Gary Mulloy took a good look at changes in store at Money Mailer and decided it was time for a return to sender

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Gary Mulloy discovered a company in the midst of a major transformation when he became chairman and CEO of Money Mailer in July 2010. He just wasn’t sure it was the right change for the direct mail marketing company.

“The senior management team had a vision that it wanted to be a different kind of company with a different mix of products and services,” Mulloy says. “And it wanted to do that with different clients than the company was currently servicing. That theoretically can be done. But that is such a departure from what you have as a business that you disconnect yourself from all the living parts of your company.”

Money Mailer faced a changing world and needed to adapt, just like most industries. Mulloy understood that, but didn’t think completely abandoning some of Money Mailers processes, which were still quite useful, was the right strategy.

“The reality is it needed to embrace technology to make what it was as a direct mail business that much stronger,” Mulloy says. “It’s not a threatened, at-risk business. It is a business that needs to learn how to thrive with technology.”

The company, which has about 100 employees and 185 franchise owners, currently reaches 17 million households across the country with its traditional coupon envelope. Full direct mail services account for about 50 percent of industry revenue. When Mulloy arrived, Money Mailer had been named the No. 1 advertising services franchise company in Entrepreneur Magazine for the seventh consecutive year.

So there was a lot to like about what Money Mailer had built and Mulloy wanted to show his team that it wasn’t time to just throw it all out the window in the name of change.

“I look at companies stumble and generally it’s because they misunderstand the complexity of actually achieving the success they see others achieving,” Mulloy says. “If they are objective and step back and look at their own success, they understand that complexity.”

 

Explain yourself

One of Mulloy’s first actions was to stop new technology initiatives he felt had no relationship to Money Mailer’s client base or the skill set of its core team members. It wasn’t about abandoning technology, but pursuing a better way to integrate it into the company.

“I sold off businesses that had been acquired that were not related to our core business and the skills and strengths of our team members,” Mulloy says.

“As a strategy, that was a total departure from what they had embarked upon. But it was welcomed by the team members and the franchise community because it was something they could understand, could relate to and could talk to their clients about.”

It wasn’t good for everybody at Money Mailer; some employees had to go as a result of Mulloy’s change in direction.

“But people were so energized and positive about where we were headed; they understood that as a cost of getting there, it was a necessary step that needed to be made,” Mulloy says.

Any time you’re making a significant change in how your business operates, and especially when you’re letting some people go, you need to help those who remain understand why the company is going in that direction.

“I have to constantly be talking to people,” Mulloy says. “One group of franchisees asked me if I had been a school teacher because I present data and situations in such a logical way. I am constantly talking to them and providing them with data and information that helps put realism in the communication that gets shared with them every day. I wanted them to understand we’re part of a vital, growing business.”

You also need to be aware of the different constituencies your business may have. Whether it’s employees, customers or in this case, franchisees, you need to do your best to speak to each group on their level.

“Franchisees are business owners themselves and therefore have much stronger points of view and much larger demands both in time and money,” Mulloy says. “There needs to be an element of fairness, consistency and thoroughness in everything so that everyone’s needs and desires are recognized in the decision-making process.

“That doesn’t mean they always agree with you. But they do respect you are trying to do what you believe is the right thing in a balanced way across the entire company.”

Mulloy’s goal was to position Money Mailer to offer direct mail marketing services with both leading-edge technology and the same client-driven approach for which it was known.

“The best blend for our clients in reaching the ultimate consumer is to put the two pieces of business together,” Mulloy says.

 

Reach out to your people

One of the biggest changes Mulloy implemented at Money Mailer was a move away from being a printer.

“We decided to outsource all our printing,” Mulloy says. “It took us more than two years to find partners to work with, to come up with business processes and procedures that would allow us to execute our very complicated mailing product on every mailing cycle working through the partners and all the people in the company that contributed to that effort.”

It was a strategic move to allow more internal effort to be directed toward integrating new technology into the company’s direct mail campaigns. Mulloy wanted a company that could offer a unique portfolio of consumer directed marketing services online, on mobile phones and through direct mail.

It made sense to Mulloy and he tried to convey that logic to his people. But that doesn’t mean he was always confident he had done the right thing.

“Did I have any sleepless nights over it or wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat and ask myself if this was really the right thing to do?” Mulloy says. “Yes I did. But you go back to the decision-making process of where you were and where you want to get to.”

One thing you can’t be afraid to do is spend more time strategizing when there are still unknown variables in your equation.

“Too many decision-makers or CEOs like to feel that their image should be one of the decision-maker,” Mulloy says. “That makes the decision theirs and therefore, if they change that decision, it might look bad. Approach it in a more collaborative way. Work with people and share with them what you’re trying to do and how you’re trying to get there.

“Get them to fully embrace the objective as well as help put together the road map that is going to get you there. Then all of you own it, all of you have evaluated it and certified it, but all of you can also change it if you suddenly feel something is wrong.”

If something does go wrong and it was your fault, you’ve got to own it. Show your people that you are human just like they are, and that just because you’re the CEO it doesn’t mean you’re immune from making mistakes.

“It isn’t cockiness or arrogance or, ‘I’m the leader, you have to listen to me,’” Mulloy says. “At some point, I am the leader, so I do have to make certain decisions. I do have to resolve conflicts and mediate and make decisions on certain things. Some people will like my decisions and some people won’t. All I can ask is that they respect the fact that I’m making educated decisions and I’m trying to do it in a way that is respectful and is committed to a long-term strategy for all of us as one team.”

 

Looking ahead

As he looks to the future of Money Mailer, Mulloy sees lots of reason for optimism. He has his sites set on the next phase of the company’s evolution, a geographic expansion.

“The limitation to our revenue today and our absolute level of profitability is that we are in a limited distribution geographically in the United States,” Mulloy says. “Our big opportunity is to take this really terrific business model with all of these wonderful elements we’ve added to it with technology and outsourcing and everything and now apply that business model to a geography that is two, three or four times larger than what we are today. The volume follows from that.”

While Money Mailer is privately held, Mulloy did disclose that the company wants to triple its current size in five years.

“I think we could exceed that,” Mulloy says. “Our revenue base has a major growth opportunity and that’s an exciting thing to lead a team toward. It’s to help them see that we’re going to create a much larger business and create a lot of job opportunities for people to join our team.”

 

Takeaways:

  • Explain yourself.
  • Know you’re not perfect.
  • Build on the momentum.

 

The Mulloy File:

Name: Gary Mulloy
Title: Chairman and CEO
Company: Money Mailer

Born: Chicago

Education: Bachelor’s degree in marketing, University of Illinois.

What was your first job and what did you learn from it? I worked in my family’s hardware store, Soukups Hardware, in Glen Ellyn, Ill. I was a salesperson on the floor from the age of 8. I learned how to work with people, how to meet their needs and how to help them creatively come up with ways to solve their hardware issues. What screw goes with what? How do I hang this? It was just basic selling skills. All those things have stayed with me.

Who has had the biggest influence on you? No. 1 would be my grandfather who ran that hardware store as a family business. Even though everyone working in the business was not family, they were made to feel like family. Next would be my wife, Jodi, a terrific person I’ve known for 20 years. She has always helped me to continue to believe in people. Her faith in the goodness of people always brings me back from darker moments and tougher times. All of us in leadership positions have darker moments or times we feel let down or pessimistic. She keeps me centered.

What one person would you like to meet? Nelson Mandela. Everything he went through in his life, he stayed focused on the goodness of people. How he did that through the things that he faced growing up, being imprisoned and all those kinds of things, and still ended up being a healing and uniting leader of South Africa at the end of his life is amazing to me.