and a former Champion. Now the International Paper Mill is just outside of Pensacola in the midst I know, 25 miles of the beach, you can smell it.

Sid: Yes. I’ve driven by that specific paper plant so many times I know exactly what you're talking about.

Sam: Yeah, yeah, it was fantastic, I call it a classic way to start. International Paper, still to this day is one of the most iconic companies, not just under percent, but companies all over the country. And that really launched me to stay in corporate America, so to speak. And I went from there to Lexmark in the print industry who are three years, again, in a sales capacity in the office products channel calling on Office Max, when OfficeMax existed and now obviously, part of Office Depot. And from there I really was always watching what Hewlett Packard was doing. And I just have such respect for HP, the way it started out of a garage and this company is almost 100 years old. And innovation is at its core true innovation. And yes, it's got incredible resources and scale. But I just love the science and the authenticity behind what they did for their customers in the area of technology. So it was pretty easy for me to jump over to Hewlett Packard, and at a higher level manage at this point the entire North American commercial operation for their ink and toner business, which is their big driver.

Sid: So when was it Sam that you realize you said this a couple of minutes ago? When was it that you realized I was on my career path? I want to be a CEO

Sam: Maybe when I was seven

Sid: Oh wow. Okay,

Sam: I mean, I don't know I I was a young guy and started realizing you know what I would like to lead others and then I mentioned sports, which maybe is an overused trait way to say it but I the connections that athletics had for me and in adolescence then through the collegiate level really was a was a great onboarding to the business side of things. I think, answering more honestly, I would say I really wanted to try my hand at being a chief executive officer when I was at fellows. So from HP, I went to fellows sir. And fellows we all know great company, iconic brand fourth generation ownership through the Fellowes family, I just have an incredible affinity for Jamie and John fellows and, and what they stand for as a business. And I think a lot of your listeners would say the same thing. So when I had an opportunity to then go from a big public company, a corporate America over to a private family, I really gravitated to that opportunity. And I wasn't the CEO, but I was fortunate to work for the CEO. And I watched how John managed his business and I think the pressures, quite frankly, of running a fourth generation family business. And this is pre COVID. And it was still really challenging. And so I really started getting excited about either starting my own company, which wasn't in the cards at the time, or running a company. And you know, fortuitously, maybe providentially an opportunity started coming in 2019 for me to do that.

Sid: That's awesome. So before we dive into learning about The Identity Group, because I'm very interested to learn as I'm sure my listeners are, I have a couple of questions about leadership for you. And my first question is, how would you define leadership?

Sam: Oh, man, it's like the hardest question so far said, No, this can't get worse. I took a leadership course in Chicago for a year this last year. I just finished it with a mentor and great friend of mine, Henry Give Ray who leads a leadership course for not just business individuals, but just people interested in improving their skills to lead others. And, you know, what seems to be a very simple question that's asked so many times has so many different subjective answers to it. But ultimately, I would summarize it as this. I don't think that you're a born leader. I think a lot of people believe that. It's kind of the, you know, the chicken or the egg type situation. I think I think your environment, your upbringing, certainly adds to it, but I gotta tell you for me Leadership is, is a perpetual process, you're never done.

You're never done learning and evolving how you view leadership. But ultimately, I think it rests with, how do you make others feel? How do you impact others? It's not about yourself. So what I've tried very hard to do from my innate upbringing, and I think it starts with mom and dad, and probably genetics, but more so from the environment of experience, I've always believed leadership equates to experience your product of your experiences. So smelling the paper industry and working in a gravel pit yard in steel toed boots truly in a hardhat was an experience that has given me the perspective that many people just don't have now in the kind of proverbial corner office as a CEO. So I think ultimately, I would answer that it's a learned trait. It's one that certainly, you can't just be a leader, I think, ultimately, we use that term too loosely, you're ultimately improving the lives of others and influencing the lives of others. And that can be a mother, a father, a coach, and certainly a CEO.

Sid: Yeah. So I really appreciate that. And I have a couple of really important takeaways from what you just said, Sam. And one of them was at the very beginning of your answer, you said you had just finished taking a leadership course. Yeah. And the other one was that you're never done. And I think you underscore someone that is sitting at the head of the table of a large company, that is 50 plus years old. Yeah, just told us that he's never done learning that he just took a leadership course. And I can't tell you how that echoes with me, because I truly believe that none of us are ever done. And if we want to continue to get better, we need to continue to invest in ourselves. And I really appreciate the fact that as the CEO said, I'm not done. And I've got more to learn. And I'm taking a course. I'm working with a mentor. Those are all things that I think everybody listening needs to take away from them, that we need to do the same thing, that we're only going to advance if we truly invest in ourselves and work to become 1% better each and every day.

