Founder and President
Adrenaline Challenge Coins
Founder and president. As I got close to retirement from the fire dept I knew I would need something to keep me busy. Challenge coins were something I loved...the history and tradition of them was awesome, and it was a way to stay in touch with my FD friends. It was supposed to be a "hobby job", but as word of mouth spread about our quality and pricing our business grew and grew. We are now licensed with the NFL, NCAA, General Motors, we are the official challenge coin provider to the World Police & Fire Games, the FDNY Foundation and more.
What I like best about the company is the people it allows us to meet. Challenge coins have spread into virtually every walk of life, and people are finding that they make amazing promotional items, gifts, awards, etc. I not only get to stay in touch with fire, police and military friends, but now I get to make friends and do business with people from everywhere.
We were introduce to the promotional products industry through customers at the Sports Licensing and Tailgate Show in Las Vegas. They told us that our coins (not just round, but any shape and size, with functions such as bottle openers, golf ball markers and more) would be a hit in the promotional products industry. We debuted at SAAC in Long Beach in 2018, then PPAI in Las Vegas in 2019 and SAAC again in San Diego in 2019, and they were right, our product has been a hit!
It's hard for me to pick a favorite of our products, but our patented football helmet shaped coin/key ring/bottle opener might be it. We were licensed by all NFL teams this year, and now people are putting all kinds of logos on this design. It's very cool and very unique (that's why we patented it!)
I'm a sports nut, I've competed in everything from Judo to wrestling to cross country to skiing to ice hockey. Now I'm a total golf junkie, averaging just over 100 rounds year...you would think I'd be better than I am!!
In a tweet last night, President Trump announced that the planned tariff increase on $250 billion in Chinese imports from 25 percent to 30 percent has been pushed back from October 1 to October 15 as a gesture of goodwill to the Chinese. The President’s announcement follows the Chinese government’s decision to grant 16 U.S. products one-year exemptions from its retaliatory tariffs.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are scheduled to resume face-to-face talks with Chinese representatives in October. The last top-level in-person meeting on the trade issue took place in July in Shanghai. Earlier this week, Secretary Mnuchin struck an optimistic note on the status of the negotiations, saying that Washington and Beijing have a “conceptual” agreement on enforcement issues.
While negotiations between the two sides continue, Tariffs Hurt the Heartland, a coalition of more than 150 associations—including PPAI—representing every sector of the U.S. economy, has released data measuring the impact of the tariffs. It reports that in July, tariffs cost U.S. businesses and consumers $6.8 billion, a 62-percent increase over July of last year, and the highest monthly total in U.S. history. This increase is driven by $3.5 billion in new tariffs on goods imported from China. July marked the first full month of data collected after tariffs on many of those products increased from 10 to 25 percent earlier this year. The data does not include recent and upcoming tariff increases on nearly $300 billion in additional imports.
“These historic tariff increases are what’s causing significant uncertainty for American employers, leading to less investment, higher prices and fewer job opportunities,” says Tariffs Hurt the Heartland spokesman Jonathan Gold. “You can’t budget for a double-digit tariff increase, and you can’t plan a business when you’re living tweet-by-tweet. The administration needs to use upcoming negotiations to end a trade war that truly has no winners.”
In total, American taxpayers have now paid more than $30 billion in extra import tariffs from the beginning of the trade war in 2018 through July of this year, the organization reports. Its data also shows that American exports targeted for retaliation have now declined for 13 straight months when compared to the same month in the previous year.
Tariffs of 15 percent on an additional $112 billion (List 4a) of Chinese imports took effect on September 1, and another $160 billion in Chinese imports (List 4b) will face 15-percent tariffs on December 15. The data released by the trade coalition shows that U.S. businesses brought in $26.4 billion in products included on Lists 4a and 4b in July.
Tariffs Hurt the Heartland’s data was produced in conjunction with The Trade Partnership, which compiles monthly data released by the U.S. government. The monthly import data is calculated using data from the U.S. Census Bureau; monthly export data is compiled using data from the Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
This article is from PPB Magazine and used with permission from PPAI.
