Interviews | September 07, 2021
From Squatting Records to Saving Christmas, Bywater Business Solutions Does It All
Chris Ferguson, the CEO of Bywater Business Solutions, had a decision to make.
THE CLIENT: A long-time customer of Bywater Business Solutions, the St. Paul Saints are the Triple-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. The relationship between the Saints and Bywater Business Solutions grew after Ferguson met several Saints executives while serving on a board with them. Every year, the Saints and Bywater Business Solutions team up for a number of unique projects, Ferguson says.
THE CHALLENGE: In this particular year, the Saints wanted to earn a place in the Guinness Book of World Records by setting the record for the most people doing squats at the same time. The attempt to break the record had a corporate sponsor and needed to include some sort of giveaway. The catch? There was a set budget, restricting what Bywater Business Solutions could do.
THE SOLUTION: Ferguson knew the giveaway needed to be creative. It also needed to be visible in the photos and videos from the event. That meant keychains and water bottles were out of the question. Sweatbands, on the other hand? Those could work. Bywater Business Solutions went with the sweatbands, and it was a huge success — visible in photos, practical for the event and a fun keepsake for the attendees.
The St. Paul Saints squatting project may have been a challenge, but for Bywater Business Solutions, it was a welcome one. The company embraces the opportunity to get creative and strategic, and will never turn down a seat at the planning table, Ferguson says.
“Instead of us trying to have a transactional relationship, we’re thinking about how we work together to grow the value of your business and grow the value of your relationship with your customers,” Ferguson says.
Bywater Business Solutions went with the sweatbands, and it was a huge success; visible in photos, practical for the event and a fun keepsake for the attendees.
Bywater Business Solutions has two major sides of its business. One is related to promotional items and apparel. Ferguson says the company provides a lot of websites and programming work for people, making it easier for end users to order products. Bywater Business Solutions also helps with automation and add-on services.
Meanwhile, on the same side of the business, the company helps with branding and marketing. That includes designing logos, labels and trade show booths, as well as drafting and creating marketing copy and materials.
The other side of Bywater Business Solutions’ business is consulting. For the most part, Bywater Business Solutions does consulting work with larger companies, often training their sales organizations and trying to transform the way they see the sales process.
In all aspects of business, Ferguson says, the company embraces what it calls “third-box thinking.”
“The first box is you, the second box is your customer and the third box is your customer’s customer,” Ferguson says. “We’re really focused on that third box. Who’s the end user of the product? How do they see value in the product? How are they going to use it? What’s their impression of your organization?”
In addition to its commitment to its customers and devotion to third-box thinking, Ferguson sees additional value in Bywater Business Solutions’ position as a minority-owned company in the industry. At industry events over the years, he says, he notices that there might only be a handful of people of color in a room with several hundred attendees.
“Unless something has dramatically changed since the last time I was able to go to a trade show, there’s not a lot of people who look like me that are part of this industry,” Ferguson says. “That’s a challenge for the industry.”
Bywater Business Solutions has tried to improve the diversity within the industry through its consulting work. The company is “quite involved in helping companies think about how they handle diversity and how they can leverage their opportunities to become more diverse,” according to Ferguson. He hopes Bywater Business Solutions will continue to play a role in improving diversity within the industry.
[Related: Building a More Inclusive Industry, PS Magazine]
Bywater Business Solutions prides itself on its ability to find a solution to every problem, even if the timeline is extremely tight. The company is able to do this thanks to its extensive network. Ferguson says Bywater Business Solutions forges most of its connections through networking and word-of-mouth referrals rather than traditional marketing. As the company builds strong relationships within its network, it is able to find quick solutions for pressing problems.
Last summer, for example, the St. Paul Saints suddenly found themselves in need of masks as the rules changed about mandatory masks for baseball players. The Saints called Ferguson asking for help in the midmorning. Bywater Business Solutions got to work contacting its network to find enough masks for the Saints by that evening's game. A company employee drove 100 miles to pick up the masks, which made it to the team by first pitch.
Another time, a frantic customer asked the company for help. The person responsible for ordering Christmas gifts for the entire office had forgotten to do so, leaving the customer scrambling just two days before its holiday party. Bywater Business Solutions tapped its network to provide the customer with an array of gifts to choose from, leading the customer to declare that the company “saved Christmas.”
We're really focused on that third box. Who's the end user of the product? How do they see value in the product? How are they going to use it? What's their impression of your organization?
—Chris Ferguson, CEO, Bywater Business Solutions
While Bywater Business Solutions has an extensive regional network, Ferguson is looking to expand his contacts nationally and even internationally. He knew just where to look: PSDA.
Ferguson had been a PSDA member a decade ago, but let his membership lapse. Now, as his business grows and he is searching for new networking opportunities, he decided to rejoin earlier this year.
“PSDA has a great group of members that are able to work around the country and provide a whole variety of different products,” Ferguson says.
So far, he has made most use of the supplier directory. Ferguson also keeps an eye on the PSDA Community and PS Magazine. He plans to attend in-person events that work for his schedule, calling it “really advantageous” to be able to interact with industry peers face-to-face.
Ferguson has already developed several new relationships since rejoining PSDA, and looks forward to meeting more of his fellow members in the coming months.
“These associations work well when you have lots of engaged people, and I think that there is a very highly engaged community in this space,” he says.
Ferguson and 2,990 other members take advantage of all PSDA has to offer. Interested in joining them? Find out more about membership.
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