The Future of Affinity Express: Business and Function Leaders Weigh In

As we continue to refine and expand upon our strategy for the next few years, I thought it’s a good time to touch base with our business and function leaders and ask them for their views about the company. Participating in this candid chat about the circumstances and future of Affinity Express are President of Advertising Services David McTarnaghan (McT), President of Pune Operations Sunil Garde (SG), Chief Technology Officer Frank Dickinson (FD), Chief Digital Officer David Kang (DK), Vice President of Global Human Resources Tinna Hall (TH) and Vice President of Pre-media Operations Mike Marinos (MM).

When you were first considering joining Affinity Express, what did you find inspiring or exciting about the company and its possibilities?

McT: When I joined, Affinity Express was a global services business with operations in the U.S. and offshore. The company was just beginning to get into document creation services and expand production capabilities for print vehicles. As a result, the potential for expansion was enormous.

SG: What impressed me initially about Affinity Express was the authenticity of its solutions and the fact that they made clients’ lives easier; whether it is the submitting of orders or getting good quality products back. Authentic solutions are always successful. That is what attracted me and is still inspiring me to think of different ways to give our clients outstanding service and an experience of working with people who are true to their business values.

FD: I thought the company was unique in that it focused on graphic services, which is different from what most outsourcing companies were doing at the time. I also found the challenge of bringing together the technical side of moving work between our North American clients and offshore production centers to be intriguing. Great talent added to this equation seemed like a winning combination to me.

DK: Affinity Express can build something the world has never before seen: a large-scale, enterprise-level advertising and marketing production BPO that can help create incredible scale, flexibility and operating leverage for clients.

TH: The dynamics and makeup of the company were unlike any that I had ever seen. It was inspiring to find that the company was constantly evolving to improve and recalibrating to adapt to the industry and marketplace that we were targeting.

What still energizes you today about Affinity Express?

McT: We are building a business that evolves with the market and technology (e.g., internet, mobile, video, etc.). As the print, web and mobile capabilities evolve, so does our ability to help businesses adapt to the opportunities.

SG: What continues to energize me is the exciting prospect that we can enable transformational change. We can make behavior change by having tight processes, audit controls and lots of management systems, but behavior is not belief. Great companies are differentiated by that unknown, un-measurable quality that only people can bring. I believe that this transformation is the next thing we will see at Affinity Express and that makes it a very exciting place to be.

FD: I think we have a vast opportunity for growth before us. Something else that drives me is how much our clients have come to trust and depend on Affinity Express. We must perform well on all levels every single day! That makes for an exciting environment.

DK: We can complete our mission. We have the knowledge, the insights, the flexibility, the speed, the financial solvency and backing, as well as an incredible team of people who are passionate and can see that success is at hand.

TH: The people, the teamwork and the leadership still impress me every day.

What is the opportunity that you think we have in the marketplace (e.g., new clients, new segments, new products and services, etc.)?

FD: For 2011, it looks like we will have incremental growth with existing segments and I don’t think we have ever had as much visibility to the year ahead as we do now. That is amazing! The market is also on the cusp of being ready for us to grow digital services. We are getting consistent feedback on needs in this area from our clients and partners.

SG: I think we have the opportunity to expand our newspaper print ad production services, as well as our interactive segment. We’ll be able to create new capabilities and products flowing out of these functions.

MM: The technology in the industry is changing so rapidly that I see lots of room for job enhancement and new production engagements. I’m particularly interested in automation for pre-media to offer our clients new levels of service.

DK: For any marketer, marketing services provider, and even small- to medium-sized business that engages in advertising and marketing activities, we can help make things run faster—across print, internet, mobile and broadcast/video but everyone is concerned with increasing ROI. The press has focused on technology, targeting, and some innovative techniques, and all of these things deserve attention. However, with Affinity Express, response rates, conversion rates and lifetime customer value can remain the same. But because we provide a 30% or greater improvement in margins, clients realize a significant increase in ROI. We absolutely deserve to be a champion in the ROI discussion.

Where do you think we will be, as a team, at the end of 2011?

