SENIOR ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE
Image Source, Inc.
Remy Kawaguchi was in college at the University of Redlands when she was firstexposed to the world of promotional products. As a summer intern at Image Source, Inc., in Kirkland, Washington, she got a taste of the freebies in the sample room and then, following graduation, went to work at the company as a receptionist. After what she calls a whirlwind stint as an account coordinator, she took the plunge into the world of sales and has no regrets. “Each role I filled taught me something different about the business and the industry, and has shaped where I am in my career today,” she says.
Asked about her favorite part of the job, Kawaguchi chooses to back into the answer by talking about her least favorite part of the job first. “I’m not a sales-y salesperson and my elevator pitch is not well-rehearsed, but I put trust in performance and results (and I know my clients do too),” she says. “I am a believer in ‘give us a try,’ and then knock it out of the ballpark. My favorite part of the job is hearing clients say, ‘You made me look good!’”
At only 28, she has been a multi-million-dollar annual producer at Image Source for the past three years, but is still discovering the ins and outs of sales. “I’m learning that it’s okay to not be the right partner for every potential client,” she says. “Being goal-oriented as I am, it was hard to shake the feeling of failure if I wasn’t able to secure every prospect or grow the business with target accounts. It was actually guidance from my executive team, the ones whom I thought I was letting down, who showed me it was okay to focus my attention on the right opportunities for me. They continually put trust in my evaluation (and reevaluation) of prospects and support me unconditionally.”
Not only do her teammates support her, they rave about her. Fifteen members of the Image Source team nominated her as a Rising Star along with nominations from her reps at suppliers SanMar, Cutter & Buck and Hawkins Embroidery. Nominator and co-worker Janelle Gradinaru describes Kawaguchi as always positive, creative and witty. “When you think that every idea for a project has been thought of, she comes up with 10 more great ones! She constantly goes above and beyond for her clients and is great at on-the-spot problem solving.”
Nominator Lori Horand adds, “I am always impressed at the creative, outside-the-box thinking Remy displays.” Another nominator, Arian Weatherman, says, “Remy initially caught my attention with the speed at which she moved through the company. She’s got a serious side coupled with a creative side that makes for a great AE to have in your corner. Remy is constantly thinking about her clients and teammates, and ideas and forethought are natural to her. Her client list has been impressive given her initial experience level, and now I’ve watched her become a leader in the company. She’s someone from whom I expect greatness.”
For Kawaguchi, winning at business is a lot like excelling at sports. “Just about anyone can be on the field, but you have to separate yourself if you want to make a difference,” she says. “Know your team as well as your opponent, play to your strengths, be anticipating scenarios so you are prepared, and most importantly, celebrate your successes as much as you learn from your failures.”
Her best advice is to be flexible. “I describe my role as a utility player. I love finding out in what areas my clients need help and filling those voids. I enjoy that my role varies from team to team but when I find that sweet spot, I really feel like a valuable contributor to their cause—and when you partner with a client, be passionate about their brand.”
When Kawaguchi’s enthusiasm occasionally wanes, she takes time out with her boyfriend, Josh, whom she calls her biggest supporter and partner in crime, whether it’s eating Thai takeout on the couch in sweatpants or planning the next stamp on their passports. “We joke that I make it easy for him, though, given that I hate flowers and chocolate but I love poker and golf.”
Competition. Kawaguchi grew up very involved in athletics and played softball and golf at the collegiate level. Post-grad (and lacking a ball to hit), she found a renewed competitive spark at Image Source with its team-focused culture. “Being in sales keeps a fire lit under me,” she says.
THE INDUSTRY IN FIVE YEARS
She believes that second to money, time is the greatest currency. “If we can save our clients time, then we can add value. As a whole, retail consumers are getting smarter and more savvy in the way that they buy. They are more resourceful and have higher expectations. To remain
relevant and thrive, our industry needs the continual push for resources, and particularly the technology to stay a couple of steps ahead and ensure that we continue to add value.’”
ON HER TO-DO LIST NOW
Spend more time with clients, continue targeting prospects/ industries and hit a single digit handicap on the links.