Flanagan And Associates
Matt Carter grew up with unique exposure to the world of promotional products. As a child, he often helped his father, who owned a distributorship, package products for clients. “I can recall helping him fulfill projects over the weekend when I was a child,” he says. “He would have all the items spread out in the kitchen and we would package them up like an assembly line.” With this hands-on perspective, it was only natural that, after college, he joined his father in the family business. “It’s all I’ve ever known,” says Carter. From there, he met Tom Flanagan and eventually moved to the supplier side of the industry as a multi-line rep.
“Working for Tom Flanagan [who was named a PPB Best Multi-Line Rep in 2014] and the suppliers we represent is something I am grateful for every single day,” says Carter, who covers Alabama and Georgia from his home base in Atlanta. “We are so fortunate to represent the supplier leaders in their respective categories and the teams at each of those companies are very special.”
He says working in this industry is also extremely rewarding. “It’s a wonderful feeling when a customer calls, texts or emails to let us know that our ideas helped secure the order,” he says. “To see an order start as an idea or a conversation, and move through the process to the end result, is what makes our jobs so much fun. I say ‘our’ because my inside sales teams are second to none. Their dedication, professionalism and attention to detail provide the support I need to best serve my customers. It truly is a team effort.”
His distributor clients also value the strong commitment to teamwork he brings to their relationships. “Matt just does an excellent job,” says client and nominator Chris Clark, CAS, managing director at distributor Radius Marketing Solutions. “He’s very responsive; he returns calls and responds to emails quickly. He gets involved whenever there’s an issue with an order. He does an excellent job of communicating to us any current promotions or deals. He visits regularly and leaves behind plenty of samples and sales tools. He does what he says he’ll do. He’s also served on the Georgia Area Promotional Products Professionals (GAPPP) board of directors and he advocates for GAPPP on his sales calls.”
Clark jokes, “His only downfall is that he’s an Ole Miss alumnus, but thankfully his daughter is going to [the University of] Georgia so he gets a pass there.”
Clark is also impressed with the way Carter exceeds his expectations. “We had an opportunity to sponsor the name badges and lanyards for one of our clients’ annual conventions,” Clark recalls. “We called Matt to find out what our self-promo pricing would be. He asked what we were doing and then paid for the order for us. He didn’t have to do that—we didn’t ask him to—but he did and that was a good demonstration of going the extra mile for us.”
One On One With Matt Carter
On the challenges of being a multi-line rep: Not surprisingly, Carter cites the delicate balance of work and family life. “We all work long hours, travel frequently and are always ‘on call’ via phone and email. It is a blessing to be busy, though, so I do my best to balance it all.”
On the exclusiveness of his lines: As multi-line reps, we try to look for suppliers that focus on specific products that don’t overlap with our other suppliers. Sometimes it’s almost impossible to avoid a little overlap. However, our suppliers hired us for a reason and know we have their best interests at heart. Flanagan and Associates has the longest tenure with our suppliers of any other multi-line rep group in our territory. Our reputation is extremely important and our bond between us and our suppliers is very strong. They are family. We try to give all our suppliers equal time by scheduling our meetings and seminars a bit longer than most because we have so many solutions and case histories to share with our distributors.
On how reps can remain relevant in a changing industry: Company acquisitions are making our job a little bit harder in regard to the fact that all suppliers want to grow in this industry and an acquisition sometimes can create somewhat of an overlap of the products we represent per supplier. At the end of the day, distributors go to specific suppliers for specific items that they manufacture and decorate better than the other supplier. That won’t change, unless the supplier goes all in and buys the same high-tech machinery to either produce a better product or be able to decorate it better. It definitely can be challenging. Thank goodness our loyal distributors really try to sell the lines we represent because they know we give them multiple suggestions and solutions for each project.
On how distributors can help him serve them better: Reach out and ask for help more often. I try to be as proactive as I can by asking questions during my office visits and asking for artwork so that I can forward it to appropriate suppliers for virtual samples. These lead to specs, and specs typically result in orders. It’s all about getting the ball rolling—as we all know, time can kill deals.