The Challenge Of Innovation

Merrick Falkenstein’s team at ESP Promotions/K&R New York thrives on improving and achieving.

merrick Merrick Falkenstein’s sense of adventure isn’t limited to his passion for traveling. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Falkenstein immigrated to Canada in 1987 and two years later launched his company, ESP Promotions, as an importer and distributor, transitioning six years later to become a supplier for the promotional products industry.

Not content to remain static, Falkenstein has continually expanded his company through acquisitions and mergers with other industry companies. This summer, ESP joined forces with the St Regis Group, a family of companies that includes St Regis Crystal, Etching Wines and Promobilia. ESP Promotions trades in the U.S. as K&R New York.

When he does take time away from growing the business, Falkenstein collects art, watches sports and spends time with friends and family. He and his wife of 33 years, Ruth, have two children—Dale and Daniella—and two grandchildren.

Read on to learn more about a day in the life of ESP’s owner and president/CEO.

Describe your office atmosphere.

Our team is very friendly, and has a strong sense of willingness to learn, achieve and be better. Our team thrives on challenges and being busy.

What kinds of projects or tasks might you tackle on a given day?

Our days may include sourcing and developing new products, sales training, setting goals and objectives, marketing, reviewing financial data, and visiting with clients. Additionally, we are always looking for new business opportunities such as mergers and acquisitions, addressing quality and compliance challenges, and purchasing and negotiating.

How do you collaborate with co-workers?

I deal with our key managers and satellite offices on a daily basis, conducting daily meetings and getting updates.

How does this job challenge you?

I am always trying to anticipate and think ahead, to keep ahead of new developments and trends, and trying to make myself available 24/7. Sometimes I feel I need to be in three places at the same time.

What changes or improvements have you recently implemented, or are you planning to make in the future?

We have just merged with the St Regis Group of companies, making us the largest Canadian supplier of promotional products, and probably among the top 10 in the U.S. The 11 companies that we own will be incorporated under the St Regis Group of Companies with all the brands and lines. We have factories in Toronto, Northern Ontario, Chicago and Indianapolis, and an office and showroom in Vancouver, as well as a satellite office in San Diego. We have state-of-the-art software and are taking our capabilities to the next level. New equipment continues to arrive, and we are continually adding talented staff.

What do you love about your company?

I love the challenge of innovation and motivating our team. The company is my baby, which we started with $10,000 and watched it grow into an integral part of the industry. It’s also great to watch our team develop and improve over time.

What makes your company a valuable member of the promotional products community?

We try and keep things exciting. We are always on the move, and we accept challenges as opportunities. Our company will keep leading and we will continue to improve in all aspects of quality: compliance, innovation, product and service.

Jen Alexander is associate editor for PPB.