Close Up: Todd W. Singleton, CAS

Todd SingletonWhether he’s riding the crest of a wave, skiing down a mountain or soaring earthward tethered only by a bungee cord, Todd W. Singleton, CAS, isn’t one to sit around and wait for adventure.

After high school he found himself in Cheltenham, England, as an English Fellow Scholar attending school in the beautiful Cotswalds. Back in his home state of California, he studied communications and sociology at the University of California San Diego while working summers at Universal Studios and other part-time jobs. Singleton was just biding his time because he knew his destiny was to join the company founded by his grandfather, H.W. Singleton Co, in 1926.

He joined the Los Angeles-based distributor in 1982 as an account manager in the San Diego office and advanced through the ranks to regional manager, national sales manager (which moved him to L.A.), vice president and then to president/CEO when he purchased The Singleton Co., Inc. from his father, John Singleton, in 2002.

While his grandfather built the business on national calendar co-op programs, the younger Singleton has accelerated the company’s growth by assembling a full-service marketing and promotions agency specializing in promotional products. His company is currently one of the largest privately held companies in the promotional products industry. Inspired by art and travel, he occasionally takes time away from the business to indulge in both.

How do you like to spend your leisure time? I work hard and play hard. I love to travel and will often do pen and ink sketches of the destinations. I am a surfer (including a trip to Fiji each year), love the mountains (have been helicopter skiing in the Canadian Rockies) and am a crew member on a Maxi yacht and other sail boats. Our team competes in West Coast competitions. I am also an adrenaline junky who loves the feeling of diving face first toward the ground while being held on the largest bungee cord in North America.

What’s a little-known fact about you? I am not the most famous person in the world—nor will I ever aspire to be.

What person, living or dead, would you most like to meet and why? As a younger man, I would have said Elvis, then Margaret Thatcher and now I would like to spend an afternoon with my grandfather in an odd way to transcend time. I would choose to speak with him as an elder man and question him about different stages in his life.

When did you know you wanted to work in this industry? Nothing sexy here, but I had a pretty good idea when I liked promotional products at age 16. I sold 1,000 calendars to a church and to a choir gown manufacturer and got a $187.50 commission check. Cha-ching. That would be like earning $10 million today— pretty good money for a kid. By the way, I pounded the pavement and didn’t get another order for two weeks. It’s okay to eat a little humble pie.

What promotional product do you wish you had invented and why? Great question, easy answer—it would be the one item that pays the most royalties annually. Give me a passive income and make my new job checking the bank account for royalties. But seriously, I get a charge out of working with all the different suppliers who bring their expertise to the vast medium of promotional products. I just love the variety and creativity we can tap.

If you had a motto, what would it be? Be creative. What’s your dream vacation destination and have you been there? It is a life choice for me to travel the world and sketch. I have been to many exotic places around the world and have published a book of sketches from my travels to Fiji. While the lap of luxury has many tantalizing attributes I can also enjoy the altruistic charge of roughing it in the wilderness.

Where do you get creative inspiration? I always get a really good idea halfway through a spin class. Four classes a week and I get inspired. The challenge is to act on your inspirations.

If you had to choose a different career, what would it be? I have a philosophy that has been inscribed into the first page of my favorite sketch book—“If you can do anything in your life as your profession, as a means of producing a living for yourself, it could and should be something you would do for free. Life is precious, time flies. Live for this moment, reap as you go. The future is but a promise. Yesterday is gone. Now is the moment that counts. Knowledge from yesterday and hope for the future is the basis to live in the present today.”

What actor would play you in a movie about the promotional products industry and why? Tim Allen—because I am the promo guy like he is the gadget guy from “Tool Time.” I just love the stuff and hey, those Binford calendar girls sure do know how to strike a pose.

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