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  • April 17, 2020 5:51 AM | Dara Cormany (Administrator)

    If you’re struggling with how to sell in these current times, you’re not alone. Many sales professionals wonder about the appropriate way to reach out to customers or prospects. Some wonder if it’s wrong to sell in times of uncertainty or turbulence.

    Chris Donato, co-founder of the Same Side Sales Movement, admits he often rewrites his emails or texts to be sure he doesn’t come across as insensitive or opportunistic. These are unique times, and it helps to know how to appropriately and empathetically contact prospects and clients.

    If you find yourself second-guessing your sales approach, keep reading this issue of Promotional Consultant Today. We share Donato’s best practices for selling during a global crisis.

    Remember there’s no right or wrong. Donato reminds sales professionals that there’s no clear-cut answer on what to do. Since we’ve never experienced anything like the COVID-19 global pandemic in our lifetimes, we have no previous experience to fall back on.

    Be human. Since there’s no precedent, it’s difficult to make decisions. That’s why Donato says it’s so important to tap into your humanity. Before you take any sales action, whether it’s a sales call, a direct message on social media or a cold email, connect with what makes you human. Reach for love, compassion, empathy and fellowship. Donato says to let these emotions guide you in these current times.

    Treat people right. It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing, notes Donato. Many people freeze in a crisis. While there are plenty of examples in nature that prove the best survival tactic is staying motionless, Donato says sales professionals shouldn’t stick their heads in the sand. Others are depending on them to grow and retail customers in order to survive a downturn.

    Keep moving. Donato asserts that sales professionals must connect things that would otherwise be disconnected without their personal involvement. If salespeople don’t move with purpose, people lose their jobs and businesses go under. That’s why he believes that the best course of action is to keep going by serving others, solving problems and providing solutions.

    Tips For Initial Outreach Emails

    When reaching out to clients or prospects, Donato recommends keeping your communication to a maximum of three to six sentences. Aim to focus on:

    Facts, not fiction: Stay away from words such as “feel” and “think.” Instead, Donato suggests leveraging relevant statistics, facts or news from the client’s business or industry.

    Human-to-human interaction: Don’t say you “wish someone well” when reaching out to them for the first time. Donato says they’re not your friend—yet. Imagine they’re barely going to read your email. It starts at the subject line.

    A short and sweet pitch: Be sure to keep your hook short. Relay just enough information that they will be curious and will put forth the effort to respond.

    In these unprecedented times, there’s no guidebook on how to properly communicate with clients and prospects. The best guidance is to embrace your humanity, try to help others and keep moving forward.

    Compiled by Audrey Sellers

    Source: Chris Donato is a career enterprise seller who co-founded the Same Side Sales Movement focused on bringing enterprise buyers and sellers together to drive business innovation.

    Used with permission from PPAI Publications. 

  • April 17, 2020 5:50 AM | Dara Cormany (Administrator)

    10 Tips to Work from Home (Without Going Crazy!)

    Great ideas to keep you productive and positive!

    4/8/2020 | Rosalie Marcus, Promo Biz Coach

    If you’re like many people in the promotional products industry you’ve been asked to stay at home and perhaps work from home to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

    I’ve been working from home for many years, so working from home isn’t a struggle for me, although not being able to see clients, friends and my extended family is challenging.

    For those of you that may be new to working from home, you may be feeling frustrated and isolated. I’d like to share some tips that can make your day more productive and leave you feeling better.

    1. Set daily goals: It’s easy to get distracted when you’re working from home. Here’s a quick tip that will help keep you focused. At the beginning of every day write at least three things you want to accomplish that day. Doing this will keep you on track to what is most important. Anything you don’t accomplish goes on the next day’s list.

    2. Create a separate work space: Have a separate room or space dedicated to working. It will help keep you in a working state of mind and make you more productive.

    3. Establish boundaries. Let others know the hours you’ll be working and ask not to be disturbed.

    4. Make time for your children. When you have kids at home with you, it can be challenging. Block time for fun activities to do with them. Let them know that you have something special planned if they can let you work for a few hours. Make family time a fun time. Don’t expect to get as much work done as you would in the office.

