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Rediscover Your Creative Genius

Filed under: ASI Shows, News About ASI

What’s the single most important thing CEOs need to successfully navigate in today’s increasingly complex world? If you guessed management discipline, integrity or even vision, you’d be wrong. According to a major IBM survey of top CEOS from throughout the world, the answer is creativity.

To illustrate this unusual business concept, live and on stage, we’re bringing the “Warhol of Wall Street” to the ASI Show in Long Beach during the very first ASI keynote to feature paint as a catalyst for brainstorming.

Our speaker, Erik Wahl, is a former suit who now believes creativity is the key to unlocking success. Yeah, I know what you’re probably thinking: “What can a graffiti artist teach me about running my business?” Although I have a deep appreciation for art, about the only time I express myself in a creative fashion is in my garden or my writing. But when I read the results of the IBM study about creativity, I was convinced Wahl is on to something.

The survey found that less than half of global CEOs believe their enterprises are adequately prepared to handle a highly volatile, increasingly complex business environment. The best way to overcome massive shifts in everything from new government regulations, growing volumes of data and rapidly evolving customer preferences? Install “creativity” throughout an organization.

Think about the last time you put the best minds in your company together in a room and allowed them to brainstorm. Remember how many cool new ideas they came up with? Unfortunately, with business moving at the speed of light, these days we rarely have the time for much deep thinking – or creativity.

But in his free keynote on Thursday, March 27, 9:30-10:15 a.m., Wahl promises to help us all tap into our inner inventiveness, which is another way of describing how the best entrepreneurs think. Afterward, he’ll give away the paintings he’ll create during the “Erik Wahl Experience” to ASI show-goers on the show floor – and he’ll also meet a handful of people at a ticketed meet-and-greet (tickets still available).

For more info, click here to watch Wahl’s video, or read a Forbes magazine column about what makes his ideas so special. He’s given a prestigious TED Talk and his keynotes have earned standing ovations before such organizations as AT&T, Disney, London School of Business, Microsoft, FedEx, Exxon Mobil and Ernst & Young.

Wahl’s keynote is but one highlight of our California show, taking place Tuesday, March 25 to Thursday, March 27. We’re kicking things off in a big way with the Long Beach Invitational the Monday before the show starts. If you’re a golfer, don’t miss this private outing at the Trump National Golf Club. Tickets are still available for an event that earned rave reviews last year.

We’ve got a lot of action planned around the Long Beach show. In addition, ASI’s hosted buyer event, fASIilitate, is taking place March 24-25 at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach.

In the meantime, think about the last time you did anything creative (it’s ok if it dates to the third grade). Let me know by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter and LinkedIn.


Presidential Memories from ASI Dallas

Filed under: ASI Shows, Community, Media Coverage, News About ASI

I’m standing in the wings at the Dallas convention center with President George W. Bush, seconds before our interview in front of a packed house of 1,200. The president turns to me, leans in close and says, “This is important to remember. Have fun!”

With that, we were off and running. For over an hour, the president answered every question I had – including what he was thinking right after the planes struck the twin towers on 9/11, when he was in an elementary school classroom.

He got a lot of grief for not leaving immediately, but as he explained to our audience – which was so riveted you could have heard a pin drop – when he got the news, a little girl was reading out loud. He was angry, and his mind was racing, but he couldn’t show it because he knew it wouldn’t be helpful to the American people. As the little girl read on, he realized he was now a war-time president – that he had to protect her and protect America.

Of the many on-the-spot decisions he had to make in the harrowing days, weeks and months after 9/11, the president said, “History will ultimately judge whether I made the right decisions or not.”  Whether you support Bush’s politics or not, being in the same room with any president is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The presentation took place on the last day of the ASI Show in Dallas, which ended Thursday after attracting over 500 suppliers (including 65 new to Dallas) and over 3,300 distributors from 43 states and seven countries. Despite crazy 20-degree weather and snow on the ground, it was a great show and the Bush presentation was definitely the highlight. (For more coverage, including blogs and videos, visit www.asicentral.com and the ASI Show Facebook page. Click here to read the press release. And click here for Fox news coverage of the show.)

