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Moving Day For My Blog

Filed under: News About ASI

Just a quick note to let you know that my blog, which provides news and insights into ASI and the $22 billion promotional products industry, has moved.

From now on, please go here (https://www.asicentral.com/news/blogs/tims-blog/) for my latest posts. We’ll redirect this page later in the month.

Please email me at tim.andrews@asicentral.com if you have any questions.

And thanks for reading!

Evolve To Succeed

Filed under: ASI Shows, Community, News About ASI

ASI enjoyed a history-making 2016 Counselor® Awards at the amazing Field Museum during our recent show in Chicago. We broke attendance records by hosting over 500 members at the black-tie event – and in another first, posted a ton of the speeches via live feeds on ASI’s Facebook page.

Here’s why I know livestreams will be huge: The family of Dave Saracino, the VP of field sales for BIC Graphic (asi/40480), who was honored with the 2016 Marvin Spike Lifetime Achievement Award, discovered video of his acceptance speech online that night, and by morning, it had already gotten 1,200 views and 12 shares. A few days later, it had earned over 2,000 livestream views.

We’re using this latest social media innovation more and more, including during our coverage of the Republican and Democrat national conventions.

(Visit our Facebook page to view archived videos of many of the speeches as well as our interviews with vendors at the convention. I also urge you to read Counselor’s stories on the winning leaders and companies – they offer some great advice on making it big in this always-changing industry. And click here for an album of photos from the Counselor Awards).

The night’s biggest winners included Brand Addition U.S. CEO Chuck Fandos as Person of the Year and BDA (asi/137616) Senior Director of Sourcing LeeAnn Schumacher as International Person of the Year.

The awards, chosen by the editors of ASI’s award­-winning Counselor magazine, recognize outstanding individuals and companies in seven categories. The winners represent the best and brightest entrepreneurs, small­-business leaders and CEOs in the $22 billion promotional products industry.

In addition, Counselor announced the Top 40 Distributor and Top 40 Supplier rankings – the largest companies in the industry based upon 2015 revenue.

Among suppliers, alphabroder was No. 1, setting a record in the industry with $1 billion in North American ad specialty sales. Yup, that’s not a typo: $1 billion.

For distributors, Staples Promotional Products (asi/120601) remains the largest firm in the industry, with 4imprint (asi/197045) and Proforma (asi/300094) rounding out the top three spots on the list.

Our 2016 Person of the Year, Chuck Fandos, is founder of multimillion-dollar distributor firm Gateway CDI. In January, Brand Addition, the largest distributor firm in Europe, acquired Gateway CDI. The St. Louis-based distributor now operates under the Brand Addition name while maintaining its operations and management structure, including Fandos as U.S. CEO.

Below is part of what I said when introducing Chuck:

“Chuck Fandos shuns complacency and refuses to stand still while the world around him evolves…As a result, his career continues to be nothing short of phenomenal. And when it came time to make the tough decision to sell the company he built from the ground up – along with his loyal wife and long-time business partner – he negotiated the smartest possible deal, giving him license to succeed internationally.

I really stand by those words: We must evolve to succeed.

The 2016 Counselor Awards took place during ASI Show® Chicago July 12-14 at McCormick Place. Below are the rest of the year’s winners. My hearty congrats to each and every one of them. Remember these names – and please read all about them in the special State of the Industry issue of ASI’s Counselor magazine.

  • Supplier Entrepreneur of the Year: Eddie Blau, CEO of Innovation Line (asi/62660).
  • Distributor Entrepreneur of the Year: Brian Abrams, founder of Corporate Imaging Concepts (asi/168962).
  • Supplier Family Business of the Year: Fey Promotional Products Group (asi/54040).
  • Distributor Family Business of the Year: Williams & Associates (asi/360450).
  • Distributor Woman of Distinction: Vicki Clayman, president of Partners N Promotion (asi/350153).
  • Supplier Woman of Distinction: Kathy Cheng, president of Redwood Classics Apparel (asi/81627).
  • Marvin Spike Lifetime Achievement Award: Dave Saracino, vice president of field sales for BIC Graphic (asi/40480).
  • Bess Cohn Memorial Humanitarian Award: Art Livingston, president of Marlo Plastic Products (asi/68873).


