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Slack named ‘reluctant recipient’ of G.D. Crain Award

Gary Slack

Gary Slack is on a roll.

Last year he celebrated his 25th year at the helm of his namesake integrated marketing communications firm. Slack and Co. achieved almost 23% revenue growth and posted returns that netted a bevy of industry awards, most notably last month’s B2 recognition as small agency of the year.

The BMA’s VP-professional development also led the association’s annual conference past a significant attendance milestone. More than 1,000 marketing professionals convened in Chicago at an industry event that Slack has spent the past six years revitalizing.

So Slack himself was perhaps the only person caught off guard when Rance Crain, president of Crain Communications, stood at the BMA14 podium and announced that a ‘reluctant recipient’ had won the G.D. Crain, Jr., Award.

“I had asked not to be considered,” Slack says. “There were other people who also were deserving.” Moreover, he notes, the G.D. Crain award is a lifetime achievement award. And he isn’t done with his achievements yet.

For one, Slack and Co. continues to grow, and he plans to see the firm gain revenue and compete for mid-sized agency of the year. He is also optimistic that over the next few years he will be able to double the number of attendees at the annual conference. And he is about to become an advisor for the Chicago chapter of the BMA.

Nevertheless, the award committee found that Slack already has proven to be the kind of BMA leader that the Crain award was designed to recognize. G.D. Crain founded Crain Communications in 1916, establishing a media company that this year merged its leading business marketing magazine, BtoB, with industry stalwart Advertising Age. The award in his honor recognizes members of the BMA community whose career achievements have contributed to the advancement of the business marketing profession.

“Gary’s influence on BMA has been substantial,” Rance Crain said from the podium. “He served consecutive terms as national chairman, as well as Chicago chapter president twice—and he is one of the best emcees of any industry conference I’ve had the pleasure to attend.”

Slack helped nudge Stephen Liguori, current BMA chairman, toward a leadership role within the association. “I can't think of anyone more deserving,” Liguori says. “Six years ago he personally lobbied me to join the national BMA board. He is passionate about developing the profession of B2B marketing and continues to drive our annual conference to new heights.”

Slack currently serves on the international BMA board and has no plans to abandon his post. He took over management of the annual conference in 2009. Under his leadership, attendance has grown from 125 to 1,004 marketing professionals. Attendees travel to Chicago from 12 nations to attend the event.

“The conference has huge potential,” Slack says. “I see this as a 10-year commitment. We have the potential to grow quite a bit. I’m convening my brain trust this summer to focus not on 2015, but on what we could grow into over the next few years.”

He’ll also pass a good part of the summer tending to a butterfly house that he has built at his Chicago home. He plans to spend the Crain honorarium on flowers to support the monarch butterflies that he raises and then releases each year.

The swirling butterflies help him relax his mind, he says. “I’m humbled and I’m still just grasping what the award means. Look at the list of recipients before me.”

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