8 Steps That Can Lead You To A More Fulfilling Life
John Neyland, From the Business World
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There’s a reason people love the start of a New Year – or the first day of spring, or maybe the first day of school. The idea of a clean slate – of making changes or starting over fresh – can be exhilarating.

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“It isn’t necessarily that you don’t like the life you live,” says John C. Neyland, author of How to Live the Life You’ve Yet to Dream (www.johnneyland.com). “It’s just that you suspect there’s something you’re missing – something more fulfilling.”

The truth is, those possibilities are always within your reach, Neyland says. “But to have the life you want means you have to change course.”

Here are some ways to make that turn in your life, using what Neyland refers to as “pivots:”

• Put fear in its place and understand it. Fear has no power unless you lend it power. It doesn’t change the end result, and often it causes more damage than whatever it was you were so worried about. Neyland suggests you think about the biggest fear you’ve ever had. What was the outcome and did you recover? Chances are you came out the other end just fine.

• Courage is not the lack of fear but going forward in the face of it. Courage is like exercise: The more you use it, the easier it becomes – and the more you benefit. We are taught to avoid pain and danger. You have to choose to face life with courage – but in the end, it’s how you handle fear and how you respond to it that can change your course.

• Compromise is a dirty word. It can steal your life and dreams. To work for or spend time with someone who doesn’t share your values is a compromise, Neyland says, and compromise robs your energy and affects your momentum.

• There is great value in having mentors. It’s less painful and more efficient to learn from the mistakes and successes of others: a family member, teacher or business leader you admire. Learn from them and emulate them in your everyday life.
• Dream without restraint. Thinking about what you want to do only in the context of what you know you can do is more of a nightmare than a dream. Pursue your goals with all you have. Don’t be concerned with failing. “The journey and the struggle can be extremely satisfying,” Neyland says. “It rivals the attainment of a goal.

• Be honest with yourself. Many people lie to themselves about whom or what is most important to them. Lying sets off a chain reaction that stalls momentum and makes your life a little less than what it should be. Even small lies chip away at the person you want to be.

• Be impatiently focused. We have a limited a number of breaths to build the world around us. Focus on a goal and don’t wait for the right moment or perfect conditions to go for it. Time matters.

• Control what you can control and forget about the rest. Every moment you spend lamenting a situation you couldn’t control, you’re stealing from yourself. Direct your energy and momentum to something you can manage instead.

Before you start over, spend some time revisiting what matters most to you, Neyland says. What are your values? What are your likes and dislikes? What do you want to do with your life?

“Make a list of all these things,” he says. “Then dream boldly and take action.”

John C. Neyland, president and Investment Advisor Representative at JCN Financial & Tax Planning Group, is the author of How to Live the Life You’ve Yet to Dream (www.Johnneyland.com), which is part memoir and part blueprint for readers who want to get more out of life and leave a positive mark on the world.

Sara Webb on How to Educate and Recreate Yourself
'Spending the time and investing in learning is going to help any entrepreneur.' Kirby Hasseman, Delivering Marketing Joy
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Kirby Hasseman is the owner of Hasseman Marketing and the author of Delivering Marketing Joy (a book about better promo!). He is dedicated to personal development and building the integrity of the promotional industry.

Sizing Things Up
A general guide to apparel sizing to help your customers order more accurately. Jennifer Cox, Needle Points
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sponsored by Warwick

One of the biggest challenges faced by salespeople when it comes to selling decorated apparel is the fact that many customers are unsure of how many to buy in each size. They do not want to order more than they need in any given size, and spend more than they have to. Nor can they accept coming up with more people who wear size XL than the number XL’s they actually have ordered.

By helping your customers fairly accurately guesstimate the quantity of each size to order, you reduce their risks and increase the chances of closing the sale. Fortunately, there is a solution to help you advise your customers so they can cross this particular hurdle off their list of reasons to not place the order. The solution is known as a “size scale.”

Size scale refers to the ratio of quantities/per size – per DOZEN of like items. Today, the scale for sportswear is 2442. This means that out of 12 people, on average approximately two people will fit “medium,” four will take a “large,” four will take “extra large (XL)” and two will wear the “XX large (2XL)”. Generally, scale is applied to one gender, all the men’s shirts, and then to all the women’s shirts.

However, I’ve found that today’s scale does not accurately reflect S or 3XL sizes. We generally have found them to be equal to .5-1 out of 14, so we use a modified size scale – 124421 – meaning one person will need small, two will fit medium, four will take a large, four will take XL, two will take 2XL and one person will wear the 3XL shirt. If your customer is ordering apparel for mostly women, you may need to increase the number of smalls and decrease the number of 3XL’s.

It is always best to review the calculated “scale” guesstimates with your customer, particularly for the small and 3XL sizes. They often can easily identify the individuals by name who will require these sizes, allowing you to project the correct amounts for both ends of the size scale.

Use this scale ratio when ordering larger quantities of shirts for your customer when you are projecting what amounts to order for each size. For example, when your customer needs 200 shirts, using a straight 14 scale to determine how many of each size, the order would be:

14 S; 29 M, 57 L; 57 XL; 29 2XL and 14 3XL.

Now, I would guess that you might be close to correct on the 14 small, perhaps a bit high in quantity. I also suspect that 14 3XL would be too many of that size for a group of 200 people. So, I would modify this breakdown as follows: eight S; 29 M; 60 L; 65 XL; 29 2XL and 9 3XL as a starting point and adjust it from there based on your client’s best guess for the sizes at the far ends of the size range.

You may also want to connect with your embroidery apparel decoration professional to find out what they will charge when and if the customer needs a few more items. Some contract shops may offer you the same rate as they did on the larger order, and some may not. You will want that information so that you can let your customer know up front what they can expect if they need to order more. This may influence the size of the customer’s initial order, encouraging them to get a bit more than what they need initially, particularly if they know they will be adding to or changing staff around in the near future.

By reducing the customer’s chances of having to purchase excess inventory, you increase your value to your customers as a professional who is tuned in to meeting their needs while staying aware of their concerns and their budget. This helps you stand apart from all the other people that sell promotional products in your area or market.

Jennifer Cox is president of the National Network of Embroidery Professionals. NNEP members receive personalized marketing consulting designed specifically for their business. To join NNEP today, visit NNEP.net, email Jennifer at hooper@nnep.net, or call 800-866-7396.

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Questioning for Creativity
Salespeople need more info from prospects than budget, quantity and delivery date. Bill Petrie, Petrie's Perspective
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Just like all salespeople, those in the promotional products industry are conditioned to ask questions to understand the needs of the client. The usual ones revolve around budget, in-hands date, theme of the event, products that have been used in the past, and the target audience.

After the initial meeting, most are conditioned to head back to the office and try to come up with a branded product so creative the client won’t have a choice other than to sign the purchase order. However, there really isn’t enough information to get wildly creative because a golden opportunity was missed during the discovery meeting. In other words, the right questions weren’t asked.