Teamwork in the workplace begins with great leadership. Leaders must know how to encourage their teams to work together and achieve their goals. To inspire this kind of unity and to help team members form bonds, many managers look to team-building activities.
Studies show that team bonding may be one of the best investments an organization can make. Bonding activities enhance overall productivity, positively impact leadership skills and customer focus, and can even boost the bottom line.
However, Marcel Schwantes, a speaker, executive coach and podcaster, says that company bonding can be less effective if certain guidelines aren't met. That's why it's important to know the difference between team-building activities that employees are forced to do and those they actually want to do.
For a closer look at these activities, software company Nulab surveyed 1,000 full-time employees to learn which activities tend to get employees the most excited and their value as long-term investments. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, Schwantes provides an overview of the survey results and how leaders can inspire great teamwork.
Bring in the food. Nothing brings people together quite like food, says Schwantes, and the same was certainly true among full-time employees polled for this study. Eighty-eight percent of team-bonding exercises included food in some capacity (such as a potluck or team lunches), and in nearly half of examples identified, alcohol was also present for company get-togethers. The second-most popular team-building exercises revolved around holiday events (78%) and gift exchanges (58%). Interestingly, potlucks or company lunches were considered some of the most effective (62%) and most valuable (63%) team-building activities.
Appeal to your employees' passions. Schwantes reports that the study found volunteer days were considered the most effective and valuable team-building activities, despite being significantly less common than food or holiday events. Only one in five full-time employees had participated in a company retreat, although they were nearly as effective and valuable for team building as volunteering. The secret to company success might not be in measuring employee engagement, but finding opportunities to stoke employees' passions. Research on corporate volunteer and giving programs found that not only do these events help build better relationships among co-workers, but also they give team members an opportunity to engage with organizations they're genuinely passionate about.
Make team bonding optional. According to the survey, full-time employees were 3.6 times more likely to enjoy team bonding that was optional rather than mandatory. More than half of employees also acknowledged always participating in optional team-bonding exercises offered by their company.
Make team bonding enjoyable. Schwantes says that crafting enjoyable experiences that employees want to attend may not come easily to some company leaders, but the results can be invaluable. When employees know the purpose of the activity and enjoy the event, they may see a boost in their peer relationships, their ability to communicate effectively and their overall enjoyment.
While questions surrounding productivity still exist, many employees clearly identified the perks of team bonding. Around 96 percent cited having better relationships with their colleagues, followed by collaboration and open dialogue. To inspire better teamwork at your organization, consider the points above.
Compiled by Audrey Sellers
Source: Marcel Schwantes is a speaker, executive coach, podcaster and syndicated columnist drawing more than a million readers per month worldwide. Schwantes is the host of the popular Love in Action podcast.
This article was originally published in PCT. Used with permission from PPAI.
Apogee Commemoratives, Inc.
What do you like best about your company?
Tell us something about you that most people may not know
Keane Promotional Products
The future of promotional products lies largely in the hands of the next generation. In the coming years, it is up to the younger cohorts to harness, leverage and promote brands’ continued use of promo in marketing strategies to strengthen company presence and enhance ROI. It’s Millennials, Gen Z and those who follow who will educate businesses about the wide uses, returns and impressions associated with promo, and it is they who will continue market research into effective advertising, and how promo impacts the consumer experience.
Perhaps things will change in the future, but in this growing age of technology, promo continues to provide the touch (literally) and sensory experience that consumers look for. To prepare for ongoing success in future decades, suppliers, distributors and business services companies must be working now to pass their knowledge and experience into the waiting hands of the next generation.
SPARK, PPAI’s annual conference catering to young professionals in the promotional products industry, is designed to do just that. Providing networking opportunities, education about top-of-mind industry topics, discussions of issues facing the promo industry and opportunities to consider new strategies to strengthen one’s efficiency and accountability, this year’s SPARK, held July 17-19 in Charlotte, North Carolina, attracted 67 attendees, 39 who were first-timers.