    5. Get outside and get exercise: Take frequent breaks and get outside and get fresh air. It will make the day go faster, help you sleep better and it’s good for you! My best ideas come when I’m outside walking, the same can happen for you

    6. Listen to your favorite music. This is a stressful time. I don’t know about you, but music relaxes me, just be mindful of the type of music you listen to. For me, classical music is great for working, and rock music when I want to take a break and feel energized.

    7. Set up video calls with clients. When you can’t see a client in person, try a video call. Zoom (zoom.us) is free and easy to use. Additionally, take advantage of free supplier videos with product ideas that can help your clients during the crisis.

    8. Stay connected. Just because you can’t see people doesn’t mean you have to be isolated. Join the conversations with other industry peers on Facebook and LinkedIn Groups and PPAI Promo Connect.

    9. Finish a project. The plus side of being sequestered in your home is all the free time you have when there’s no place else to go. Have you always wanted to write a book? Now is good time to get started. Need to clean out your office? Start decluttering today. Whatever it is you’ve been putting off, now is a great time to start.

    10. Take great care of yourself. This is a challenging time for all of us in in the promotional products industry and the world around us. Follow the coronavirus guidelines, get plenty of rest, eat healthy foods, wash your hands frequently, practice social distancing. You know the drill.

    Here’s to working and living successfully from your home! Stay safe and healthy!

    Used with permission from PromoCorner

  • April 17, 2020 5:49 AM | Dara Cormany (Administrator)

    Things that Matter

    Even in these trying times, it’s the little things that truly make life worth living.

    4/13/2020 | Bill Petrie, Petrie's Perspective

    Whether in our business or personal lives, we hear all the time that it’s the little things that matter most. Nearly everyone instinctively agrees with that sentiment without really thinking about what the little things truly mean. In these confusing times, where we are all sheltering in place, wearing masks in public, and only connecting with people outside of our homes using video technology, perhaps it’s the best opportunity to explain what the little things are.

    I’m a believer that every skill needed to succeed in a job can be taught, except for two: care and attention to detail. You either bring those with you or you don’t. In my career, I’ve reviewed hundreds – if not thousands – of resumes. Regardless of position, the majority of them profess that the author is “detail-oriented.” My experience, however, is that’s not always the case.

    Of course, there are apparent professional details like ensuring consistency across advertising, ensuring names and other words are correctly spelled, and not forgetting to do simple tasks. To me, however, professional details begin with listening with the intent to understand as opposed to listening with the intent to respond. Far too often, people have a retort chambered and at the ready without really hearing the person. When we listen with the intent to reply, it will likely lead to misunderstandings or a divisive culture – neither of which is right for an organization.

    However, this blog is about the personal little things that matter most – the ones that have revealed themselves over the past few weeks as life has altered from all the things we thought were normal to a world where we float between emotional solitude and Zoom happy hours. I’ve long said that crisis reveals character – it always has and always will. In other words, when things are going well, it’s effortless to be calm, relaxed, and collected. But when the chocolate soft serve ice cream emoji hits the fan, that’s when you see what people for who they are and what they stand for.

    Over the past few weeks, I’ve been witness to incredible acts of kindness and love as well as shocking displays of selfishness and panic. It would be easy to focus on the negatives of all that is happening: the unfair layoffs and furloughs, the hoarding of essential household goods, the canceled events, or the school closures. In this time, I’ve tried to fixate on the positive: I’ve observed people helping others learn how to use the self-checkout line at the grocery store because they were scared to have another human touch their purchases. I’ve seen the drive-by birthday celebrations that have moved me to tears. I’ve watched people at their most creative finds ways to connect with others while staying six feet apart.

    These are seemingly small things that create a lifetime of impact. So, in the spirit of always being as transparent as possible, I thought I would share some little things – in no particular order – that matter to me as I write this from my home office:

    A family that accepts me for who I am – flaws and all

    Friends who call me out of the blue to check on me

    One of my closest friends who is always a beacon of positivity no matter the circumstances

    The solace of my backyard

    A random text from someone telling me they love me

    A dear friend who endured her final chemo treatment last week as she bravely battles breast cancer

    The transformative power of music

    The pure delight of a good book

    A glass of wine outside sitting by the fire pit

    The joy people experience when I cook something just for them

    Laughter in all varieties

    An unexpected gift because someone was thinking of me

    Even in these trying times, it’s the little things that truly make life worth living. To me, noticing the little things is a choice because I see so many ignore them. However, by choosing to recognize the tiniest of loving gestures is what will get me – what will get us – through this and allow us to be much happier people on the other side.