In any initial meeting – which I call a discovery meeting – the first goal is to get the client to talk and for the salesperson to listen. It’s the whole “two ears and one mouth” philosophy. Beyond that, the goal should be to get as much information as possible about the client’s brand philosophy to fuel creativity. The right questions to guide the client down your creative path are:

1) How would you describe your brand to someone who is unfamiliar with it? The answer to this will provide all manner of insights as to how the client desires people to view his/her brand. However, the real power is in the follow-up question:

2) What emotions do you want someone to feel when they see your logo as an extension of your brand? Brands elicit emotions – they make you feel something. For example, when you see the “Golden Arches” of the McDonald’s logo, you’re going to immediately have an opinion, a memory, or a reaction that will fall into one of three categories:

• Positive (grabbing a quick bite to eat on the way to a favorite family destination).

• Neutral (speedy service and consistent, if not average, food).

• Negative (is that even considered food?)

For every brand, there is a feeling associated with it – whether it is Starbucks, Comcast, American Airlines, or Microsoft. It’s the job of the promotional products salesperson to match the end-user merchandise experience to the desired feeling of the client. That begins with asking the right questions that help the client verbalize how they want their audience to feel.

Understand this and the creativity will flow.

Bill is president of PromoCorner, the leading digital marketing service provider to the promotional products industry, and has over 17 years working in executive leadership positions at leading promotional products distributorships. In 2014, he launched brandivate – the first executive outsourcing company solely focused on helping small and medium sized-promotional products enterprises responsibly grow their business. A featured speaker at numerous industry events, a serial creator of content marketing, president of the Promotional Products Association of the Mid-South (PPAMS), and PromoKitchen chef, Bill has extensive experience coaching sales teams, creating successful marketing campaigns, developing operational policies and procedures, creating and developing winning RFP responses, and presenting winning promotional products solutions to Fortune 500 clients. He can be reached at bill@PromoCorner.com.

PPAI's NALC Feedback; New Pantone Color for Prince;
How Have YOU Evolved; Critiquing UnScripted and more. Kirby Hasseman, Bill Petrie, UnScripted
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Industry educators Kirby Hasseman of Hasseman Marketing and Bill Petrie of PromoCorner, the leading digital marketing services provider to the promotional products industry, discuss a variety of hot­-button industry topics in this weekly “talk show” column brought to you by BamBams. Click on the graphic to hear their “UnScripted” conversation.

New from Industry Suppliers
Identity Marketing Staff, New Products
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sponsored by Next Level Apparel

Digitally imprinted in full color, this professional style 175 gram flyer from Garyline is perfect for college students and serious ultimate players. The flyer is available in a choice of seven colors.

New from Leprechaun Promotions are 9.5" and 6.5" Milan™ Grand square plates with Realcolor360 imprints. The contemporary and modern look of the plate is great for sit-down events, sporting events, bistros, weddings and more. The U.S.A. made plates are BPA-free and dishwasher safe.

The new Campster Series of bags from Field & Co. and now available from Leed’s includes several classic designs in trending dark wool. Among them is the 17" Computer backpack. Inspiration was drawn from retro camping and old school scout looks combined with modern needs. Zippered main compartment with rucksack design closure features a padded computer pocket that holds most 17" laptops. Main compartment with dedicated pocket for iPads/tablets in their cases. Main body constructed of 16-oz. cotton with the popular buffalo check plaid, vinyl accents, and cotton ticking striped lining on the inside.

BIC Graphic’s new Modern USB Adapter with Phone Holder has dual USB ports and is a great solution for anyone at home or on the go. Turn a single outlet into four and charge all of your gadgets. It has dual 5V/1A USB outlets, dual AC power outlets, and holds your phone while charging.

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New from Industry Suppliers
Identity Marketing Staff
New from Industry Suppliers
Identity Marketing Staff
New from Industry Suppliers
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Do You Really Care for Your Customers?
It starts with touching base on a regular basis. Danette Gossett, From Good to Great
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sponsored by Warwick

As most of you know, I am an active member in the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. I make great business connections there and it also serves as a great resource for hearing best business practices from other businesses.

Today I attended a “customer care” meeting. Now this meeting was talking about the chamber members being the “customer,” and basically how do we make the customer experience better so that they remain chamber members.

Regularly Interact with Customers

It got me to thinking about how I interact with my customers. And am I doing all that I can do to make their interaction with me and my team the best possible?

I am fortunate that many of our customers have been with us for more than 10 years. But I also have to be careful not to take them for granted. And I admit I did for a while. I got busy and didn’t stop by as often or even touch base regularly. While I didn’t lose any customers it was an eye opener when one mentioned that they only knew what was going on from receiving my newsletter!

Social Networks Won’t Replace Personal Interactions

And while we may be active on social member and connected with clients on one or more social platforms, it doesn’t replace the face to face interactions.

We had a big discussion about that at the meeting today. Why do people need to be members if they have LinkedIn and other social networks? And the answer was the personal touch. People still like to do business with people they know and trust.

If you are on LinkedIn and you ask for a referral from someone you don’t really know personally, how often do you get a response? Not very often I have found. However, if you have lunch with someone and they mention they know someone you’d like to meet and you ask for the referral (you do, don’t you?), how often does it happen? Pretty often, right?

The same goes for providing good customer care.

Be a Partner

If you aren’t interacting with your customers on a regular basis then you may be seen as just another “vendor.” I personally hate being a vendor for a customer. At the minimum I want to be a vendor partner, but truly I prefer being their partner. For one, it’s not as easy to fire a partner as it is a vendor.

So that’s my on-going goal in my customer care. Build a long-term relationship where we are seen as a valued partner.

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I start by learning as much about my customer as I possibly can. That way I know I will be able to recommend the best possible products and services for them to make their job easier. Also, I learn how they personally work so that I can interact with them in the way they prefer.

For instance, some people like to plan ahead and get it off their plate. Others, need a bit of prodding to meet deadlines. So I have to be politely persistent to make sure they don’t end up without a project being completed on time.

Make them a Star

In my mind, it’s our job to help our customers be a star in their organization. We’re the ones there to remind them of an upcoming annual event, a special anniversary date or just bringing them an idea that we believe is a perfect fit for their brand. It’s our job to take the stress out of their job. Making sure they know that we will take care of it so they can move on to other things.

It’s also our job to pull off the impossible because we don’t want to let them down. And, again, we want to make them a star.

When I have a customer tell me that their CEO has just decided they want a thank you gift for a luncheon in 3 days, I’m going to make it happen. Why? Because I’m their partner, and that’s what I think a partner does.

Be a Part of Their Team

We celebrate their successes and understand when we really do need to pull off the impossible. Our team is part of their team. It’s “we” not us and them.

