As part of a continuing series on our distributor partners, we recently sat down with Tom Miller, President of T.R. Miller Co. Inc. to discuss some of his experiences in the recognition industry.
Tom has been in the recognition/promotional business for approx. 45 years – starting in sales for a small jewelry manufacturer in Attleboro, Massachusetts (BGW Associates). At that time emblematic jewelry (lapel pins, tie tacs, etc.) was the “recognition standard” for American industry. Years of service, sales achievements and more were recognized more often than not with a symbolic jewelry piece.
Tom left BGW Associates in 1975, opening up his own distributorship which would eventually become T.R. Miller Co. Inc. A couple years later he began a long and fruitful relationship with Edward Dion, Sr. who was in the same “Attleboro emblematic supplier circles” as Tom was.
What cemented their relationship was a particularly challenging opportunity for custom emblem Cross pens for General Electric. A.T. Cross allowed outside vendors to add emblematic additions to their products, but only after a lengthy permissions/vetting process. What struck Tom about E.A. Dion, Inc. and Ed, Sr. was their willingness to “make it work.” Ed worked with Tom to get the permissions from Cross to ultimately produce the custom pen emblems. Tom was able to offer GE the pens at a very affordable price, which led GE to expand the program and Tom ended up with a larger program than originally anticipated.
When asked what advice he would give to distributors getting into the business now, Tom replied that new distributors really need to learn more about recognition and focus more on “equity” or program sales. The sale of programs, i.e. projects that repeat year after year, are a much less commodity-based sale and more of a marketing/relationship sale. These types of sales take more time, but are worth it in the long term.
Custom program awards move you away from being seen as a commodity peddler, and position you as a creative solutions provider. Tom added that working with a supplier who “gets it” is also important. If your supplier understands the underlying goal of what you are trying to accomplish, they can help you find the best vehicle to make that happen.
Over the years, T.R. Miller and Co. Inc. has expanded into all areas of recognition and promotion, but Tom continues to have a soft spot for emblematic jewelry and recognition awards!