EVERY DAY HERO: Jim Gordon, Owner of NorthStar Identity

Panel_2_JimGordonMichelle Micalizzi, Artist
All Rights Reserved



10% of the proceeds from the sale of this work benefits The Arizona Consortium for the Arts


My muse this week is Jim Gordon. Jim has been the owner of NorthStar Identity for fifteen years. NorthStar Identity is a leading provider of promotional products and apparel.

Some interesting facts from the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) (http://www.ppai.org) website that are worth noting:

  • “Financial services, retailers, apparel brands and electronics manufacturers are the most commonly recalled advertisers of promotional products. The most often recalled promotional product categories include:
    •  Wearables (41%): Including Shirts (22%), Caps/Headwear (11%),   Outerwear(6%) Other Wearables (2%)
    •  Writing Instruments (35%)
    •  Drinkware (19%)”
  • “Before receiving the promotional products, about half of the consumers had done business with the advertiser (55%). After receiving the promotional products, 85% did business with the advertiser. “
  • “Accompanying a request for referrals, an offer of a promotional product incentive, or an offer of a promotional product incentive plus eligibility in a sweepstakes drew as many as 500 percent more referrals than an appeal letter alone. “


 Often times we think being a success means that you lease or own an expensive commercial building full of tons of big heavy equipment and have lots of employees working for you and that you have a big title with a lot of operating overhead pressure. For the guy sitting at his desk working 9-5 wondering, “Is this really it?” being “that guy” is neither attainable nor desired. What is remarkable about Jim is that he actually was “that guy” and then he made a decision to go solo.

In my opinion, Jim is an everyday hero. He is the kind of hero that makes our great country what it is because he is a working example of the American Dream. He consistently exemplifies what is attainable to every American if he/she is audacious enough to go after it!

In a nutshell….

Jim has achieved the truly remarkable by finding a way to earn a very decent living as a solopreneur working from his home. He accomplishes this by leveraging his wealth of business experience, his steadfast work ethic and the many relationships he has taken the time to build over multiple decades in his industry.

The three biggest things that impress me the most about Jim are:

  1. His easy-going humble demeanor.
  2. His willingness to embrace both risk and change.
  3. His commitment to his ethics and excellent customer service.


Jim took a few minutes to answer the five Art of Fearlessly Doing Business Questions. You will not be surprised to hear that his success comes down to practicing the Golden Rule by treating others, as he would like to be treated.


1.) Don’t Be Afraid to Change

It is a huge thing to realize that after twenty years in a family business with your father that it is time to change. To even know that you have indeed taken that business as far as it should go is a huge thing. To really recognize that the day-to-day operations no longer make you happy and that you just cannot move the huge equipment one more time is a pivotal moment. Jim and his Dad also did something extraordinary – they actually SOLD a family business. There are many business owners who spend their whole life working hard for themselves and their families. However, unfortunately when it comes time to sell their life’s work and their biggest asset, they do not actually have a bonafide business to sell. Congrats to Jim and his Dad for actually BUILDING AND SELLING a family business!

Through out Jim’s interview, he repeatedly demonstrated that he was willing to walk through fear to change his role in many ways; from a father and son team and employer of thirty-five to solopreneur; from supplier to distributor; from a big long term family-owned business to being the new small guy on the block.   Jim clearly demonstrates what Thomas Friedman in his book The World is Flat means when he said, “… that companies willing to change and accept change are more likely to do things than have things done to them.” Jim just got out there and made it happen for himself. There is true honor in that!

2.) Figuring out the Unknown Takes Time and Flexibility

Dealing with ambiguity well is a sign of a mature leader and a quality that many entrepreneurs must learn to embrace. Jim was not exactly sure how he would compete with the big boys or how he would leverage the relationships he built as a supplier when he took the leap over to the distributor side of his industry. He just had to feel it out, give it time, be flexible and in the end be selective. The only way we figure out the unknown is to just try it, give it time and see what happens. If we let the fear of the unknown stop us, we will never get to the other side of the road.