Throughout the conference, industry-related questions, concerns and challenges were discussed from the perspective of young professionals, underscoring the need for companies (and their policies) to remain fluid and open to change in order to meet consumers’ and clients’ needs, and to remain relevant.
To better understand the perspective of some of the industry’s youngest professionals, PPB asked select SPARK attendees to answer three questions about their role in promo, and how their companies can better prepare for the future.
Content strategist, Cap America, Inc., Fredericktown, MissouriYears in the industry: 2
Years attending SPARK: first-time attendee
How would you describe your job in the industry to your peers? As a content strategist, I help Cap America’s marketing team create and deliver content through a multitude of platforms—social media, email, industry publications, etc.
How do you think companies can better attract and retain Millennial and Gen Z employees? I think a very important part of attracting and maintaining employees from the younger generation is allowing and even encouraging individualism—I’ve never met anyone my age or younger who was excited to wear a uniform. I love that this industry doesn’t turn its nose up at tattoos, piercings, bright hair colors and all the other ways that the younger generations have chosen to individualize ourselves. We embrace our differences and rather than being a distraction in the workplace, they are actually a way to bring us together and allow our creativity to develop and flow.
What do you think is the biggest issue facing the promotional products industry this year, and why? I think one of the biggest issues facing the industry is the recent tariffs. Prices are rising and because of that, demand is dwindling and many suppliers and distributors are really feeling the burn of this. For companies that are well-established enough to survive these turbulent times, the constant turmoil and uncertainty creates unwanted headaches and distracts us from other important responsibilities we would rather be focusing on. For smaller, less established companies, these tariffs could be the death of them.
Sales specialist, Gill Studios, Inc., Lenexa, KansasYears in the industry: 1
Years attending SPARK: first-time attendee
How would you describe your job in the industry to your peers? I explain my job to my peers and friends as a sales rep for a promotional printing company. I always make sure to let them know the founder of my company actually invented the bumper sticker. This usually helps them understand what kind of printing we do—and it’s a fun trivia fact.
How do you think companies can better attract and retain Millennial and Gen Z employees? There are a few ways I know would have worked for me personally, as a young Millennial, including attending career fairs and being more visible online. However, there are two things we talked about in one of the SPARK workshops that I think would help attract younger employees to our industry. First, knowing that our industry, companies and cultures care about their social responsibility. For me, this was a deciding factor when I was picking which company I wanted to work for right out of college. It meant a lot to me that the company I worked for had a purpose and strived to make an impact on their community and/or environment. Along those same lines, the second aspect I know is very attractive to me, and I think a lot of Millennials would agree, is having the environmental impact of their business front of mind. This goes back to social responsibility, but I think it can also stand alone. I know my peers and I hold a lot of importance in products that are organic, reusable and green. So working for an industry that has the environment set as a priority is a huge selling point for a lot of people, and I think will continue to be the case, as society continues to move away from one-time-use products.
What do you think is the biggest issue facing the promotional products industry this year, and why? I think the biggest problem facing the promotional products industry, including my company as a supplier, is finding a way to provide the same quality of service and product in a shorter amount of time. We have continuously found that customers need their products faster and faster, which has been a trend forever. However, now it’s getting to the point of trying to find a same-day production solution, where just a couple of years ago the same kind of product would have had a 10-working day production. Technology is a great tool at our disposal, but it will take more than technology to find a resolution. It will take the industry working together as a whole, suppliers and distributors, to find ways to make the impossible possible.
National sales representative, Raining Rose, Inc., Cedar Rapids, IowaYears in the industry: 1
Years attending SPARK: first-time attendee
How would you describe your job in the industry to your peers? My job as a national sales rep is to be an advocate to our customers. I am here to listen to their needs and maybe some obstacles they are facing, and help to develop a solution for them to present to their customers. As an advocate, we are well-versed in the markets they are working with so we can be a reliable resource when they need ideas/applications. I am not just a product pusher; I am an educator, a subject matter expert within our niche line and can deep dive into our products so our customers can feel confident with the products they are presenting. The best part of being an advocate is that I also learn from our customers from the stories and experiences they share, which then helps with building the relationship, as it isn’t one-sided. It also helps develop solutions for other customers facing similar issues.
