Greg Zimmer

Greg ZimmerThe Right Stuff

Greg Zimmer Receives 2012 IADD Presidential Award

When the U.S. economy started to nosedive and associations found themselves struggling to hold onto members who themselves were struggling and strapped for cash, the general rule was to “just wait it out” and hope to survive. But Greg Zimmer, CEO of Zimmer Industries Inc. in Linden, NJ, USA is no stranger to creating new rules—whether they be customary principles or physically made of steel—and his unwillingness to accept the status quo is the reason he received the 2012 IADD President’s Award at the FSEA/IADD Joint Conference which was held in Las Vegas in March.

IADD President Andrew Carey of Cimex Corp. in Belchertown, MA, explains, “The award is unlike all others in that it has no set criteria; each president gets to make up the specifics, though it is always an excellent way for an acting president to recognize someone who has consistently gone above and beyond serving the IADD and our industry. My key area of focus has become a simple one: to change our bottom red line back into a black one. A key component of this is the revenue we receive from membership dues. When the going gets tough, companies tend to cut back, often resulting in drastic drops in association membership levels. Some associations have been talking lately about concentrating on membership, but to me that is after the horse has left the barn. We are fortunate that years ago when Greg Zimmer became President-Elect, he had the foresight to choose ‘membership’ as his primary platform, and since then he’s been changing the rules on aquisition and retention. Thanks to one person’s almost single-handed efforts in the area of membership, we are now actually seeing black in our bottom line.”

“While Zimmer’s exploits as IADD ‘Emperor’ are well documented, few realize his role as a catalyst for developing our entire current membership recruitment and retention strategy. In 2008, he grew frustrated hearing about declining membership at a time when the Association was offering more value than ever. Greg convinced then-President Joe Adkison and the Board that if ‘someone’ was made responsible and held accountable for membership activities, we could turn the tide and invigorate members. Joe appointed Greg to lead a Membership Task Force, the result of which, in Joe’s words, ‘shifted us into high gear.’ Greg immediately engaged the Task Force in identifying priorities such as who we were trying to reach and the barriers to doing so. He personally drafted sales materials and targeted letters which evolved into our ‘one-touch button’ membership sales kit, which is still used today. He contacted over 25 satisfied diecutter, diemaker and supplier members to update our endorsement letter testimonials. He was instrumental in developing a fresh list of prospective members, assisted in developing new informational reports on membership progress, and encouraged and solicited new recruitment ideas from the Task Force members. Ultimately he moved the group from a temporary Task Force to its current permanent Committee status. With the economic downturn looming ominously, he developed and tirelessly implemented creative tactics to bring in new members. Under his direction, the Committee targeted all members who had dropped in the last three years, ran a “Choose Your Dues” campaign, and offered special membership promotions at two Odysseys. Greg was always willing to beat his head against the wall—chasing after ‘elusive’ prospects and encouraging reluctant volunteers to deliver new members.”

“These activities also didn’t stop when he stepped down from being Emperor. Most recently, he created a template for supplier members to offer special promotional membership rates to their customers; and when it proved difficult to find suppliers willing to spend the time to do so, Greg took on the project himself, sending out wave after wave of solicitations on behalf of Zimmer’s affiliate, National Steel Rule. During the last several weeks prior to the Joint Conference, Greg did his best impersonation of a one-man dynamo and called all recently dropped members to encourage them to stay in the fold, bringing in at least four new members in the process. Our latest membership numbers attest to the rousing success his actions have had!”

“His ongoing passion and devotion to bringing in new members serves as a model for all of us. If Greg had a dollar for every phone call he has made for the IADD trying to get or keep members, he’d be conference calling us today from Tahiti in—between sips of fine wine. It is one thing to develop an effective strategy and pass it onto others; it is another to live and follow it to the ‘T.’

Outside of those on the Membership Committee, few of us realize the tremendous effort Greg has put in on our behalf. Bob Pettijohn, current Membership VP and recipient of the 2011 President’s Award, has done a tremendous job for us on the Committee, yet he couldn’t do his job without the man behind the curtain. It is time for us to recognize the person in the shadows, and recognize his tremendous efforts and achievements that are allowing us to dream in black again, rather than continue our nightmares in red.”

Carey continues, “I didn’t realize how far Greg’s penchant for membership dates back. While doing some filing involving eight filing boxes of papers from 1998-1999 and a fire-pit full of brush, I came across a surprising find which I saved from the flames. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a blue folder, and grabbed it from the file that was about to meet its maker, and lo and behold I had found an IADD Membership Recruitment Kit from 1998. I thought that it was fitting that when I looked inside it, it included a letter of recommendation from Greg Zimmer; obviously this is nothing new.”

Zimmer became involved in this industry through his family’s business, which was selling graphic arts equipment and supplies. Most of the items they sold were purchased from various manufacturers. However, one of the supplies they sold was steel rule that they manufactured themselves with machines of his grandfather’s design. After high school, Zimmer attended Rochester Institute of Technology, attaining a Bachelor of Science degree in graphic arts, knowing the he would eventually be entering the family business after graduation.

“One of the biggest challenges I faced early on was living down the issue of being the boss’s son,” says Zimmer. “Once I got past that problem by eventually earning the respect of my fellow employees by showing I was willing to do the anything asked of me, including sweeping floors, the next challenge was determining what area of our business was I best suited for. Sales became the eventual answer, and after five years in that arena, I became our sales manager.”

“After several years, I also became very interested in product development/inventing, which led to what I believe are some of my greatest accomplishments. Several of the products I created were (or are) used around the world. This gave me a great sense of satisfaction. Among those products are the first, microperf line that was commercially available, a special crease rule that reduced or eliminated score cracking, a special 120 TPI (tooth per inch) microperf that was used (along with a process I invented and we patented) to economically create a unique US postage stamp, a special serrated blade that more effectively cut foams and a variety of micro products that economically cold crease plastics.”

Zimmer’s business philosophy is simple: provide excellent products and take care of your customers like they are part of your family. He adds, “I believe a good company can become a great one when it positively differentiates itself from its closest competitors. This goes along with our company credo: to provide our customers excellent products, with superior availability, speed and consistency.”

“I got involved in IADD because my Uncle Conrad was one of the founding members (and a Lifetime Achievement Award winner),” says Zimmer. “He was one of my favorite people and often preached the IADD ideals of knowledge sharing and peer interaction. I served on the board and eventually became president in 2009. IADD has given me many opportunities to feel the true ‘pulse’ of our industry and has allowed me to mature and grow as a leader.”

Clearly he’s not restricted by conventional thinking, preferring to apply his creativity for the benefit of his customers and the IADD alike. He recently attended drupa in Germany and saw some recent developments that included a machine that can diecut without dies. He admits such innovations challenge him to revise his vision for the future. If the past is any indication, we can continue to look to Zimmer to make a difference in our industry.

On the personal side, Greg speaks warmly when he mentions his “beautiful daughter, Chelsea, three wonderful step-children, Tino, Pat and Angela, and of course my incomparable, lovely wife Agnes. For 11 years I headed up a men’s group that worked with troubled boys in a local urban area. Some of my fondest memories, as well as a very deep sense of satisfaction, were created in that arena.”

Zimmer would like to be remembered as a person who consistently tried to do the “right thing.” His receiving the 2012 IADD President’s Award is one way of doing just that.