Windy City Wrap-Up

Filed under: ASI Shows, Members, News About ASI

ASI® recently finished an incredibly positive, powerful week in Chicago, including our last large show of 2016.

At ASI Show® Chicago, distributors enjoyed a ton of great events and we got very positive feedback from exhibiting suppliers pleased with the quality and quantity of the attendance.

We’re already planning for 2017, so keep an eye out for registration notices and info on great keynote speakers like former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino in Orlando, Shark Tank judge Daymond John in Chicago and John Mackey, co-CEO of Whole Foods in Dallas.

Chicago highlights included the keynote appearance by husband-and-wife political dynamos Mary Matalin and James Carville, who gave us a real insider’s view of this zany presidential election – including Carville’s prediction for Hillary Clinton’s VP: U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack as VP.

Matalin is a Chicago native whose mother managed beauty schools and whose father had a small business printing drapery fabrics. Matalin was 26 when her mother unexpectedly died, changing her life forever. “I was going to run her beauty schools,” she told us backstage. “Instead, I packed up my Chevy hatchback with everything I owned and drove to D.C. The car died on the Beltway.”

And the rest, as they say, is history.

The liberal Carville and conservative Matalin have been in the public eye since the early 1990s, helping get candidates elected or advising presidents. And though they’re well-versed in answering questions posed by the country’s toughest reporters, I believed it when they said they appreciated the “insightful, thoughtful” questions posed by our audience.

Two of my favorite quotes:

  • Carville: “You stay the same, you die. Everything in the world is changing around us and nobody in business says ‘We’re going to keep doing the same thing.’ Businesses adapt.”
  • Matalin: [GOP billionaire Donald Trump] “has the testicular fortitude that the Republican Party needs.”

After the keynote, they graciously spent another hour visiting booths on the show floor, quizzing exhibitors about their products and posing for selfies (see pics).

And in case you wondered about the snazzy shoes Matalin wore onstage (she smartly changed to comfy ones right after), she got them for $87 at www.theoutnet.com, discounted from $1,500. “My daughter is a fashionista who picks out my clothes,” she told us.

I didn’t ask Carville what he was wearing, but did appreciate the lapel pins he had on: a fleur-de-lis symbol of New Orleans, where the couple is raising their family, an American flag and a Marine Corps logo.

One final note on ASI’s political coverage: Please be assured that ASI doesn’t endorse any candidates for public office.

That said, ASI is committed to providing the promotional products industry with in-depth coverage of the entire political season, including live coverage of the action surrounding the national conventions as well as member polls and stories that provide unique insight into the role promotional products play in politics, along with ways ASI members can tap into the lucrative political marketplace.

As for our keynote speakers, our primary process for selecting speakers is through extensive surveying of distributors, suppliers and decorators to determine their interests and their level of interest in specific people who are available for speaking engagements. In terms of political speakers generally, we have had people of all viewpoints – Bill Clinton, Laura Bush, George W. Bush, Colin Powell and Rudy Giuliani all have spoken at past ASI Shows.

Our goal is to find people who are engaging, interesting, timely, topical and who can help people think about things in ways that might be different than the way they think today. There are many different viewpoints, and we try to provide a forum for ones that surveys tell us are of interest to ASI members.

All’s Fair in Love, War and Politics

Filed under: ASI Shows, Member Benefits, News About ASI

No matter which candidate you support, ASI has you covered, starting with a special keynote Q&A at our Chicago show with political odd couple James Carville and Mary Matalin, and extending to presidential polls, convention coverage and stories on selling political promo products.

As Counselor reported, political swag is a multimillion-dollar business. In fact, investing millions in promotional products helped fuel the unexpected rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders – and reinforced promo’s essential role in the race for our nation’s highest office, according to a story by ASI editor C. J. Mittica.

(Tip: if you do sell political promo products on the local, state or federal level – yard signs, buttons and brochures etc. – make sure you get paid upon delivery, especially by losing candidates!)

