When he grew up in upstate New York and double-majored in mathematics and computer science, Glenn LeBoeuf never envisioned he would be climbing the corporate ladder at one of the adult industry’s juggernaut distributors: Nalpac Ltd., which has made a name for itself in 40-plus years of putting a smile on customers’ faces with adult novelties and sex toys.
“I originally intended to go into aerospace, but the tragedy with the Challenger caused a hiring freeze in that industry. That really, really, really pulled the rug out from under me,” recalls LeBoeuf. “Instead of following my father’s advice and joining the military and working into aerospace that way, I moved to Detroit and stayed with a childhood friend while I got any kind of job. I landed an IT management job at an electronic hardware company and worked toward an MBA.”
Certainly, the last couple of years have been a roller coaster. We learned after the economic collapse that the industry isn’t as bulletproof as we once thought it was.
But something funny happened on his way to the IT hardware forum: “At my previous job, one of my co-workers and I always joked about how the job would be much more fun if we dealing with vibrators and dildos instead of screws and nuts. In 2002, [Nalpac owner] Ralph [Caplan] posted an ad in the Detroit News and I bugged him until he hired me. Seriously.”
The nagging worked: In May of 2002, LeBoeuf was brought on board. “Working at Nalpac and in this industry was definitely a big culture shock coming from corporate America. It was like I was in a state of childhood wonderment all over again.”
And in early November this year, he was promoted to Vice President of Operations — his areas of supervision including daily operations, purchasing, warehousing and IT. Shortly after his promotion, LeBoeuf took time out of his busy schedule to impart some words of wisdom — it quickly becoming obvious why he has been so successful (and why we’re betting he keeps his co-workers laughing)…
What are the most challenging parts of your job?
Maintaining balance. I never really was all that coordinated….
What are the most rewarding parts of your job?
Hands down, nothing beats watching people learn new things and grow into their own. I love being part of the process of helping people develop. Also, that great feeling you get when everything falls into place for sure.
What are the most fun parts of your job?
In this industry, how can tradeshows not be a fun part of your job? The people of this industry are a gift and a blessing to me! At Nalpac, the fun comes from product review meetings — we can laugh until we cry sometimes when evaluating new items. And, as most visitors to Nalpac know, Kim Cowens [Purchasing & IT Administration] and I have arguing down to a science, so that’s a lot of fun….
What are the most important things you have learned over the years?
The Golden Rule is named appropriately. With age comes wisdom. You can’t do everything yourself. Dale Carnegie books should be required reading in high school.
Who has been influential in your development/career? Why?
I have to give a lot of credit to Ralph Caplan and [former Nalpac General Manager] Ken Sahn. Both of them provided me with immeasurable mentorship, and I thank them both for it. Ralph provided the entrepreneurial perspective to me that I didn’t really get from working at a large corporation. Ken provided me with so much insight on the intricate details of how to do things within the company and within the industry. I don’t think I’d be anywhere close to successful without either one of them.
How has the industry changed/evolved over the years, and how has that affected Nalpac’s growth?
Certainly, the last couple of years have been a roller coaster. We learned after the economic collapse that the industry isn’t as bulletproof as we once thought it was. We saw some belt tightening after that. That made the boom we all experienced with the “Fifty Shades of Grey” phenomena that much sweeter when it hit. But hopefully, we all learned to not take success for granted and to stay focused on our true goals.
How has this space evolved in terms of mainstream acceptance, and how has the consumer changed/evolved?
People, on the whole, seem much more open about exploring their sexuality than ever before. It’s much more acceptable to discuss and become educated on the goods we sell. I can remember when the average person didn’t want to even admit to masturbating; now it’s okay to talk about what to use to enhance the experience! Consumers are becoming much more aware of product ingredients and quality. Interestingly enough, consumers are tending to be much more price conscious as well. So now we have a growing number of consumers that have done their research before they walk into the store or add that item to their cart.
Talk about the variety of products you offer, and what goes into deciding what brands/products you take on board.
The variety just keeps growing! The amount of product we offer can be so overwhelming at times, but in order to serve a diverse customer base, we find we have to continue to expand our offerings. There is no set way on how we decide what we’re going to take on. Current trends in sales are often considered. If we see a line or category is selling well, we’ll try to grow there. Our customers may call and request something, we may have a product review meeting, we may see something at a show and jump on it, or we may just pick up everything a manufacturer has to offer if we have that kind of relationship.
What challenges come with your various outlets for consumers (brick & mortar stores, internet businesses, home party professionals, adult bookstores, eBay retailers and lingerie boutiques)?
Consumers buying on the internet has definitely added new challenges in the industry. Remember when if you needed to look at a map it meant you were on a road trip? Recently, we’ve needed to identify who the customer is and what segment they service to tailor a program to fit their needs.
What’s trending now, and what advances/changes/trends do you see shaping the industry in the next year and beyond?
Manufacturers who specialize in quality goods at a reasonable price point are showing growth, and I see that continuing. And reading more maps. Just call me Christopher Columbus.
What surprises you in this business?
I’m surprised that with so many companies in this industry that are so similar and need to compete for those same sales dollars, that we genuinely have much love and respect for each other. Tradeshows are like family reunions to me, despite the amount of work involved.
What contributes to Nalpac’s success? How have they been so successful for so long?
Without a doubt, the staff. We have a great group of people that want to do a good job and be part of a successful organization.
Tell me a little about your passions outside of the industry (and anything people may not know about you).
Definitely, I’ve been a superhero geek for most of my life — I fall in the “Marvel Zombie” group. I love to keep learning, so the History channel, H2, Science and Discover are some of my favorite channels. However, lately I’ve latched onto “American Horror Story” and “Sleepy Hollow.” Most people don’t know my spiritual side. It’s my way of trying to attain that elusive balance….