I have the unique perspective of having been at Tim Litle's side for all of his four decades in direct marketing. As a school kid on summer breaks, I learned from Tim and my mother Joan in the corridors of their catalog company. I watched, and learned, as Tim strove to meet the challenges of real businesspeople with practical solutions. I observed that Tim personifies the Platonic convention that necessity is the mother of invention—innovating in the face of need.
As Chairman of Litle & Co. today, Tim is a tireless advocate of the direct marketing and e-commerce merchant. For those who know him well, he is—and always has been—an engineer at heart. He dives into the complexities of issues looking to identify unifying themes. His drive, his vocation, has been to advance technical and payment-related infrastructures for direct-to-consumer merchants. As Inc. magazine suggested in 2006, Tim played a lead role in some of the commercial world's least sexy innovations, including credit card rules that let consumers buy on installment plans; the system by which mass mailers receive discounts from the US Postal Service by presorting by Carrier Route; and the effort on behalf of catalogers to verify customer billing addresses that was the seed of today's Address Verification System (AVS). All were designed with direct merchants in mind: to minimize their expenses, to streamline their operations and to grow their revenue opportunities. In the process he has helped merchants save, protect or grow billions of dollars in costs, human hours and revenue.
Over the last few years, as Tim handed day-to-day reigns over to me, he has championed the cause of direct marketers to the International Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and to the White House during hearings on cross-border marketing and privacy issues. He was also recently the lead witness in the first U.S. District Court case to test and apply Supreme Court rulings on patent litigation. As for fatherly wisdom, Tim always said, “I share these words with you so that when others speak them, you will recognize and relate.” Living by the mantra that integrity is the one thing that no one can ever take from you, his beliefs are at the core mission of our company today: to pioneer business solutions for merchants who sell directly to consumers; and to do this first by bringing integrity, precision and direct marketing expertise to the world of payments.
A thriving company of more than 150 people, a lifetime partner who's been at his side in business and personal endeavor, and a legacy of innovation in the name of direct marketers—these accomplishments herald one of my life's great mentors.
Tom Litle is president and CEO of Litle & Co.