    Used with permission from PromoCorner.

  • March 18, 2020 1:11 PM | Dara Cormany (Administrator)

    What is your title/role within your company?

    Full time in the promo space is new for me. Having left the printing industry to start this new company, this time it's only me with no staff. So outside sales, on line marketing, order entry, graphics, supplier follow up, receivables and sometimes delivery. I get to wear all the hats now, so I guess still the Jefe'.

    What do you like best about your company?

    After moving from "technically" the supplier side to the distributor side, it's less stress regarding production issues. Also since I don't have staff anymore, there are no longer any HR issues to deal with. I like the freedom to come and go as I please without the obligations and responsibilities that I'm used to. It's been a nice transition.

    How were you introduced to the promotional products industry?

    I had some of my previous printing clients request certain promotional items over the years that I procured for them, so up until recently my experience in the promotional products industry was very cursory, printing being my primary focus. That has now changed after my first visit to EXPO in 2019 which was an overwhelming experience and solidified my intent to start this new business. It's an impressive industry and also from what I've been able to observe so far from a people standpoint, a very connected one.

    If you had to pick one, what is your favorite promotional product?

    I like the food items, especially the chocolate. I have to learn how not to eat my samples.

    Tell us something about you that most people may not know.

    I'm from Cupertino and watched the whole Silicon Valley thing being born before moving to San Diego when I was in my early 20's. I always crack up when I'm talking with someone and they are confused why this place called Cupertino is on their iPhone. I get to tell then why.

  • March 18, 2020 11:41 AM | Dara Cormany (Administrator)

    Never do you forget that sinking feeling like an executive, treading water as the tide keeps rising. The painted picture of what it was supposed to be like, the natural career progression; however, the reality of the speed of change within that role is so real for new time executives. Harvard Business Review reported that 50 percent of executives would leave within the first 18 months of their appointment.

    Executives feel like they carry the weight of the world in a turbulent and complex environment. Ron Carucci in his Harvard Business Review article reported that “38 percent of executives said they didn’t expect the loneliness and isolation that accompanied their jobs and 54 percent said they felt they were being held accountable for problems outside their control”. The pressure to produce results is never-ending and at times, unforgiving. Sometimes, executives need a guiding light to walk alongside them to illuminate the path forward, establish credibility and sustain their results. 

    Like an elite professional who engages a sports coach to develop and strengthen capabilities, skills and mindset, successful executives access tailored-made advice to reveal their blind spots, leverage their strengths and support them to carve a way forward. When organizations invest in accelerating the learning curve, they build influencing skills and minimize the risk of mediocre team leadership.

    The executive learning curve, moving from operational to strategic thinking and leadership, alongside rapid change, can be one of the most significant challenges for a new leader. Many executives do not make a successful leap. Here are eight ways to set up new leaders for success.

    The same qualities do not lead to success

    When executives transition into their first-time experience, they must invest in consciously separating themselves from the day to day decisions to be more comfortable with ambiguity. Executives who embrace the uncertainty, leverage ambiguous environments, are in a prime position to launch new ideas and try on new approaches and behaviors. By transitioning from technical responsibilities to a strategic leader that invests in forward-facing thinking, allows the executive to paint a picture of what is possible and graciously pull people along. 

    Related: 10 Leadership Principles for 2020

    Engage the hearts and minds of people

    Moving to a new level of leadership demands an ability to influence others to accomplish what is needed. Executive leadership involves facilitating people through risk and change; therefore, trust is vital to building the bridge. No leader is an island and cultivating the power of networks will identify people who will lead and execute the vision. When executives do not invest in building and nurturing those relationships, there will be a lack of buy-in and commitment to bring the vision to reality. 

