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  • October 31, 2022 10:57 AM | Christina Sanders (Administrator)

    Editor's Note: Upon request by several industry groups including PPAI, the Department of Labor has extended the deadline for the public to submit comments. Originally slated to end November 28, it is now December 13.

    PPAI and the promotional product industry are pushing back against a proposal by the Department of Labor to revise its guidance on identifying who is an employee or an independent contractor under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

    Announced earlier this month, the DoL is seeking public comment on new regulations that would make it challenging for independent contracts in the promo industry to retain their preferred classification.

    An Industry At Risk

    PPAI, working in collaboration with industry members in its Government Relations Advisory Council, has determined that if this rule is implemented, it will make it extremely difficult for thousands of entrepreneurs in the promotional products field to retain their status as independent contractors under FLSA.

    “Our industry is being unfairly lumped into this proposed DoL rule, which seeks to do what Congress rightly refused to,” says Dawn Olds, MAS, PPAI Board Chair. “It is critical that members take action and make their voices heard. This is one of the most harmful issues we have faced, since it affects so many – multi-line reps and distributor independent contractors in particular.”

    • Multi-line reps are largely relied on by small and mid-size promotional products suppliers.
    • Roughly 4,200 industry suppliers meet the U.S. Small Business Administration’s definition of small businesses in manufacturing (nearly 98% of the industry’s suppliers).
    • These companies account for roughly $7.8 billion in annual revenue.

    Unlike the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act which was introduced in Congress last year and would have modified the National Labor Relations Act, the newly proposed administrative rule changes the criteria for determining whether workers are employees or independent contractors under the FLSA.

    • The new test, which is comprised of six parts compared to the current test’s four parts, considers many of the same factors as previous standards, however the new test is more likely to result in a worker being classified as an employee under the FLSA.

    A Call To Action

    It is critical for members of this industry to contact the Department of Labor regarding this newly proposed rule change. If the rule is implemented as it is currently written, it could result in thousands of independent contractors in the promotional products industry having their livelihoods threatened.

    PPAI has included some prepared comments to assist with companies’ outreach to the Department of Labor. They can be uploaded or copied into the Federal Register.

    Industry members are encouraged to add their own specific examples that show evidence of independence to demonstrate to the DoL that this proposed rule would be detrimental to their ability to independently earn their income.

    Published with Permission From PPAI

  • October 31, 2022 10:53 AM | Christina Sanders (Administrator)

    Editor’s Note: Multi-line reps serve many crucial needs in the promotional products industry. A new Department of Labor proposal threatens their independent contractor status and livelihoods.

    It is critical for members of this industry to contact the Department of Labor regarding this newly proposed rule change before December 13.

    PPAI has crafted prepared comments to assist with companies’ outreach to the Department of Labor. They can be uploaded or copied into the Federal Register.


    Distributors strive to be heroes in their client’s eyes. Getting there means delivering superior client results achieved through creativity supported by high-quality products and service. That’s a tall order.

    The good news is that distributors don’t have to go it alone. They can lean on the resources of multi-line reps. These experts represent multiple non-competing suppliers and operate within specific territories across the U.S. as an extension of the factory and an essential business connection within the industry’s distribution channel.

    Unlike factory reps, these seasoned road warriors provide distributors with a broad, and often complementary, range of products and product information, plus ideas, solutions, case studies and success stories gleaned from their years of serving distributors. And because of their experience and close relationships with their supplier companies, MLRs are also a reliable go-to source for checking inventory and order status, getting production time estimates and shipping dates, sampling products and as an experienced sounding board for promotional strategies and ideas.

    “We have access to so much more information about the supply chain, inventory levels, product trends, etc., than a traditional factory rep,” says John Bates, president at Michigan-based Bates Group, adding that MLRs have a better perspective on what is going on in the industry from a supply-chain and manufacturing standpoint since they are exposed to multiple factories and their operations.

    MLRs operate as an extension of the factory, and by personally visiting with distributors in their regions to offer potential solutions for upcoming projects, they help distributors find the right solutions for their clients. In short, MLRs create relationships and offer resources that help their distributors to be more successful.
    For distributors who may have overlooked the opportunity to maximize the resources available through MLRs, it’s easy to get started.

    1. Allow Time To Meet With An MLR

    Before the pandemic, MLRs scheduled meetings on a regular basis in distributors’ offices and met with most of the firm’s salespeople all at once. Later, when face-to-face meetings weren’t possible, MLRs met with distributors through video conferences. When offices opened back up, MLRs were some of the first back on the road setting appointments with distributors. But not all distributor sales personnel have returned to their offices, so MLRs have had to be creative. They are still holding web meetings when needed but they are also visiting distributors’ homes and scheduling meet-ups in local coffee shops and work-share conference rooms. The MLRs interviewed for this story say promotional products need to be touched and experienced, so in-person meetings are optimum, no matter what it takes.

    Joe Keely, owner of Select Lines Marketing in St. Louis, Missouri, says he’s done very few Zoom meetings over the past year and, when he did, they were to discuss a specific project or sample. “Now [for distributors who still work from home] I am scheduling multiple meetings with one to three salespeople at a Starbucks or similar location. Personally, the individual meetings are much more effective for the salesperson as we can get in-depth with their projects,” he says.

    “We are in a relationship-driven, face-to-face business,” says Matt Eysoldt, principal at Eysoldt Marketing Group in Ohio. “I think it is crucial to establish that first. Everything else, in my opinion, is second best.”

    Toward that goal, Eysoldt has created in-person opportunities for work-from-home distributors. Along with a small group of MLRs who share his territory, he conducts individual, 30-minute meetings in various cities to focus on the specific needs of the distributor and its clients.