How do you think companies can better attract and retain Millennial and Gen Z employees? I think companies first have to take a look at what is important to them. What are their core values? What is their purpose? Then develop a plan surrounding those core values and their needs. At times companies try to do what their neighbors are doing and it fails because they aren’t being true to themselves. From there, poll your employees, go to local colleges, maybe take a look at top local companies—ask them what they are looking for in an employer and what is needed to ensure they stay with a company. Dive into the information and then see what follows the core values/purpose, see what can be implemented immediately or what might need a long-term plan. Sometimes it is as easy as planning food days, or it could go to developing a voluntary time-off policy because there wasn’t one in place.
What do you think is the biggest issue facing the promotional products industry this year, and why? I think the biggest issue is sustainability and the environment. We have the issue with the ban on plastics and suppliers needing to find alternative resources, but we also have the issue where if a supplier or distributor isn’t willing to make the necessary changes to become more sustainable or develop a giveback program, customers will not use them. When an item is impactful beyond its use, it resonates with customers; there is a story behind it and they are more apt to use it.
Marketing coordinator, Terry Town, San Diego, CaliforniaYears in the industry: 4
Years attending SPARK: 2
How would you describe your job in the industry to your peers? I usually have a blast trying to explain what it is we do, exactly, in our industry to my friends and outsiders who may have no idea that we even exist. I like to start off with what we specifically do at Terry Town, which is print and decorate custom beach towels, blankets and spa/home accessories. Then I move onto the bigger picture, where I like to explain the supplier-distributor relationship and how both are mutually beneficial to each other within our little promo ecosystem. As suppliers, we not only provide the products our distributors sell, but we supply the idea: a somewhat tangible message that can be utilized to bring together people from all walks of life. We like to offer more than just a promotional product. We offer success stories of strengthened relationships and a renewed sense of community. We’re all in this together and being able to foster new partnerships from supplier to distributor and distributor to end user is one of the best feelings in the world.
How do you think companies can better attract and retain Millennial and Gen Z employees? You’ve got to sell your company in the best light possible and follow through on those promises. Create a company culture that not only fosters hard-working individuals, but those who understand the nature and scope of how our industry operates as well. What we do is fun, and doesn’t have the stress and pressure that other industries may experience. Have a relaxed, but professional approach when it comes to attracting the next generation, and be open and willing to change. Being able to constantly ask, “How can we improve?” will get those new hires of the next gen thinking in the mindset of, “I’m here to shake things up.”
What do you think is the biggest issue facing the promotional products industry this year, and why? Right now we are in a weird limbo stage where the generation of those who helped shape the industry with a solid foundation [is working with] those who are just getting their feet wet right out of university. You’re going to have a push-pull factor from every direction in terms of what new products will make their way into our catalogs, how marketing will be affected by new technologies and how our entire industry will strive for social responsibility. But it’s not so much a “them against us;” the way I like to see it is more of a friendly challenge among colleagues who you still wouldn’t mind sharing a beer with after a long day on the trade-show floor. Striving for change is comforting. Complacency is scary.
Senior account executive, SAGE, Addison, TexasYears in the industry: 6
Years attending SPARK: 3 (second year in the SPARK workgroup)
How would you describe your job in the industry to your peers? I am a senior sales associate and account manager for the leading technology provider in the promotional products industry. I work with hundreds of promotional product distributors around the country to streamline their business processes using a combination of our tools, such as product research, digital presentations, order management, CRM and websites.
How do you think companies can better attract and retain Millennial and Gen Z employees? I think one of the best ways companies can attract and retain younger generational employees is acknowledging and empowering some of the values those generations hold in high regard. Salary and benefits, while important, are not the single-most important driving force. Employee engagement, giving them a voice with company decisions, corporate social responsibility, providing mentorship and growth opportunities and a willingness to embrace change, both technological and otherwise, are all factors that will influence the younger generations.
