Marc Hill has held numerous sales and marketing roles responsible for launching brands and products in new markets around the world for power tool companies such as Black & Decker and DeWalt. Two years ago, he left the power tool industry to take a role working at Jarden Corp. and the U.S. Playing Card Co., more specifically.
So why did he leave a career in power tools to come to the world of playing cards? It was an opportunity to be the boss. Hill became president and CEO of U.S. Playing Card Co. in April 2011.
Just as Hill had worked with well-known brands like Black & Decker and DeWalt, he would now be working to boost legendary brands such as Bicycle, Bee and Hoyle playing cards.
“It’s about developing great products and working with great people,” Hill says. “That is what drives it. Having a strong brand is also supportive. Those are the drivers that make me go in a new direction.”
Hill had the opportunity to take the knowledge gained over his career and lead a company.
“I have a chance to put my thumbprint onto an organization to lead strategy, lead people, and lead the culture,” Hill says. “I wanted to take that opportunity.”
U.S. Playing Card Co. has been around since 1867 and with 500 employees, it produces some of the best-known playing cards in the world. Hill was now responsible for growing the company’s many brands, as well as furthering its strategic goals.
Evaluate the business
As a first-time president and CEO and as a leader entering a new business and industry, Hill had to make sure he took the time to understand what U.S. Playing Card Co. was all about.
“First, you want to get to know the people,” Hill says. “At the end of the day, you can have great strategies, but you have to have great people to execute. So I spent time meeting the people and meeting the team. Then I spent time understanding the company’s current strategy and understanding where we have been and where we want to go.”
That is how Hill spent his first couple of weeks in the business. He wanted to understand who was doing what in the company, what talent U.S. Playing Card had, and what made this company great.
“This company has a long, long history of having great products and great people, so I wanted to make sure I understood what their DNA was,” he says.
The next step for Hill was really evaluating what strategies were in place and how they could be improved.
“I said, ‘Let’s formulate a strategy that puts us into meeting the objectives of our corporation,’” Hill says. “How do we continue to have a sustainable business? Where do we need to grow? Where do we need to peel back a bit?”
Hill spent his first 30 days in his new role learning where the company was, what it had and what it did in terms of products, people and processes. His next 60 days were spent developing a strategy with his team to say where the company could go over the next two to five years.
“We have not deviated from that strategy, and we will continue to push that forward,” he says. “We will tweak it here and there if we have some challenges on one side or another, but the overarching strategy that we set forth we have not deviated off.”
Implement your strategy
With such well-known products, Hill wanted to see where he could expand the reach of U.S. Playing Card’s brands as part of his new strategy.
“With the history that we have in North America and the customer base we have today, we felt that the U.S. just had to be tweaked, but we really had to invest in our international business — South America and Asia,” Hill says.
The current Macau market for gaming in Asia is growing by leaps and bounds.
“It almost dwarfs what Vegas is doing as far as the amount of revenue that’s being poured into Macau and also Singapore and the Philippines,” he says.
With his focus set on new markets for the company’s products, Hill says that keeping an open mind about strategy was helpful as an incoming CEO.
“You have to come in with open eyes and look at what you have,” he says. “Don’t come in with preconceived notions because sometimes you might just need to tweak something versus making wholesale changes.”
As the leader of the organization, people are looking to you to lead them. If you’re not clear in what you’re trying to do, they’ll have a hard time following you.
“You have to be very clear on what you’re trying to do and make sure that you rely upon the great talent that you have,” Hill says. “Don’t live on an island and stay in your office and come out and say, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do,’ because you’re not as smart as eight people in a room that challenge and trust each other.”
U.S. Playing Card Co.’s strategy to penetrate new markets revolved around having resources in those geographies.
“Our strategy was about resources, so we opened an office in Macau,” Hill says. “We hired a sales organization in Macau to go and develop our sales opportunities, not just in Macau, but also throughout the Asian region, which includes Singapore, Korea, the Philippines and other markets.
“You want to skate where the puck is going to be and that’s what we have done,” he says.
Hill made investments in order to further U.S. Playing Card Co. as the No. 1 name in casino playing cards in the U.S., Latin America, Europe and Africa. The new strategy continues to drive that momentum into the Asian market.
“You have to trust that everybody is trying to do the right thing and build a strategy that is not rigid where you can’t make tweaks to it, but you have to have a good strategy that people buy in to,” he says. “That’s what will make the company better.”
A key to making the company’s new markets successful is being on the ground in those areas so that you are face-to-face with customers.
“You have to see your customers,” he says. “You have to see what their issues are that you can resolve for them and you can only do that if you are on the ground. It’s hard for someone in the U.S. to fly to Singapore, fly to the Philippines, fly to Korea or Cambodia every six to 12 weeks and have a relationship. That’s why we have put those resources into those markets.”
Growth strategies give you a clear vision for what you’re trying to do. They help focus your energy, resources and spending in the right buckets.
“If you don’t have a strong strategy you’ll try a lot of different things,” Hill says. “For us, we know where we need to go and where we need to put our resources and we’re doing that. That’s why a clear, defined strategy is so important. Everybody understands where we’re trying to go.”
In April 2013, Hill left U.S. Playing Card Co. to head up another business within the Jarden Corp. portfolio. He now has another opportunity to put his thumbprint on an organization.
How to reach: U.S. Playing Card Co., (800) 543-2273 or www.usplayingcard.com