McT: At the end of 2011, I think we will have achieved the highest percentage of revenue growth in the history of Affinity Express. We will have achieved our financial EBITDA goals, having expanded our leadership to include a broad spectrum of interactive services, order entry, editorial pagination and pre-media services.

FD: I think we will be a dominant, creative company producing digital files and technology—a team of super ninjas!

DK: I think we’ll be bigger and more successful, but I also think that there will be a shift in how we engage the marketplace. By the end of 2011, I think we’ll see more light bulbs turn on and we’ll be more focused on implementation, not evangelism.

What do you individually hope to have the opportunity to do during your tenure?

McT: I hope to help Affinity Express to be the number one provider of high-volume, multi-media design production solutions in the world.

DK: I’d like to have a hand in legitimizing this space. Very few people can say “I helped to make this trend mainstream.” And I think that opportunity exists at Affinity Express.

MM: I want to work closely with colleagues to create and expand capabilities in our pre-media services for the retailer segment and more!

SG: Most organizations that I know of are on SKIDS (sufficient knowledge, idea deficit syndrome) and, overseeing the India operation, my opportunity is to create that space and tools for people to rally and to inspire ideas for future. If this is done correctly, employees will feel there is a career for them as the organization provides them learning and development. Another opportunity is to spread creativity throughout the organization. Today we can buy technology, capabilities and many other things, but value generation requires creativity—there is huge potential in getting the organization to think more along these lines.

FD: I’d like to change the way we look at things, encourage us to dig deeper and pursue excellence in everything we do. Plus, I want to challenge convention and drive improved focus.

TH: I definitely want to be an integral part of building the company’s talent management and requisition strategies and be regarded as a champion of quality and continuous improvement.

What would you tell employees of Affinity Express about their opportunity with our company?

McT: I would tell employees that Affinity Express is an entrepreneurial company with plenty of opportunity to make a difference. It is the kind of company that clients trust and rely upon to support and change their business. We are evolving with the markets we serve, and provide our team with the opportunity to grow along with the company.

SG: My message is simple: keep learning. Success will be all about unlearning the past and learning the future. Affinity Express will provide them the opportunity to develop so they can become “well-educated” as opposed to just “well-trained.”

MM: We empower employees by helping them learn and encouraging individual contributions.

FD: Hold on and get ready for a ride! Affinity Express is not for those who are looking for a 9-to-5 job. The environment is dynamic and challenging but, as we grow, the opportunity for rewards is unbelievable. Lead through your actions and always try to be helpful. Where else can you get hundreds of great friends around the world instantly?

DK: Other than a business model like Google’s, it has been a struggle for most companies to find a 1–5 percent improvement in ROI (I’m talking about highly optimized, enterprise situations). Affinity Express however, will provide a 30% or greater increase in ROI, and our model poses minimal risk (clients don’t need to put up cash or assume any serious risks). They go beyond break-even on day one. This means we are the most certain way to realize serious ROI today.

Any thoughts on how we’ll know we’ve reached the level of success we envision for Affinity Express (i.e., what will the company look like then)?

McT: Affinity Express will be the largest provider of design solutions to the small- and medium-sized customers in North America but will also serve large corporations directly and have strategic partnerships with agency and media clients. We’ll also have accounts outside North American and in other continents.

FD: For a company like ours, revenue and profitability are the only objective measures of success. We must be resolute in our drive to expand both. I think the $100 million mark for revenue is a game-changer for us all. It is never attained by the vast number of small companies, but once the scale and capabilities are established, we can grow much faster and, in some ways, more easily.

SG: We will know we have “arrived” when our clients get “the experience” and refer us to other companies. Another measure will be that our people change their behavior and work with the client not just to follow a process but because they believe in it, which is a noticeable difference. The company will organize itself around the client experience.

DK: We’ll be a lot bigger. And busier, if that is even possible!

About Kelly Glass
Kelly has been vice president of Marketing at Affinity Express for nine years now. She drives company strategy and all marketing activities.

One Response to The Future of Affinity Express: Business and Function Leaders Weigh In

  1. Kelly, you have a very interesting and inspiring post truly you are a business minded. I love the way on how you share your great success in business. Thanks for this useful and informative blog.

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