An Epic Year for Always Advancing
Always Advancing celebrates 12 years in business with increased support for running industry, exceptional service to clients and a global presence
As 2019 draws to a close, it was an exceptional year for Running USA partner Always Advancing. We caught up with Jon Fritz, Always Advancing senior account manager, to find out the wins celebrated this year by this exceptional vendor, which prides itself on providing just about any customized product needed by the running industry.
This year, Always Advancing added several major road race clients and Running USA members to its already robust client roster: the Los Angeles Marathon, J&A Racing and Rugged Racing.
“We’re very proud of these partnerships and look forward to working with even more Running USA members in the future,” said Fritz. “We look forward to introducing ourselves to anyone in the industry who hasn’t had the chance to get to know us and our business yet.”
Fritz is a former Myrtle Beach golf pro who was childhood friends with Always Advancing founders Ryan O’Keefe and Chris Seiler. When they offered him the chance to get involved with their new business ten years ago, he took it and never looked back.
“I told them I'd love to kind of just get my foot in and I've been swimming ever since,” said Fritz, who has traded his golf clubs for running shoes and completed quite a few races in his decade in the business. He loves seeing the pride and excitement that runners get from receiving their medals after they cross the finish line and the important part that Always Advancing often plays in that joy.
With a global clientele and exceptional growth in the U.S. over the last few years, Always Advancing has a bright future ahead. Read on for more from Jon Fritz about the company’s trajectory:
Running USA: What are some of the outstanding characteristics of Always Advancing as a company?
Fritz: We have a very close-knit atmosphere at Always Advancing. It’s a family atmosphere and we demonstrate that when we go out and talk with potential partners. We like talking with people and showing them who we are, how we handle business and how we handle relationships. Whether we end up doing business with them or not, we want to have a conversation and be a friend to them. If we can put a proposal together and show them what we can do and how we are an effective partner, that becomes that much easier based on our friendship.
Running USA: You have a global presence with your office in China – tell us more about that?
Fritz: Our Always Advancing Asia office in Southern China is a major advantage for us. We have about a dozen employees there and they act as a key component of quality control. They are over there in the factories, checking medals, apparel, and everything we do by hand as it's being done to make sure it's perfect. If there are any issues or mistakes they are caught before items are packaged and shipped. We are in contact with our Asia office daily and they help us with many client requests, including how items will be packaged and shipped. It all adds up to create a smoother process from the get-go in many different ways, from start to finish of the production process.
Running USA: What does your typical production timeline look like?
Fritz: A standard timeline via boat takes about 70 days from order start to delivery. That’s the typical time elapsed for major clients of our like the Marine Corps Marathon, Dallas Marathon, and LA Marathon. For smaller orders that might be delivered by air, we can turn them in half that time, around 35 days. And of course, we can rush certain things when there are top-off orders for a last batch of late registrants or something like that. Our Asia office is especially helpful in those situations. There’s certainly been a time or two where we’ve had to overnight one last box before race day, and everything has worked out fine.
Running USA: You’ve expanded your business to be much more than just medals. What else do clients order from Always Advancing?
Fritz: Our tagline for the last couple years has been “more than just medals.” About seven years ago, we decided to tip our toes into the apparel business. We had so many clients who told us that they appreciated our relationships with them and the ease with which we got orders into their hands, and they hoped we could do that with other kinds of items. We went about it slowly and worked with our established partners in China to broaden the scope of our offerings into t-shirts, headwear, bracelets, water bottles.. just about anything races might want. So now when people ask me, what does Always Advancing make for events? My response is anything you want your logo on. Whether that’s a trucker hat, a key chain, a lapel pin, an umbrella or a bottle opener, we can do that.
Running USA: Any items that are especially hot right now?
Fritz: Custom socks are a big deal right now – my kids love them, and everybody’s wearing these things. For winter events our custom scarves and beanies are a huge hit with the participants. Stainless steel tumblers and swell bottles have become very popular in recent years. We always look forward to the next new idea that our clients will bring to us so we can source it and make it happen for them.
Running USA: What do you love about the running business?
Fritz: People still run to get a medal. I'm always amazed at how much people enjoy getting the medal and that accomplishment at the finish line, whether it's someone who is getting a PR and they're a top age group runner, or whether it's someone who's not a runner in this is their first 5K or whatever distance it might be. That joy is very powerful and it’s so neat to see people appreciate what we do. It makes you feel great, that you helped in a small way to make that moment possible.
Running USA: What’s in store for 2020 after the great year you had this year?
Fritz: We’re looking forward to the Running USA Industry Conference in Las Vegas, that’s going to be a great time. For 2020, my plan is to keep on rolling, picking up more great clients to join the Always Advancing family and enhancing the relationships we have currently.