Flag & Banner CEO Kerry McCoy Sees Expansion Coming (Executive Q&A)

Flag & Banner CEO Kerry McCoy Sees Expansion Coming (Executive Q&A)
Kerry McCoy, who started her business with $400 and now has $3 million in annual sales and 30 workers, sees expansion in the company's future.

This Week: Kerry McCoy
President of Arkansas Flag & Banner Inc. in Little Rock

Bio: Kerry McCoy
Background: McCoy, 57, grew up in North Little Rock. She graduated in 1974 with a certificate in fashion merchandising from Miss Wade's Fashion Merchandising College of Dallas. Arkansas Flag & Banner has had $3 million in annual sales for the past five years and employs about 30 people.

Kerry McCoy launched Arkansas Flag & Banner in 1975 at the age of 20 and has headed it since.

Q: What has been most satisfying to you about founding and growing a successful business?

A: It is satisfying to think about all the people I have gotten to know because of AFB, not just business partners and customers, but employees too. I am proud of all the AFB employee alumni I have hired and helped and who have helped me.

Q: How has your role at Arkansas Flag & Banner evolved since the start of the company?

A: I was only 20 years old when I started the business with just $400, so you could say the business and I have grown up together. I began AFB by selling flags door to door. In the late ‘70s when gas prices made driving prohibitive, I changed the focus of AFB to phone sales. Always ready for change, I embraced the catalog business, mail order business and now the Internet marketing business model. I have built AFB one department at a time. The first department was sales; then I added a sewing department, the graphic department, production department, screen printing department, retail store, shipping, purchasing, accounting, and currently, we are building a social network and marketing department.

Q: Do you have plans to have someone succeed you as president?

A: AFB is like my first-born child. It is hard to think about selling one of my kids! Speaking of kids, I do have four ranging in age from 17 to 32. They all are good, smart, responsible citizens, and any one of them could handle the succession (with a little guidance from Mom, of course), but currently there are no plans. My husband, who works with me, has made just one rule regarding legacy, and that is: None of our children can come to work at AFB until they have reached 30 years of age.

Q: Do other business leaders ask you for advice on how to transition out of a company's leadership?

A: No. People usually ask me about how to start a business. I find that most people, when they visualize themselves in business, see themselves about five years in. But you really do have to walk before you run. I worked a part-time job for nine years while I built AFB. Startups always have a cash-flow problem. You can't grow without more money, and you can't get more money without growing. 

Q: What is your vision for Arkansas Flag & Banner's next several decades?

A: The new website that we launch this month really expands our possibilities. Amazon doesn't just sell books, and like them, I want to expand our product lines. Currently, we stock the products we sell, but maybe it is time to feature other vendors that will do their own order fulfillment. Another one of my interests is online affiliate marketing, where approved retailers put our products on their sites.