What do you think is the biggest issue facing the promotional products industry this year, and why? There are a number of issues that are facing our industry: globalization, generational workforce changes, tariffs, etc., but I feel the most prevalent is technological and the willingness to embrace pending advancements. Working as a technology provider provides me with a unique perspective, and the unfortunate truth is many distributors and suppliers (industry-wise and individually) are unwilling or uninformed to adapt to any sort of change. So much has already advanced in the last 10 years. Companies and individuals that continue to embrace those advancements, push the envelope and are willing to also confront failure, are the ones that are going to be successful. Those that continue to utilize the same old tools and techniques because it’s what has worked in the past, will see the industry, and business as a whole, pass them by.
President, Perfect Promotions & More, Inc., Apex, North CarolinaYears in the industry: 11
Years attending SPARK: 3 (first year in the SPARK workgroup)
How would you describe your job in the industry to your peers? Most jobs you can explain in a few short words or with a title that everyone can relate to. With promotional products, that’s not the case, so I typically explain it through examples. My go-to is: “I work for a marketing agency where our marketing medium is product. We take client events, objectives and problems and turn them into fun product solutions.” I’ll then look around the room and say, “See those bags and that t-shirt over there? Those are examples of the types of products we can help you create for your events and marketing teams.” The on-the-fly examples always help explain what we do.
How do you think companies can better attract and retain Millennial and Gen Z employees? We have recently hired and are consulting to hire young employees into our company. It is clear that one of the biggest advantages you can provide the younger generation of talent is a clear career path or career path options. Most of this new generation will not be content with the same routine of work, day in and day out, and will look for other workplaces if they do not feel the work they are doing can help them advance in their careers and lives. We also pay attention to the company culture, providing fun team activities, incentives, fun work space—doing things like Spirit Week, holiday parties, community service projects, etc. Having fun in the place you spend the most time of your day is vital.
What do you think is the biggest issue facing the promotional products industry this year, and why? If it’s just for 2019, there has been no greater impact than tariffs. The increase in pricing and the uncertainty in costs have caused the workflow process to slow down. We have to double- and triple-check pricing for orders that have already been quoted and deal with the constant fluctuation of costs. I don’t think it will truly impact overall sales for us, but I do think it is changing the types of products that are purchased. For example, if the budget my client had was $10 per piece, their budget does not necessarily change with the tariffs, but the types of products they can purchase for $10 may adjust.
Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.
This article was originally published in PPB Magazine. Used with permission from PPAI.
The Specialty Advertising Association of California’s (SAAC) annual SAAC Expo brought the promotional products industry to San Diego, California, earlier this month. Held August 6-8 at the San Diego Convention Center, the SAAC Expo drew more than 700 attendees to experience its 200-exhibitor trade show, networking and professional development opportunities.
“I feel honored to have been part of such a successful show for SAAC,” says Jennifer Bingham, SAAC executive director. “The members, the SAAC board and the numerous volunteers that made the event possible also helped to breathe new life into our association. The energy and excitement felt on the show floor made for an incredible experience for all involved. This was just a glimpse into what the future holds for SAAC members and I’m excited for the next chapter. We’re just getting started.”
The SAAC Expo featured education opportunities for attendees throughout its run. On August 7, before the show floor opened, PPAI President and CEO Paul Bellantone, CAE, delivered a town hall-style keynote on current issues and opportunities facing the promotional products industry. The following morning a series of select suppliers delivered fast-paced presentations on case studies and marketing strategies. The bulk of the SAAC Expo’s education, however, took place in an area alongisde the trade-show floor. Sessions included panel discussions on building a strong community of empowered women in the industry, generational differences and their impact on businesses, the end-buyer/distributor relationship, developing successful websites with SAGE Website Professional Plus, and Prop 65 and state regulations.
“What stood out to me at the show was the optimism for SAAC and the future, and our sense of community,” says Craig Weiss, vice president of sales and marketing and distributor Initial Impression. “For me, it’s always the quality of the suppliers and distributors that come. It’s never about quantity. A standout for me were the breakout sessions off the show floor. They were short but sweet and you could pop your head in and didn’t have to make the commitment of getting there early or staying late.”
