Volunteer Leadership Role/Experience: Board of Directors, Executive and Legislative Affairs Committees
Title: Sales & Marketing
Years in the education business: 21 years
When was your company founded and how? In 1914 the Marsh brothers started a retail lumber company and over the years expanded into new products including wall products. A salesman came along and suggested the wall products process could be used to make chalkboards and, based on Marsh’s recommendation that he go out and get orders, he did so, and Marsh Chalkboard Company was formed. As Markerboards took center stage we changed to our current name.
What was your first job? I grew up in a family-owned retail hardware store and since the age when I could reach the top of the storefront windows with a squeegee, I guess that was my first job. Technically after college I began my career in banking.
How did you get started in the educational products business? Banking changed drastically during the 1980’s and it wasn’t fun any longer. My father-in-law was Marsh’s banker and let me know they were searching for a sales manager. I applied and when interviewed Brian Marsh had asked “what did a banker know about selling chalkboards?” He hired me anyway.
What makes your company unique? The foundation of our company was built by family members who take their name on the sign very seriously. It’s what makes many family-owned companies very customer centric. I think our unique approach to our industry and markets is that we enjoy what we do and like to have fun. Many of you may remember the themes we used to have at our exhibit year-after-year at the School Equipment Show – such as our CSI uniforms when promoting our new display “cases”. Anyone can make a markerboard. We distinguish ourselves by selling a quality product through a consistently pleasant and customer-oriented transaction.
My advice to others throughout my career has been to always seek the hard answer…. In times like what we are all experiencing now, let’s all embrace the hard answers.
What do you like best about the educational products industry? The people within this sector are fantastic, I’m happy to call many of them my friends, and participating with the development of new products to enhance student learning is tremendously rewarding.
What do you like to do when you are not at work? Sailing. I live on a lake where sailing and racing happens several days a week. I lead a Race Committee which officiates all races and boat classes and I’m either officiating or occasionally jumping on a sailboat for the race.
How had EDmarket helped your business? It’s been a great platform to introduce our company, products and develop new business relationships through the Association’s events. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to introduce new products and acquire new relationships in the marketplace without its tradeshow and other tools the Association offers to members. Marsh grew significantly over the years during our membership and I can attribute much of our success from our participation in EDmarket.
What changes are you witnessing in the educational marketplace? I would say that the most significant changes have been through the introduction of technology in the classroom. The adoption of mobility with multiple instructional activities happening concurrently within the classroom has produced many new products to serve the needs of this change.
How has your company adapted? Everyone reading this Spotlight article is aware of the changes within today’s classroom. The methods and instructional activities simultaneously occurring within the classroom has moved the visual display board business from their comfort zone of merely providing product for the front and back walls of the classroom. We need to introduce new products to promote the latest in classroom activities. Mobility of writing surfaces, full wall markerboards and new marker surfaces resulting in the improvement of the visual quality of projected images have all been introduced in the last few years.
The possible federal investment of $100 Billion of funding over 10 years to modernize the infrastructure of our school facilities in America will in many ways touch many of our members from the economic impact.
What issues is the Legislative Committee following? Our top issue are the many school districts throughout America serving the poorer populations in both urban and rural areas who cannot afford the investment necessary to provide quality facilities and environments our youth equally deserve. Our committee has been working with the 21st Century School Fund, supporting federal funding to help underserved public school systems modernize their facilities, along with over 30 key organizations and companies, including EDmarket, who have joined together in the [Re]Build America’s School Infrastructure Coalition (BASIC).
What Action is Being Taken? EDmarket is joining other labor, business, civic, and education communities in a letter to Congress which calls for an immediate investment for school infrastructure and the inclusion of the Rebuild America’s Schools Act (RASA) in any future COVID-19 stimulus package, which Congress is working on now.
There is an urgent need right now for communities, business, labor and districts to plan for the rapidly changing economic environments. This reliable funding source means employers and districts and industry will be able to retain staff and other capacity and reduce the economic fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, these funds will provide immediate investments in helping facilities serve as community centers, which they are currently doing in the midst of COVID-19. Lastly, these funds will ensure that as schools reopen, all children, regardless of their socioeconomic status, are finally able to attend safe and healthy schools with broadband access and overall facility improvements that contribute to a conducive learning environment.
Why do you think this effort is important? First, our Legislative Committee was created with the goal of establishing a recognized voice in Washington, DC advocating policies and government actions impacting education in this country and our membership. This effort provides an excellent opportunity to further the committee’s goal. Secondly, the possible federal investment of $100 Billion of funding over 10 years to modernize the infrastructure of our school facilities in America will in many ways touch many of our members from the economic impact. Lastly, our youth, regardless of where they live, or their economic circumstances deserve the right to equal access to safe, clean and modern facilities for their education.
What has made your business successful? When I meet with the customers (who are the major component of Marsh’s success), there is always portions of the conversations where customers tell me that there are other choices for visual display board products; however, they prefer Marsh. A quality product at a competitive price from a company who believes doing what’s right for our customers and their customers is offered with every transaction. If you recall with the earlier question of when and how Marsh was formed? Some of those first chalkboard orders were from customers who continue to buy from us this very day.
What one piece of advice would you give others in our industry? I call it following through to offer the “Hard Answer”. One time my bank president met with me regarding a problem/opportunity in our bank and assigned me with developing the resolution. He told me that he could go to many people who would provide him with what he considered the easy answer. However, easy answers rarely provide the desired outcome. He expected me to come back with the hard answer. I did and the outcome is still recognized in the banking community today. My advice to others throughout my career has been to always seek the hard answer. It’s what differentiates us from those satisfied to give the quick, easy answer. In times like what we are all experiencing now, let’s all embrace the hard answers.