Sam: Yeah, I mean, thank you for saying that. I just genuinely believe that. I think that, you know, upon my, as I'm you're not seeing this, but up on my screen in my office here, I just have everybody's got these quotes, I guess. But I really only have one. And if it's not a picture of my kids, or a drawing my daughters have drawn for me and a picture frame, I have this, this saying on my computer screen. And it's and it's the following, you'll remember how many people you developed, how many you helped have a better career because of your interest in them and your dedication to their craft. When you're confused about how you're doing as a leader, find out how the people you lead are doing. And I just love that. And that's from Larry Boscity, a former CEO at Allied Signal. So I can't claim that. But I posted that thing on my screen just because oftentimes, I think the noise out there, you lose sight quickly, lose attention quickly. And I think at these key levels, especially during these last three years have been so challenging, you're gonna be judged by how people feel around you, and watch how people even advance in their career that have either worked with me, for me, and sometimes against me as competitors. I think it's really important to measure yourself very humbly and modestly against how they do and how they view you years after.

Sid: Such a great lesson in that right there. Thank you so much for sharing that. And I think I probably know the answer to this question. But I'm gonna ask you anyway. What advice would you give Sam to emerging or young leaders, especially those that have the desire to continue to exceed in their career path to get to the place that we're at? What advice would you give them?

Sam: You got to say, Yes, you got to say, Yes, I think there's so many innate things in your brain that are by nature there to try to protect you from risk and failure. And were just made up that way. So facing that fear of failure, and saying yes to things, when offered the opportunity, are really important. I said yes to a lot of things and that evolved. And I would also say not to contradict myself, you know, as you get older and you bolt on other people, like spouses and partners and children, you have to be less selfish.

You really have to balance out what you say yes to and when you say it, I think getting a great coach and mentor and continuing those relationships, fostering those relationships, and saying yes to opportunities that maybe don't even make sense at the time. You're a product of your experiences and if you can get as many experiences as possible, just by association, you will absorb knowledge and knowledge is so important because you get to discern, boy that I didn't like that. But boy, I learned a lot. And I want to pivot over here or man, I really love that. But I saw it in a different way, then even the person that brought me into it, and I've evolved my thinking because of it. So say, Yes.

Sid: That is such a great answer. And not an answer that I've ever heard before. But it is a really powerful answer, to just say yes to the opportunities that are in front of you. And I think another big takeaway there is, pay attention to what you're learning. Right? The listeners have heard me talk about this, but write it down journal it, like put down the things you've learned. Because let me just tell ya, the last from 2017 to 2023. The list of things that I've learned, I could write five books about, especially as I compare it to the previous years, and I'm paying attention now more so than I've ever paid before.

And for me, as a leader, when I make a mistake, because we're all human, and we're going to make them right, we're going to say something that the tonality of what we said did not come across the way we wanted to, right. We're gonna make a strategic decision that maybe didn't work the way we had hoped it would work, right? But I walked away and I asked myself, What did I learn from this?" And then if I say, I need more help in this, I go find the resources that I need. I'll read a book, I'll listen to a podcast, I will read articles, I will, you know, find a course on something to help me get better to enhance the learning from the experience that I had, which all ties directly into the things you've been talking about. personal growth. That's right.

All right, let's pivot. Who is The Identity Group? Never heard of you guys, when my friend Julie Dillon reached out and said, Sid you got to interview Sam, for your podcast, who is The Identity Group tell us and my listeners are probably asking the same thing. Who is The Identity Group?

Sam: Right? Who is this guy talking about The Identity Group? I first thought it was like a security like a personal protection security company when I heard it. Look at the identity grow boiled down in pure simplicity is a signage experiential graphics manufacturer. And let me explain that further. So this company is really a cool company. And I'm so fortunate for the last four years to run and manage the business.

It started as an Office Products Company, which we all can relate to and know what those are back in the 50s. And I'm talking about Office products, like self inking stamps was an innovation back then in the mid 1950s. And really SC Johnson Wax that family started Identity Group, it was called something else at the time. But it started in the ink and self inking stamp world. And that carried on all the way through the end of the 1990s. In acquisitions all in Office products. It evolved into sticky notes, which we all know about, and business cards and letterheads and envelopes. And it really didn't turn into a very focused sign company until late 90s, early 2000s. And it still had office products as part of the company. In fact, the name Identity Group did not get established until 2008. It was different company names leading up to that. But unlike a lot of businesses, a private business and unlike a lot of businesses, it's evolved by acquisition and innovation. And it's also evolved by different levels of ownership.