    The adaptative leader

    In today’s climate, executives must quickly adapt and make decisions when needed. The rate of change continues to speed up. Executives must lead with transparency, consistency, take action to create stability within the environment and continue to deliver quality services despite the level of disruptive change. The adaptive leader builds skills for unlocking the potential in people, mobilize collective wisdom and lead collaboratively innovative solutions to drive change. This new type of leader is the catalyst for real transformation this decade.

     The slippery slope of overconfidence

    The overconfident leader can negate the leadership qualities you want within your organization and can cross the line into the danger zone. Executive overconfidence has been blamed for company failure and financial distress within organizations. Overconfidence can hinder a leader’s authenticity, be the enemy of humility and stain the fabric of an organization by putting them at risk. 

    Related: 22 Qualities That Make a Great Leader

    Self-confidence plays a role in leadership. When executives understand their strengths and areas for development in a balanced way, they can break through obstacles as challenges, lead their inner critic and create the right environment for problems to be solved. 

    Shut up and listen

    The best advice l was every given when transitioning into a new executive role was to “shut and listen”. The evolution of a new role may be unlearning everything that you know to step into the position of listener and learner. Executives must create a different type of operating system to interact and communicate within and external to the organization. 

    Calm within the storm

    Executive presence is a vital leadership characteristic that costs nothing, but everyone gains. When an executive comes from a place of inner clarity and conviction, it evolves from what matters most to you. Executives that have presence look for the best in people acknowledge that everyone has faults and make mistakes, including themselves and they, focus on what matters. What l mean is that they don’t confuse urgent for necessary and remain committed to the priorities. They are the calm within the chaos because they know their best emotional state and remain fully present.

    Delve deeper

    Executives must know who they are. There strengths, passion and areas of development are foundational pillars. The “I can do anything” mantra doesn’t work in the world of executive leadership. Buying the delusion that you can do everything is a false economy. Instead, a 360-feedback process opens the door to explore how others experience you on your leadership abilities. Behavioral profiling tools, such as Extended DISC, will also provide insight into how you are naturally wired, foster opportunities to adapt your thinking and behavior to be more productive, appreciate your motivators, strengths and developmental areas. It also improves opens conversations within teams in terms of how effective communication is flowing up and down the organization and creates a platform to understand and reshape organizational culture. 

    Invest in executive coaching

    The first 90 days of an executive’s transition is critical. Engaging an executive coach can unlock a leader’s potential to maximize overall performance and the bottom line. By investing in executive coaching, you can build your skills, a strategic plan to ensure growth and a bright future path. Successful leaders continuously improve and develop their skills and are committed to having a safe place to grow, learn and be challenged. 

    Related: 10 Popular Myths About Leadership and How to Overcome Them

    In a case study, Harvard Business Review reported that one financial services company approached the execution of the new schedule in simple ways – “articulate a hypothesis. Go out and experiment. And if it doesn’t work, then why not? What did you learn? Add to it. Capture your learning. Share it with other people.” 

    The executive coaching relationship can be a powerful catalyst to create a sustainable growth plan and in partnership, support you to navigate the challenges and celebrate the successes — an alliance to propel you and the organization for success. 

  • March 18, 2020 11:36 AM | Dara Cormany (Administrator)

    Spend any substantial amount of time with me and you’ll hear the phrase “Ideas Are Currency” I’ve long held the belief that time devoted to the creation, recording, testing and debating of ideas is the central premise behind the most successful of Organizations, regardless of vocation. A team dedicated to the belief that ideas can serve as the difference between championship success and mediocrity is where I have had the most success in my career and those situations, while rare, are memorable enough to attempt to replicate every day.

    When you’re trading in the currency of ideas your approach to growing a business is often viewed in a longer-term lens, which has a tendency to put pressure on early-stage sales results. We suffered from this problem for a bit in the process of building toward our longer-term goal, but the linchpin in the process was creating enough data to analyze and determine where best to apply our somewhat limited resources to scale success – in layman’s terms, we needed as many interactions with prospects as possible in the shortest amount of time manageable and we knew it so we passed on a “dialing for dollars” approach in favor of something more strategic.

    By taking a data-driven approach to our sales activities, we were able to identify some key areas where we could design solutions in an innovative way that would solve problems for entire categories of clients we’d interviewed in the process of data gathering – instead of starting the entire supply-chain process over again with each new opportunity, we’re using the information we’ve gathered to solve the same problem for multiple clients at the same time.