So if you don’t have a process for staying in touch with your customers (Outlook, CRM program or even just a spreadsheet) I’d suggest you may want to think about instituting one and then using it. You may miss a deadline you’ve given yourself for touching base, but hopefully not by more than a few days. It’s better than a few months!

We all get busy but we don’t want our customer thinking that we don’t care.

Danette Gossett is the founder of Gossett Marketing, co-founder of Promotions Rescource LLC and co-author of the best-selling book "Transform" with Brian Tracy. Danette utilizes her more than 30 years of advertising agency and corporate marketing experience to develop effective promotional campaigns and products for her clients. Visit GossettMktg.com or SalesPromo.org and follow us on twitter @MarketngTidbits.

Five Clichés to Avoid Like the (Well, You Know)
Those pointless little phrases you use at work might be sending exactly the wrong message (for instance, that you're too lazy to come up with something better). Richard Moran, From the Business World
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sponsored by Bay State

Look up “business buzzwords” or “business clichés” and you’ll find article after article about these irritating, overused phrases. In fact, new ones come out each year documenting the latest crop that's flourishing in workplaces across America. In a world drowning in buzzwords, tweets, and hashtags, spouting mindless clichés in the workplace may seem harmless but using too many professional platitudes could be more problematic than you thought.

Not only can business clichés be annoying to others who hear them day in and day out, they are the language of laziness. When you use them, you effectively fail to focus your thoughts and really identify what you’re trying to communicate and accomplish.

Language that is “mindless” isn’t also “harmless.” The risks of vague language aren’t just practical detail mix-ups between coworkers. Many of these phrases are actually actively promoting terrible morale that shoves projects and careers into stagnation. By abusing clichés, you might be projecting an apathetic and lazy attitude without even realizing it.

If you’re too lazy to come up with a way to say something other than resorting to a trite buzzword, isn’t that a sign that you’ll be lazy in other areas at work as well? Whether it’s true or not, that’s the message you’re broadcasting.

For instance:

“It is what it is” is the sound of defeat. The subtext of “it is what it is” is: “I give up.” That negativity enforces the kind of thinking that kills projects and how coworkers understand your attitude. It makes you the Debbie Downer in business clothing. You might as well say, “Life sucks and work is even worse,” and this attitude gets old very fast.

If the low-hanging fruit even does exist, going after it is just bad strategy. The analogy of going after what requires less effort normalizes what is too easy and simply not existent. Even if it does, the fruit on the top of the tree is ripest, and that’s where the greatest returns for your effort will be.

The only thing that happens at the end of the day is, well, the end of the day. Referencing the elusive “end of the day” is common in politics, academics, and especially business. It’s so ubiquitous that it seems to imply that it's news that each day ends. The truth is that, given technology and workdays that never end, the end of the day is a myth.

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These next two aren’t exactly clichés but they’re still all-too-common phrases you should probably avoid. (Call them the “Don’t Says” perhaps.)

Ditch the R-word and the B-word. Though they’re not the hot-button words you’re likely thinking of, Really? and BUT often exude snark, bad attitude, or are just plain irritating. It’s certainly not true in every spoken instance of these little words, but when your go-to response is “Really?” when a coworker asks for help or you’re constantly using “BUT” to excuse your own responsibility or knock down something (or someone) else—well, it’s really annoying.

“I don’t know; what do you want to do?” is a known verbal con-job. Moran cites the “Abilene Paradox,” a group dynamics phenomenon. When nobody knows what exactly they want to do, it’s likely the group will settle on a decision nobody in the group wanted at all. It's best to stop these indecisive circles in their tracks with an assertive, “I don’t want to do that.”

Pay attention to what you’re saying at work and what it really means. If you’ve gotten in the habit of falling back on clichés or other forms of lazy language, you might be surprised by how much effort it takes to stop and really think about what you mean. But it’s absolutely worth making the effort.

And if you’re a leader, just listen to what employees say over and over. Be alert to the phrase du jour at work. It may tell you more about the people around you than you ever imagined.”

Richard Moran is the president of Menlo College in Atherton, CA, and the author of The Thing About Work: Showing Up and Other Important Matters. Moran has served as a venture capitalist and consultant to Fortune 500 companies, including Apple Computer and News Corporation. An evangelist for organizational effectiveness, he has authored several books and pioneered the genre of “Business Bullet Books” with Never Confuse a Memo with Reality. For more information, visit www.richardmoran.com.

Joe Pulizzi on Creating Content Marketing
... and creating an event that matters. Kirby Hasseman, Delivering Marketing Joy
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sponsored by Warwick

Kirby Hasseman is the owner of Hasseman Marketing and the author of Delivering Marketing Joy (a book about better promo!). He is dedicated to personal development and building the integrity of the promotional industry.

From the Flea Market to the Stock Market
Long-time entrepreneur suggests success can be found in humble beginnings. Miguel Casellas-Gil, From the Business World
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Bill Green was once just one of us. A regular guy growing up in the suburbs with no silver spoon to be found anywhere, no trust fund waiting for him to turn the right age and no guarantees that life was going to work out pretty well for the entrepreneur who turned a flea market business into a major enterprise.

Green’s entrepreneurial ways can be traced to when he was 17 and decided to go into business with a friend, operating a table at a flea market.

When his friend dropped out of their partnership, Green didn’t need to look far to find a new partner. His father was laid off work and decided to join his son on the Philadelphia and New Jersey flea market circuit.

A year later they were opening up a hardware store. Through a series of smart moves – some of which Green said took a few failures to learn – that one store eventually turned into a publicly traded company and morphed into a $1.8 billion business now owned by the Home Depot.

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“My humble background is why I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for feisty entrepreneurs,” says Green (www.bgreenauthor.com/media), whose book All In: 101 Real-Life Business Lessons for Emerging Entrepreneurs was ranked in a Forbes article as the No. 1 book on a list of must-read books for entrepreneurs. “Forty years ago I was there. I was a small business owner who had a great idea that I brought to life.”

Green offers up some tips for entrepreneurs striving to get their business moving in the right direction:

• Take in all the experiences you can.

Without a solid foundation, anything in life is going to crumble – whether it’s a tree, a building or a small business. Green says that it’s important not to devalue simple jobs because no experience is bad experience. During his life he took on paper routes and worked as a door-to-door salesman, gleaning all the knowledge he could from those seemingly trivial jobs.

• Learn how to pivot.

We all want to come out of the gates with a smashing idea that sets the world afire. That’s not always the case though. Just like a baby learning to walk, there will be stumbles along the way. Green says the key to one day finding success is to learn how to pivot and adjust when something isn’t working.

• Find out what you don’t know.

Technology is rapidly changing and today’s trends quickly turn into yesterday’s news. Those who are willing to stay on the cutting edge of their industry and keep up with technological changes will be the ones still standing at the end of the day.

“No one will remember where you started,” says Green. “They’ll only remember where you finish. Your dreams may seem like a fantasy to most people now, but if you combine a great idea with a lot of persistent and consistent hard work, you can get anything you want out of life.”

