Greg Coffman keeps the legacy of Elliott Calendar Co. alive
In 1886, Coshocton, Ohio, became the birthplace of the promotional advertising industry—and Greg Coffman’s company forebears were there to pass out the cigars. Maintaining a legacy like the one established by Elliott Calendar Co. is no easy feat, but as the fourth generation to work at the company, Coffman and his brother, Thad, have taken the baton and are ushering in a new era.
“My first job in the industry was at the Elliott Calendar Co./Hour Glass Line, beginning in 1997,” Coffman recalls. “I have loved hearing the stories along the way about my grandfather, Bill Coffman, and the old days in Chicago.” Coffman counts industry giants Bill Bywater and Bob Yaw among his mentors. “They shared how important it was that our industry was formed by families and their companies. The first industry show my brother and I attended was the 1984 summer show in St. Louis—I still have my name badge.”
Coffman is a graduate of Miami University and has been married to his wife, Jen, for 21 years. They have three children ages 11, 15 and 17. In his spare time, Coffman says, he collects and repurposes industrial salvage. He is also helping his wife start a business upcycling vintage furniture and home décor.
Read on to learn how a typical day unfolds for Coffman at the helm of Elliott Calendar Company.
How does your family history intertwine with the history of your company?
I have been with Elliott Calendar Company/Hour Glass Line for 19 years and have served as president since 2004. Our great-grandfather started here in 1917. We currently produce calendars, but I have been told we printed a local church cookbook in 1893. I haven’t found it yet, so the earliest documentation we have is 1894.
What do you love about your company?
I love that we are one of the industry’s survivors, still independent and family owned and operated to this day. Our team of employees is incredible and we strive to serve our customers and manufacture a great product to the best of our ability. Distributors have trusted us for over a century to do what we say we’re going to do and deliver as promised. We are not perfect, but we are still trying to get better every day. I also love that we have a cookout every Friday for our employees.
Describe your office atmosphere.
We moved our offices downstairs two years ago to improve communication and visibility, and we designed it as a vintage service station with a storefront and garage door. It reminds us to put customer “service” first, and it also recalls our history by displaying the promotional products we have manufactured over the past 122 years.
What kinds of projects or tasks might you tackle on a given day?
I am still personally involved in the manufacturing process and continue to develop, market and sell our calendar line. I might work on a quote for 75,000 desk pads or talk to a distributor in California about a 100-quantity custom digital calendar. I love handling the “opportunities” that arise on a day to day basis. It might be an equipment issue, employee issue or the chance to work with a new distributor.
How do you collaborate with co-workers?
First, we have a huddle meeting every Monday morning at 10 am. We work through opportunities and communicate what is going on in every department and discuss how to resolve them. Second, we often have brainstorming sessions with our marketing and design departments to come up with new designs, products and marketing ideas.
How does this job challenge you?
It is challenging because I have to wear many hats and, to be honest, some of them don’t fit as well as I would like. It constantly stretches me to learn new skills and develop my leadership abilities. I am curious by nature and love to study our industry and businesses to benchmark and continuously improve.
What changes or improvements have you recently implemented, or are you planning to make in the future?
We have implemented many LEAN principles and streamlined our manufacturing processes to become more competitive and viable. We moved our offset plate maker next to the pressroom, consolidated packing and shipping and have purchased two pieces of equipment for our Daily Date calendars and desk pads.
What makes your company a valuable member of the promotional products community?
I believe we are valuable because we continue to provide an excellent product and unbeatable service to the industry, and we are a link to its very beginning in Coshocton. We were one of the founding companies of our association in 1903 as well; not many of us are left. We have had the great opportunity to have a front row seat for the duration of the history of promotional products. Our founder was the operating director for Jasper Meek [who first promoted a business with an imprinted book bag] and the country’s first promotional products company, Tuscarora Advertising.