    It’s much more efficient to sell a winning solution to a known problem to as many people with the problem as possible than to start the process anew with every additional opportunity.

    The idea isn’t new. The dedication shown to ensuring the process is not only built but done so in a way that ensures each step in the process of growth is being managed is often talked about, but rarely executed with the degree of dedication necessary to be a catalyst for significant growth.

    As an industry of small business owners in a consolidating market, it’s imperative we continue to find ways to add value to our relationships with those giving us their time and money. By focusing on ideas and striving to find the most efficient ways to sell the most amount of product to the most amount of people looking to solve a similar problem, we evolve our attention away from a purely product-driven tool-kit to one designed to solve problems using various products in purposeful execution.

    Each of you reading this has a fantastic story about a sale where you came up with a great idea, sourced and decorated it well, delivered it on time and delighted someone. It’s one of my favorite questions to ask when I’m at industry events – watching faces light up with delight telling their stories are among my favorite memories. If you too have those stories, why not go find some more people to buy those same ideas? #IdeasAreCurrency

    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 injecting purpose via philanthropy to his sales and marketing efforts. He’s intent on making the world a better place and his nirvana exists at the intersection of Mission, Passion, Profession and Vocation. He loves the outdoors and seeks memorable experiences whenever possible. Contact Roger at roger@socialgoodpromotions.com or 810-986-5369.

    Used With Permission From PromoCorner 


  • March 18, 2020 11:35 AM | Dara Cormany (Administrator)

    As a leader, you might think being accessible is the same as being available. While these words have similar definitions in the dictionary, they don't mean the same thing when it comes to leadership. You can have an open-door policy and believe you're making yourself accessible, but if you're never there for your team members or colleagues, you're not truly available.

    To be an effective leader, you must demonstrate accessibility and availability. Scott Eblin, an executive coach and leadership educator, says that when he's doing colleague feedback interviews for an executive coaching client, he'll sometimes hear that person described as accessible. Other times, a colleague will describe the leader as available. On rare occasions, he says he'll hear that the executive is both accessible and available.

    According to Eblin, demonstrating both accessibility and availability is what all leaders should strive to achieve. It begins with understanding that there's a big difference between being accessible and being available. Rather than aiming to be one over the other, Eblin says it's wise to incorporate best practices from both.

    In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we highlight Eblin's thoughts on how leaders can be both accessible and available.

    Being accessible is mainly a function of personality. According to Eblin, accessible leaders:

    Put people at ease.

    Encourage open and honest conversation.

    Provide coaching and guidance.

    Don't stand on title or hierarchy.

    Seek feedback.

    Being available is mainly a function of time management. Eblin says that available leaders:

    Put team members and colleagues on their list of priorities.

    Leave time in their weekly calendar for unscheduled conversations.

    Make clear to others how and when they can be reached.

    Keep their meeting commitments except in case of true emergencies. (This is especially true for regularly scheduled

    team meetings or team one-on-ones.)

    Make good use of technology – particularly video conferencing – to be available virtually when they can't be physically.

    Leaders should aim to operate keeping these best-of lists of accessibility and availability in mind. Both the leader and their team learn more, develop faster and have higher levels of engagement and performance. At the end of the day, being a great leader is often more about your soft skills than the hard skills you possess. When you work to make yourself available and accessible to your team, you help propel your team and your organization forward.

    Take a good look at how you lead your team. Can you truthfully say you're accessible and available? If not, consider moving the needle in a more positive direction by taking guidance from the points above.

    Compiled by Audrey Sellers

    Source: Scott Eblin is an executive coach and leadership educator. He's the author of Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative and the co-founder and president of the Eblin Group.

    Used with permission from PPAI and PC Today. 

  • March 18, 2020 7:05 AM | Dara Cormany (Administrator)

    It's a basic fact of sales: Before you can sell anything, you must align your offering with customer needs. If your customer doesn't need what you're selling, there's no amount of salesmanship that can get them to make a purchase.

