PPAI Magazine January 2024

show in St. Louis. When he arrived at the show, he had no companies officially lined up to rep for his new venture. But he was no stranger. “By the time I was finished with that week, I had five lines to rep and was ecstatic that I had enough to actually get started,” DeGreeff says. Maybe the scariest part was over, but the real work was about to begin. Over the next couple decades, DeGreeff would thrive as a multi-line rep. “One thing I was proud of was how hard I worked,” DeGreeff says. “Suppliers said they wouldn’t even have to look at my itinerary. They knew where I’d been based on where the calls were coming from asking for samples and orders.” In a pre-online landscape, being a multi-line rep required a certain deftness and ability to not only maintain relationships but continue to form them. DeGreeff was a mainstay of late nights on the road, entertaining clients and supplier partners over drinks. “I always thought of myself as the priest of the promotional products industry,” DeGreeff says. “I worked with suppliers, and distributors were our customers. They would both tell me everything about their business and their personal lives.” These peers would tell him their secrets in confidence, much like a confessional to a priest, and that trust did not come unearned. “Distributors could call me if they were having any issues with any of the product lines that I repped,” DeGreeff says. “A lot of supplier reps didn’t want to deal with problems. They just wanted to sell. “I felt it was a very important part of the service I was offering to distributors.” Sacrifices Along The Way There’s what DeGreeff’s peers would say about his career. Leslie Roark, president of PromoPros, for example, describes it thusly: “Dave DeGreeff is one of those people I and others see as a fixture in our industry, an icon.” Then there’s the way his wife, Kathy, to whom he has been married for 53 years, would describe his career as a multi-line rep: He was never home. “Those would be the words she would use,” DeGreeff says. Icon Awards | Must Read Indeed, during that stretch of his career, he spent about 36 weeks out of the year on the road, leaving home on Sunday evening and returning late Friday. That’s not to say he didn’t make every effort to be a part of his son’s and daughter’s lives. When he was home, he would clock out when they finished school and squeeze in every moment with them, often going back to his office after they went to sleep to write up sample orders for the next day. Larry D. Krause, MAS, president of LDK Marketing, recalls a regional trade show in Colorado that DeGreeff attended. “The trade show ended at 3 p.m., but Dave had to be home in Houston for his daughter’s volleyball game the following morning,” Krause says. “So, he drove most of the night to be home in time to cheer on his daughter.” His body, too, was making sacrifices for his work. Eventually an old back injury began to resurface. In his teenage years, partying was a regular part of DeGreeff’s life, until one day it caught up to him and he fell asleep behind the wheel on the way home from a party. The ensueing accident required 300 stitches and a month in the hospital. His hip was knocked out of place, and his knee was ripped open. Around the age of 45, tired of the late nights and red-eyed mornings, he finally gave up drinking. But that would hardly heal him. Eventually his back could no longer handle the constant travel (he has had five back surgeries). So, in 2004, he co-founded Flagship Promotional Services, which did back-office support for distributors. “At our peak, we had about 25 distributors that ran their business through us,” he says. In 2011, he sold that business to AIA. In 1991, he had also co-founded The Chest, a supplier of plastic and paper products, which he sold in 2004, profiting from his hard work and positive relationships. Continuous Volunteering There are so many people in the promotional products industry that are part of DeGreeff’s story that listing them may be a fool’s errand. Hall of Fame Award PPAI • JANUARY 2024 • 55