Customer Growth Journey with KG Specialties: More Cowbell


While average industry growth is around 5%, the commonsku distributor averages around 20%. We're passionate about growth. It's why we exist, to help entrepreneurs grow quicker, faster, and with less stress and more joy in their work. This is a new series that highlights the journey of our clients and how changes to their structure and their systems ignite exponential growth. 

“Our net profit every year is growing double digits, a lot of that's because of commonsku.”


Kyle Gibson started his business as a contract screenprinter and embroiderer in the basement of his house 27 years ago. Fast forward to today, Kyle runs a multi-million dollar distributorship out of Portland, OR, working with construction, finance, utility companies, and many more, all along the Pacific Northwest.

Kyle was traveling to the PPAI show for twelve years and was always keeping an eye out for some type of system that could, in his words, “take our business to the next level," but he had trouble finding it.

I asked Kyle about that experience: "We just never found anything, and we were always on the back end here as a company, doing everything in Excel, and I could never see what was going on in real time. I had sales reps out in the field selling, and I would get the report two weeks after the project was done to see how they did on the job. Did we make money? What were the margins? The lack of insight into my business was driving me crazy.

We were at PPAI and Geoff Brown, VP here at KG Specialties, ran into Catherine from commonsku and they had a conversation. Geoff came to me and said, 'Hey KG, we need to really look at this platform." And I was like, 'Psh, whatever. It's just another platform.' Geoff said, 'No, no, really. Let's do a webinar.' I responded, "I'm busy, I'm busy." And he finally said look, 'We need to do this.'

He finally was able to nail me down, and we did a webinar with Catherine. An hour later, we got off the phone and we all said, 'Its time, let's do it. This is the program.' And it's been a game changer for us, the fact that everything is in real time, now I can actually see what the team is doing, who they're working with, and what margins they're at, it’s absolutely helped us grow and allowed us to now be more open to bringing people onto the team because we feel like we're a real business now, so to speak.

What do you mean by "real business," unpack that for me. Meaning it felt too disjointed? It felt like you couldn't really onboard people? Or you didn't feel like you had a solid infrastructure?

We were too much of a mom-and-pop kind of set up but we were doing great, we were doing all the right things. But we were working our asses off to write orders, to process orders, to track orders, to follow-up with suppliers. We got on commonsku and within two weeks we were jammin' in the system. We were really digging the back end where you can actually see the percentage, and it would track the commission for you. So you could build it all.

I brought on a new salesperson, Jay Howard, going on a year and a half now, he has fully embraced commonsku. In fact, his sales are growing tremendously. We're looking at bringing on an account coordinator now because he's doing so well, and I believe a lot of that success is because of the commonsku platform. It just makes the day to day operations very seamless. If you just follow it and enter the stuff properly. Reorders are kind of embarrassing, to be honest with you. Sometimes I feel bad because I do a reorder and I'm like, ‘My god, I just made four thousand dollars in 3 minutes.’

Getting people plugged in and ramped up faster, has that accelerated their learning of the industry?

It is helping them to be more efficient in every respect, they have more time to research product, they have more time to network. It has definitely been a door opener for us. And to be honest, our net profit every year is growing double digits, a lot of that's because of commonsku.

What has commonsku freed you up to do that you couldn't do before?

I can actually be an owner, and mentor my team now. Which I love, 'cause I really love mentoring people and building a culture, and commonsku has given me that ability to really free up my time, and meet with my team, and help them be more successful. You just can't put a number on that, for me, it's priceless that I'm able to start mentoring because eventually I'm gonna transition the business to my team, and I want to make sure that they are all in the right seats to be successful going forward.

It probably brings more joy back into your work I would assume?

Without a doubt. It's the integration with Quickbooks, the ability to see everything when I wanna see it, and more. I'm in Zihuatanejo, Mexico and I'm processing orders, tracking, and looking at everything, while over there. I wanna travel more and having a cloud-based platform, I can do it now, and I can be very comfortable doing it.

Now that you’re on the other side of this decision, what was the roadblock to get started?

Its kinda funny, I remember when we were looking at the system and I was like, ‘Oh my god, a 100 bucks a month per license, times nine or ten.’ And I thought, Really? Am I gonna be spending a 1000 bucks a month?’ And that's a silly thing to get all bent out of shape about when you're now able to double your net profits. Honestly, without a doubt, I'm 100% serious when I say our net profits are growing and it's directly related to commonsku. Because I can see things when the team is writing an order, I can see where they're at, and I can go and talk to them and be like, ‘Hey is this really the right number you need to be at?’ It's real time, it's worth the investment.

And not only that but the whole commonsku team has been so receptive, and quick at responding to questions, and they're always trying to innovate and improve the platform from feedback. It has been amazing for our small business to have met such an awesome group of people, to help us now really become a leader in the industry. We're in a great position now, we're constantly trying to look for that next person that really fits our culture. We're always trying to add the right people to the team, and we're a debt-free company.

What do you think is your biggest challenge now, recruiting?

Really, we're just waiting for that right person to add to the team. It's like Jay, it took us two years to get Jay on board and he is so happy. He's just growing leaps and bounds because the team that we have here.

What do you enjoy about the business the most in this current season of where you're at?

Honestly, it's just the people. It's my team, it's my customers, it's my preferred partners that we've partnered with. We have a lot of so-called competition, but they're not competition, they're my close friends. And I'm an open book, and I love talking to them and sharing with them our success story. So, for me, it's being able to mentor and just being around people, it's awesome.

Anything you wanted to talk about that I didn't ask?

We're just having a blast, every day we come in and have a good time. I don't know if you heard it, but there was a big cowbell ringing in the background a few minutes ago, and anytime someone closes an order over $10,000 we ring ... we ring a cowbell, and then we put each person's names on the board, and then we put a slash next to it, and then we cater in lunch to go along with the bell ringing. So, it’s fun, we love ringing the cowbell around here.

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