William S. “Bill” Green is a serial entrepreneur who has built multiple businesses during his 40-year career. He is best known for “bootstrapping a startup” before anyone even knew what the word startup meant. He propelled his first company, Wilmar Industries, from a flea market table to one of the largest industrial distribution companies in the U.S., now known as Interline Brands, which is now owned by The Home Depot.

What Can We Do With Steph Curry?
You, in partnership with your client, can create a program to motivate and reward/recognize anyone, regardless of how much they earn. Joel Schaffer, MAS, The Take Away
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sponsored by Bay State

We could debate the merits of paying anyone a salary of $201 million over five years, but that is what Steph Curry will earn from the Golden State Warriors. Steph is in a golden state of wealth as rare as Astatine.

In today’s world, many salaries are disproportionate to the contributions an individual makes to a business. CEO salaries have long been the target of Warren Buffett and others who seek to get more responsibility and accountability in payrolls.

Not many promotional product distributors will happen upon a sales opportunity within the top one thousandth of a percent of wage earns like Curry. Happening upon wage earners in the top 1 to 5 percent is more realistic. Most will be found in the financial community, but there are others to be found in markets from Silicon Valley to heavy industry.

There is simply nothing you can give to people in this “bracket” that their money can’t buy better; there is nothing in the dollar store, nothing in the car dealer, nothing in the aircraft hangar or at the yacht dock. There is no catalog of merchandise they would select from and no destination to send them to. They either already have it, have done it, can do it better or buy it better. This amounts to a tough motivational job, but not impossible. The need is “it (your product, program or idea) must be earned, and something that none of their money can buy.” Within that sentence is the key to motivation of every individual regardless of earning. To Steph, there is no higher motivation than earning a championship ring. It is an award that must be earned and no money can buy. It is the supreme accomplishment and the height of self-actualization. It is THE carrot. It is one “item” you can’t get enough of. It is a consumable… once you have it you want another and another.

Recognition of accomplishment is a primary and critical element in any motivational program. Again, we must reference Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. While some will publicly shun recognition, nobody can deny its role and the human psyche. It does not have to have the glitz of a championship ring, it does not have to be huge or expensive, it simply must be recognition that no money can buy.

Our industry is the source for recognition expressions to excite and motivate at every level – the salesperson in the store as salesperson of the month, in the car dealer and up the earnings ladder to Wall Street and Santa Clara. We bring the engraved certificate, the picture frame, the plaque, the trophy, the pin, the watch, the silver cup and the unique expressions emanating from our creativity. My friend, the late Janelle Nevins, taught me a lot about what it takes to win an award program when her idea for a unique, limited edition painting/litho sealed the deal for her over many competitors. It was unique, “priceless”, and a public expression of appreciation that no money could buy. It did not exist, it came from her creative mind, to do a commissioned work of art. Even Saturday Night Live ascribes to recognition with their farcical “5 Timer Club” where a 5-time host is awarded a jacket and club membership. He won “The Green Jacket.” How can a sport coat mean so much? Because even the $2 million prize the winner gets can’t buy that jacket. Sitting in the clubhouse with it on, means the world to the golfer’s self-esteem and self-actualization.

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In all humility, I was elected into the PPAI Hall of Fame this past year. It is recognition of many years of service to our industry. I, along with my fellow inductee, Margie Price, was showered with recognition. The plaque, jacket, dinner, press, etc. all were great, but a simple, elegant watch, embossed with the HOF logo is treasured by me. It is on my wrist every day. I didn’t have a Rolex before it but, if I did, I know it would have been replaced by this watch. I didn’t expect my barber to see it, but he did and congratulated me on my accomplishment (see Maslow on self esteem).

So the take away here is the fact that a recognition and motivation consultant (you) has the knowledge of human behavior to understand how to motivate a man who makes $400,000 for one night’s work. That understanding and expertise is not available on line. You, in partnership with your client, can create a program to motivate and reward/recognize. But, there’s more.

Curry is on a team. Teams and teammates are great motivators. No matter what your skill level and ultimate contributions, peer pressure and the team’s goal of winning are powerful motivators. Curry can’t do it alone. He can win individual accomplishments in offense and defensive play, but winning the championship is a team effort. Player motivates player, the needs of the community compliment the needs of the individuals. Peer acceptance and peer recognition are vital to the social wellbeing of every person. Adding teams and team play into a motivational program is an accelerant. Teams fuel performance. It takes a team for corporate safety, it takes a team to launch a product, go to market, become a division, chapter, store or shift of the week, month or year. Teamwork accelerates productivity and generally builds healthier workplace environments in virtually every department.

Are we not skeptical that signing a contract for $201 million will somehow make him relax and underperform? Curry’s team and his need for recognition combine to be prime motivators for his continued performance. To sum it all up… teams and recognition are not available for purchase – build it and they will perform.

Joel D. Schaffer, MAS is CEO and Founder of Soundline, LLC, the pioneering supplier to the promotional products industry of audio products. Joel has 48 years of promotional product industry experience and proudly heralds "I was a distributor." He has been on the advisory panel of the business and marketing department of St. John’s University in New York and is frequent speaker at Rutgers Graduate School of Business. He is an industry Advocate and has appeared before the American Bankers Association, American Marketing Association, National Premium Sales Executives, American Booksellers Association and several other major groups. He has been a management consultant to organizations such as The College Board and helped many suppliers enter this industry. He is a frequent contributor to PPB and Counselor magazines. He has facilitated over 200 classes sharing his industry knowledge nationwide. He is known for his cutting humor and enthusiasm in presenting provocative and motivating programs. He is the only person to have received both the Marvin Spike Industry Lifetime Achievement Award (2002) and PPAI’s Distinguished Service Award (2011). He is a past director of PPAI and has chaired several PPAI committees and task forces. He is a past Chair of the SAAGNY Foundation, Past President of SAAGNY and a SAAGNY Hall of Fame member. He was cited by ASI as one of the 50 most influential people in the industry.

Kicking Off Sales of Cheer/Sports Promotions
From youth leagues though colleges, sports related promos are big business. Lisa Schofield, Product Feature
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Cheering teams to win as a show of fandom is a uniting bond. Especially for back-to-school season, when football takes the main stage all across America – from Pop Warner through the pros.

After a long, hot, and fun summer, we Americans still like to have fun, and cheering on our sports teams allows for the hearty, happy times to continue.

Margit Fawbush of BIC Graphic describes, “School spirit, fight songs, and Friday night lights have remained the same for decades.” However, she adds, what has changed significantly over recent years is the skill level – and cheerleading is one outstanding example. Today, cheerleading takes serious dedication and commitment, requiring several hours of practice every week. “It seems as though every year, the stunts become more complicated and the competitions become fiercer. They don’t just lead cheers anymore. They are true athletes now and cheerleading has become a respected sport,” she observes.

