pep Spotlight: Steve Wilson - Dad | Husband | Category Sourcing Manager

pep Spotlight: Steve Wilson - Dad | Husband | Category Sourcing Manager

You’ve moved around a bit – do you have a favorite team? Packers, Lions, or Patriots?

Sadly, I’m a Lions fan because I grew up in Michigan.  I’m sure Cincy fans can relate to my pain.  With the Patriots, you do get a little caught up in the “us vs. the world” mentality after living there for 7 years, since most people outside of Massachusetts are NOT fans.  My daughter is a big Patriots fan and we enjoy watching games together.


What’s a fun fact about living in Wisconsin – something people wouldn’t expect?

It’s a lot like Michigan where I grew up; it has farms and rural areas, but also has big cities with a lot of history.  I was surprised there was as much German heritage as there is.  It’s similar to Cincinnati in its heritage, architecture, and breweries.  Some well-known breweries like Schlitz, Blatz and Pabst are now out of business but when you go downtown there are still a lot of family owned buildings so there are ties to that history.  And Milwaukee is the home of Harley Davidson.  This past summer was the 115th anniversary, and there were ton of Harley riders all around. 


You joined us with a great deal of experience, can you tell me about the path that led you to pep?

I started out at Valassis as intern in logistics. Upon graduation moved into client services doing what our AEs do.  I was running promotions, managing timelines, and managing artwork. The biggest difference was that Valassis printed the materials and had printing presses on site.  We went out to the pressroom to check our jobs and go to learn about printing from the real experts, the pressmen.  We knew the pressroom guys and we had great interaction.  While at Valassis, I had a work assignment in Europe.  After leaving Valassis, pep was putting together proposal for work in Europe.  Dave Kroeger, the CEO at the time, reached out and asked if I wanted to help with that proposal on a consultant basis.  I helped structure what it would look like - people, relocation, living arrangements, etc.  pep didn’t get the business, but I told Dave I would love to come work for pep although I never really thought it would happen.  A few months later, pep had an open sourcing position working with suppliers on east coast and Dave asked if I would be interested.  I came to Cincy to learn about the position and here we are 7 years later. It was all due to building relationships and having relationships over time.


Based on your experience, what is unique about pep?

I love the story; the 7 people in a conference room origin. I’m sure they had no idea what they were getting themselves into.  Dave Kroeger and Ben Seinen had been in on the business planning and had more insight into the ideas. They hired people in Cincinnati who had to take a leap of faith.  They didn’t have the background, and nobody knew what it was going to be all about.  They were all taking a leap of faith, rolling up their sleeves, and getting it done.  pep also has a strong focus on diversity that brings enlightenment.  The leaders in the organization care about the teams and the business.  In my career I have seen people come at it from ‘what does my boss want me to do’ and ‘what do I need to do to keep my job’.  This is not the case at pep, leadership really does want to collaborate and make things better for each employee.


Our Senior Leadership team recently went offsite for 2019 planning, what are you most excited about coming out of that planning?

I’m excited about the changes. For so long we were successful just by doing a good job and staying in our swim lanes.  The marketing world is changing, and we need to change as well.  We’re staying true to our core values, but we’re not afraid to change how we go to market.  One example - reworking our strategic framework to make it more relevant to everyone.  Focusing on things like demand services and putting together a formalized plan and companywide commitment to developing capabilities through a cross functional approach, are deliberate steps to move pep forward.


Could you tell me about your team and the strengths they’ve brought to developing our display expertise?

In the Display and POP world the general challenge is that new projects need to be custom.  You only have a couple seconds to disrupt a customer at retail.  You can’t have the same old thing; it needs to be new, different, and stand out.  With short attention spans, our brands only have a few seconds to make or break the sale.  With shrinking budgets and shorter turnaround times it’s a huge challenge to bring all of this customization together efficiently and effectively.  The Display 2.0 team also has a layer of client facing responsibilities that include consulting on solutions, building relationships and setting realistic expectations.  They also deal with supplier side. Sourcing both temporary and permanent displays have huge challenges. You have constantly problem solve while managing complex and competing challenges.  You have to do it incredibly well and save money along the way.  And you must be an expert at matching client needs with what suppliers deliver.


What advice do you have for someone considering procurement as a career?

I think it’s a great career choice.  Long term there will always be a need to source goods and services while saving money.  My first piece of advice is that you have to know what you’re buying.  Go to suppliers to see in person how things are made and how the end product is used.  You also need to build credibility to be successful and good at building relationships.  It’s important to remember that even though you’re the customer, it’s a partnership and you’re going to need those suppliers.  Treat them as partners and understand they have a business they are running.  It can’t be give, give, give, when we have the opportunity to give back we should give back. We need our suppliers help to solve problems and need to give back to them when you can.

How would you define your purpose?

My first purpose is to be a good dad to my kids and not to annoy wife too much.  From a work standpoint, I try to visualize what could be possible and help my team to share some of that vision in order to get there.  There are a ton of daily challenges, urgent client needs, and suppliers needing things from us.  I try to look forward to what’s a few steps down the line to picture what success looks like.  I work with my team to look at where we need to be tomorrow and how we can get there.  My purpose at work is to help to make lasting improvements, leading to happy clients who see our true value, and to help my team to look like the rock stars that they are.



Kristie Schoonover, SHRM-CP
Training Lead

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