Ahead Of The Game
Evans Manufacturing’s winning strategy includes customer-friendly technology and marketing initiatives
Sometimes chance meetings change the course of history. Just think, if H.B. Reese hadn’t gotten peanut butter on his chocolate in 1928, there might not have ever been a Reese’s peanut butter cup. And if not for a chance meeting in 1992, Garden Grove, California-based supplier Evans Manufacturing (UPIC: EVANS), a PPAI member for more than 20 years, might not even be in the promotional products business.
“The founder of Evans was a friend of mine,” says CEO Alan Vaught, a serial entrepreneur who became a partner in the company in 1992, and its owner in 1994. “In the beginning, while we were pursuing retail, we stumbled into a promotional products distributor. The distributor explained to us how the promotional market worked. We said we weren’t interested—it sounded like a distraction to us.” But the distributor was persistent and called every day to see if they would change their minds.
“Finally, we agreed to give him a price for custom logoed clips so he would leave us alone. He came back a week later and had sold more clips to a Century 21 office than we had sold in two years of our retail efforts. It didn’t take long for us to realize we should forget the retail business and focus on the promotional market. Since then, all of our products have been designed for the promotional products industry,” Vaught says. And the company has now grown to employ 600 people.
Evans has been previously written about for its effective use of technology, early conversion to paperless operations in 2004, and just-in-time manufacturing strategy. Vaught, who has always been mechanical and enjoyed working with his hands, is committed to implementing technological changes that make the company as efficient and customer-friendly as possible.
Currently, Evans is working on having a robust system that will support electronic transfer of information between Evans and its distributor partners. “We have also invested in a new website that will give customers real-time order status tracking information and inventory availability,” Vaught adds.
Vaught believes that, in the future, technology will be the biggest separator between companies. “Who thought five years ago that more rides would be from Uber than taxi cabs, when Uber doesn’t own any cars? Or more nights would be spent in Airbnb rooms than the largest hotel chain, when Airbnb doesn’t own any properties? Price and service will always be the cornerstone in this industry, but companies that embrace changes in technology will be the leaders.”
Creative self-promotion is another way to stand out in a business made up of imaginative marketers. When Evans’s marketing team came up with the idea of a company mascot, Vaught was immediately on board. “The idea originated as an iconic way to engage customers at The PPAI Expo. Now Promo Pete is also a social media sensation—check him out on our Facebook page. More than anything, having Promo Pete is just a way to give a little ‘personality’ to our Evans team. Distributors recognize him now and look for his next great offer,” Vaught explains.
A Winning Team
Vaught has high praise for his employees and the team atmosphere they have created. “Money could replace every piece of equipment and every item of inventory we have, but there is not enough money on the planet to buy a team like we have at Evans.”
Company culture takes a long time to develop—in Evans’s case, 25 years. Vaught says, “There are no shortcuts to developing a successful team like we have here. I wish I could take more credit, but this team has evolved in spite of me. I love this place.”
Secrets Of Evans Manufacturing’s Success (According to Alan Vaught)
Consistency We have been under the same ownership for many years.
Service We take service very seriously and continue to make changes needed to stay ahead of our competitors.
Innovative products We design and purchase products with an emphasis on ad space and quality. We understand that the minute a name goes on a product, it is branding someone’s company. We want that to be a good experience for the end recipient.
Made In The USA Making more than 50 percent of our products in our factory means we always have product on hand with a wide color selection.
In-house Sewing We can deliver large orders faster and can assure quality of material and imprint like no one else.
Why Create A Company Mascot?
- Community Outreach (to attract employees)
- Employee Engagement (to promote a little fun into your corporate culture)
- Attract Customers (to provide a familiar face and photo op at industry shows/events)
- Advertising and Social Media (to spread your company’s message. Promo Pete pops up everywhere in print and electronic media.)
Julie Richie is associate editor at PPB.