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Make a Difference

Filed under: Community, News About ASI

The end of one year and the start of another offers a great opportunity for reflection. Above all, it’s the perfect time to think not of ourselves, but of others, and to ask if we did enough to help friends and neighbors who might be in need. As Norman Cohn, ASI’s chairman of the board, is fond of reminding us, “One person can make a difference.”

I was especially heartened by the way this industry responded after Hurricane Sandy devastated so much of New York City, Long Island and the Jersey Shore. Generous assistance came from numerous corners and in many forms, through fundraising, food and supply drives organized by dozens of suppliers and distributors.

Here at ASI®, we’re involved in a number of charitable initiatives that promote the idea of “goodwill toward men” (and women) all year long. I’d like to share some of our most important activities, which might give you ideas on what companies and employees can accomplish by working together toward a common goal:

Employee Turkey and Pie Giveaway. Each November, the Cohn family shows their thanks to employees by giving them a choice of a free Thanksgiving turkey or pie. This year, we distributed 270 turkeys and 280 pies. The pies specifically benefited the Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance (MANNA) Pie in the Sky charity of Philadelphia. It works like this: Every pie ASI bought provided a fresh, hot, homemade Thanksgiving dinner that served four, delivered right to the door of a MANNA client coping with a life-threatening illness and at acute nutritional risk as a result.

Promotional Products Education Foundation. PPEF benefits the children of employees in the industry through several types of scholarships. ASI has already donated $110,000 to the foundation.

Annual Holiday Gift Drive. Every December, hundreds of ASI employees donate money to buy gifts for area families living in or receiving services through a homeless shelter run by the Family Service Association of Bucks County, PA. This year, we purchased a total of $6,279 worth of gifts, which helped people in need while allowing volunteers to feel good about doing their part.

Helping Cure Diabetes. In the past five years, the daughters of ASI Co-Chairman Matthew Cohn, Sydney and Mackenzie, have raised over $2 million to help fund research for Type 1, or juvenile diabetes, a devastating disease that affects millions of people, including a large and growing percentage of children like them (www.cohnsisters.com). In the last year alone, the girls raised a record $500,000+ through fundraisers like an annual JDRF walk for the cure in Philadelphia. JDRF is the world’s largest charitable funder of diabetes research.

American Red Cross. Every year, ASI’s administrative staff puts together a wonderful silent auction to raise money for the American Red Cross using sample promotional products sent by suppliers and featured in ASI magazines. This year, they raised a record-breaking $3,000 – a total ASI Chairman of the Board Norman Cohn matched through the United Way, for a grand total of $6,000 donated to our local Red Cross chapter here in Pennsylvania. In addition, employees have donated a total of 892 pints of blood.

United Way. Each year ASI matches any funds employees donate to United Way agencies. This year, ASI and its employees contributed a total of $20,640 to the United Way of Bucks County, PA. Last year ASI donated $16,578.

A Woman’s Place. A shelter for battered women located in Doylestown, PA. Since October 2006, more than 100 used cell phones have been donated by ASI employees, to be used only for emergency calls to 911.

The Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House. Each December, employees donate whatever they can to get a photo taken with Santa to benefit the local Ronald McDonald House, which provides a home away from home for families of critically ill children receiving treatment at local hospitals. So far, ASI has donated $2,675.

Dress for Success/Work-N-Style for Men/MenzFit. Provides interview-appropriate clothing to Philadelphia area low-income men and women entering or reentering the job market. So far, employees have donated 741 pieces of clothing, shoes and accessories.

Hometown Initiatives. As a way of giving back to my Indiana hometown, I started a food bank endowment that’s now close to $100,000, along with a separate charitable activity in Hope called the Hawcreek/Flat Rock Endowment Fund, whose endowment has already reached nearly $500,000. In my adopted hometown of Princeton, N.J., I’m heavily involved as a board member and former board president of the Arts Council of Princeton, which provides hundreds of free and reduced-price art courses for kids, and as a trustee of the McCarter Theatre Center for the Performing Arts.

These are just some of the initiatives we believe in here at ASI. As we enjoy holiday festivities, let’s all pause to give thanks for having enough to be able to give back – and to think about ways we might contribute to the greater good in 2013 and beyond.


’Tis the Season

Filed under: News About ASI

Like so many other businesses, ASI held its annual holiday party this week in our company cafeteria.