Steve Parker, regional sales manager at supplier Starline, says, “This year’s show was amazing on all levels. We as part of the supplier community want more touches and contacts with people and the show outperformed expectations. It’s a great community, and in typical fashion, the SAAC show had a great atmosphere that was warm and friendly. The quality of participants on both sides made for a great promo atmosphere and place to do good business.”
The SAAC Expo allowed attendees and exhibitors to connect and celebrate each other’s successes at the SAAC Awards reception, held at the San Diego Convention Center at the end of the show’s first full day, and a meet-and-greet opportunity at the Stone Brewing Tap Room a short walk away.
“The SAAC show is a great opportunity for distributors to pick their suppliers’ brains in a casual and fun setting,” says Kaitlin Kennedy, West Coast business development and event specialist at supplier Orbus. “Without these face-to-face interactions, we’re all just sitting behind a computer screen. My favorite moment from any show is when the doors open for the first time. There’s an electric feeling that’s buzzing through the air. I see curiosity and excitement in the attendees’ eyes and it reassures me that I’m in the right industry.”
Kennedy adds, “I haven’t talked to one person about their start in the industry with ‘I’m going to sell mugs for a living.’ They’ve all said that they wanted to help others and there’s nothing wrong with earning a living while doing it. I believe attending SAAC as a supplier or distributor will help grow your brand.”
When you're not properly using your time, you end up losing money for yourself and your company. Nearly all workers (89 percent) admit to wasting time at the office, but that's just through distractions or momentary diversions. Structural time lost through bad time management can lead to hours, weeks or months of waste.
John Hall, co-founder and president of Calendar, says that an effective schedule goes a long way toward improving work-life balance. When you better manage your time, you get more work done and the work is better. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share Hall's perspective on why it's important to get your schedule under control.
Increased productivity.Hall says that a daily schedule doesn't just tell you what you're going to be working on during the day—it can help maximize your productivity, too. One of the biggest drags on workplace productivity is an unfocused working style, constantly switching from task to task as new problems need addressing. While it's important to stay flexible and dynamic in your role, endless task-switching is likely to result in a massive productivity dip. Use your schedule to safeguard against this. Organize your day into time blocks, with each focused on one specific type of activity. Keeping each of these blocks highly focused and limited to 90 minutes is shown to raise peak productivity overall.
Maximized synergy. An effective schedule isn't just one that fits your needs—it needs to fit the needs of those around you as well. In the modern workplace, it's nearly impossible to work at maximum productivity if you and your team are on completely different pages. Scheduling meetings and calls can transform from a never-ending back-and-forth dialogue to a simple assessment of available time slots. Shared schedules also allow others to know exactly what project you're working on, reducing the need for constant "catch up" meetings, according to Hall. Getting ahead professionally means surrounding yourself with people just as prepared for success as you are, and a team of people with well-managed schedules is one ready for any professional challenge.
Side hustle development. As valuable as a side hustle can be, you never want your second job to impact your primary job. Lazy scheduling can leave you juggling responsibilities across jobs at the wrong times. Use your schedule to keep your hustles from intermingling, allowing you to focus specifically on what needs to be done at exactly the right time.
Personal assessment time. One of the best ways to become more productive is also one of the most forgotten: sitting down, taking a look at your slate and thinking about what could work better, Hall says. Plenty of workers are so slammed with professional and personal responsibilities that they never really have the time to make long-term plans for themselves or their careers. Getting your schedule under control can give you the time you need to sit down and make a strategy.
To keep advancing in your career, you don't need to sacrifice your time and happiness. Often, all you must do is turn your schedule into a pathway for success.
Source: John Hall is the co-founder and president of Calendar, a scheduling and time management app. He's author of the best-selling book Top of Mind.
Vice President, Western Region
Brown & Bigelow Inc.
Western Regional Sales Manager
SAAC & The Foundation for SAAC
PO Box 2394
Camarillo, CA 93011
p: 805.484.7393 e: email@example.com