Working At A World-Class Level
Philip Koosed helps lead the team at BAMKO Promotional Items in a new era of collaboration
More than 15 years after Philip Koosed and Brett Marz first brought promotional products to fellow college students, the two founders of Los Angeles-based distributor BAMKO Promotional Items (UPIC: BAMKO783) are bringing industry knowledge and expertise to their partnership with Florida-based Superior Uniform Group. In March, BAMKO was acquired by the publicly traded supplier and uniform manufacturer in a $15.8 million cash deal. For Koosed, president of BAMKO, the journey from his first days as a distributor to the present has been humbling and exhilarating.
“My first job in the industry was at BAMKO. We started selling pens and t-shirts out of Brett’s dorm room,” says Koosed. “It’s fair to say that I literally grew up in the industry. And when I take a moment to reflect back on where we started and what BAMKO has become … I can’t wait to see where the next 15 years take us.”
BAMKO today operates offices around the world, though Koosed continues to call his native Los Angeles home. Surrounded by extended family and supported by his wife, Tamar—“she’s far smarter and tougher than I am, and I learn from her every day”—Koosed says he enjoys nothing more than spending time with family, including their young son, Asher (and a new addition coming soon). “I am incredibly fortunate to have a large and wonderful family that I am very close to,” he says.
In the office, Koosed remains focused on developing the talent that breathes life into BAMKO as well as looking for ways to continuously innovate. Read on for a glimpse into how he works with his team to make BAMKO a valuable part of the industry.
What do you love about your company?
I love the way that we dive headfirst into challenges. At its core, a company is nothing more than a collection of individuals going after a common goal—at BAMKO, that goal is growth. We are very intentional about who we hire, making sure we’re bringing on team players with a strong worth ethic and an indomitable spirit. The end result is just an incredibly invigorating group to be a part of. Whenever I see our people excitedly rush head-on to tackle a major challenge, it fires me up in a way that’s hard to even articulate.
Describe your office atmosphere.
Fun, focused and driven. We tend to attract intensely competitive folks who hate to lose and take pride in their work. That creates a very high-energy, collaborative, and intense office environment with teams of individuals coming together to tackle unique challenges. We also do lots of fun events like office yoga/Pilates, chili cook-offs and, of course, our highly competitive ugly holiday sweater competition. We believe that individuals reach their highest level of performance when they are actually enjoying themselves, so we’re constantly challenging folks to create fun within the workplace. This helps balance out the stress of difficult or high-pressure situations.
What kinds of projects or tasks might you tackle on a given day?
I have my hands in all aspects of the business. On any given day, I’m likely spending a fair amount of time involved in sales, operations and recruiting. With offices on four continents, the real challenge lies in being disciplined in the ways I spend my time so that I can create the greatest impact on our business.
Oftentimes that involves keying in on significant sales opportunities or major operational issues. It also means investing time in specific individuals who have the ability to have an impact, which reverberates through our business. To that end, I’ll spend a great deal of one-on-one time managing certain individuals who are force multipliers. I also spend more time than you’d expect on hiring, because the best way to grow our business is to bring talented and driven individuals who share our vision for the business.
How do you collaborate with co-workers?
Our entire company is built on a foundation of cross-disciplinary collaboration. It is incumbent upon our leadership group to set the example and drive those collaborative efforts across all elements of our company. With the Superior acquisition, we have a tremendous opportunity to collaborate with an entirely new group of extraordinarily talented individuals. There is true synergy between both Superior and BAMKO that will be unlocked in the months to come, which will allow us to offer significantly more to our customers.
What gets me so excited about the Superior acquisition is the people, process and capabilities they bring to the table. Superior does so many things at a world-class level. We have joined forces to combine our core competencies of creative, sourcing and technology with their sophisticated warehousing and distribution capabilities and incredible leadership group. This will allow us to deliver a significantly enhanced value proposition to our customers. There isn’t a single other company in the promotional products space that can offer the combination of unparalleled capabilities that is now possible as a result of our union with Superior.
How does this job challenge you?
Fortunately for me, being BAMKO’s president presents limitless challenges. As our company continues to grow, the scope of those challenges grows. However, I think the biggest challenge always has and will lie in the management of individuals. I learned long ago that while certain operational challenges are similar, no two people are exactly alike. There is no one size fits all solution to management. I love the challenge inherent in working with individuals, learning from them, and pushing them to be the best versions of themselves.
What changes or improvements have you recently implemented, or are you planning to make in the future?
Finding, developing and retaining the right people will always be our primary focus. That being said, we are constantly looking for ways to leverage the talents of those key people. We have found that there is massive value that lies at the intersection of technology and analytics. We have and continue to redouble our commitment to being a vanguard of the industry when it comes to the effective deployment of technology and the informed usage of analytics to create uniquely powerful outcomes for both our customers and shareholders. Additionally, we have continued to invest in our offices in Asia, so we maintain our position of having the largest “boots on the ground” presence of any distributor in Asia.
What makes BAMKO a valuable member of the promotional products community?
Innovation. I believe that promotional products are the single best and most effective form of advertisement out there. But to maintain that advantage, we need to continue to boldly innovate in a world that is rapidly evolving around us. BAMKO’s commitment to, and investment in, being on the bleeding edge of innovation has an impact that reverberates throughout the entire promotional products industry.
A lot of that comes from the creative side of our business, which is constantly pushing the envelope in developing original campaigns and designing unique products that serve as a clarion call to action. In the coming years, I also think you’re going to see companies like ours lead the charge in the use of data analytics to quantify the value of promotional products. Turning that corner in an irrefutable manner will serve to legitimize the value of our industry in a way that has never been done before.