Innovate, create, and differentiate: A third-generation promotional products owner on how to do things differently in an industry on the brink of total disruption and massive decline.

Today’s promotional products business has access to so many profit paths or ideas and at the very same time, sits on the edge of potential failure if there isn’t product or technology innovation and differentiation to remain relevant and survive the disruption.

However, I recently interviewed Michael Emoff of Shumsky – a promotional products company started in 1953. Michael became a third generation majority owner in 2006. When he joined the company 20+ years prior, he quickly developed a passion for creative product development and solutions for their clients. But Michael knew the system he was walking into was antiquated and would have to change if it wanted to stay alive.

Your Business Is Always In Danger of Being Totally Average

This is one of the reasons why Michael holds over 20 design and product patents and is involved in a number of mentorship programs and industry boards, including his supervisory board seat in IGC Global Promotions. His understanding of the business runs deeper than attempting to put your brand on a gift.

As Michael puts it, “relationship marketing is an ancient practice between friends and neighbors – from bringing gifts to parties to offering someone food and drink when they enter our homes. In the business world, the practice is every bit as important and one of the most basic forms of establishing and building relationships.”

How Can You Avoid Being Average?

Exclusive products, top-notch branding knowledge, some spontaneity, and an in-house creative team that sleeps with one eye open. Each of these answers points to one thing: innovation. Michael keeps his business on the up-and-up by remaining in a constant state of innovation, competing with themselves to have the next great idea, and then it’s a race to the patent office so he can protect what is key to his future success.

  1. Get creative, a lot.

  2. Protect what you create.

  3. Continue this cycle often.

Take a look at your industry right now. Have you spent any time thinking about where it will be in 3 year? 5 years? 10 years? Have you thought at all about where you could potentially take it? Have you asked yourself what you want your business to be in 3 or 5 years? This is how you avoid being average; you think like a visionary, expanding your view to take in the larger picture, rather than just the here and now.

It’s No Surprise That Innovation Is The Answer

Our business market is changing at such a rapid and exponential rate, that innovation isn’t just a way you can get ahead; it’s the only way if you want to survive. What I love about this though, is that someone who is prepared for the exponential change and growth can take a traditional, mom and pop style multi-generational family business, and pump new life into it. It’s not all gloom and doom. Michael and Shumsky’s history show that the future is hopeful for the ones who charge ahead.

The Last Point I’ll Make Is About Loyalty

Amazon eats small businesses for lunch, and simultaneously helps small businesses get their start. So where does that leave someone like Michael? Well, without loyalty, you probably wouldn’t be reading this right now.

In his business size range, Michael can easily see how he serves as basically a concierge service for businesses who need something more than Amazon can offer, and from someone they know they can trust. In your efforts to create, and innovate, and differentiate, do not forget why you are doing what you are doing. If you don’t do right by your customers, the rest of it won’t matter.

Read the original INC article published on December 13, 2017.