Close Up: Paul Kory
For The Love Of Sales
Paul Kory knew that he wanted to be in sales. As a college student at the University of Texas, he quickly learned that his passion was helping people to solve their business needs. With his high-energy, extroverted personality, Kory was also drawn to the fact that each day in sales is different from the next one, and that he wouldn’t be sitting behind a desk for long periods of time. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and business management and set out to pursue his dream.
Kory started his career as a sales rep at Nabisco Brands. After five years, he was promoted to regional manager before moving on to The Gillette Corporation as regional sales manager.
Kory’s next move took him from Texas back to his home state of Ohio, which allowed him to be closer to family. As a regional manager with GPA Associates, he got his first introduction to the promotional products industry with PaperMate pens and Braun shavers. He knew he had found his niche, and his expertise was rewarded with increased levels of sales responsibility for several apparel brands before landing at Sierra Pacific Apparel two years ago.
Why was it important to you to return to Ohio?
I grew up in a great little town called Hudson, which is known for its excellent school system and small-town atmosphere. It’s a traditional New England-style town with local businesses (there is no Walmart to this day) with a large green space where we had concerts, ice cream socials and art fairs throughout the year. It is straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. With a childhood like that, who wouldn’t want to return? I also wanted to be close to my parents. My father has been my mentor and the biggest influence on my life. He had an extremely difficult childhood and still managed to go to college and graduate school, and enjoy a high-profile career.
How did you get interested in the promotional products industry?
To tell you the truth, I had limited knowledge about this industry until I interviewed for the position at GPA Associates. I was used to selling writing instruments in the retail market, but before I went on the GPA interview I searched my house and looked at all the products that had imprints on them. There were pens, caps, shirts, key holders and many other products—I was absolutely amazed, and the rest, as they say, is history.
What are your responsibilities at Sierra Pacific?
As vice president of business development, I work with our wholesalers in the U.S., Canada and Europe to increase overall sales, expand our product offerings and help them market our five brands of products—Burnside Apparel, FeatherLite Apparel, Sierra Pacific Apparel, Hilton and Rawlings Sportswear. I also work with the promotional products distributor base to increase product exposure through our key wholesalers—S&S, alphabroder, Heritage Sportswear, TSF, One Stop, McCreary Tee’s, Golden State Activewear, Mission Imprintables, Staton, Technosport and L-Shop.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I feel blessed that I am in a job where I get to make people happy by providing quality products that distributors can offer their customers. When we can provide a form of advertising on a thousand different products with many different types of imprints that are viewed daily, weekly or monthly for such a small price per impression, we become the value-added industry versus traditional ad firms.
And the people I work with on a daily basis are the absolute best—my coworkers, my customers and my peers keep me challenged and interested in making this an even better industry.
Working for a manufacturer gives my team flexibility and control over the type of products we bring into the promotional market. We are also a retail manufacturer, so if we see a brand or style doing well at one of the retail accounts that we service, we can then introduce it to the promotional market.
Since we make our own products, we also control the price and quality, so our team has the highest level of confidence in our offerings. We know we are supplying our wholesalers with high-quality garments at a great price point, which benefits the distributors and their customers.
How do you spend your free time?
I like to golf, exercise (I need to do this more often) and travel. I want to see as many countries as possible to learn about different cultures and experience how other people live. I also like to spend time with my parents and my two daughters, Meghan and Morgan, who are both successful sales managers. They are great kids and make me proud every single day of my life.
What is next for you and Sierra Pacific?
We are looking for continued growth in our existing brands with our wholesalers and assessing the possibility of introducing new retail brands into the promotional market. We are also developing our brands in the Canadian and European markets and look to continue this expansion. As our industry changes, we are looking to create products that are more relevant to the Millennial generation, and we are always on the hunt for new materials and designs that will be the new fashion trends.
How has the industry changed over the years? What opportunities and challenges are ahead?
I first started working in the promotional field when it was a very simple industry—people selling calendars, writing instruments and plastic products—that really did not compete with true advertising firms such as multi-media and ad agencies. Over the years, we’ve become a much more professional industry with retail-inspired products, internet-based suppliers and distributors, and college-educated Millennials that are entering our industry. With the ever-changing environment we are in, it is demanding to keep up with more sophisticated product offerings, multiple ways to go to market and the modern expectation of immediate gratification. I am more challenged than ever, which is awesome.
Terry Ramsay is associate editor of PPB.