Wayne Greenberg Elected to Industry Hall of Fame

Posted: December 10th, 2010

Induction into the PPAI Hall of Fame is the pinnacle of success in the promotional products industry. Its members have not only mastered the art of the business, but they've conquered industry challenges and lead initiatives that affect every professional working in promotions.

Despite his rock-star status within the industry, many may not know that Wayne Greenberg, MAS, actually did have a career in rock ‘n' roll prior to his distributorship, JB of Florida—a hit in its own right. Greenberg started out as a DJ for rock stations in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1971 and eventually transitioned to ad sales for Taft Broadcasting in Florida.

After six years selling air time for station 95ynf Tampa Bay's Home of Rock ‘n' Roll and the Tampa Bay Buccaneer's Radio Network, Greenberg got word that Taft was transitioning from radio to TV. Keeping his job would require moving his family back to Cincinnati or starting anew in Buffalo, New York.

Leaving the Sunshine State wasn't even considered. "Most people work all their lives to get to Florida," Greenberg says. "I was already there."

When a colleague's mother, Judie Bernon of JB Enterprises of Cleveland, encouraged Greenberg to set up a distributorship like hers but in Florida, he couldn't resist. "Instead of being backstage with Mötley Crüe and Ozzy Osbourne," Bernon said to Greenberg over dinner one night, "why don't you sell pencils and key chains for a living?"

A sweeter offer Greenberg did not find, and JB of Florida was born. Almost.

"Judie wanted to call it Wayne Advertising or Greenberg Marketing so my clients from the radio station could find me," Greenberg recalls, "but it was her good name at the factories that I needed. I knew that much."

With the debate over the name settled, Greenberg and Judie's daughter, Laura, also a radio veteran from Taft Broadcasting, started to build a company.

Wayne And The Ladies Of JB
Greenberg recognized early on that the industry was well suited to working moms who wanted the flexibility to be home for the school bus or to attend class plays. "For most of the company's time, JB of Florida was me and the women of JB. We kept a family-first atmosphere throughout," says Greenberg, adding that this mentality was somewhat unique during the mid-'80s.

A flexible workplace culture didn't just benefit employees, however; it was a boon to the company as well. "A relaxed atmosphere leads to creativity, and JB of Florida was known as a creative company," Greenberg explains.

Take the case of one fated sales meeting. "I came in and told the women of JB sitting around the table that we were going to do our first customer show. They were all excited," recalls Greenberg. "One of the ladies, Roni, raised her hand and said, ‘Oh, let's tease the customers with the location. Let's tell all of our customers that they're invited to a show in a male strip joint.'"

For two months, Greenberg and his employees led customers to believe the company's end-user show would be hosted in a strip club. "When they got their invitations, they saw that, indeed, it was a male strip joint—we were going to hold our show in the Tampa Bay Buccaneer's locker room," Greenberg explains.

Greenberg and the women of JB went on to hold other legendary end-user shows with tongue-in-cheek style marketing at the Florida Aquarium, the Tampa Railroad Station and the basketball court at the University of Tampa.

Giving Back
In addition to flexibility, JB of Florida stood for strong relationships with business partners and volunteerism. "Everyone treated our suppliers and their customer service reps with respect and as partners. … And every salesperson in our company gave back in some way to our community," Greenberg says.

Greenberg expanded this mentality across state lines and into the industry as a whole. During the past 20 years he's served on numerous committees, task forces and boards for PPAI, including the Distributors, International, Nominating, Budget and Finance and Executive Committees, the Strategic Planning Committee and several positions on the Promotional Products College Education Foundation (PPCEF) and Promotional Products Education Foundation (PPEF).

"Wayne has spent an entire career in volunteerism within the industry," says Laura Forbes, MAS, president of Memphis, Tennessee-based distributor Zebra Marketing (UPIC: ZEBRAMC). "Wayne never hesitates to give of his time and his spirited enthusiasm."

Greenberg also remains active in his regional association, Promotional Products Association of Florida (PPAF), serving as president, secretary, treasurer and RAC delegate, to name a few, and his involvement in PPCEF and PPEF has been described as "enduring."

"He continues to work on behalf of the industry's children, especially those in need," says Joan Lantz, MAS, executive vice president for Lewiston, Maine-based distributor Geiger (UPIC: geiger), "as well as young industry leaders who want to continue their professionalism."

When asked about his exemplary volunteerism, Greenberg says simply, "No matter how much time you give, you always get more in return."

April 3, 2002
Despite Greenberg's volunteer efforts, he's most known for his historical tenure as PPAI's chair of the board. It was during his year at the helm that the decision to relocate PPAI's Expo to Las Vegas from Dallas was made.

After seeing attendance dwindle at PPAI's premier tradeshow in 2001, the strategic planning committee and the board began looking for ways to reinvigorate the Expo's appeal. Upon discovering a brand new convention center in Las Vegas with available space, the board knew it had a golden opportunity.

After some time and discussion, the board members voted via conference call on April 3, 2002, to move The PPAI Expo from Dallas, its host city for 26 years, to Las Vegas.

"Everyone started shouting and yelling with excitement, someone said, ‘I'm going to go out in the hall and dance a jig,'" Greenberg recalls. "I shouted over the cheering, ‘We're not going to Las Vegas!'"

Greenberg knew the contract with the Mandalay Bay Convention Center was not yet final, and any leak of the news might jeopardize negotiations. To appease his jubilant board, Greenberg promised to send an e-mail update upon contract completion using the code phrase "The purple hound walks at midnight."

"The purple hound updates helped my board keep confidentiality, which was probably as important an accomplishment as moving to Mandalay Bay," Greenberg says.

The move was finalized and officially announced on April 18, 2002, 15 days after the board's vote.

Family Man
Despite spearheading tremendous change within the industry, Greenberg says his real priority is family—specifically Sophia, his four-year-old granddaughter. No order or customer is important enough to cause him to miss out on an opportunity to spend time with her. "I'm wrapped around her little finger," he jokes.

In fact it was Sophia who first made Greenberg consider selling his company to Geiger (which he did in 2008). "After two Saturdays of skipping lunch with Sophia to catch up on administrative work for JB of Florida, I said to my wife, ‘Why do we own a company?'"

After reassessing his values, Greenberg decided to make his life more family focused. "It's really a second chance for me," explains Greenberg. "I worked so much in the past, now it's really all about family."

Original Article - PPAI Publications


« Return to Press Releases