Reprinted from Imprint Canada magazine - Vol 15/1 - January, 2008
BUSINESS IS A BATTLEFIELD
There is something to be said for adversity. Notable challenges, when they present themselves unexpectedly, force people,
and companies alike, to elevate themselves to levels they never thought possible in order to succeed.
What qualifies as a notable
challenge you may ask?
Losing your founding partner unexpectedly only several years into the business? existence counts
as one; losing your largest client to an unsuspecting competitor is another.
Yet, for Stoney Creek, Ontario-based Battlefield Advertising, which ironically was not named for its ability to overcome
such challenges, has risen above these aforementioned setbacks and is proudly celebrating its 20th Anniversary in 2008.
BATTLING THROUGH ADVERSITY
Founded as a part time venture in 1988 by partners Jim Barlow and Ralph Button, the business originally started out as a trophy shop;
both men had full time professions at the time and the company ? Battlefield Trophy ? was intended to add some supplementary remuneration.
Oddly enough, Button explains, the company?s first order was for a promotional product and not for trophies. Over the next year,
Barlow and Button realized that a growing demand for promotional products was taking place and the two started another
partnership ? Battlefield Advertising ? with a focus on satisfying this emerging trend.
By 1993, both partners decided it was time to
focus all of their energy into the promotional product marketplace rather than keeping the business as simply a side venture.
Barlow and Button made the corporate decision that it would be competitively advantageous to provide production services in-house
rather than having to outsource orders. The partners then added embroidery, screen printing and engraving equipment to Battlefield Advertising?s
list of core services.
Tragically, in 1996 Jim Barlow suffered a stroke at an industry conference in Montreal which claimed his life.
At the time, his wife, Maureen, was involved in the business, handling the administrative functions of the company. After the sad loss of her
husband, Maureen assumed the Barlow partnership while Button became more entrenched in the business, directing the marketing
and supplier relationships.
?Jim was a wonderful, extremely handy guy,? recalls Button. ?He had a lot of foresight and was
very good at working the equipment, doing set-ups and handling production schedules. He is very sadly missed.?
tumultuous time, Battlefield was struggling to cope with the loss of such an integral part of its team. As Button was trying to grow
the business from the selling and marketing side of things, the production end of the business was becoming more of a
liability than an asset as it was taking too much time to manage.
As a result, in 2002, Battlefield Advertising divested itself from its engraving
and screen printing equipment and downsized to its current location, which is approximately 3,600 square feet.
FOCUSING ON STRENGTHS
Battlefield Advertising is getting ready to celebrate its 20th year. Its approach to business is centered around three things: employees,
value-added service and strong supplier relationships.
The first two elements go hand-in-hand; Button explains that the Battlefield team, which is made up of 13 employees, is an efficient and professional
group of talent. ?We put a lot of emphasis on our staff being trained through industry education courses and accreditation programs,? he added.
Presently 50% of our staff have achieved CAS (Certified Advertising Specialist) or MAS (Master Advertising Specialist) accreditation and
the rest are well on their way to completing their studies.
The company ensures that all employees have the skills and the tools needed to provide clients
with superior value-added service (which is the second element in the list of company strengths).
?Our team is very focused, professional and loyal,?
explains Button. With approximately 600 clients, ranging from corporate giants to government agencies to communication manufacturing specialists to
health care support service providers, the Stoney Creek firm has worked diligently to ensure that it doesn?t just sell product, but rather
it provides a much needed service as well.
The company currently manages four national reward programs in which they host an online store where
clients? employees can redeem points for products which are housed in Battlefield?s inventory and subsequently shipped nation-wide when
?We also work closely with our clients to see what kind of products fit into the events they?re putting together,? explains Button.
Recently, Battlefield had a national client that was having a special awards ceremony in Jamaica. The client selected a photo album storage box,
an underwater camera and baseball caps. The baseball caps were not an issue; the challenge was to produce, assemble and deliver the
photo album/camera package in a timely matter.
The client specifically requested Fuji underwater cameras, but because there was no supplier
in North America who could supply them in time, Battlefield?s team purchased the camera from a local shop, printed a custom wrist strap with the
client?s logo, replaced the stock wrist strap with the custom imprinted strap and wrapped each camera in bubble wrap. Battlefield then
sourced another supplier to print the photo box with the client?s logo on the outside and applied a printed metal plate on the inside commemorating
?Our staff assembled the kits of the photo box and the cameras in our shop, and with the help of the Ritz Carleton Hotel, we were able
to expedite the shipment from Stoney Creek to their facility in Jamaica. The result was we turned a tight delivery time request into a
real success,? says Button.
But, not all clients are meant to be kept.
Another defining moment for Battlefield Advertising occurred several
years ago when one of its largest national customers made a corporate decision to shift all of its promotional buying, along with all of its peripheral
event and print marketing business, to another company.
?This really hurt us to the point where we were contemplating survival,? recalls Button.
But, the company battled back against the odds once again and worked extremely hard to realize a 10-15 per cent growth with each
The final element to Battlefield?s success is its strong partnerships with its group of suppliers. ?We believe that our suppliers
deserve the same respect that our clients do,? says Button, ?and if they suffer, we suffer.?
As it stands, the company sources from 30 or so
preferred suppliers which it feels are vital to realizing competitive advantages.
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS
Battlefield Advertising is currently in negotiations to secure additional professional sales representation, which it anticipates will grow the business
at a slightly more aggressive rate.
The company is also gearing up to conduct another client survey ? which it holds every several years - to garner
feedback from its growing customer base. Button explains that by undertaking an endeavor such as this, the company not only gains invaluable
information regarding what it could have done better, but it also provides the company?s clients with another notable indication that
Battlefield Advertising really cares.
It is this type of value added service which has propelled the company into its 20th year
and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future.