This is an important election. We the people will be responsible for electing the next leader of the free world. I’m thrilled Carville and Matalin will provide some insight into how the outcome will impact small business and the U.S. economy as a whole.

Since I’m moderating the Q&A at ASI Show® Chicago, I’d love to know what you think I should ask, so please leave a comment with your question, or email them to me at tim.andrews@asicentral.com.

Interestingly, Matalin recently switched parties, from Republican to Libertarian. As it happens, the first presidential candidate I ever voted for was Libertarian, so we’ll definitely discuss the motives behind her switch. To listen to ASI’s podcast with Mary Matalin, click here.

I also want to know exactly how the husband-and-wife political strategists have maintained a very happy marriage in spite of being polar political opposites. Do they ban politics from the dinner table – or thrive on fiery discussions?

Matalin, a conservative, grew up in the Chicago suburb of Burnham, IL. James “The Ragin’ Cajun” Carville, a liberal Democrat, is from rural Carville, LA. The couple married in 1993. Together, they have over 30 years of experience in politics and have individually worked for Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. In 2014, they co-wrote Love & War: Twenty Years, Three Presidents, Two Daughters and One Louisiana Home.

For answers, attend the keynote at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 14, the last day of the three-day Chicago show – the largest promo products trade show of the summer. It’s free to any distributor or decorator registered for the show and all exhibiting suppliers, but it’s not open to the general public.

And, a limited number of tickets are still available for ASI members to gain early admission to the keynote or to attend a meet-and-greet with Carville and Matalin.

So please send me your questions! And if you haven’t already, to register for ASI Chicago call (800) 546-3300 or visit www.asishow.com/shows/2016/chicago.


Tribute to a Friend, a Mentor, a Father

Filed under: Community

I am mourning the passing of Everett Groseclose, who was more like a father to me than my own. I met Ev 33 years ago when I was working as an intern at Dow Jones, publisher of The Wall Street Journal.

He was the “big boss,” one of the first and best writers of the off-beat stories that appear on the front page of the Journal, and I spoke with him only in passing that summer. The next winter, I answered a blind ad – to a PO box – and my resume ended up on his desk.

He invited me back to New York for an interview, and he later called long-distance to hire me for my first full-time job: I took calls all day from Journal reporters, who dictated their stories as I typed as fast as I could and tried to ask questions and edit their stories along the way.

Ev was a constant coach, adviser and mentor. After seven years working for him, Ev helped me move from editorial to the business side, a foreign place and one usually distrusted by editors. But Ev told me I could do it, and he believed in me.

On the 25th anniversary of my first day working for him (June 4, 1984), I flew to his home in Santa Fe and presented him with an engraved Rolex watch: “Thank you for believing. Rgds, TA.” (Ev’s sign-off was always “Rgds, EG,” the origin of my use of TA.)

He gave me advice whenever I asked, most recently about two months ago when he also shared that his cancer had returned. I loved Ev Groseclose and thank him for everything he allowed me to do for myself simply because he believed in me. My prayers are with his daughters, Kirsten Rose and Megan, and all his family and friends.

Securing Your Online Accounts

Filed under: Community, News About ASI

Whether you have a mom-and-pop shop or a huge corporation, online security has never been more important, especially in light of recent criminal data breaches at social media sites LinkedIn, MySpace and Tumblr.

In what is the online equivalent of a superstore break-in, hackers stole and then tried to sell what they claimed were 117 million LinkedIn email addresses and passwords. This is a huge deal because lots of people routinely use the same password on multiple sites, meaning hackers could use one piece of stolen info as a gateway to break into banking websites and other key accounts.

If your LinkedIn info was stolen, LinkedIn was supposed to notify you with instructions to reset your password and consider adding two-step verification. Regularly changing passwords – and using long passwords that are a mix of letters, numbers and symbols – should be routine at every home and office these days.

But I admit, when I first heard about the breaches I had to think, “Did LinkedIn notify me? Do I still have a MySpace account? Did I ever use Tumblr?”

We’re all super busy, and it’s easy to get lazy about personal online security – just as it’s easy to forget to lock your front door or your car. Make no mistake, cybercrime is very real and growing more sophisticated every day. There’s malware, email worms, like-jacking, link-jacking – the threat list goes on.