And where we stand today the Identity Group since 2008, we have fine tuned to a significant level, and elevated capability in signage, services, experiential graphics, and branded environments. And I'm going to talk about what that means. But we are really no longer an Office Products Company. So what started at the Genesis in the 50s with SC Johnson wax to really 2023 We've divested ourselves the last several years of office products. We tried for decades to jam them together with signage, and it just wasn't a marriage that was working. And we've divested and sold those to other companies. We just finished our last divestiture a few months ago to a big company. And that has afforded us the opportunity today to really be nimble, really be focused on experiential graphics, and we're winning in that space. We're one of the biggest in North America. And it's really just given us such a zest for what that means to the consumer and to the business partner.

Sid: Okay, that's awesome. And I love this story and the divestiture getting really focused on what's important for the future of the company. Right, right. So signage, and when I think about signage, I think about a couple of different things, signs on buildings that say the name. When we did my research, I saw that Marriott Bonvoy is one of your large customers with a lot of signage for them. I also think about the little desk sign or the sign that hangs when you hear somebody's name on it outside on their panel or, you know, outside a hospital room, there's a sign, right. So that's what we know is traditional signage. And then you talked about experience or graphics. And then you use the word does, I didn't write it down fast enough design, tell me that give me the other branded, branded environment, branded environments. So I think we all understand signage. So what is experiential graphics, and then talk about the design one, please.

Sam: Experiential graphics has been around, if we didn't come up with that term, it's been around for many decades. And it's generated or derived from the design world, there's an industry that the signage companies are all a part of called SEGD. So the furniture folks probably that listen to you wouldn't necessarily know it. But these two worlds are starting to merge. And that's why we are in the position we are today. But SEGD is the Society of Experiential Graphics and Design. Okay, and experiential graphics is really just about what Yes, signage, but ultimately graphics as well, anything visual, and in many cases, tangible to touch, feel that involves and incorporates even lighting and furniture, and decor, in any commercial environment, that that's an experience.

That's an experience that you use with your five senses that you're immersed in, and you're a part of, versus how many companies go to market today, I would argue that these are companies that are not necessarily in the relevant space of the identity group. And those are companies that will do that cubicle sign that will do that desk sign that will do the bathroom, men's and women's sign. And guess what, we do that too, and we love that business, but it wasn't and what and isn't where we're headed, and ultimately, what's going to produce future value for our shareholders and our employees and our growth.

There's a handful of companies, I would say that in this market, let's call it the US that really have the operational capability and chops to provide a an experiential graphics or full branded environment that starts with consultation with the client, the client could be a commercial building downtown, then moves to the imagination and designs stage. That then certainly has the fabrication capabilities. And lastly, installs that vision, that physical vision of graphics, signage and branded environments, there's really only a handful and of course, I'm biased, but I believe identity group is leading that environment.

Sid: So the example that you gave in the very beginning was the My Resource Library showroom on the 11th floor at the Merchandise Mart. And when I was there I saw it. I don't know that I knew what I was looking at right at the time. But if you went to the NeoCon and you happened to go by MRL space, if you walked in the door, what you're describing predominantly was on the left hand side of the showroom, right, had the MRL logo over the whole showroom.

Sam: I mean, that's your, your graphics 100% 100% It was the entire showroom. I mean, certainly one full wall of what some would say boiled down into this, these are wall graphics, wall decals. I mean, one of the innovations that Identity Group leads with is digitally printed images on magnet board so you can actually pull down the image kind of like your fat head that your kid might have in his or her room. It's a crude way to describe it. My engineers would be you know, freaking out that I just said that.

Sid: We won't let them listen to this episode then.

Sam: But for a CEO that's about as descriptive as I can get, but it's when you walk in so when working with you know the Carlson family in the ownership of MRL when you when you walk in and you have 30 seconds at best to feel something some might say it's 10 seconds. You're gonna get that through signage, graphics and branded environments 100% Certainly from the floor that you'll walk on to the decor and this was all mostly about furniture, what the desk chairs and credenzas love. The lighting is so important, but that signage on the wall is absolutely paramount to an emotive feel. We are emotional creatures, and since we're catering to humans, that is the emotion you feel. Are you inspired or are you unmotivated and uninspired? And that may sound like you know, a bunch of marketing fluff. But I tell you, as I came over here, I realized how valuable that is for businesses, suppliers, vendors, employees, boosters, trustees, we're all emotive creatures, and there's so much connection to that environment.