Over the years, ASI has hosted many A-list keynote speakers, including President Bill Clinton, First Lady Laura Bush and Gen. Colin Powell. President Bush impressed me and I’d rank him right up there with Clinton. Bush was very charming, incredibly smart and extremely gracious, which shouldn’t surprise anyone since Bush is one of a mere handful of men ever elected U.S. president.

We talked before we went on and he asked a lot of questions about ASI and our industry. Once on stage, Bush thanked ASI’s owners, the Cohn family, and said of Matthew Cohn, who followed his father Norman into ASI, “I love people who follow in their father’s footsteps.” And several times during the Q&A he looked right at me – and winked.

As you can see from the photos, President Bush still works out a lot and still carries himself like a president. He recognized our audience as great marketers and entrepreneurs and said he hopes the government supports small businesses like those represented in the promotional products industry.

President Bush also didn’t shy away from any topic. When I asked if he’d always known he’d seek public office, and always wanted to be president, he confided that, if he’d known earlier, he would have taken his college years more seriously!  (His GPA and a youthful drinking are well-documented. He hasn’t had alcohol for decades and told our audience he’s also stopping smoking cigars.)

He also talked about the hobby he took up after leaving office: painting. This was a surprising choice because, as he said, he wasn’t an art guy, he was a baseball guy. But he’d read a book by Winston Churchill that addressed taking up painting to smooth the transition from world leader to (almost) ordinary citizen. Today, Bush takes art lessons about once a week and paints nearly every day, largely because it’s relaxing.

One of my favorite moments took place at a meet and greet with industry people, where he spoke to every single person in the room. When Bush learned one man was on active duty with the U.S. military, he personally handed him a medallion

“Thank you for your service,” he said. I later learned he brings a bag of the medallions with him everywhere so they are always available as a way of thanking our military men and women for all they do to protect our nation.

To me, such gratitude is the true mark of a great leader – no matter the politics.


Horns Up for Dallas

Filed under: ASI Shows, Members, News About ASI

I’m very excited our nation’s 43rd president is sharing his insights and experiences at this week’s ASI Show in Dallas during what is sure to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. After all, Bush served two terms during the most tumultuous times in recent history, from 9/11 to the Iraq war and global financial crisis. Love him or leave him, an opportunity to see a president in person is not to be missed, so I hope you’ve signed up for Thursday’s presentation.

Understandably, security will be tight, so if you’re coming be certain to bring your official show-issued badge and photo ID. Otherwise, you won’t get in.

I hope everyone traveling from the snow-packed East Coast, like so many of us from ASI, arrive safely and without too much delay. The president’s talk is just one of the many highlights at the Dallas show, at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, Hall F, Tuesday, February, 4 through Thursday, February. 6.

We’re expecting 515 exhibitors (including 65 suppliers new to Dallas) and over 3,000 attendees. The 18 distributor sales meetings on tap include Counselor Top 40 distributor Staples Promotional Products (asi/120601), which is bringing 125 of their top account executives.

Tuesday’s Education Day features 8 tracks and 51 sessions, with all sessions qualifying for points toward the ASI Certification Program. That day’s free lunch is “Meet the Expects,” which resembles a speed networking session, with designated experts leading discussions among rotating sets of attendees. I’ll be there, and would love to see you. First come, first served.

Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. ASI’s own Joe Haley conducts a live version of his popular “Joe Show,” featuring dozens of cool, new products from suppliers. That night, you can kick up your heels at the Gala Celebration at Gilley’s, the honky tonk made famous by the movie “Urban Cowboy.”

And if you haven’t already downloaded it, please stop by an ASI booth for a demo of the visual search feature now available in ESP Web and ESP Mobile. Distributors can upload images to ESP® for an instant scan for similar items in the industry’s largest and most comprehensive product database. As always, the app for Android, iPhone and iPad is available free to authorized distributors who are ESP subscribers.

For complete coverage of the Dallas show, including blogs and videos, visit www.asicentral.com

and the ASI Show Facebook page. And, put the free mobile app on your phone for up-to-the-minute info. Search “ASI Dallas” in your app store.

Upcoming 2014 ASI Shows are Long Beach (March 25-27), New York (April 3-4) and Chicago (July 15-17). To learn more about exhibiting or sponsorship opportunities for 2013, contact sales VP Karen DiTomasso at kditomasso@asicentral.com.