    Snigdha Patel, content writer at REVE Systems, says you can provide quick and positive results by anticipating, identifying and meeting customer needs. If you want to get better at giving customers what they need, read on. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we highlight Patel's tips for meeting customer needs and giving your business a competitive edge.

    Enhance your product. A good product is anything that can be offered to a market for attention, acquisition, use or consumption that satisfies customer needs. The product quality speaks for itself. If your products are built across helping customers to resolve their issues faster, it will attract them and keep them coming back, says Patel. To enhance your product, conduct customer research and analyze your findings.

    Deliver quality support. Patel asserts that customers prefer brands that offer real-time support. So, your support teams should focus on providing a smooth experience from the first interaction. When customers get exactly what they need, their overall satisfaction skyrockets. Brands benefit by putting extra effort into exceeding customer expectations.

    Build long-term relationships. Customers stick to brands that are customer-centric, says Patel. When brands can anticipate customer needs, classify the type of need and provide value through a product or service, they stand out as a customer-focused brand and win customer loyalty. If you develop a strong system for how you discover, analyze and address customer needs, you help set your business up for long-term success.

    Measure customer satisfaction regularly. Patel notes that to know how happy your customers are with your overall business you must measure it on a regular basis. Measuring customer satisfaction provides deep insights into your overall business performance. You can look at customer satisfaction metrics such as customer satisfaction score (CSAT), net promoter score (NPS) and customer effort score (CES). Based on the inferences, you can restructure your product and services in order to reduce the customer churn by boosting the satisfaction rates.

    Ask customer feedback. Customer feedback is a vital ingredient for the success of every business, says Patel. You must always choose the right time to acquire honest and constructive feedback. For example, Patel suggests checking in with customers after a successful transaction. Once you receive customer feedback, you must analyze the data according to internal and external customer needs and expectations. Patel says you must then determine the gaps between your business and your customers. Be sure to include all team members in the discussion to ensure you get a whole view of customer needs and wants.

    To win more clients and close more sales, it's important to always put the customer first by prioritizing their needs. When customers see that you relate to their needs, you end up reducing customer churn and building a loyal customer base.

    Compiled by Audrey Sellers

    Source: Snigdha Patel is a content writer at REVE Systems. She endeavors to understand complex support channels and provide information regarding them through comprehensive blog posts.

    This article was used with Permission from PPAI and Promotional Consultant Today. 

  • February 13, 2020 12:38 PM | Dara Cormany (Administrator)

    The 2020 SAAC Board Installation Dinner was held at the Pomona Valley Mining Company on February 6, 2020. The event drew more than 60 SAAC members and honored the numerous past presidents who were in attendance, highlighted the great work that continues to be accomplished by the Foundation for SAAC and formally welcomed the 2020 Board of Directors.

    Executive Director Jennifer Bingham provided a year in review and paid tribute to all the accomplishments achieved with Immediate-Past President Rhett Todd at the helm. Todd graciously thanked his 2019 Board members for their unwavering support and continued dedication to SAAC and the members. He also expressed his great appreciation for all PPAI has brought to the partnership over the past year. Todd welcomed Tara Villanueva, MAS, as the incoming Board president, stating that he “couldn’t be leaving the Association in better hands.”

    Villanueva presented a snapshot of what members can expect in the coming year by way of events, education and legislative advocacy for SAAC members. Members learned her mission during her tenure as president is to create a renewed sense of community within the SoCal promotional products industry.

    The capstone of the evening was the welcoming of the 2020 SAAC Board of Directors. Jacob Dobsch, 2017 SAAC president, had the honor of installing the new Board with the “SAAC Oath of Office.”- Each board member pledged “to act honorably to protect the mission, vision and values of the Association.”

    To end the evening, members toasted to the exciting year ahead with a special treat, The Dirty Cookie, generously provided by Logomark. To view more photos of the 2020 SAAC Board Installation Dinner, visit www.saac.net/photo-gallery.

  • February 13, 2020 7:02 AM | Dara Cormany (Administrator)

    The coronavirus is shaping up to have a significant impact on businesses around the world and the global economy. Since it was first reported in early January, the virus has sickened more than 40,000 people in 25 countries and killed over 1,000, but the outbreak’s impact is also being sharply felt along global supply chains that run through China.

