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What’s Your Question 35?

Filed under: Community, Industry Initiatives, Members

Let me admit something right off the bat – I’m not under 35.  However, I was more than happy to answer some questions for the new Facebook group “Promo 35,” which provides an online forum for young industry professionals.

The group is the brainchild of Charley Johnson of SnugZ/USA (asi/88060), who is posting several interviews with industry leaders and movers and shakers.

The interviews have thought-provoking questions, such as “what do you wish you knew back in your 20s that you know now?” or “what piece of advice would you give the younger generation hoping to be in your shoes later in life?”

Read my answers here if you’re on Facebook.  If not, they’re below. 

The last question, #35, is crafted by the interviewees.  What would your question be?  Post it on the blog now or email me here.

1. What do you wish you knew back in your 20’s that you know now?

Early in my career, I thought every decision – no matter how small – was life or death, do or die, must win at all costs. What I’ve discovered is that you pick your battles, and you pick when you must win and when you just want to win, and you save your ammunition for the times that you really need to unload it. Many people think they have to win every debate, every business discussion, every last nickel on the table. That isn’t the case, and in fact in the long run you ultimately lose because everyone thinks you always have to have it your way.

2. What one thing do you wish you would have done in your earlier days? What one thing do you wish you would have NOT done in your earlier days?

A. I wish that I had spent more time just out of college traveling and visiting the world and learning more about other cultures. I’ve been able to do that in the last few years, but I think that my personal and professional development would have been helped by having some of those experiences early on and not later. Of course, easy to say but tough to afford when you’re earlier in your career. (Although travel and experiencing the world doesn’t have to be expensive to be good.)

B. I really don’t have any regrets. If you approach things that are difficult with an eye to learning from the experience, and taking that away with you, I think really you have few regrets.

3. What piece of advice would you give the younger generation hoping to be in your shoes later in life?

Be honest. It’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them, and acknowledge that you made them. The worst thing to find out is that someone isn’t honest, isn’t truthful and tries to cover up every little error in judgment they make. We make a hundred decisions in a day – sometimes hundreds of decisions in a day – and not every one of them are going to be the correct ones in the long term. But in the moment, you have to make the decision, and you have to do the best you can.

4. What helps you get up and go to work in the morning?

I love what I do, and I love the people I do it with, both professionally and in my personal life. I long ago decided that working somewhere that I didn’t like, with people I didn’t respect, or spending time with friends who I didn’t really like that much, was a big waste of time.

5. Name a vice you have?

I’m not sure it’s a vice, but one thing that I sometimes struggle with is tackling the biggest problems and biggest issues first. It’s natural for me to try to do the little stuff first, and get to the big, bad stuff later. But if you tackle the bigger, tougher things first you’re fresher, you have more energy and your brain is going to be more engaged. Plus it makes everything after that seem simpler.

6. What would you stand up for no matter how much backlash came with it?

After really gathering the facts, and deciding what I think was right, I’d stand up for that position no matter what.

7. Is the customer really always right? Please no politically correct responses; we want your honest opinion.

Absolutely not. But neither are we. One of the most important things in business is to really listen to the other parties and understand where they’re coming from, calmly explain your position and where you’re coming from and then trying to reach some sort of a middle ground that works pretty well for everybody. There’s nothing worse than people who call me yelling about something, or staking their ground and saying “you must do this or else.” We’ve all talked to those people, we’ve all gotten their letters and emails, and we’ve all met them. Sometimes you just have to say, “Is this really worth the effort I’m putting into this?” And if it isn’t, you have to walk away. One of the hardest things is “firing” a customer, but I certainly have done it and I certainly explain to people that I plan to do it. Usually, if they’re reasonable, they’ll calm down and realize that they’ve been too aggressive or just plain too mean. If they don’t, then I don’t want them as a customer, or as a prospect or as a friend.

8. What famous person has this world put up on a pedestal that you believe does not deserve to be there?

Rather than an individual, I’d say a whole host of “famous” singers, performers and politicians. We sometimes idolize people for no good reason other than they’re doing their job.

9. If all of a sudden you had control over the entire promotional product industry what ONE thing would you change?

I would try to take away some of the paranoia that exists among and between distributors, suppliers and decorators. There’s a lot of unproductive worry about relationships, and I think in the long run it hurts the industry more than it helps any one business individually or the industry as a whole.

35. Your turn to ask a question, you can ask any question you want, something you want the readers to think about and answer for themselves.

If you could do anything, knowing that you wouldn’t fail, what would you do?


Act Now – Physician Payments Sunshine Act Could Pass

Filed under: Education, Guest Blog

My father always told me to be prepared to fight for what I believe in and I’ve subscribed to that theory throughout my life.

And while there are many causes and challenges to commit to, there’s one facing our industry that needs action from nearly every distributor and supplier:  the Physician Payments Sunshine Act of 2009. 

This act would require drug companies and medical device manufacturers to disclose the value of payments or gifts of ANY amount to physicians, including all advertising specialties.

While there is some consideration the House might provide an exemption for items under $5, this amount is still too low, and the Senate bill still does not exempt any promotional products of any value.  So, either way, we have to push to increase the exemption to $25, in order to save thousands of industy jobs.

Any drug or medical device company will be prevented from handing out promotional items at trade shows or in the office, because no one will want to take the time or painstaking effort to report the value of every single promotional item given (like pens, clipboards and mugs.) 

This bill has good intentions, however, it also has far reaching ramifications.  Since I’m obviously against bribing my doctor to give me medicine, I support the spirit of this bill.  But, the way it’s written will damage pharmaceutical promotional products sales for our industry, which will further impact the overall economy. 

