When Steven Ilg, AMMEX’s vice president of marketing, started at the company in 1999, he realized right away that this was no ordinary organization he was joining.
“My first day consisted of cleaning out an office that they used as a storage room,” he says. “I had to empty that, and then find a desk in the warehouse, and find a chair, order a computer, and then literally build the office that I wanted.”
Despite the humble welcome, he instinctively knew there was something about this distributor of disposable gloves that boded well for the future.
“It was a tight-knit group, very fun, very boot-strappy and startup. I liked the directness. I liked the idea that you’re instantly strapped to the rocket and you know exactly what’s going on, versus being strapped to the wagon with everybody else.”
That rocket has yet to slow down: AMMEX has enjoyed exponential growth every year since, and Ilg no longer has to track down his own office furnishings. But while the company continues to add both team members and market share, it has maintained the entrepreneurial spirit that has served it so well since its founding in 1988.
Ilg brought substantial merchandising and marketing experience to AMMEX, having spent nearly a decade and a half with the nation’s largest furniture retailer, where he worked his way up from temporary salesman to regional buyer. He also played an essential role in driving the growth of a Bay Area electronics firm from annual revenue of $3 million to $30 million in just three years.
At AMMEX, he soon defined the marketing operation that until his arrival had not had a full-time position dedicated to it. He designed materials that brought immediate and robust returns on investment. The success he had in shaping the company’s voice, combined with a high-energy and committed sales team, powered its continued growth, which contributed to its winning eight overall awards for fastest-growing privately held company from the Puget Sound Business Journal.
AMMEX has always been adept at change, and it has endured economic downturns as well as changing market conditions, only to emerge stronger than before. Part of that is well-crafted messaging: Its products sell well during good economic cycles, but when times are tough, the company’s Sales Acceleration Solution continues to please customers because distributors are looking for missing revenue and profit to sustain their business.
Under Ilg, the marketing department has always been a service organization: “Our job is making other people’s dreams come true. Whatever that dream is, our job is that. We need to turn it into something that’s salable and attractive.”
His strength, he says, is execution—“I won’t claim that I’m the best idea person, I’m not going to claim I’m the best designer, but at the end of the day, I get it done”—but even more important is his mentorship and stewardship. Throughout his career, he’s had numerous team members who have told him that he was instrumental in making them who they are, by letting them be themselves.
Over the course of his tenure at AMMEX, Ilg has had quite a few moments where he wondered how it all came together for him at this small company that was never afraid to think big. One time it was particularly profound, he says, was on his first trip to China, where he was touring factories and training team members for the Shanghai office.
“We got to go to Beijing for a couple days before we flew home. We ended up going to the Great Wall. And I stood there thinking about that: I’m on the Great Wall of China. It didn’t feel real. The reality of how much happened, and how much things change, it all came to me in that one moment. I think about how fortunate I am to work for this company, where you get a lot of freedom to create your own position. That’s the secret to this company’s success: They let people do what they’re best at.
“As we expand and grow, I can’t imagine where this path is going to lead.”