Scott Emerson is good at many things, from marathons to mountain climbing

Scott Emerson standing near a window
Scott Emerson is based in Philadelphia, where he is founder, chairman, and CEO of The Emerson Group.

Scott Emerson is good at many things, from marathons to mountain climbing

By Natalie Chandler

Businessman found his niche in modernizing old favorite consumer brands 

If anyone had predicted that Scott Emerson would create a multibillion-dollar marketing business in the years since he left Texas State University, they were probably aware of his many achievements as a student-athlete and beyond.

Emerson (B.B.A. ’75), who received a scholarship to run track, was an All-American pole vaulter and sprinter, head cheerleader, president of his fraternity, and selected by the university’s leadership to escort Lady Bird Johnson around campus. He’s since climbed 32 mountains and completed 11 marathons, triathlons, and bicycle races.

"Texas State was one of the most defining time frames to get me where I am today," he says. "What I learned there was that you can accomplish anything you want if you work at it. When I left, I worried that I was leaving the best time of my life. But it’s turned out to give me something to build on."

Emerson is based in Philadelphia, where he is the founder, chairman, and CEO of The Emerson Group, a sales management company that has grown to include subsidiaries Emerson Healthcare and Emerson Marketing. The company takes health and beauty brands that have been in the marketplace for decades — think Carmex, Luden’s, Alberto VO5 — and works with private equity firms to acquire and modernize the brands before reselling them.

It’s on a slightly larger scale than his early ventures growing up in Oklahoma, where he earned money by mowing lawns, shoveling snow, and "selling whatever door-to-door." He was tops in sales with Junior Achievement and active in Boy Scouting.

"I probably was entrepreneurial — but did not know it — my whole life," he says. "Business was just an interest and a natural thought, and a natural progression."

After earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting and business management, Emerson landed a job selling pickles and ketchup for Heinz in South Texas. It wasn’t long before Johnson & Johnson started pursuing him, and he sold the company’s products in five cities around the country, eventually ending up as western regional manager in San Francisco.

"Along the way, we were building sales forces in regions in the country, and that became something I was good at," he says. Positions with Unilever and Novartis Consumer Health followed and took Emerson to other regions before he settled in Philadelphia. He created The Emerson Group in 1995.

In doing so, he found a niche in the consumer products industry. The firm has since expanded to include partners in Europe, Asia, and South America, connecting suppliers and retailers of health and beauty products around the world and managing $4.5 billion in retail brand volume every year. The handful of employees that he began with has grown to nearly 150 who work in 10 regional offices.

"Business today for me is just a big playground," he says. "I meet in boardrooms all around the world, in France, Mexico, and Japan. We’ve never had a year where we haven’t grown."

In the fall of 2016, Emerson was recognized as a Texas State Distinguished Alumnus. He has shared his insights with students at the McCoy College of Business Administration, where he jokes that he "barely got into Texas State and barely got out." He advises his audiences to get experience and good grades early on, then find a mentor by the time they turn 30. The years after 40 should be reserved for doing "all the things you’re good at," and by the time your 50s roll around, be ready to work for people younger than you. Past 60 years old, "spend time on yourself," he says in his presentation.

To simplify success, Emerson suggests some old-fashioned wisdom. "My motto is, work hard and be nice. If you do that, you will win everywhere," he says.