Part I of the Exclusive Interview with Stephen Pasierb, CEO of the Toy Industry Association with Ideagen’s George A. Sifakis

George: Welcome. Welcome to Ideagen, Ideas Leader Radio. Today we have with us Mr. Stephen Pasierb, CEO of the Toy Industry Association. Stephen, welcome.

Stephen: Thanks so much for having me.

George: Great to have you on the show today. Steve, is the president and CEO of the US Toy Industry Association, a not-for-profit trade association, representing all businesses involved in creating and delivering toys and youth entertainment products to kids of all ages. In his role, Steve is responsible for leading the growth, development, and oversight of the association, whose more than 750 member companies account for 90% of the US domestic toy sales. Steve previously served as the president and CEO of the Partnership for Drug Free Kids, the nation’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to reducing substance abuse among adolescents by supporting families and engaging with teens. He assumed the leadership role in 2001 after 8 years of working with the organization.

Under Steve’s guidance, the Partnership launched several successful advocacy programs in prevention, intervention, and in support of addiction treatment, including the Parent Support Network, which is comprised of a national toll-free telephone line and online support for parents.

In addition to his leadership experience, Steve has acted as a frequent commentator on broadcast news and social media where he has discussed a range of issues, including changing the landscape of drug use and child drinking in America, effective prevention strategies for families, the role and value of addiction treatment, and recognizing the use of social media cause related marketing and digital products in addressing public health issues. In 2003, Steve was honored by the American Advertising Federation and elected to the Advertising Hall of Achievement, the industry’s premier award for professionals who have made a significant impact on the communications industry.

In April of 2008, he was honored by Indiana University of Pennsylvania as the distinguished alumnus. An avid sail plan enthusiast, gardener, and traveler, he’s also a contributing writer for Remote Control Air Magazine Properties and a co-founder of RCAeroTowing.com. Steve, welcome. My gosh, you have an incredible bio. This is the unabridged version I assume. We could go on and on.

Stephen: Yes, sorry, George. You’re going to run out of air there.

George: It’s amazing; it’s a testament to all the incredible work you’re doing. With that, let’s launch right into the interview. Could you please describe the Toy Industry Association’s unique mission and your work within the toy industry, both on a domestic and global basis?

Stephen: Absolutely. This is an incredible honor to be at TIA. This is a fantastic industry. A lot of the leading brands and products that people grew up with. As a trade association, not everybody’s a plumber or a lawyer or a doctor or an automobile manufacturer, but everybody’s been a kid at some point. It’s really amazing. The TIA, our organization, just turned 100 years old. We’ve evolved a lot through that history. Our assignment is the growth and health of the toy industry. I like to say our job is to help promote and protect the toy industry. The actual mission statement, which we’re just in the process of updating, is to provide leadership that promotes health play. That’s something we can talk about going forward, how important play is in a kid’s life and facilitate the creativity, the responsibility, particularly the social responsibility, and the success of our members.

It’s really interesting, an organization that grew 100 years ago to protect the US toy industry around the end of World War I when there was this fear that Germany would deluge the US market with inexpensive toys as a way to pick up their economy. Today, we literally work all over the globe. We’re in countries all over dealing with regulatory issues, trying to help our members expand into emerging markets. What really began in a way to help protect and promote American toys 100 years ago is really about what’s become a global industry.

George: The importance of realizing that we were all kids at one point could help a lot of different areas on the planet. With that, what inspired you to join the Toy Industry Association and begin serving as its president and CEO?

Stephen: It’s probably because I’m still a kid at heart. I still love to play. It is that natural extension, the work I’ve done in adolescent public health with kids being at the center of it. It’s a natural extension. My background is as a marketing and advertising executive. Through my work at the Partnership, I began to learn the role of advocacy and being a media spokesperson. Now as the TIA goes into its next 100 years, they really saw those as important qualities. When I was sought out by a search firm, I was just over the moon at the opportunity to have this role. I was very fortunate in the end of the process to get it, so that all those things I learned in the advertising world, all those things I learned in adolescent public health, the ability to engage stakeholders and get the word out about the role and value of play is just that perfect combination that made this, for me at least, the perfect job.

George: How does your role as president and CEO inspire you to strive and promote safety and philanthropy to children through national and global advocacy?

Stephen: It’s a really good question; it’s 2 parts. On the safety side, one of the things I was really struck with when I came into this role was how incredibly seriously our companies take safety. Product safety is part of giving kids wonderful play experiences, yet how the public perception was that perhaps they have sharp edges or we’ve all heard about recalls that maybe there isn’t that commitment to safety. My role has been over the past year and a half to get the word out about how important safety is to our members. I frequently say there are no margins in unsafe toys. It’s the worst thing that can happen to a toy company to have a product recall or to have something which there are questions about.

Our members are relentlessly focused on safety. We’ve got to do a lot as a trade association to educate consumers on their role of safety, picking the right toys for your kids, following age guidelines, getting down on the floor and actually playing with your kids. Those things all play into safety, which is hugely important for us. Then, I was stunned by how great this industry is from a philanthropic standpoint. Right now, we’ve grown to 998 member companies. I can tell you that every single one of those is doing something pro-social, something philanthropic, whether it’s a tiny company sponsoring the local little league team to major companies, like Hasbro, building pediatric wards at hospitals or Lego doing huge volumes of philanthropy. It’s a blessing to be in this role and knowing on one side our companies are so committed to safety. They live and breathe that every minute of every day. On the other side, we don’t have to make up for the fact that this is not an industry that’s philanthropic. In fact, we can really leverage the fact that this is an extraordinary philanthropic industry.

08/02/2016 04:00 pm ET