Seal Of Approval
Elizabeth Tate entered the promotional products industry the way one might eat an elephant: one bite at a time. Or, in Tate’s case, one task at a time. After graduating from the University of Memphis with a degree in journalism/advertising and public relations, Tate took a job in television ad sales. At the same time, she began helping out at the distributor business she and her mother purchased from her mother’s late husband.
“I used to go by the office on my lunch hour and after work, and file catalogs and do bank deposits,” says Tate. “After a while, I realized the potential and resigned from my job to jump into this crazy, fun business. It was a very small company, but we have grown over the years.”
Fast forward to today, and Signet, Inc., now handles programs for Fortune 500 companies from its base in Memphis, Tennessee. The distributor’s success has not gone unnoticed, and even its own team is acutely aware of Signet’s importance to the industry. Last month, Signet was named one of the PPB Top 60 Greatest Companies To Work For.
Away from work, Tate and her husband, David—also her business partner—cook, collect wines and travel. Their two adult children are following their own dreams: daughter Holly is a photographer living in Colorado, and son Stephen is an International Master Brewer. “Our daughter-in-law, Leslie, just joined the business last fall as our client success coordinator,” Tate says.
Read on to learn more about a day in the life for Tate and her team at Signet.
How long has your company been in business?
The company was originally established in 1976. We are a woman-owned company and are certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).
How does this job challenge you?
It is a daily (but fun) challenge to provide the newest trends to our clients. We strive to be the best “brand police” ever and to keep our clients true to their brand, while providing safe, creative and quality products.
What changes or improvements have you recently implemented, or are you planning to make in the future?
We recently updated our website and developed “made to order” shopping sites with merchandise specifically selected for our individual clients, to eliminate the need for deep inventory and to provide great options for our customers, who have locations requesting imprints with their local information.
What do you love about your company?
I love the people I get to collaborate with on a daily basis. We have an incredible and diverse mix of employees who love what they do, and who are creative and fun to work with. I love the teamwork that goes on every day and, of course, the products.
Describe your office atmosphere.
We have 50,000 square feet, half of which is warehouse and half of which is office. Our office atmosphere is relaxed but professional. Our mission is to make our customers look great and feel great about each experience with us. Our people are empowered to do whatever it takes to make that happen. We also have an office dog who comes to work frequently. Milo Tate is our CMO (Chief Morale Officer). He is in charge of smiles, shedding and food inspection.
What kinds of projects or tasks might you tackle on a given day?
No day is ever the same. I touch base with the department heads as needed, have quick meetings with salespeople, meet with supplier reps, etc. I also talk with various clients, take clients to lunch (or happy hour), look over sales figures, sign checks, etc.
How do you collaborate with coworkers?
I have an open-door policy, and if I’m not walking around talking with people, they are popping in my office for impromptu meetings as needed (or wanted). And, David and I work together very well. We have our individual “sand boxes” at the office, and we try not to trespass on the other’s area. Sometimes there’s a little crossover, but David is more involved in operations and I am more involved in sales and merchandising, and vendor and client relations. While it doesn’t always happen, our goal is to leave work at the office when the work day ends.
What makes your company a valuable member of the promotional products community?
We are proud to be one of the founding members of The PeerNet Group, which was the first buying group in the industry. PeerNet is a strategic alliance of promotional product distributors, working together to provide the most advanced technology, product decoration, safety standards and service to our expansive network of clients. Together we define industry best practices, which make us stronger individually and as a whole.
Jen Alexander is associate editor of PPB