To make it special, we decided on a “Winter White Out” theme and encouraged all employees to dress in white. Fully in the spirit of the occasion, I found a white tux to rent, which I topped off with a white bowler. Beautiful ice sculptures, carved on site with actual chain saws,  provided a cool-looking back-drop, along with servers who looked like members of the “Blue Man Group.”

Throughout the party, employees could sit on a full-sized ice throne to get their photo take — at bottom right, I’m sharing a very cold toast with ASI Chairman Norman Cohn and some of the extraordinary crew.

One of the highlights of the day was the annual awards ceremony, where ASI recognizes the year’s top employees. You might recognize some of the names so I’d like to share them with you below:

Employee of the Year: Michele Bell, editor of Supplier Global Resource and senior editor of Counselor magazine, pictured at right with me and ASI Vice-Chairman Matthew Cohn.

Michele started at ASI in April 1997. Through the years, Michele has mastered a number of roles, including former editor of Advantages, co-host of the ASI Radio Show and speaker at numerous ASI Shows and Power Summits. Michele will do, and does, anything it takes at ASI to get the job done. Michele can truly be counted on to come through each and every time, no question. She’s also an award-winning writer and editor (netting a Neal Award, the “Pulitzer Prize of business journalism,” for a piece she wrote on China).

As Melinda Ligos says, “Michele is above all a rabid supporter and participant in everything we do on the editorial team, whether she considers it ‘cockamamie’ (her favorite word) or not.”

The 2012 Manager of the Year: Alice Kraus, assistant director of production.

Alice started at ASI in 1980 in a department called the Infoline Library – kind of like the Bell Telephone version of ESP. She stayed until 1983, leaving only to become a new mom. After working from home, she returned to the company in 1991.

Alice becomes the very first employee in ASI’s history to win the Manager of the Year Award twice in two different centuries. She won the first in 1999 and remains one of the most dedicated and determined employees ASI has ever had, earning the enduring respect of her staff, coworkers, internal and external clients and ASI management the hard way – by working to the very best of her abilities – and then reaching even further.

The 2012 Rising Star Manager of the Year: Creative Director Jake Krolick.

Jake, who’s worked at ASI for seven years, charged out of the gate to win Rising Star Employee of the Year in 2007. Anyone who’s ever met Jake – or visited his website – or watched one of his many YouTube videos – knows he’s a born communicator.

From the start, his extensive experience in video and new media helped ASI launch the most successful video program in ASI history. In addition, this year Jake spearheaded 2 successful catalog redesigns, the Gift Book and the Fall Idea Showcase, in 2012, leading to greater advertising and circulation success.

ASI’s 2012 Rising Star Employee of the Year: Finance Business Analyst PJ McCall.

PJ started with ASI in 2011 as a financial analyst on the supplier side and quickly took on more responsibility, working with management on revenue and commission forecasting and with ASI Show on revenue reporting and analysis, and commissions.

Everyone who works with PJ comments on his “can do” attitude, saying he consistently volunteers for new tasks, which he tackles with positive energy and a smile. He’s meticulous and extremely organized – and answers every question that comes his way.

I hope you found the time to enjoy some wonderful holiday festivities this year as well. How did your company observe the holiday? Please let me know by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.


ASI Launches Company Stores

Filed under: Community, News About ASI, Using Ad Specialties

In today’s online age, there’s really no better way to impress new and even existing clients than with a customized microsite that shows off their brand in action, which is why ASI® just launched the all-new Company Stores.

Powered by ESP Websites, Company Stores represent the next generation of online selling. It’s fast, easy – and impressive. All you do is choose from ASI’s slate of online templates, stock it with up to 1,000 products, click once to add your client’s logo and voila: a branded store for your best customers.

Click here for more info or call your account executive at (800) 546-1350.

ESP Websites™ Company Stores highlights include:

  • Instant branding. Upload customer logos once and see them instantly applied to every virtual sample-ready product in the online store, including thumbnail images on the home page and in search results.
  • Build-A-Store. Sharp-looking website templates in nine colors that allow for up to 1,000 products.
  • Ultimate merchandising options. Feature up to 10 product collections on a Company Store home page.
  • Robust eCommerce shopping cart. Easily and safely accept credit cards and online payments using PromoPayment.
  • Site security. Coded product numbers unique to your ESP Website prevent competitors from selling the same products to your customers.
  • Sync in a snap. Sync store designs with your ESP Website, and manage your website and Company Store from the same location.
  • Daily inspiration. Excite customers 365 days a year with the dynamic “Product of the Day” feature.

