Shelbi Macfarlane: Grasping the Entire Experience
Life is about experience: gaining it and then using it to reach the next level. Rising Star Shelbi Macfarlane, VP, sales, and marketing at ProGraphix (Austin, Texas), brought great experience to the company when she joined its team earlier this year. She grew up in and around the business. Her mother, Nicki Macfarlane, is company president, and nominated her as a Rising Star based on her creation of top-notch customer service, seeing innovative opportunities for sales, and focusing on the entire customer journey.
Before taking her position with ProGraphix, Shelbi Macfarlane spent 10 years working in the travel industry, with seven of them for a Colorado company that focused on short-term vacation rentals. During her time there, she says, the company grew from 35 to 500 employees. Having worked to build the marketing arm of that company, she saw it through a lot of stages, and, as a result, “learned a lot about marketing.”
In 2020, Macfarlane decided to return to Austin, her hometown and put down roots. Her mother had been running ProGraphix for nearly 25 years. Macfarlane describes ProGraphix as “a large-format printing and installation company that helps businesses market themselves.” The company mainly serves the Austin market, but also maintains some national accounts. One of her first steps on the new job was to develop a full marketing strategy for the company. This included approaches for social and email marketing and a revamped company website. Additionally, Macfarlane brought new product offerings to the company and signed several new, large clients. Her mother describes her as possessing a “run-through-brick-walls work ethic.”
One similarity with her previous position in the travel segment, says Macfarlane, is her desire to provide first-rate customer service. What is different, however, is that the approach has changed from business-to-consumer to business-to-business accounts. Managing that difference, she says, was one specific challenge she faced at first. She took this change in stride, however, saying, “a lot of the people I work with now are marketers, so I can understand their perspective. Once I got to know the clients, I understood how they think — and the empathy for their needs was there.” She says her focus now is less on strategic sales and more on creating direct client connections.
Another difference she found at ProGraphics was the move to a less-structured day. In her previous role, she says, she knew what each day would bring. “Now,” she adds, “that’s not something I can do. Clients have rush jobs, new opportunities come into view, so I may have to be on the ground or on-site at a moment’s notice.” She’s learned to become more flexible and says the job has taught her to think on her feet.
Asked about the road ahead, Macfarlane says the company has seen a lot of growth in the past few months, and she sees the business expanding into a larger space and building its capabilities to compete on a more national level. The goal, she says, is to do more work outside of Texas, “but without sacrificing our level of service.” As to where her career will ultimately take her, Macfarlane says, it depends on where the company goes from this point forward. That said, she offers that moving up in the leadership structure at ProGraphix is “definitely a possibility.”
For other professionals working their way up within graphics companies, Macfarlane says that they should be flexible and understand that it’s difficult to plan for everything that will come up. She urges empathy for clients, and an understanding, solutions-based response to last-minute changes. Further, Macfarlane shares an overarching philosophy she uses. “Sales isn’t just getting a customer, and marketing isn’t just converting. It’s the entire experience. I think every part of the business can be related to marketing,” she says. For her, this experience includes customer reviews, thoughtful website updates, engaging communication with clients and prospects, and the building and upkeep of a visually attractive company portfolio. “We work with so many clients to do visually beautiful things,” she says, “and we want to capture that.”
Outside of ProGraphix, Macfarlane was recently selected to be the event operations coordinator for her local chapter of the American Marketing Association. In doing so, says her mother, she is applying her expertise across the local community and creating new partnerships along the way. In addition to her afore-mentioned work ethic, her mother adds, she says Shelbi has taken every opportunity presented to her to learn about the printing industry, and she cares about making a difference through improved sustainability practices. “Shelbi may be new to the industry,” her mother says, “but she is no stranger to hard work and dedication. And for those reasons, I believe she is a rising star.”