Next Level Apparel’s New CEO, Randy Hales

Next Level Apparel is thrilled to announce that Randy Hales has joined the company and will be serving as the new CEO. Co-CEO Jim Simsolo will be transitioning out of the company’s day-to-day management during 2021 but will continue to stay connected to the business as an advisor, board member and shareholder.

“We are excited that Randy will serve as our new CEO,” says Simsolo. “The experience and knowledge that Randy brings to our company will certainly enhance our ability to provide customers with not only the best products but also the best service in the industry.”

To get to know Next Level’s new CEO better, we were fortunate enough to be able to ask him a few of our burning questions and pick his brain on what we can expect from the promo apparel powerhouse looking ahead.

Randy Hales

It’s wonderful to meet you, Randy! How have you been during these unique times this past year?
2020 definitely falls into the category of a “unique” year. It’s been a year of firsts for all of us, as we’ve had to pivot both personally and professionally. Some of the changes have been beneficial and a catalyst for positive change. Having said that, I’m very much looking forward to 2021 and beyond the pandemic.

You and me both. Speaking of changes, welcome to the Next Level Apparel team! Would you be able to tell us a little about what a day in the life of Next Level’s CEO looks like? What’s a typical workday like for you?
I’m still settling into the role and going through a steep learning curve as I come up-to-speed on the industry, our unique products and getting to know the talented team at Next Level. In order to accelerate that learning curve, I’m investing lots of time and asking lots of questions. I’m doing a lot of listening, attending virtual and in-person meetings, reading everything I can get my hands on, meeting with as many team members as possible and soaking up as much wisdom and experience as I can from Next Level’s founder, Joe Simsolo.

What was your experience like before joining Next Level? Are you new to the promo space? If so, what made you interested in working in promo?
I’ve been fortunate to have served as the CEO of several companies, most of which were product-focused. Most recently I ran a consumer products company that focused on mobile computing. If you have a smartphone or tablet, chances are very good that you have one or more of that company’s products on your device. I was attracted to Next Level because I love the products and see a pathway forward to continue building on the great foundation that already exists.

Similar question to the above – what made you interested in working at Next Level Apparel, specifically? What aspects of the company and brand grabbed your interest?
Industry leadership, high-quality products, a talented team and lots of potential to move the company to the “next level” in many aspects of our go-to-market strategies.

What current projects are you most excited about that Next Level Apparel has in the works (without giving away any surprises, of course)?
I believe there are many opportunities to become an even better partner to our customers. I’ve been working closely with key stakeholders both inside and outside the organization to develop a long list of opportunities that we’ll prioritize and start working to implement. In our business, it all starts with amazing products that get our customers excited. One of the first things we’re working on is implementing a robust product management process that allows us launch new products on-time, with the right inventory levels, and fully developed, compelling marketing support to excite the sell-in and ultimate sell-through of our products.

With all of your experience and with your vantage point as CEO, what do you foresee for the future of Next Level, and for promo at large?
Next Level has established itself as a leader by bringing great products to our customers for a very long time. That market leadership and reputation allows us to push the envelope with new products and categories while expanding our footprint. Ultimately, we want to become an even more important partner to our customers by offering an expanded assortment of Next Level products to help them grow their business. We’ll also be closely following market trends and looking for new opportunities to creatively expand the promo business along the way.

What advice would you give to distributors selling Next Level Apparel products? What are the main brand elements you think they should know that could help them sell clients on Next Level’s clothing?
I’m too new to this industry to attempt to give advice to our distributor customers, but I would certainly want to thank them for their support of Next Level over the years. I can also commit to them that we are listening and want to ensure that we are customer centric in our approach to delivering unique products that help them grow both their business and the industry.

Thank you for your time today! For final thoughts: if you could leave promo professionals with one piece of wisdom as we look ahead into 2021, what would that be?
People want to get back to our old normal, and I have no doubt that in 2021 we’ll emerge from the cloud of the pandemic to a world that wants to reconnect. That alone will propel the promo business in a significant way, perhaps more profoundly than we have ever experienced. I hope we can all take the good lessons we’ve learned in 2020 and leverage the opportunity ahead of us in 2021.