So, there is ample opportunity for teams and the schools that they represent to strategically use any of a wide range of promotional products to connect and unite teams, cheer squads and fans. Schools and sport teams appreciate a higher level of quality from the products they put their name on,” according to Tyler Robbins of Clothpromotions Plus. “We are seeing that schools as a brand are needing a more diverse range of items that uniformly suit the needs of their students and faculty. Safety is always a concern of schools and parents, and items that have inert properties are popular as it eases concerns regarding chemical additives. What remains the same is the notion that it is important to be seen.”

And games now are more than just cheering in the stands. Josette Bosse of Bay State Specialty Co., notes an increasing number of people are tailgating – not just at professional games. “Tailgating is now a tradition for families and friends to gather before a game to extend the full game experience,” she says. “Products that help end-users proudly show team loyalty will be used frequently because in many parts of the country, football especially has very loyal fans.”

sponsored by Cedar Crest Mfg.

Budgets, even in flush economic times, are still somewhat tight among school districts. Booster clubs are good to start with, and any local business can certainly show local team support through promotions that also act as fundraisers for the school district. And there are many cost-effective products that end users will love.

BIC Graphic, says Fawbush, recently introduced Sweaty Bands® Headbands which are suitable for the cheer market (and sports teams) because the velvet inner lining won’t slip, even during intense exercise. In addition, the full-color imprint allows for decorating the headbands with any school logo or team mascot. In tandem, the supplier also launched its Winners Take All collection featuring a sporty, double stripe design across a family of items including a tote, duffel, backpack and lunch cooler. Combine these products with our new vacuum-insulated drinkware from bubba® or mist and sip sports bottles from O2COOL®, and you have a comprehensive and unique sports/cheer promotional campaign.

For 2017 Clothpromotions Plus has expanded its FlexFiber line of wearable active accessories, according to Robbins. Incorporating multi-function headscarves, headbands, full-size bandannas, and pet bandannas, the company can offer the sports/cheer market a wider variety of school spirit wearables that are lightweight, functional, and printed with vibrant full-color graphics. In tandem, Clothpromotions’ offers simple-to-activate CoolFiber cooling towels, that are also printed with full-color graphics.

“These items are high impact and perfect for school spirit and athletic departments,” he comments. “Providing these types of products to students and fans as giveaways will increase brand awareness over a longer period of time. The high quality of both the materials and fabrics ensure that these will be kept for awhile and not thrown out. Also, with media coverage, a stadium filled with thousands of spectators wearing these types of products on their heads will be captured by cameras and be viewed by thousands of more fans.”

Rather than trying to just sell one item for cheering on teams, Fawbush advises creating a sports/cheer kit by packaging several budget-friendly but relevant items together. For example, she offers, pack a plastic sport bottle and a small sport towel inside a duffel bag or cooler bag. Imprinting all these items with the same team logo and/or mascot will make a lasting impression and also provide a high perceived value.

“Another option is our ready-made Sport Kit, which includes 10 pieces packaged inside our popular Poly-Clean Bottle®. It includes 1 muscle gel packet, 1 insect sting relief packet, 1 antibiotic ointment packet, 2 bandages, 1 antiseptic towelette, 1 moist towelette, 2 SPF-30 packets, and 1 SPF-30 lip balm,” she describes. “It’s everything an athlete needs, and we’ve done the packaging for your client.”

According to Robbins, the key to a successful promo campaign is finding the right product(s) that the recipients will bond with. He advises to choose based on three key characteristics – quality, longevity, and return on investment. “Products like ours that integrate wearability, usefulness, ease of use, comfort, full color graphics, and a team mascot all but ensure that they will kept for years as keepsakes and collector’s items,” he says. “Procuring promotional items that will generate a demand for them will justify the investment and open the door to larger budgets and multiple products.”

Bay State offers several promotional products geared for a delicious tailgate experience. “Bottle openers are a must,” Bosse asserts. New is the Multi-use Magnetic Bottle Opener and the Multi-Use Magnetic Clip Bottle Opener. Fans will also appreciate the Extra-Hand Snack & Beverage Tray, which holds a sandwich plus chips, dip and more, as well as a can of soda or beer. It’s dishwasher safe and stackable. Stadium cups are perfect for team logos and mascots, and will be taken home; Bay State’s Home & Away stadium cups come in 12 oz., 16 oz., 22 oz., and 32 oz. sizes. And for those who cook and grill during tailgating, try the Chef’s Therma-Grip Striped Oven Mitt Silicone Utensils Combo, or the Quick’n Slick Silicone Basting Brush. And when it’s hot out, Bay State’s Can Cooler and Zipper Bottle Cooler would be highly appreciated.

All these items make great fundraising for school teams, especially when they travel for play. Any local business that wants to show support can get in on the game – and spread the cheer!


Tyler Robbins of Clothpromotions Plus: A professional football team in the southern region of the U.S. was seeking a highly visible and functional promotional product that offered a reasonable budget and effectively exposed the branding. After looking through many different products, they decided a cooling towel would be best, but they did not want anything that would be too complicated to activate or too heavy to wear. The CoolFiber™ cooling towel was a perfect fit. It is made from a lightweight, breathable material, and is designed for outdoor events, running, cycling, and sporting events. It also activates using only water and is completely chemical free. Fans were able to activate the towel with water from their water bottles and water fountains. They successfully stayed cool under the hot sun in the early games of the season.

The organizers and recipients of the CoolFiber™ loved the product, and the crowd uniformly wore the item, providing visible branding to the sponsor and event. The event also was given considerable media attention and the visible sponsor branding on event attendees’ heads and necks received residual branding through various media outlets.

Paving the Path to Business Success
Problem resolution is always a key. Bill Petrie, Petrie's Perspective
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sponsored by Bay State

As a consumer, I tend to be loyal – almost to a fault. I buy Nissan cars, LG televisions, Maytag appliances, and, until recently, Hewlett-Packard computers. Like most people, it takes a lot for me to shift my worldview away from the brands I feel strongly about. Three months ago, I bought a new laptop from Hewlett-Packard (HP) and have had nothing but challenges with the machine since it was delivered. In short, the hard drive was corrupt, causing the computer to freeze up and shut down. After numerous online chat sessions and phone calls, I finally persuaded the company to take the product back for the necessary repair – which was done over a two-week period.

Sadly, the saga continued two weeks ago as my repaired machine simply refused to function after it froze while I worked on a presentation. I was finally able to power up the laptop only to find that no Microsoft programs – including Windows – would work. As the product is only three months old and well under warranty, I quickly reached out to HP and asked to return the product for a full refund. As I write this blog, I am still waiting for a final resolution to my request.

This got me to thinking that the real definition of business is problem resolution. Perfection is impossible – both in life and in business: things break, merchandise is not decorated properly, colors don’t match, deadlines are missed, and some products are lemons like my HP laptop. Therefore, success lies not in the elimination of problems but in the art of creative, profitable problem solving.