Hopefully, you were able to join ASI’s user experience VP, Rob Watson, for a demo of Company Stores. Stay tuned for more upcoming webinars and demos, as it’s really the best way to test drive ASI’s latest products and feature updates.

Check it out and let me know what you think by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.


A Majority Minority Nation

Filed under: Community, Members, News About ASI

One of the liveliest discussions at the recent ASI® Power Summit concerned a hot-button issue important to so many of you: whether to hire from inside or outside the industry. I used that discussion as a springboard to a favor I asked of the 250 industry movers and shakers gathered in Florida.

In the summit’s closing moments I asked everyone in the audience to hire one minority sometime in the next year. “Don’t hire someone like me,” I said. “We don’t need more 50-year-old white males!”

It’s not surprising so many of you look just like me since white males outnumber everyone else in our industry. But if the presidential election taught us anything, it’s that the country’s demographics are changing – fast.

According to a study released days after the election by the non-partisan Pew Research Center for the People & the Press,  African Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans backed Obama by huge margins and helped him win. (To read the full report, click here).

Fully 89% of Mitt Romney’s supporters were white non-Hispanics, compared with just 56% of Obama’s. If this industry doesn’t get with the program soon, we’ll lose just like Romney did.

As study after study tells us, people tend to trust and buy from people who look like them, culturally and ethnically. So it’s good economic sense for every company in this industry to take an aggressive stance on hiring more minorities. Consider this: if every top distributor hired and trained a minority in 2013, in five years we’d have 25,000 experienced representatives courting new business.

Click here to watch my YouTube video on the subject, which also recaps Power Summit sessions ASI held on building trust and the 2013 industry sales outlook.

In closing, do me a favor: look around your own office and count the number of minorities versus white males. And then let me know what you think of my suggestion by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

And for more info on the 2013 Power Summit, September 15-17 at the Montage Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah, click here. Maybe by the time fall rolls around, I’ll look out and see some new faces in the Power Summit audience.


ASI Technology Smackdown

Filed under: Industry Initiatives, News About ASI

ASI® recently announced dozens of technology innovations members will begin benefiting from in a few short weeks. We know you’re excited about what’s ahead because a record number of you tuned into our webinar this week for a sneak peek.

Rob Watson, ASI’s VP of digital user experience, joined me for the big online reveal of incredibly dynamic new features and advancements coming up in ESP MobileESP Websites and ESP Web, designed by our crack tech team to help you work smarter and faster in 2013 and beyond.

We’ll give live demos of everything in ASI Orlando Jan. 5-7, ASI Dallas Feb. 6-8, and ASI Long Beach March 22-24, so if you haven’t already, click here to register for those upcoming shows.

If you missed the webinar, here are the highlights:

ESP Mobile for iPhone, iPad and Android

  • Tap to quickly rate a supplier and read other distributor comments
  • Tap to create virtual samples on the fly and generate dynamic on-site sales demos
  • Speak to search for products (just like Siri!)
  • Instantly provide ASI with feedback so we can enhance your experience
  • Search and filter products easily with the same options in ESP Web
  • Plus, more than 40 new features

ESP Websites (now available for suppliers, too)

  • Simple dashboard where you can control the look and feel of your website
  • Enhanced template filtering to find templates faster
  • Ability to feature up to 50 videos
  • Beautiful new website templates, each available in nine colors

ESP Websites: All-New Company Stores

  • One-click branding so you can upload your customer’s logo once and see it applied to every virtual sample-ready product in your store
  • 20 cool store site templates, each available in nine colors
  • Sync store designs with your ESP Website
  • Manage your website and Company Store from the same location
  • Robust eCommerce shopping cart that accepts credit cards, PayPal, ACH and payment terms
  • Coded product numbers unique to your ESP Website prevent competitors from selling the same product to your customer

ESP Web: All-New Presentations

  • Easily find all your presentations in one place with ESP Online sync
  • Sync your clipboard to the Cloud
  • Two layouts, nine designs, nine colors
  • Multiple price grids
  • Easy, one-step product modifications
  • Instant virtual sample applications to one or all products
  • Smart notifications automatically inform you when products are discontinued
  • Export your customizable presentations to PowerPoint or PDF or publish to ESP Website

Our tech team relied on your feedback for many of these advancements – so keep those ideas and suggestions coming, and get more info by contacting your sales rep or emailing us at whatsnew@asicentral.com.