Sid: So we'll see if we can't find a link to the MRL showroom. If not, I'll reach out to Jeff, and we'll put it, we'll put it down in the show notes ready to go take a look to see what what Sam's talking about, and see if these products can be sold through our traditional channels for the independent reps that you're hiring, the dealers can reach out to the rep and, and really talk about, hey, this is what we'd like to do and bring you guys in. Right?

Sam: Yeah, I mean, we go to market like a lot of companies in many different ways. And we really elevate that capability, we're not shutting one channel off to open and another that would be foolish, you know, our, our business started and very much is fed from going through channel partners, resellers, wholesalers in the signage industry, we have some of our biggest clients through those signage, exterior companies. But what we've also then continued to have for our go to market is direct to hotels, direct to grocery direct to retail, and that's dictated by the client, not by Identity Group, what we were missing and where we're for the last year plus that we've been pivoting much of our resources and focus on while not turning from the other channels that have fed us is is through furniture dealers and through independent rep groups. And Julie Dylan's, you know, a friend, Ambassador and now a representative of our company that's really helped make those introductions NeoCon being the launch party, if you will?

Sid: Sure. Well, what I think is interesting about this, and I think the timing of all this is really good, too. Because as an industry that sells what it doesn't hate on me, listeners don't hate on me, friends, we sell commodity products, I'm sorry, as well, we do. That's all right, dozens of people that sell the same thing. There's always somebody with a cheaper widget or a cheaper gadget, right. But as an industry, especially our dealer community, always looking for other products that they can sell that can enhance the overall buying experience with their customer getting into different verticals. And some dealers have gone into selling flooring and carpet and things of that nature. Right. And this, I think, opens the door potentially, for dealers to explore how they could work with you to bring in something else and another element to not just new customers, but also existing customers that are trying to, as you said, evoke emotion in their spaces.

Sam: Look, I mean, a lot of industries I've been associated with have had some disruption, the paper industry that I was a part of for many years, what disrupted it was the iPhone digitization, that affected print, which I was a part of, with Lexmark and HP, I think what's affected great disruption for all of us. Some did beautifully well with it. And that's COVID-19 and those are the folks that sold, you know, Purell Hand Sanitizer, because, you know, we thought that we needed that in kegs and buckets, and which was really an airborne virus.

So what's disrupted the sign industry is and I would argue, disrupted the furniture industry, post COVID Is that for good reason. And now it's being challenged, some of it now is being very forced back. It's providing safety and security for employees to go home and work from home. And it's created an entirely hybrid work environment, which is not a bad thing, by any stretch. But now you read almost daily, these big companies that are saying, from Disney to JP Morgan Chase to Starbucks, Hey, guys, we have this really cool office, and these really cool amenities at the office. And by the way, we want you to come back, and we want you to come back safely and securely. But we know that our culture will suffer if we don't do that.

So I think that's really disrupted the furniture industry, because, you know, when you look at the commercial lease space in any major market, and I'm in Nashville, which is one of the most popular and high demand cities in the world, right now, the commercial environment is still from a lease standpoint is only 48%. Capacity. 48%. Wow. leased out. So that means 52% of office space is still empty. And if you look at certain markets, like San Francisco, you've got a lot of retailers leaving because of the same disrupted environment. And it's really, it's really changing the Environment of Business and Commerce as we speak. So we took that as an opportunity to not let disruption affect us negatively, but really innovate quickly and pivot quickly.

Hence, the divestitures on Office products that double if not triple down investment in our sign industry, and then connect and bolt on to this independent rep group space, going to the furniture partners and saying, Look, we're not a furniture company, but in every environment, you put that beautiful chair and desk, our signage, whether it's fire life and safety to get people out of the building, during a horrible incident and we we don't know necessarily tout this but we save lives in the signage industry, we literally had all the signage in the World Trade Center, and the World Trade Center. Obviously, we know what happened. And we feel that we saved a whole lot of lives by having that safety signage that lit up through photoluminescent. Glow in the dark, if you will, to get people down those stairwells in New York City when the World Trade Center was hit by the planes.