Business is problem solving.

The way in which an organization navigates rough seas and addresses mistakes define its heart and soul. The worst mistake, however, is to not figure a way to be in a better place after having made a mistake. I call this controlling the outcome.

When a mistake happens, the person on the receiving end will naturally tell their friends about it – that’s just human nature. While you can’t simply erase the mistake, you do have the power to control the outcome so at least the story will end the way you want. If you create a great outcome, you can earn a victory with your client. In addition, the person will have no choice but to focus on how well you responded to the mistake when telling anyone about it. When you acknowledge a mistake has been made and genuinely express regret for having made it, clients will almost always give you a chance to earn back their favor.

sponsored by Next Level Apparel

The time frame for addressing mistakes is critical. When something goes wrong, it is essential to contact the client as soon as possible – no longer than 24 hours. At the same time, immediately analyze and review your own performance to determine exactly what went wrong. No matter how much you want to try and erase what’s happened, you can’t. Therefore, there’s no reason to wait for a second or third email from someone who has now cc’ed his boss on your failure and lack of responsiveness. Instead, take the initiative to control the outcome:

1) Respond Graciously – And do so immediately. You’re going to have to resolve the mistake eventually and it’s always much less costly to resolve the matter as early as possible.

2) Be Generous – By erring on the side of generosity, you defuse the inherent frustration in the situation. Apologize and make sure the value of redemption is worth more than the cost of the initial mistake.

3) Write the Last Chapter – People love to share stories of adversity. Use this to your advantage by writing the last chapter the way you want it to be told. Use all your imagination and creativity to create delight in your response turning a negative into a positive.

4) Learn from the Mistake – Use every new mistake as a teaching tool with your team. Unless the mistake involved a lack of integrity, the person who made the mistake has helped your organization by providing new opportunities to improve.

5) Make New Mistakes Daily – There’s no reason to waste time by repeating the old ones.

To succeed in business – any business – you must welcome the inevitability of mistakes. It’s critical to accept and embrace ongoing mistakes as opportunities to learn, grow, and profit.

At the outset of my issue with HP, I wasn’t upset as I know that there is a failure rate of approximately 8% on laptop computers. However, as I moved through the “customer service” process, my irritation multiplied exponentially simply because the company refused make it easy for me to get a refund on the computer and, at times, seemed to intentionally make it as difficult and time consuming as possible. The result is that HP has lost a life-long client and I have no issue sharing my experience with others because they didn’t control the outcome.

In business, the road to success is often paved with mistakes well handled.

Bill is president of PromoCorner, the leading digital marketing service provider to the promotional products industry, and has over 17 years working in executive leadership positions at leading promotional products distributorships. In 2014, he launched brandivate – the first executive outsourcing company solely focused on helping small and medium sized-promotional products enterprises responsibly grow their business. A featured speaker at numerous industry events, a serial creator of content marketing, president of the Promotional Products Association of the Mid-South (PPAMS), and PromoKitchen chef, Bill has extensive experience coaching sales teams, creating successful marketing campaigns, developing operational policies and procedures, creating and developing winning RFP responses, and presenting winning promotional products solutions to Fortune 500 clients. He can be reached at bill@PromoCorner.com.

Why Your Recycled Bottle Isn't
The case against plastic water bottles and why it should help sell drinkware. Jeff Jacobs, The Brand Protector
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sponsored by Warwick

As you read this, I’m just back from a couple of weeks in France. In case you find yourself with a few leftover selfie sticks and fidget spinners you still need to get rid of, get on the horn to Paris. They’re still a hot thing there, being unloaded to unsuspecting tourists in the souvenir shops and by vendors on the street in record numbers. You’re welcome.

But that’s not what today’s post is about, though the French people seem to be increasingly focused on environmental responsibility. We had more than one conversation about the long-standing traffic and parking challenges in Paris. Several folks said the same thing: With the city rewarding more electric vehicles with premium parking spots, soon you won’t be able to drive a traditional vehicle in the city. Wouldn’t it be nice if all of our larger cities followed the same path?

And while we’re on the topic of environmentally friendly things, are you aware that your recycled bottle likely really isn’t?

If you think about soda (or pop in the North), juice, and water, you’ve probably thought that since the bottle is recyclable, it’s made from recycled material, too. That’s not the case. Coca-Cola, while issuing its second quarter results talking about worldwide expansion of low- and no-sugar sparkling beverages, also reported that only 7 percent of plastic bottles were made from recycled materials.

Greenpeace, publishing an article on 9 Ways To Decrease Your Plastic Use, said that the next six largest soft drink companies globally average only 6.6 percent recycled materials. So if your drink bottles are not being recycled into new bottles, where are they going? The vast majority are exported to plastic manufacturers in emerging markets and used to make synthetic fabrics for clothing. Other uses are carpeting, bags, packaging, and straps for shipping boxes.

That means almost every drink we buy is packaged in new plastic because, with lower petroleum prices, new plastic is cheaper than recycled plastic. Environmentalists worry that for beverage companies, future growth relies on producing more disposable bottles that only feeds a growing volume of plastic junk across the world.

About six billion pounds of plastic bottles get thrown away every year, and only about 30 percent of them are recycled, according to IBISWorld analyst Nate Gelman. Of that 30 percent, just one-fifth is processed to create fresh plastic bottles for use in food and beverages. Like so many things about recycling, it boils down to cost: Converting recycled plastic into fiber for use in apparel and carpeting “is less energy intensive and less laborious” than the process required to convert it to food grade plastic for bottles, Gelman said.

Is there a shining star in the plastic bottle business? Yes. Nestle’s Arrowhead Spring Water brand now makes 90 percent of its bottles out of 50 percent recycled materials. So, there is a little light in the darkness. But, you know what would shine an even brighter light, of course, that refillable drinkware that you have been selling on design, or retail trend, or, ahem, price. Maybe now you can add not filling the landfills to your pitch—you certainly have the facts to back you up. Tell them that simply dropping a plastic bottle into the recycling bin doesn’t let them off the hook.

Jeff Jacobs has been an expert in building brands and brand stewardship for 40 years, working in commercial television, Hollywood film and home video, publishing, and promotional brand merchandise. He’s a staunch advocate of consumer product safety and has a deep passion and belief regarding the issues surrounding compliance and corporate social responsibility. He retired as executive director of Quality Certification Alliance, the only non-profit dedicated to helping suppliers provide safe and compliant promotional products. Before that, he was director of brand merchandise for Michelin. You can find him still advising Global 500 Brands on promo product initiatives, working as a volunteer Guardian ad Litem, traveling the world with his lovely wife, or enjoying a cigar at his favorite local cigar shop. Follow Jeff on Twitter, or reach out to him at jacobs.jeffreyp@gmail.com.

