Header Image: Account Manager (and artist!) Catherine Thoele sketching in Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, New Mexico on a hike to Chimney rock, where Georgia O’Keeffe lived and painted. On the right, one of her plein air artworks.
Account Managers are on the ground, “in the field” and in the know. They work with our customers to the benefit of all parties—they are experts in the industry and team players.
It takes determination, wisdom and experience with art materials to really make a great Account Manager. Oh, and you have to like people! Catherine Thoele, a seasoned art supply aficionado, fits the bill (and more). She joined MacPherson’s in 2000, but her introduction to the art supply industry goes back to 1986. After earning a commercial art degree in the Twin Cities, Catherine was ready for the art world but she discovered quickly that she was a people person. Rather than sitting at a desk, cutting, pasting and typesetting (her first job in the industry), she wanted to interact with others. It was 1986 when she first got into retail and art supplies, managing Art Media in Oregon. She began working closely with MacPherson’s, specifically with Account Manager Peter Alba. After 13 years working with Art Media, with MacPherson’s as a partner, an opportunity arose:
“MacPherson’s was always a key partner and support to what I did at Art Media,” Catherine explained. “Peter called me one day. We had opened our fourth store, I was a manager, and he asked if I wanted his job: ‘You’d be the sales rep for all of Oregon’, he told me. Right away i said yes! I had been going to NAMTA since 1986, so I knew a lot of the vendors, the manufacturers, the product.”
Catherine’s work as an account manager over the years has been unwavering. With her customer’s needs always at the forefront of her mind, she tackles each event, sales target, opening or transition with enthusiasm and wisdom that over 30 years in the industry has instilled. Catherine has submitted to Art Dog regularly to help tell her customer’s stories and celebrate their successes, so even though I’m relatively new to MacPherson’s (as of last year) I am no stranger to her. I called her to discuss her role at MacPherson’s, and her contributions to the art supply industry at large.
What are your priorities as an Account Manager?
“Aligning MacPherson’s resources to my customers’ success. I see myself as a solutions based sales person, really consultative. I always ask who, what, where, when and why. If someone asks me a question, I try to figure out why they are asking it. Then I usually find out three or four more things and I discover how I can really help them.”
What’s your day-to-day like?
“As a key account manager, I have eight accounts in name, but forty addresses. A blend of three craft chain stores and four or five independent stores that are family owned. I have a lot of phone conversations, meetings. My work is project driven, event driven, aligning resources and vendors. A lot of spreadsheets with inventory, identifying what people are going to need in the next three months.”
Which teams at MacPherson’s do you work most closely with?
“Michelle in customer service, she’s really a great ally for me, she forms relationships with my customers so they can call her for day to day stuff (orders, shipping, stock levels). Customer Service is great at connecting the customers to the Distribution Centers.”
What has kept you engaged over the years?
“I love the people. It’s a small big industry, all in one breath. Nobody is just trying to get rich, they want to supply their community and get people excited about art. It’s been a journey for me, with lots of opportunity. I always say yes when something comes up, because if you pass an opportunity, you don’t get a chance [at all]. That’s been my belief in my life: say yes and adjust it as you go along. I’ve covered Oregon, Washington, Denver, Santa Fe, California, Hawaii, Vancouver, BC; the Pacific Northwest / West. It’s been a great ride so far.”
What are the challenges when it comes to being an Account Manager?
“That switch from sales person to problem solver. For me and for all the other Account Managers, we view ourselves as consultative and problem solvers. We don’t see ourselves as sales people who say, “Here’s a new pen. Do you wanna buy it?” But that was hard for most of us to get away from at first. We are in sales, but you need to ask questions about the customers’ business, find out if it’s the right thing for them and their community: match up the resources.”
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
“When my store owners or buyers say, ‘Catherine, that really worked, I’m so happy with the results.’ Whether it be a marketing thing or we forecasted things for BTS and we got good results, when they say ‘Thank you,’ and mean it—that what we did really worked. I love working with the team in the departments inside MacPherson’s, in Emeryville, the warehouses, helping everybody understand the bigger picture so they know how each of us affect one another. These conversations are always enlightening.”
Do you do creative things outside of work?
“I love urban sketching and plein air. When I have time I like to oil paint outside. I’m a big hiker, backpacker and mountain biker, so I always bring a sketch book and oil paints, I do small 6 x 8 inch panels which I make myself. I have a little carrier and paint the landscape (Derwent Inktense pencils are great for it).”
Being a successful Account Manager takes a lot of creativity, and a lot of passion for the industry. We are grateful for such an enthusiastic, determined team. Quality work and leadership makes an important impact, whether in the field or behind the scenes. Who’s Who celebrates members of our industry community who are doing an incredible job. If you would like to nominate someone for a Who’s Who feature, please email us at artdogblog (@) macphersonart.com with their name, position, company and a short description of why you would like to nominate them.