So evolving that further Sid, and getting into that experiential signage position. And selling that through furniture dealers that are looking for something innovative, fresh and new, we just feel makes a whole lot of sense, because you can't skimp on signage to get employees back to get vendors and suppliers back and to make the most of your real estate. A big market for us is this commercial corporate enterprise that wants to bring in an experience with signage, graphics and an immersive branded environment.

Sid: So what I really appreciate about that is, it also gives us another reason as furniture sellers, I'm a furniture geek, right? I've always sold furniture, it gives us another reason to call a customer about a conversation that is not about buying a chair, a desk, a filing cabinet or a height adjustable table. It's about something different. That, as you said, impacts their space that impacts their employees that very well can help bring their employees back to the workplace. And I think that's really important and the statistics that you dropped, if you're really listening to that, they're awful. Because we as an industry need people in the office, we need those leasing rates in Nashville to go from 42 or 48, to 68%. Because that helps our industry, whether it's a hybrid mix, or all everybody in at the same time doesn't matter. We need those spaces leased out in something happening in those spaces for our industry to continue to grow and thrive. So really, really great points. Now, Sam, when I was doing more research on you guys, I read that you're doubling down on customer service, and technology. Can you share with us what that means doubling down on customer service?

Sam: Yeah. Well, I mean, I think it'd be hard to debate that customers are your lifeblood, I don't know anybody that would say they're not, who's not your board of directors. It's not where your stock prices that day on the market. And I wouldn't even say it's not your financials, it is consumers and their belief in you and their faith and trust in you. And ultimately, that is customer service related. So as general as that sounds, where we have doubled down first, we have mentioned the focus of the company. So when we were trying to jam together office products and signage, it wasn't the best customer experience. Well, the last four years, it's been maniacal around signage, graphics, branded environments, okay.

To elevate beyond that, we knew that we needed to provide that omni channel experience signage is a very industrial business, you make it, you install it, and then you kind of say thanks, we'll see hopefully, for another purchase order down the road. So many companies operate that way in any industry, but especially the one that we're in. And I knew that that just wasn't going to give us that enterprise value that would separate us from the hurt. So we established an e-commerce ordering site, for example. So the technology I kind of learned in my days at HP have evolved into something like, we need to have a good informational website. But we also need to have an E-commerce site, a true e-commerce site where hotels, for example, that order a full 20 Floor sign package from us can also then come back 24 months later and order three sides. But they don't have to go through the rigors of row, have a full effort with The Identity Group and project manage it, they really just need three signs. And so we knew that we needed that outfit for them. And they love it. And they've been able to see it as an opportunity to archive their artwork.

So in our world design is key. In a lot of worlds design is key. So people will design something. And then 10 years later, they're gonna remember that design we did? Where that was fantastic. So we will literally as a service, provide the design archive, on our website, protected, of course, for the customers to come back and utilize that same design and then of course, fabricate their signage around that. And then very simply said, we knew that we needed to do a better job of communicating to our customers and not just going from one transaction to the next. So we started creating programs where we share in the profits of growth. And what that means is as we grow with clients direct or resellers that provide end users to us like the NFL and Amazon and Marriott truest bank that as we grow and generate the profits from that growth that we then share that through programs and rebates, structures and unique pricing and even unique services where we'll dedicate project managers, just to those clients will put physical bodies inside the buildings of our top, resellers, wholesalers, and sometimes even our end users. And while that might not sound incredibly revolutionary, in the signage industry, in the graphics industry, it really was. And the most important thing is it showed our clients and our partners that we were investing human capital, program capital and strategic capital and not just pulling the transaction button of thanks for your PO, we'll see you next month.

Sid: And unfortunately, in our industry, and I'm generalizing, that transaction happens. And then we forget, yeah, because when you buy furniture, historically, you buy an office full of furniture, you don't really need furniture, again, in any big way for probably eight to 10 years. Right? You might need a new chair or something here or there. But we tend to just, you know, do the transaction and walk away. And I've always said that our next best sale comes from our existing customers, if we would just pay attention to them, and go back and check on them once a quarter, once a month, whatever your cadence is, whatever works for you and your business, but stay in touch with them. Because if you don't guess what your competition is, right, competition is going to be there. So I love enhancing the overall experience. I've talked a lot about customer experience on this show, the listeners have heard me talk about the importance of it. And you've taken a really neat, holistic approach to it. So like that. So let's talk about the technology part. Because many people have said that our industry will not be disrupted by product or by process or technology. So tell me about the technology aspect?

