San Francisco Business Times

Executive Profile: Marty Allen

RÉSUMÉ

Name: Marty AllenMarty Allen
Title: Chief Executive Officer
Company: Party America
Background: Allen left Williams-Sonoma, Inc for Party America in 1996. He led the Alameda-based company into and out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy in six months. He has overseen two acquisitions of competitors. With annual sales of $225 million, Party America has 300 stores nationwide offering party supplies.
Education: Bachelor of Science degree in management from Nichols College in Massachusetts.
Residence: Oakland
Essential business philosophy: To win.
Best way to keep competitive edge: Never be happy in second place. Losing is for the other guy.
Guiding principle: Love your customers. Without them you have no business. We have a huge emphasis on customer service. I believe in the concept of 1 percenters. You can’t do anything 100 percent better than anyone else, but you can be 1 percent better in 100 different areas.
Yardstick of success: To have mentored one or two good people in your career.
Goal yet to be achieved: Running a $1 billion company. We’re 25 percent of the way there.

JUDGEMENT CALLS

Best business decision: I took a 100% commission sales job right out of college in a tough industry. The industry was comprised of independent representatives with very exclusive territories, so it was a one-on-one gladiator type of situation for getting business. No sales, no food on the table. Soon, I ate very well.
Worst business decision: I hired my best friend. I knew better. I had history working against me from hundreds of other people. If you look at all partners that have friendships, they all fall out.
Toughest business decision: I fired my best friend and lost a 25-year friendship.
Biggest missed opportunity: Becoming a Navy pilot when I was in college. I had my pilot’s license and loved it and had the opportunity to go into the Navy.
Mentor: Tom Peters. I read every book and listened to every tape and have been to most of his seminars. I think he gets the concept of customers.
Word that best describes you: High energy. Yes, it’s two words. That’s what you get with high energy.

TRUE CONFESSIONS

Like best about job: Talking to customers and working with my employees. That is what business is all about.
Least like about job: Failing a customer or losing a good employee.
Pet peeve: Toll booths. They create traffic jams.
Most important lesson learned: A secret beyond one is never a secret.
Person most interested in meeting: Larry Ellison. He plays to win and does – period.
Most respected competitor: If I use all retail as a competitor, which is not totally fair, I respect Williams-Sonoma. They execute well. Merchandising and store execution; they do it very well.
Three greatest passions: Sailing, photography and woodworking.
First choice for a new career: Navy fighter pilot. OK, I guess I am too old today, so maybe running a small five-star resort in New England. I would want to make it a six-star.

PREDILECTIONS

Favorite quote: “The only thing common about common sense is that it is not very common.” – Mark Twain
Most influential book: “Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps”, written by Barbara and Allan Pease.
Favorite cause: National Rifle Association. I believe in the freedom of people to bear arms.
Favorite status symbol: L.L. Bean.
Favorite movie: “Gladiator”, with Russell Crowe.
Favorite restaurant: Tante Marie’s Cooking School in San Francisco. It’s not a restaurant per se; you go there and cook your own dinner.
Favorite vacation spot: On the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. You’ve got to take a rubber raft and spend a couple of days to get there. Right when you’re in the center, there is no better place on earth.
Favorite way to spend free time: Driving my Austin Healey on a winding country road and ending at a bed and breakfast for the night.
Automobile: 1966 Austin Healey

 -Eric Young

Party America receives the first “Retailer of the Year” award at the National Party Retailing Awards gala in Chicago, an event sponsored by American Greetings, Hallmark and Greetings, Etc.


Marty Allen is nominated and becomes a finalist for the prestigious Ernst & Young Award for Entrepreneur of the Year.


Party America completes ten consecutive years of growth and increased profits under the leadership of Marty Allen.


Party America makes the list at number 32 of the 100 fastest growing companies in northern California three years in a row, clocking a growth increase of 180%. Amazingly, it is also the fifth largest company in sales on the list.


Greetings, Etc., establishes a Party Retailing Hall of Fame to honor individuals who have made a significant contribution to the industry. Marty Allen is the first to be inducted. Editor Ms. Krassner points to Mr. Allen’s creativity and leadership in growing the Party America chain from just a few dozen stores into an industry powerhouse by upgrading in-store and corporate technology, overhauling the inventory system and improving customer service through better employee training.