Bee still gets a buzz from shows
For Graham Bee, face-to-face is where it’s at – which is why he likes doing business at the Big Promotional Trade Show.
“It’s just the way I like to operate,” he says. “Obviously, there is lot more happening these days in the digital sphere such as email and web-based inquiries, but this is my favourite way of staying in contact.
“This kind of small, intimate show is far less daunting than walking into a big exhibition hall full of stands, knowing you’ll have to stand around on them to speak to people, many of whom don’t believe you’re that important.”
Graham’s Nottingham-based company Beeline Advertising Products is celebrating 30 years in business this year. Beeline was founded by Graham’s dad after he retired from print giant Bemrose, and the company has varied considerably in size and scope over those three decades.
“When we went through the downturn, I stripped away the staff. What had become difficult for me when we started to get big got easier again as we downsized, thanks partly to technology making things simpler. So the current level of the business has become something of a sweet spot for me.”
While Graham likes investigating new products as much as the rest of us, he admits that the core favourites are difficult to beat.
“When I see a customer, I’ll have all my stuff out – tech products, the lot – and in the middle, there will be a notepad, a mug and some pens. I point to these and say to the customer: ‘I’ll show you all this – but I know you’ll probably end up buying these!’
“We’re still selling calendars, still doing diaries; notebooks are on the way up. Of course, you still have to have all the other options. But mugs, pads and pens – those are the staples.”
In a world where the lines of the supplier-distributor model are increasingly blurred, Graham is still convinced of its value. “If I can support my customers by supporting suppliers – and without that customer paying a premium – then I’ll always support the trade.”
Graham’s key role, as he sees it, is to inject creativity and judgment into using certain products.
“It’s that experience and expertise – knowing that on paper, some things are a great idea but in practice they rarely work. Let’s face it, last year’s top product is this year’s back of the table. Not everything’s certain in this life – apart from mugs, pads and pens!”