Sam: Well, in our business, the disruption of technology is analog is moving to digital and has been for a very long time, digital is more expensive, typically until that technology becomes more full scale. And then prices come down. You know, when I was in, at HP, the history of HP is you know, the first inkjet printer, we're talking about it being 1000s and 1000s and 1000s of dollars. Now you can get one for, you know, $29 at Best Buy. So is that inkjet technology became more ever present, you know, the prices go down. Something similar is happening right now, in our business. As things move from analog to digital, you know, companies that stay in the analog space, I think are going to see their market share shrink. So, you know, through acquisition opportunities through innovation that we're using on the product side, but also on the services side, I think you're going to see some things here shortly from an identity group and certainly our partners that are selling for us through the independent rep group channel, some advancements in the inorganic growth space, where we are leading the trend instead of following it on the digitisation side for tech.

Sid: Okay, that was very cryptic, by the way. Like, I felt like we just got teased with something really big coming with fancy words, and it's just like, hang on, guys, come back in a couple of months, and we're gonna get Okay, we will take that we will all be sure that we connect and follow The Identity Group to understand what that tease was about, but I really appreciate it so.

Sam: Well, yeah, and some things I can and cannot mention. And but they're more than thoughts on paper, I assure you, you know, we've always felt that our product and we have several patents that involve indestructible signage, for example, we call thermal compression. These are signs that can't be destroyed, signage that can sit on the outside of a hotel down in the Caribbean and get beat all day long with the hot sun and sea and sea air, then never deteriorate. So when one of our new clients and partners is sandals and beaches, and they're going through a branding change right now. And they're advancing the experience inside their facilities in Jamaica and St. Vincent and St. Thomas. And they like very much what Identity Group stands for and provides in physical products around this indestructible sign thermal compression.
But beyond that, we know that AI Artificial Intelligence is here to stay. We know that augmented reality. I mean, everybody's doing this, from you know, the kids on tick tock to how you're sold on Instagram. We know that digitization is going to continue to evolve. And where we are today, we will be tomorrow. And I feel that you know that's our frankly, that's our responsibility as one of the largest in North America to provide that innovation to our partner. So yes, teaser for a reason. But you know what, it's super important that we're there and we will be there.

Sid: So, Sam, I have so many more things I want to ask you. We're out of time. I mean, we got through a lot of stuff, but there's more things that I want to talk to you about but I can't thank you enough for coming and introducing us to you and getting to know one of the leaders in our industry. Creek, but also equally as important introducing us to the identity group to what it is that you do. And that you're adding our channel, if you will into your business model, hiring independent reps and working with our dealers giving them another opportunity to go in and create sales and profit and revenue for their businesses. So I really appreciate you being here. Today. I'll give you one last chance to share any final thoughts you'd like to share with our listeners. Before we finish up today.

Sam: Well Sid, thank you. And by all means this hour went fast, because it's a great conversation. And we can't thank you for the airtime if you will, we're going to disrupt and we're going to do it in a really fun partnership way. We are here to win together with the partners in the channel, be at furniture dealers and be an independent rep groups. And again, our base core business, which has fed us for many, many decades, and we're going to do it through innovation, we're going to do it through science, we're going to do it through service better than anybody is used to or gets today. And we're going to do it with a really nimble approach. One of the best things about moving over and being a CEO is that I had to kind of look around for a while. I'm like, Wait, who do I go to for that decision? I'm like, oh, it's me. I don't know anything about me. I like making decisions. And and, and I like doing it as a group and a team. And so you're gonna see us make a decisive move in this industry.

Sid: That's awesome. We're excited to watch and follow along. And Sam, if our community would like to get in touch with you, what is the best way for them to do that?

Sam:, check us out, my information is there and my senior leadership team is there and you can reach customer service they're supposed to pick up within five seconds. So test us out, online through chat, but also You'll find an E commerce site on one part of it where you can buy your signs and employ your services. Or you can find a whole lot about how to connect with the salespeople and the marketing people that we have out in the market.

Sid: That sounds great. We'll be sure to drop all that down in the show notes. Sam, thank you again for being here. Thank all of you for hanging out with us for another important CEO chat in this conversation. And we'll see you again in a couple of weeks. Take care, everyone.

Sid: Thanks for joining me today on this episode of the Trend Report Podcast. I'm glad that you're here. And I hope that you got some amazing value out of today's conversation. For more about our podcast and this episode and our other episodes, please visit my website at We look forward to seeing you next week and go out there and make today great


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