This issue of PPB introduces a new feature spotlighting the volunteers whose support and contributions are vital to PPAI’s success. It’s an opportunity to learn more about their professional careers, their personal lives and what drives them in this industry.
In this issue, the spotlight turns to Marc Simon, CEO of HALO Branded Solutions (UPIC: HBS) and chair of the PPAI Board of Directors. Simon spoke with PPB about his role as PPAI board chair, the challenges he’s faced at HALO and his family life in his hometown of Chicago.
PPB: What leadership skills do you bring to the position of board chair that will help guide PPAI into the future?
Simon: The key responsibility of any board of directors is the selection, assessment and guidance of the organization’s chief executive officer. We are very fortunate to have had an excellent choice for CEO waiting in the wings when Steve Slagle retired mid-2011. Yet to the great credit of my predecessors, Eric Ekstrand, MAS+, and Steve Meyer, MAS, our search committee conducted a thorough search and held detailed interviews with several qualified candidates. Our choice of Paul Bellantone, CAE, as CEO, although not at all pre-ordained or pre-determined, has proven to be the best possible choice we could have made. So, the single most important responsibility of the board had been successfully fulfilled before my term even began.
As an active chief executive officer of our own company, I understand the freedom to act [in a way] that a dedicated and determined CEO would want and need. And, serving on the boards of other companies that are managed by experienced and competent CEOs, I have a clear sense of where the line is and when guidance can turn into micro-management. Also, with my legal experience and accounting knowledge, I can help a CEO evaluate the advice of professionals and the importance of financial trends.
Knowing that a board chairman serves for only one year, it is important that I recognize that the message of PPAI should never be about the chairman. It is always about the message being delivered by our CEO, Paul. He is the commander on the scene. He is engaged every day with staff and a wide range of constituencies that comprise our vast and varied industry. He is in the best position to understand what is needed and how to succeed. I am a sounding board and, with the involvement of other board members, a guide and support system for Paul as he leads the staff to achieve our agreed and shared goals.
PPB: What is the most challenging thing you have had to face while working in the promotional products industry?
MS: When I first joined HALO in early 2001, its financial affairs were in shambles and its creditworthiness was as low as could be. Restoring confidence in HALO’s creditworthiness was very challenging. It was a step-by-step process that took more than five years to achieve. And it was very complicated to do, as the supplier community is so large, fragmented and diverse. Some suppliers quickly understood what we had achieved and some suppliers had to be won over by our continued timely performance. Today, our credit ranking is at the highest levels of our entire industry, our reputation for financial integrity is at the highest levels of our entire industry and our financial strength is at the highest levels of our entire industry.
PPB: What is the one thing most people do not know about you?
MS: One thing that no one in our industry knows about me is that my sense of humor, while very dry, is nothing short of great. No one really understands how very funny my jokes are.
PPB: Tell us about your personal side—family, weekend routine, hobbies, passions, favorite music, favorite vacation spot, etc.
MS: My wife, Marcy, and I have been married for over 38 years. We have three sons, the older two of whom are married, and our two wonderful daughters-in-law and their husbands have blessed us with three of the most adorable grandchildren imaginable. Our kids live within a 10-minute drive of our house, and we are lucky to be part of their everyday lives. Lifelong Chicagoans, we are big Bears fans, although there is an inexplicable family split between the beloved Cubs and the hated White Sox.