    The virus was first detected during one of the highest travel seasons in the country. China’s Lunar New Year, a holiday celebrated throughout the country and during which many people travel home to visit family and friends in cities and towns far from where they work, began on January 25 and was extended by the country’s central government to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Initially set to end January 30, it was extended to February 3, however 24 of China’s 31 provinces urged businesses not reopen until February 10.

    The extended holiday saw factories and their operations shuttered—carmakers in China, for example, are cutting production by 15 percent in the quarter—shoppers are staying home and numerous international airlines are curtailing, if not cancelling, flights to the country. American Airlines is not expected to resume flights to China and Hong Kong until April at the earliest, says a report in USA Today. And with China’s factories shut down, global supply chains are finding parts in short supply, cutting production beyond China’s borders. Hyundai in South Korea has already temporarily closed plants, and Fiat Chrysler is working to prevent similar disruptions at its European factories.

    On Friday, PPAI hosted a webinar, “The Coronavirus: A Conversation With Leading Global Experts,” to help industry professionals learn more about the outbreak and its effects. Facilitated by Jonathan Isaacson, CEO of supplier Gemline, the webinar featured the expertise of top specialists: Dr. Joseph Eisenberg, chair of epidemiology, University of Michigan; Dr. Mary Gallagher, director, Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan; and Peter Martin, vice chairman, FocusPoint International Crisis Management.

    Eisenberg began by explaining that coronaviruses are, in general, fairly common. They cause the common cold, for instance. What makes the current outbreak so different is that it was transmitted from animals to humans. Eisenberg said, “It’s spreading the way it’s spreading because it’s novel. It’s a new virus and people don’t have prior immunity. Even with influenza, which emerges as a different strain each year, people have some level of immunity.”

    With so many products coming into the U.S. from China, one major concern voiced during the webinar is the potential risk of the coronavirus being transmitted on products and packaging being imported from China. Eisenberg explained that flu viruses can survive on surfaces for a couple of hours. Products coming into the U.S. by air are generally in transit for three days. Those traveling by sea may be in transit for 14 days or more. Eisenberg said, “Survival time on a porous surface, like sheets, is going to be different than a surface like steel. It’s a pretty wide range. For the coronavirus, we’re probably talking hours, but we don’t know for sure. It’s probably safe to say it’s closer to influenza. Without knowing the specifics of the virus, it is unlikely that the coronavirus can survive on surfaces for products’ shipping durations. A standard surface cleaning would make it even less likely. Three to 14 days is a pretty long period of time for a respiratory virus to actually survive.”

    In the webinar, Isaacson asked Eisenberg if we’re seeing the right response to the coronavirus from a public health perspective. Eisenberg said, “In respect to risk in the U.S., yes, the risk is incredibly low—especially when you compare it to the flu, which kills of tens of thousands of people every year in the U.S. Thinking of that relative risk, there should be little concern about the risk of getting coronavirus in the U.S.”

    The outbreak and responses by the Chinese government and governments around the world raise questions for businesses operating in China. The Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair, one of the largest events in the world for the global promotional products industry, is still on schedule to run April 27-30. Asked about the impact of the virus on gatherings such as this, Gallagher said, “The Chinese government is debating postponing two annual meetings that occur in March, meetings of the legislature and a consultative conference. There’s a lot of political sensitivity around them. It would indicate the unprecedented level of the crisis. I’d leave a lot of room for flexibility.”

    On the webinar, Martin talked about the crisis management aspect of the virus on business. “There’s a lot of uncertainty around getting supplies in and product out, and what the reaction of countries doing the importing in and out are going to do,” he said. “Regarding shipping to and from China, there are issues with traffic volume and employee comfort level. Fedex, for example, is allowing pilots to volunteer as to whether or not they fly into China.”

    Martin added, “At this point, there’s a lot of pivoting and indecision. If there was a decision right now, I wouldn’t trust it being honored more than for a few days’ time. The financial impact on China and the businesses relying on it will be significant, and we don’t really understand what that’s going to look like yet. There remains a lot of uncertainty about how this will play out in the next couple of weeks and it is too early to tell.”

    Continue to follow this developing story in PPB Newslink. The 60-minute webinar is free and available to listen to on demand, here.

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