The Keys
Critical questions that need to be answered for organizational sales success. Roger Burnett, The Burn
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Building sales teams from scratch has revealed some things. While it's not impossible, leaving critical elements of your sales structure incomplete or resorting to manual processes endangers the possibility of success with the peril of time. Whether you are building a new staff or managing an ongoing one that already is in place, answering the "Key" questions below will help to put you on the path to success.

sponsored by Cedar Crest Mfg.

There are keys to the engine.

• Who are you selling to? (Everyone is not an acceptable answer.)

• Where do these buyers congregate?

• What have you identified as the recurring problems they have? (If you haven't paid attention, you're failing.)

• How has something you've sold solved one of those problems?

• How have you documented those instances?

There are keys to the infrastructure.

• How are you documenting your interactions with people? (If it's not CRM-based, you're failing.)

• What tool(s) are you using to automate your passive prospecting?

• Who takes care of a prospect once they attempt to convert? How fast does it happen?

• Where (how, how frequent) is your information being analyzed and shared with your supply chain?

There are keys to the culture.

• What role does staff play in the success of the business?

• How are successes celebrated? How are failures?

• Is curiosity rewarded or punished?

• Where do new ideas most frequently come from?

While no one answer to any one question will ensure success, not considering these questions or integrating your answers into a plan while building (or rebuilding) your team will assuredly slow the pace of progress, sometimes sacrificing the entire venture.

Whether a new entity or a going concern, these keys and your answers as guideposts might help you and your team on the journey toward success.

Enjoying my writing? If you’re a music-lover, I’m also curating a specific Spotify playlist titled The Burn which serves as the musical accompaniment to the articles found here. Subscribe to the playlist and let’s hear from you if you have suggestions for additional tracks that might support what you read!

Roger has spent 20+ years making complex concepts more understandable for both buyers and sellers alike, and has devoted the majority of his recent career to writing and executing sales and marketing plans for early and mid-stage businesses. He is a student of organizational behavior and the disciplines successful selling organizations use to achieve the greatest reach, even in instances of scarce resources. He loves the outdoors and seeks memorable experiences whenever possible. Contact Roger at roger@branded-logistics.com or 810-986-5369.

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What Makes a Good Debate? Respect! Obvious Headline?
ASI State of Industry; Social Media vs. Cold Calls; Demographics and Transitioning Media; Rebranding a the Swastica? C'mon! Kirby Hasseman, Bill Petrie, UnScripted
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sponsored by Bay State

Industry educators Kirby Hasseman of Hasseman Marketing and Bill Petrie of PromoCorner, the leading digital marketing services provider to the promotional products industry, discuss a variety of hot­-button industry topics in this weekly “talk show” column brought to you by BamBams. Click on the graphic to hear their “UnScripted” conversation.

New from Industry Suppliers
Identity Marketing Staff, New Products
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sponsored by Next Level Apparel

OFF! Deep Woods Insect Repellent towelettes, now available from Natural Trends, offer long-lasting protection from mosquitoes, ticks, biting flies, gnats, and chiggers. The towelettes repel mosquitoes that may carry West Nile, Dengue, and ZIKA. Convenient, portable, and individually wrapped, each wipe gives you easy control over each application so it goes on where you want it. Unscented formula. Formulated with 25% DEET—provides up to eight hours of protection against mosquitoes. The GoPac envelope style flap secures under clear strap. Logo imprint on white label on GoPac pouch. Add a carabiner to clip it anywhere!

New from SanMar is this Nike Micro Pique with a colorblock front, solid back and an exceptionally soft hand. Dri-FIT moisture management technology keeps you dry and comfortable. Features include a self-fabric collar, two-button placket with dyed-to-match buttons and open hem sleeves. A contrast Swoosh design trademark is embroidered on the left sleeve. Made of 4.1-ounce, 100% polyester Dri-FIT fabric. Five color choices are available.

The Valhalla copper vacuum gift set from Leed's includes a tumbler with skid-proof cork bottom and a mug with cork featured handle. The drinkware features durable, double-wall stainless steel vacuum construction with copper insulation, which allows your cold beverage to stay cold for 24 hours and at least eight hours for hot beverages. The construction also prevents condensation on the outside of the piece.

The new Laser Level with 8' Tape Measure from Beacon Promotions is the perfect tool when straight lines or accurate measurements are important. Three ways to measure: plumb, level and 45 degree angle. The 8' locking tape measure has the standard and metric measure, as well as the rulers on each side of the laser. The tape measure is 1/2" scale with 1/32" increments. There are horizontal and vertical laser markings with a power on/off switch to save battery life. The level comes with six AG13 batteries. It uses three and includes the first set of replacement batteries. Four color digital imprint and doming included in the price.

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Identity Marketing Staff
New from Industry Suppliers
Identity Marketing Staff

If You Must Work – Work...
But Don’t Neglect Your Personal Life! Cliff Quicksell, MAS+, Cliff's Notes
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sponsored by Warwick

Iregret some decisions I made early in my career as I am sure many of you do. My biggest misgiving was putting work before my own well-being. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized that was a big mistake. I had this amazing drive to succeed, to get ahead, and to be the best and I forgot the most important things that were left bobbing in my wake toward success.

I was thrust into this industry, took a $13,000 cut in pay (in 1982 that was huge) – and I dove head first into this business. I was growing, moving at break-neck speed and enjoying the ride. Years later I was married and had two wonderful children. The pressure was on to provide, do more and drive even harder. I looked at ways to work more so I could get more: buying screen printing equipment, setting up another division to support those efforts, hiring and managing additional staff – we kept building. But it all took time, lots of time. Please note, I am not discouraging anyone from growing their business, just suggesting strongly that you take a look at the “BIGGER PICTURE” before you pull the proverbial trigger.

In retrospect I should have done things differently. If I had, I would never have missed a soccer game, birthday party, school play or important events, as well as the simple events, like spending quality time with my wife, reading a bedtime story to my children or just being still with myself. NO, it had to be more.

During my presentations and keynote speeches, I often share this learning lesson. When I first shared it with my son, he thought I was being very self-centered, but when I explained my reasoning, he understood. I now live my life by this principle: I come first, my wife and children come second, family and friends third and my job last. I truly believe in this because when I am at the top-of-my-game, emotionally, physically and spiritually, everyone down the line benefits – wife, children, friends, co-workers and clients. On the other side, if I'm not, then the ill-effects could be dismal!

Reflecting now I would do these things:

Have a plan. Most people have no plan, they haphazardly stroll through the day thinking the that the list they made is sufficient. But what about your long-term strategy, how does that play out and blend with both your business and personal life. Create a plan, write it down and review often with everyone it affects, then change and modify it as needed.

sponsored by Cedar Crest Mfg.

Hear what others are saying. “Dad, can we play catch?” “Honey, dinner is ready.” “It’s late, come to bed…” – I could go on but these words are signals that perhaps you need to reflect. I should have. These are signs, my friends, and while I know that you must take care of certain things that come up, not EVERYTHING is mission critical. Listen and hear what those around you are saying.