3.) Cash is King & Cash Flow is Always a Factor

Whether you are in business for fifteen days or fifteen years there is always a balancing act between what your cash flow will allow, the risk you are willing and able to take, and what return on your investment could be. Whether you are putting together a proposal for thirty-seven t-shirts or thirty-seven million pens, making informed logical decisions is always part of the process.

Most smart business owners look at their P&L and their Balance Sheet but, how often do you look at your Cash Flow Statement? Essentially, the cash flow statement is concerned with the flow of cash in and out of the business. The statement captures both the current operating results and the accompanying changes in the balance sheet.[1] As an analytical tool, the statement of cash flows is useful in determining the short-term viability of a business, particularly its ability to pay bills.* Essentially the cash flow statement is a key indicator of a healthy business.

4.) Develop Relationships

Jim knows that it is not only WHAT you know and WHO you know. He also knows that the QUALITY of the relationship you have with your customers, your suppliers, fellow distributors and your venders are key to your success. Quality not only takes time, it takes being brave enough to truly put your best foot forward and be flexible.

Jim knows that this quote by Dale Carnegie about allowing other so save  face is very true, even when it might cost you a little money to eat a mistake that was clearly made by the customer. “Why prove to a man he is wrong? Is that going to make him like you? Why not let him save face? He didn’t ask for your opinion. He didn’t want it. Why argue with him? You can’t win an argument, because if you lose, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it. Why? You will feel fine. But what about him? You have made him feel inferior, you hurt his pride, insult his intelligence, his judgment, and his self-respect, and he’ll resent your triumph. That will make him strike back, but it will never make him want to change his mind. A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

5.) Practice the Golden Rule

Treating others, as you would like to be treated is of course smart business. However, did you by chance notice something about Jim that I noticed? He smiled throughout his entire interview. I believe that practicing the Golden Rule is not only smart business it is really what makes an entrepreneur truly happy and satisfied with his efforts. We might be able to get ahead by not practicing the Golden Rule but it is my observation that it is far less satisfying and rewarding.

Thank you so much ­­­­­Jim for taking the time to be one of the Fearless 13!


*Wikipedia, Cash Flow Statement


Note from the Artist:

If you have seen the movie “Unbroken” there is a scene where the lead character is being forced to hold a railroad tie above his head by his cruel captor. In this scene we are inspired by this man’s unbreakable spirit. In Jim’s interview he talked about a large order of pens that had just come up and the challenges with filling this order. Jim is holding the pen above his head in the same spirit. He will not be broken by the challenges that come with growing his business!

If you have ever taken a marketing class you will know about the 4 P’s of marketing: Promotion, Price, Place and Product. The irony has not been lost on me “Promotion & Product” are 2 of the 4 P’s. I believe that sometimes we dismiss the importance of marketing through promotional products as being less powerful than other types of marketing. The identification of the 4 P’s of marketing in this illustration speaks to the fact that promotional products can be, and are a very powerful part of any business marketing strategy. The arrows on the outside of the circle are all the daily decisions he has to balance in order to run his small business and the different directions he gets pulled. The most popular promotional products are coffee mugs, hats and pens. The figure’s torso is an upside down coffee mug wearing a hat (with a light bulb on it which is the universal symbol of the entrepreneur for me), while he/she is defiantly holding the pen above their head.


Work was shown from December 18, 2015 – January 04, 2016  at {9} The Gallery

Thank you to our 2015 Partners:  Peg Quinn | The Arizona Consortium of the Arts | Photos by Elena & Jim | Bradford JonesBradford Jones Photography Jackie Wszalek, Splash Print & MarketingDennis Frazier, Cater Phoenix | Tony Medlock, PJ’s Florists

#Fearless #AoFDB #Entrepreneurship #VisualJournalism #Art #OneThing #Artizona #SocialPracticeArt


Entrepreneurs and inspiring stories of all kinds are Fearlessly Deliver’s muse and focus. As an artist, a business woman and a visual journalist Michelle Micalizzi paints with a purpose. The Fearless Art Projects are collaborative social practice art engagements that connect art + business + community.

THE ART OF FEARLESSLY DONG BUSINESS is an unprecedented and unique project celebrates the fearless entrepreneurial spirit by highlighting thirteen unique and fearless business leaders.




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