In addition to the revenue lost by distributors who sell to these companies, suppliers will obviously lose revenue and overall declining sales could lead to even more industry job cuts. 

Doctors are constantly bombarded with messages and new information.  Frankly, I want my doctor to be able to keep a pen or portfolio that will remind him of a drug or device that may make a difference to my health.

I hope you recognize how significant this issue is to you and to the health of our overall industry – whether or not you sell promo products to the pharmaceutical market.

So what can you do?   Small things done by 100,000 of us can go a very long way and I’ve put together a few easy links for you to contact your representative.  Take a quick moment to send them your thoughts, using these links and the draft of my letter below, and be sure to pass this information to your sales and support staff. 

Please comment on this blog to indicate that you’ve sent a letter to your representative.  Together, we can make a difference.

- Dale Denham is senior vice president at ASI.  Email him here.

To email your Senator:

1.  Click here and select the link after each of your Senators to contact them using the web form. 

2.  Insert your information and send your version of the letter below.

Draft of Letter:

Dear Senator [Last Name]:

I oppose S.301, the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, and ask that you strongly consider the potentially devastating effects on those of us in your constituency.   While the intentions of the bill are commendable, there are significant negative ramifications that may not be clear to the drafters of the bill.

I am not a manufacturer of drugs or medical devices, but I am in the promotional products industry and this bill will drive out hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and result in a significant loss of jobs.

Specifically, the proposed law does not establish a minimum dollar amount related to the “transfer of value,” which will cause manufacturers to stop providing promotional products.  Promotional products are very cost effective advertising items, not a “free trip” or other “gift” that has no advertising or educational value.

If you support this bill, I strongly urge you to allow tangible forms of advertising and education to be exempt from the bill, or at a minimum exclude those under a reasonable dollar value. 

With over 30,000 promotional products businesses across the United States, many of them entrepreneurial small- and medium-sized businesses that now help drive most of the business growth in this country, and the thousands of jobs potentially at stake in the 19 billion dollar industry if this act passes, it is a very important issue.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]


Do you know Word – Really?

Filed under: Education, Guest Blog, Industry Initiatives, Member Benefits

Now is the time to make sure your company is positioned to take advantage of the turnaround from this challenging economic period.  Every organization can find areas where improvements are possible and needed.  

Examining and streamlining processes, raising efficiency, and putting in checks and balances, at a time when business is a little slower, is a prudent decision.

And, you can be certain that the tools and systems you have in place provide more functionality and can offer more information than you are already using now. 

I wrote this in Microsoft Word before posting it, but I don’t know all of Word’s other features.  I’m constantly using only a small percentage of its capabilities, because I’ve yet to see the value of taking time to learn more. 

This is true not only for Word, but any software program, including our industry-specific ProfitMaker program for instance (which ASI Computer Systems provides for distributors and suppliers to use for entering orders, tracking inventory and producing business reports). 

So if you’re a ProfitMaker user, here are recent improvements you might not have used yet that can really help you out:

More resources than ever

  • Updated website – with video demos and educational videos and guides on using the system more effectively
  • Online trainings and webinars about using ProfitMaker’s new features.
  • ASI Show Chicago full-day training, with a session discussing future upgrades (click here for the show’s education brochure with ProfitMaker sessions)  

ESP Online Search

  • Distributors can search the ESP Online database of advertising specialties directly from the ‘Order Entry’ and ‘Quote Design’ stages

New Activity Manager

  • Assign tasks, like follow-ups, to anyone in your office (also integrates with Outlook)

Reports

  • Use new business intelligence reports and charts in Excel to track your business progress
  • New ProfitMaker-to-ProfitMaker pipeline, allowing two customers to exchange purchase orders electronically and automatically

ASI Services directly integrated

  • ASI CreditConnect – suppliers can see their customer’s credit ratings in real-time
  • LogoMall – no rekeying of orders entered from a distributor’s LogoMall website
  • Supplier Ratings – see supplier’s service ratings and distributors can rate suppliers

Direct Supplier Website Integration

  • Distributors can shop on supplier websites without rekeying information into ProfitMaker
  • ProfitMaker integrates directly with ordering systems of these top suppliers: SanMar, Broder Bros., Bodek and Rhodes, Alpha, NES, Ash City and Vantage Apparel (coming)

If you’re not a ProfitMaker user, visit www.asicomp.com to learn more about how it can streamline your operations and provide you with more time for selling.

Look around your office and think about what programs and resources you already have that can contribute more to your operations, and ultimately, your profitability.

- Dave Wirth is president and chief operating officer of ASI Computer Systems.  Email him here.


Benefits of ASI Virtual Trade Show

Filed under: ASI Shows, Industry Initiatives, News About ASI

The recent success of ASI’s first virtual trade show is being showcased in Tradeshow Week, and the editor asked me to provide some information about the benefits of our inaugural show for distributors, suppliers and decorators.  The publication is the leading voice of the exhibition industry.

As I told the magazine, virtual trade shows are an ideal way for advertising specialty industry distributors and suppliers to connect, learn and sell in an efficient way and at a time when we all could use innovative methods to become more educated, reach prospects and grab market share.

In addition to the virtual show, ASI’s in-person shows provide opportunities to meet clients and prospects face-to-face.  The next one is around the corner in July in Chicago.  Click here for the full schedule.

Our first virtual show in May was so well received – with over 2,000 attendees – we’ve already scheduled another one for Wednesday, August 19.  If you missed the first one, it’s archived and available anytime at www.asicentral.com/vts

Click here for the article to learn more about virtual tradeshows and why you should attend our second upcoming show.

I’d love to hear about your experiences at our show or any other virtual event you have attended.  Please post a comment to the blog now or email me anytime at tim.andrews@asicentral.com.