• Learn to say no. This is a tough one for most people, but saying no sometimes, for legitimate reasons, is fine. Not every prospect is client-worthy, in fact many aren’t. Just taking work on merely because you see big numbers isn't always the correct move. Take the right business, the profitable business, and work with clients who emulate the same traits you adhere to. Sometimes you must say no to family as well, but explain why and schedule the time to fulfill that family need as well.

Outsource, you’re not a super-hero – this is most critical. I looked in the mirror one day and realized the big “S” on my chest and the cape were missing – I was not Superman! Ego and pride can be the biggest stumbling blocks in one’s life. There are expansive resources today where you can offload burdensome time consuming tasks that manage to bleed you of your most precious resource – TIME. Find the sources – it’s freeing!

• Done is better than perfection – At a recent conference a fellow speaker had this quote, “Done is more profitable than perfection” – so true. We can analyze things into the ground, and most times this leads to inaction. I would agree that we don’t want to go off half-cocked, so review things, the pros and cons, then build, implement, engage, gather intel, tweak and re-implement. These are the keys to success and profitability.

Small changes add up. If you feel in some way this is you, you need not change everything overnight. Be mindful and make the changes incrementally, but make the change. Communicate openly with those it will affect so they can be supportive during the transition. As they say, “Eat the Elephant One Bite at a Time.”

I can’t go back and it took me years to reconnect with my children, but it’s never too late! Now is the time to create a true life-work balance where everyone in the funnel benefits. I guarantee, you will be happier and more successful, and those who matter the most will benefit from you being there.

Be good to yourself, you deserve it!

For more than 30 years, Cliff has been speaking, training and consulting internationally to associations and national business groups on more effective ways to market themselves, their products and services, as well as motivating their personnel. Recognized by PPAI for his creativity, he has won the prestigious PPAI Pyramid award 25 times, and the Printing Industry's PSDA’s Peak Award for creativity five times in three years. He has also received PPAI's Ambassador Speaker of the Year Award six consecutive years and was the inaugural recipient of PPAI's Distinguished Service Award. Named one of top six industry speakers and trainers, he also was recognized by PPAI in the book, "PPAI at 100," as having a significant influence in education. He has also been recognized by Counselor Magazine as one of the Top 50 Most Influential People in the Promotional Products Industry. You can engage with Cliff athttp://www.myengagepage5.com/cliff-quicksell-1associates.

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Aussie Steve Granland on Similarities with U.S. Market
There are a lot more than there are differences in the $2 billion Australasian market Kirby Hasseman, Delivering Marketing Joy
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sponsored by Bay State

Kirby Hasseman is the owner of Hasseman Marketing and the author of Delivering Marketing Joy (a book about better promo!). He is dedicated to personal development and building the integrity of the promotional industry.

Young Pro’s “SPARK” it up in Denver
Unique conference format helped for effective 'masterminding.' Sam Kabert, Success with Swag(er)
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sponsored by Next Level Apparel

No, that’s not what I meant… get your head out of the gutter ;). On July 27th, I joined over 60 other young professionals in Denver for the first ever “conference” designed by millennials for millennials in the promotional products industry – SPARK (a PPAI organized group).

Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m a networking junkie – specifically, networking that caters to “young professionals.” So, when I heard that PPAI was putting on its first ever networking conference for young professionals in the promotional products industry, I signed up without even looking at the agenda. I literally went into this conference not knowing what to expect at all.

Marketing to millennials has been a hot topic for quite a few years now. I remember sometime between 2006-2010 (my college years) being at an office supply conference and one of the main focuses was about millennials entering the workforce.

Some personal accolades:

• Board member of the Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce at 23 years old (this was when Levi’s Stadium was being built in Santa Clara, I’ve met and networked with a lot of movers and shakers at a “young age” from this opportunity)

• Chair of the Silicon Valley Young Professionals (SVYP) from age 24-27

• SVYP earned Volunteer of the Year Award in 2016 under my leadership

• Awarded Individual Member of the Year by Santa Clara Chamber in 2017

The fact that the promotional products industry is so behind in addressing a need for young professional development is a bit surprising. I come from the office supply industry and was involved in a comparable group to SPARK back in 2012. I’m not ripping on the SWAG industry (rather I don’t intentionally mean to do so) but the truth is we are behind and I’m THRILLED to see that PPAI is taking the charge!

sponsored by Warwick

It seems that in the past few years everyone is trying to figure out millennials. To me, this is just a bit late.

Think of it this way… Generation Z entered college in 2016. That means in 2020, Gen Z will be entering the workforce. I’m 29 years old. As much as by definition I am a millennial (and a young professional for now); I realize that I need to start preparing for the next generation.

Some know this, some may not: I’m preparing to launch my personal brand, “SwagSam,” which is about professional development for young professionals (in the form of a weekly podcast, blog and book to be published Summer of 2018).

Personal branding is just as much a hot topic right now as millennials.

My vision is to capitalize on my experience in building my brand in Silicon Valley as a young professional and provide a how-to guide for those entering the workforce.

SPARK was a great event by all accounts. I loved that we were not forced to sit through a ton of presentations. The vibes were lighthearted and the focus was around networking. A funny thing happens when the focus is on networking over “education.” Education becomes the result from networking with your peers. We’ve all heard of “death by PowerPoint” and yet some conferences are still centered around presentations. Whether there’s an actual PowerPoint presentation or not, it doesn’t really matter. If a presentation is not engaging, then people tune out. I really don’t go to a networking event to sit and listen to someone talk. We have webinars for that or my personal preference, podcasts (I heard the WhatUp Silicon Valley Podcast is good BTW). When I go to a conference I want to network. It’s not only about building relationships but it’s about “MasterMinding.”

One of the best “sessions” SPARK led was a peer-to-peer discussion about common industry challenges while drinking beer and other cocktails. The best part was that this workshop was held at a brewery in between sets of live music. I know my words will not do the painting in your head justice. But imagine... pedaling on a “bike” with new friends, then walking into a local brewery in a hipster side of Denver, followed by live music and, in between beers, talking about industry challenges with your peers.

The enthusiasm from the leaders of SPARK along with that of the attendees was infectious. I know that SPARK will ignite the next generation of leaders in the promotional products industry.

And good thing we’re starting now, because we’re only a few years away from really diving into what makes Gen Z tick.

To learn more about millennials or generational differences, I encourage you to check out GenHQ.com. Better yet, just click here to learn more about Gen Z (expect a ton of free downloads).


Sam Kabert is the creative director of ValueBP Marketing Group and the creator and co-host of the podcast “WhatUp Silicon Valley!” A risk taker who embraces permanent beta, Sam is leading the transformation of his family-run office supplies business into a promotional products powerhouse. Sam can be reached at Sam@ValueBP.com.

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