To alert ASI members to the latest breaches, ASI’s CTO, Armughan Rafat, sent an advisory email I’m sharing in full below. Please note: the LinkedIn, MySpace and Tumblr breaches are not related to your safe, secure ASI accounts and, unfortunately, ASI cannot help you change settings to your personal external accounts.

Here is Armughan’s email:

If you have used LinkedIn, Tumblr or MySpace, I highly recommend you take the following actions to protect your account(s):


If you already changed your password in response to a breach notification from LinkedIn, there’s no need to change it again. But if you wish to change it as a precaution:

  1. Log on to LinkedIn and select a new, unique password only used for LinkedIn. Never use the same password across multiple websites because criminals will use breached data to attempt access to your other accounts. Choose long passwords that are a mix of letters, numbers and symbols.
  1. As added security, enable two-step verification, which protects your account by sending a verification code to your cellphone when you sign on to LinkedIn from a device they don’t recognize. Get directions here: https://www.linkedin.com/help/linkedin/suggested/544.


  1. Log on and click your account “Settings,” located in your footer next to “Messages” and “Notifications.” Click on the “Settings Icon” to open your account menu options and change your password, following the cautions above.


  1. Log on and click “Settings” under the “Account” menu at the top of the dashboard. Update your password in the “Password” section, following the cautions above. Click “Save.”
  1. As added security, enable two-factor authentication. Click “Settings” under the “Account” menu at the top of the dashboard. In the “Security” section, enable “two-factor authentication.” Enter your phone number and continue following steps.

General guidance:

  1. Use unique passwords for each of your accounts.
  1. If the site offers two-step verification or multi-factor authentication, enable it.
  1. Never use your employer-provided email account for your personal activities, as you have no ownership of the account.
  1. Search your email address (es) and usernames on the data-breach search service “Have I Been Pwned?” (victimized, in Internet-speak) at: https://haveibeenpwned.com/. This is a trusted resource that makes many of the publicly disclosed breaches searchable. Register your email address with the site to be notified in case of a breach.

For more information on the data breaches, please visit:











Intern Today, CEO Tomorrow

Filed under: Community, News About ASI

One of the biggest concerns distributors have over hiring summer interns is the time and effort it takes to train newcomers about our industry. I get that. To help, we made training a key component of a bold new ASI intern program.

ASI devised a series of training webinars that offer interns hired by industry companies a broad overview of products and their ROI, biggest markets, industry players and more. It’s like taking Promo 101.

I’m such an unabashed cheerleader for the promo industry that I want to keep it flourishing forever, but it’s clear we’re in dire need of more millennials and greater diversity. Interns can provide new energy, ideas, enthusiasm and insights into the new millennial generation – our future buyers as well as future employees.

According to Forbes, there are 80 million millennials in America alone, and they represent about a fourth of the entire population and $200 billion in annual buying power. They are the trendsetters. Take a moment to review your own staff – how many millennials work with you? How many people of color?

As the age and demographics of buyers change, as well as the audiences they’re trying to reach, we need an industry that reflects those demographics so we can better understand preferences, what works and what doesn’t work.

As it stands now, though, the advertising specialty industry is largely invisible to millennials. In school, they learn about buying and using TV, radio and Internet advertising, direct mail and everything else, but marketing programs rarely mention the power of promotional products and their incredible ROI.

That’s why hiring an intern makes good business sense. Even if they don’t enter the industry full-time, they’ll learn why they should include promotional products in whatever future marketing campaigns they create in whatever industry they choose.

So please check out the ASI® Summer Internship Program, which will provide each intern hired by an industry company with:

  • Free ESP® access for distributor interns for the summer (license expires 9/1/2016)
  • An ASI summer gift pack of promotional items
  • An invitation to attend ASI Chicago
  • VIP breakfast at ASI Chicago
  • A 5-week webinar education series and industry overview (beginning June 1)
  • An internship completion certificate

ASI will also award at least one intern with a $1,000 scholarship.

We just announced this program, and already about 60 people have registered. Join the trend! If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at tim.andrews@asicentral.com.

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