St. Louis native Ralph Horack has the benefit of decades in promotional products to guide his leadership at supplier Gemini Industries, Inc. (PPAI 112011), but it’s the team with whom he works that really puts the shine on the company’s American-made, union products and customer-first service.
“Gemini has been in business for 64 years, and our newest acquisition—F & H Ribbon, whose operations relocated from Texas to Gemini’s facility in Roxana, Illinois—has been in business for 55 years,” he shares. “We are always working on ways to improve our service and quality.”
Outside the office, the “happily single” Horack enjoys cooking and gardening, following the St. Louis Cardinals, and spending time with his large circle of family and friends. Read on to learn more about a typical day for Gemini’s vice president of sales.
What was your first job in the industry, and where?
I spent my first nine years in the industry with Vitronic/Ritepoint, processing press-n-stick calendar orders. Vitronic and Ritepoint were sold and split up, and I stayed with Ritepoint until they moved to Cedar Rapids [Iowa] to share facility space with Souvenir. I was not willing to leave St. Louis, so I took a short stint outside the industry, but I quickly came back and have since been with Gemini Industries for 21 years.
How does this job challenge you?
It truly makes us think outside the box every day. It pushes us to be creative and to find useful ways to position our products in new and expanding markets. We check, double check and triple check, and then check again. There are so many things that can happen in our industry, and with most of the dates on orders being event driven, we are challenged every day to ensure everything on an order is correct.
Also, there are so many companies in our industry, and although we have our niche we work hard to make sure our distributors are fitted with all the information they need to keep them selling. Not being a huge company means we are always trying to find the right way to spend our marketing budget. My role in customer relations also pushes me to see things from our customer viewpoint.
What changes or improvements have you recently implemented, or are you planning to make in the future?
We are expanding our customer service team to better field our growing number of calls.
What do you love about your company?
First of all, I love the people—they are my family and are true team members. Second is the fact that [our products] are almost 100-percent American made and [we are] a union shop. At Gemini, very few items sit on a shelf; we make pretty much everything to order. The beauty of that is customers can tweak an order however they want, customizing it to fit their specifications not only in color but in shape.
Describe your office atmosphere.
Busy! We are not a huge office, and we cross-train team members so they can easily move from one area to another based on workload. It can get a little hectic, but we make it work every day.
What kinds of projects or tasks might you tackle on a given day?
We tackle a lot of projects—the first, and my favorite, is creative selling. In other words, how do we make our product work for our customer? I might also be helping customers with price points and quotes, working alongside customer service to answer incoming calls, or reviewing orders from the previous day to get an idea of each department’s workload.
How do you collaborate with coworkers?
We work together daily. When I was younger I wanted to know how to do everything, but we have team members who have their areas of experience and are the gurus of particular services and products, so I know right where to go. Frequent late nights as a team, when brainstorming really drums up ideas, have created some fantastic products as well as expedited production and order flow.
What makes your company a valuable member of the promotional products community?
We are in a Midwest location and offer custom American-made and union-made products. We attend most major industry trade shows and also work a schedule of speed dating-type events to get the word out about Gemini. We are proud of our continued support of the distributor/supplier relationship, as well. We work solely through our distributors; they are our sales force.
Jen Alexander is associate editor of PPB.