Subscribe Now


Time Will Tell

Bruce Kaplan, chief revenue officer for Impo Intl., looks back on a series of life’s clichés that have helped guide him to happily ever after.

Dear 24-year old Bruce…I have a few things to say about the amazing life you’re going to live working in all facets of the shoe industry, but you must promise to not interrupt, as you’ve the propensity to do at times, until I’m finished. “Silence is golden.”

On that note, you’re going to hear a lot of clichés about how to go about life. You know, “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade” and “live every day like it’s your last.” Clichés exist because they often ring true, but you must look beyond some of the standard ones at times. There are alternatives to those tried-and-true wisdoms. For example, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” or, “if it ain’t broke, break it!”

You must determine which is the right choice. Often, the situation and the people affected will determine that. Just always be authentic to yourself. This is where your inner peace and strength will come from. As such, you won’t require “pats on the back,” nor be overly concerned with people who want to “cut you down to size.” Validation is nice, but it’s “not the be-all and end-all.” That said, you do “attract more bees with honey than vinegar.” So remember to acknowledge and reward the people who will help you achieve much success over the course of now 45 years in this wonderful and, at times, whacky industry.

You love all the stops along this epic journey that takes you around the world. It includes “getting your feet wet” at Sibley’s Shoes in Detroit and then Milgram Kagan in Chicago. Ten years in you crossover into wholesale, first as VP of Sales and Customer Relations at HH Brown in 1994. Other stops include VP of sales for Ecco USA, General Manager of Ariat, where you learn “how the west was won,” Executive VP of Phoenix Footwear Group, and Executive VP of Ara Shoes North America. Your most recent stop, beginning in early 2023, is with Impo, where you utilize a plethora of skills and knowledge to help the 55-year-old company “stay ahead of the curve” in a rapidly evolving market.

“You lead by example” and there is “no i in team.” The best decisions you make come from the good people you surround yourself with. “Don’t try to go it alone” and “two heads are better than one.” That doesn’t mean, though, to “live in an echo chamber.” Coworkers will be on the opposite sides of virtually every topic. Embrace diversity of thought. While not every decision you make will be a winner, you’ll “take the comfort in knowing” that every decision is at least made with the best of intentions. But remember to “trust your gut” on occasion. Because, “experience is a lantern.”

Embrace the probability of failure. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” right? I’m going to let you in on a little secret, you’ll fail many times. These failures stem from your desire to embrace and try new things. But there’s nothing cliché about “living life to the fullest.” Just don’t expect anyone to help you along the way. Of course, many will, but it’s better not to count on it. A third of the people will want you to succeed, a third don’t care, and a third will relish your failure. Steer clear of negative people. They’ll drain your energy and keep you down. Surround yourself with positive people who see life “as a glass half full” and see the best in you, but who will also tell you the truth. Because, “sometimes the truth hurts,” which is necessary to move forward.

Attack life with a good heart, seeing the best in people and being there for others in their time of need. (A side benefit: “Good things happen to good people.”) Do your best to create a balance between family, friends, community, and work. Heads up: a healthy balance is one of life’s biggest challenges. But enjoyment in life comes not from career success as much as from experiencing it with family, coworkers, and friends.

“Life is a roller coaster,” although that cliché is overly simplistic. Because it doesn’t speak to how high the highs and how low the lows can be. Nothing prepares you for how wide this gap can be at times, which can be terrifying or exhilarating—sometimes within 24 hours of each other. You’ll only be able to control so much. But what you can control is your intentions and actions. How you respond to success is equally important to how you handle tragedy. You’ll learn to “roll with the punches” because that’s “just how life is.”

At the end of the day, it’s about looking yourself in the mirror and knowing that, in your heart, you did your best to make a meaningful difference in the lives of the people around you. On that note, appreciate everybody who helps you become the very best version of yourself. They’re some of the most talented people in this industry. A special thanks to mentors Bob Berk (retail merchandising), Dennis McGarvy (retail operations and leadership development), Larry Brimer (wholesale merchandising), Beth Cross (strategic thinking, collaboration, and brand building), and Jim Issler, who took you out of operations and into sales management and implored to always look for ways to improve and reinvent yourself. Also, a shout out to your “ride or dies” who helped you see a better path. Todd Stewardson (professional selling and sales management), Justin Orrell-Jones (account preparations, key account management, and presentation skills), John Conlon (the finest territory manager and teammate), Sam Spears (collaboration, idea generation, planning, presenting, product development, and pretty much everything else), and many others whom you’re forever grateful. Oh, and our beautiful mother, whose wisdom in human resources, labor negotiations, and crisis management were unsurpassed. “Mother knows best.”

Lastly, “stop and take time to smell the roses.” Take a vacation, once in a while. Because “some of your best ideas come while you’re on vacation.” I know, such a cliché!

“See you around the bend,”


The July 2024 Issue

Read Now