Tales From A Top Executive

Posted: 08.12.2014 by

It’s hard to disassociate 1960s advertising from AMC’s hit series “Mad Men.” But long before Don Draper hit the scene, Darrin Stephens and the cast of “Bewitched” worked their magic on television viewers across the country. For Douglas Ritter , president of Dallas-based marketing solutions firm USFI, the show was more than just a source of casual entertainment—it was the spark that ignited his professional future.

“I grew up in an era where one of the most popular TV shows was “Bewitched.” [...] That was my first exposure to the business of advertising,” Ritter recalled. “I enjoyed the sitcom and the thrill of coming up with ideas on how to sell products. I wanted to be the man in that show.”

Unlike Stephens, Ritter didn’t have a “good witch” at his side to bring on instant success. After graduate school—and a fruitless job search—he took a friend’s advice and accepted a job in advertising sales at the suburban Yellow Pages in Minneapolis. Ritter stayed there for a year, hitting 125 percent of his quota for the first nine months, before he landed a job at a small agency in St. Paul. Just one year later, he got his big “Bewitched break” on Madison Avenue at BBDO, one of the largest ad agencies in the world.

“I entered their account training program as an assistant account executive,” Ritter said. “From there it’s been a steady succession of ad agencies, large and small, in New York City and finally to Dallas—and USFI—where I was promoted to president two years ago.”

Read on as Ritter talks business and shares his thoughts on the industry.

Print+Promo (P+P): How do you set goals for yourself? For your business?
Douglas Ritter (DR): I am very goal oriented. When I set a goal, I usually accomplish it. I have a five-year plan for both myself and the company. I check it regularly to make sure I am on track and accomplishing everything I have set out to do. I am a great believer in writing it down and making goal-setting formal. I also write our company business plan annually, and the goals are there as well—typically regarding revenue, profitability and strategy.

P+P: How does the economy continue to affect the industry?
DR: The economy definitely affects the agency business. We are built on a service model. People outsource that which they can’t do themselves internally. But when times are tough, and the economy is in recession, companies cut back and generally spend less on outsourced materials. We service over 2,400 hotels in our hospitality division, providing them with printed materials with their logo on it, as well as key cards. In a recession, they have fewer customers and they spend less with us. On the non-hospitality side we are essentially a large print VAR, and our business is tied directly to the economy there as well. We don’t own the printing presses, but subcontract the work.

P+P: What do you expect to be some of the biggest changes the industry will face?
DR: The Internet has changed everything. I first heard that statement from a consultant in 1997—and it’s still true. Look at all the printers that have closed down. Look at the tremendous consolidation in the industry. Look at what’s happened to the Yellow Pages. Advertising has undergone a tremendous sea-change in my career. And it’s still evolving. But what does not change is the need to create desire and demand for a client’s product. That’s marketing. It has stayed the same. But the means to accomplish that have changed dramatically.

P+P: What keeps you up at night?
DR: Will we remain relevant? Could all the printed materials we create for franchise stores be replaced by large programmable LED screens hung in windows? Gas stations have finally begun to change out all their printed pricing signs to LED screens. While we are not in the buggy-whip business, printing is not the industry it was 10 or 20 years ago. It’s still large, but not as large.

P+P: What do you think is the most exciting, thing your company is doing right now?
DR: The most cutting-edge thing USFI works on these days is digital—specifically RFID (Radio Frequency Identification). These are chips that are embedded in hotel key cards that enable a guest to open [his or her] room door without the use of that magnetic stripe on the back of a card, which fails on occasion. We started providing RFID cards to hotels in the past year and have become a leader in the industry in that time. But we still supply over 25 million magnetic stripe key cards annually.

P+P: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
DR: I have been with USFI for three years, and in that time I have bicycled “around the world,” meaning I have biked 25,000 miles exercising over the past three years—equal to the circumference of the world. And, yes, that’s a lot of miles on a bike!

 

See full article in Print+Promo: http://www.goprintandpromo.com/article/douglas-ritter-shares-his-thoughts-industry