Executive Q&A: Plastic cards drive Edmond executive's 44-year career

Ron Goade, founder and president of SSI Technologies, has traveled more than 3 million miles for the Edmond-based company, which he said once had offices in Holland, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles. He is credited with making the first gift card.
by Paula Burkes Modified: October 6, 2013 at 10:00 pm •  Published: October 6, 2013

It's midmorning on a Monday and Ron Goade is talking with some of his employees who are tending a manufacturing line that's spitting out plastic postcards with punch-out free and discounted food coupons for Papa Murphy's pizza stores.

“These claim mailers have a 17 percent redemption rate by recipients because of their perceived value,” said Goade, ticking off direct mail statistics and holding up a sample card.

Meanwhile, retailers love the mailers because the bar codes printed on them carry variable customer data that can be tracked individually, he said.

Goade said such claim mailers now bring in half the business of SSI Technologies, a company he founded 44 years ago and with which the first gift card is credited.

Gift cards and plastic key tags, like the ones pharmacies hand out to its members, round out SSI's remaining sales.

Goade said SSI has some 5,000 customers, annual revenues of about $11 million and employs roughly 100, including an Iranian engineer, British production manager and several Vietnamese workers on the production lines.

The average service time for his workers is 18 years, according to the company's human resources director.

From his 40,000-square-foot facility at 1027 Waterwood Parkway in Edmond, Goade, 76, sat down with The Oklahoman to talk about his professional and personal life. This is an edited transcript:

Q: Tell us about your roots.

A: I was born in Kansas City, Mo., and have a brother 14 months older, and sister five years younger who both live in California.

Our mother was a homemaker, and father a WWII combat engineer who was at war during my 7th- through 11th-grade years. It was a tough time. We bounced around, and I went to a different school for five straight years. But I learned to stand on my own, and think for myself.

My mother instilled in me that I was special; that anything less than perfect wasn't good enough for me. And my fifth-grade teacher inspired me never to accept anything less than straight As.

My father, who struggled with alcoholism and depression after the war, and mother split up when I was in 12th grade. She later remarried a former beau to whom she was engaged before she met my dad.

Q: Where did you work before you started your own company?

A: In the late '50s, I worked for “Oklahoma Business News.” I'd come in at 5 a.m. and get the “intents to drill,” and then consolidate, mimeograph and deliver them to some 70 people around town who worked at oil companies, law offices or other newspapers.

Then I worked for a sporting goods store in Warr Acres while I attended OCU. In the late '60s, I worked for Magnavox, trying to bring the fax machine to the market. But that only lasted a year and a half, because nobody wanted faxes then.

A headhunter hired me away to General Binding Corp., where I sold laminating and bookbinding machines. For three years, I was a top salesman.

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by Paula Burkes
Reporter
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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PERSONALLY SPEAKING

Position: SSI Technologies, founder and president.

Birth date: Oct. 11, 1936.

Family: Wife, Susan, married more than 30 years. They have five adult children, including Sean Goade, 39, vice president of SSI; nine grandchildren, ages 3 to 22; and two Havanese puppies.

Housing addition: Mulholland in west Edmond. They have a second home in the Desert Mountain private golf community in Scottsdale, Ariz., where they reside most of the year.

Education: He studied journalism at Oklahoma City University and Boise State University.

Pastimes: Golf, running and collecting old black-and-white photographs (hanging in his office is a photo of the 1926 New York Yankees).

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