    In addition to restarting personal visits, Mindy Reynolds, principal at ReyCo Promo, a rep firm in Denver, Colorado, sees exceptional value from her group’s participation in industry table-top shows and regional trade shows in the states she covers. She’s also personalizing her in-person visits.  “I’ll ask the distributor, ‘What’s good for you? I’ll come to your home or meet you at a coffeeshop,’” she says, but adds that the latter is difficult because she’s unable to bring as many product samples as she would take to a distributor’s office or home. As an additional touchpoint, Reynolds sends customers a monthly email newsletter, Give Me Five, where she features one product from each of her five lines.

    Bates implements two additional alternative strategies to reach distributors where they are: check-in phone calls to account executives for a casual conversation, and his new Product of the Week emails. These are sent to distributors to highlight a new product, trend or sale going on with one of his supplier partners.

    When a MLR requests an appointment, the distributor should be ready to say “Yes!” Making time for a conversation that can grow into a relationship is the best way to maximize the value MLRs can bring to the business.

    1. Be Transparent About Your Clients’ Needs

    “When I interact with my customers, my only goal is to help them increase their business,” says Eysoldt. “I find it very interesting that my customers who are relationship-driven tend to work the relationship with their vendor partners just like they do with their clients. Once that relationship is established, trust follows, and trust is an essential part of this relationship if I am really going to help them grow.” 

    MLRs are trusted partners who are in business to help distributors succeed, so the more information a distributor can share about an upcoming project, the better. “Most of my customers are excellent with sharing information about their customers that can help me help them,” says Keely. “They trust me to keep information confidential and that leads to a much more effective relationship. Yes, there are some that hold information closer and I respect that. Even getting general information can help me suggest ideas that might work, but more details will help me get there quicker.”
    Another way to get the most value from MLRs is to include them in client meetings because they can provide unique suggestions and ideas from various manufacturers, not just one. “Are you working on a big project? Send your MLR the details so they can easily check their sources rather than you trying to remember every line they represent,” says Bates. “It’s very hard for a distributor to keep all of the suppliers straight, so utilize your MLR to help alleviate the stress that goes into finding the appropriate items that will impress your client.”

    Distributors can feel comfortable asking their MLRs questions such as:

    • What ideas do you have for this market or this audience?
    • How can I present this product to my client?
    • How does this product work?
    • What are some markets where this product is a good fit?
    • Why is this product a better choice than a similar product from another supplier?

    1. Be Open To Growing The Relationship

    “I think the way to get the most benefit from a multi-line rep is to view them as a partner,” says Keely. “Reach out for suggestions when you’re putting together presentations and need ideas. I can save them a lot of time and aggravation by suggesting products that I know are in stock and can meet their ship date.”

    Eysoldt agrees and takes that thought a step further by suggesting distributors look at MLRs as an extension of their marketing department. To get the most value at this step, details are essential.

    “When distributors send me their projects, programs, information, timeline, budget, colors and art, I can work up ideas and virtuals, and get them samples,” says Reynolds. And because MLRs are constantly in the field, they are rich with ideas, and can share and adapt successful promo ideas that have worked for other distributors.

    Building trust with a MLR can take time, but once that’s accomplished, the distributor is more likely to share important details about the client company and their needs. “With that, I can make appropriate suggestions,” says Eysoldt. “In addition, I make many end-buyer calls with our distributor partners. That is where I can really make an impact—helping to close the deal sooner and even taking some of the weight off the distributor’s shoulders.”

    To contact MLRs in your area and to schedule a visit, check with your preferred suppliers.

    Tina Berres Filipski is director of corporate relations at supplier PowerStick.com, the only company designing and manufacturing its own portable chargers in North America. She is a 26-year promotional products industry veteran and was previously director of publications and editor at PPAI.

    Published with Permission From PPAI

  • October 31, 2022 10:51 AM | Christina Sanders (Administrator)

    Shippers are preparing contingency plans as negotiations between the railroads and railway workers’ unions remain at an impasse.

    In support of further discussions, PPAI has joined with hundreds of trade organizations in a letter to the White House encouraging the Biden Administration to continue working with both parties in the dispute to reach a satisfactory resolution.

    The Letter

    Last week, PPAI, along with 321 local, state and federal trade associations, called on the White House to continue to work with the railroads and railways to ratify the tentative agreement based on recommendations from a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) established in July.

    “It is paramount that these contracts now be ratified, as a rail shutdown would have a significant impact on the U.S. economy and lead to further inflationary pressure,” the letter reads. “We continue to urge that the contracts be ratified to provide stability and predictability to the system. Your involvement can only help make that happen and ensure there is no interruption to rail service.”

    The Dispute

    In September, the Biden Administration helped railway workers unions and railroad operators reach a tentative agreement based on recommendations presented by a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) established by the White House in July. It did not include all of the railway workers’ most pressing demands, however. Remaining concerns include:

    • The lack of sick time
    • Dangerous working conditions
    • Unpredictable hours

    The agreement will only be ratified when all 12 of the unions involved in the discussions accept its terms. So far, only six have signed on.

    • In October, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (BMWED), one of the largest unions involved in the despite, voted to reject the agreement.
    • Last week, the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen also voted to scrap the agreement.
    • The National Carriers’ Conference Committee, representing the freight railroads, rejected BMWED’s revisions to the agreement.

    Richard Edelman, counsel for BMWED and its chief spokesperson dispute, told CNBC, “The railroads consistently underestimate the frustration and anger of the workers. Workers can’t take it anymore.”


    A strike is not necessarily imminent. Both of the unions who rejected the tentative agreement have agreed to retry negotiations. However, one the unions has set a November 19 deadline.

    • The four unions that have not yet approved the deal are expected to do so over the coming month.
    • The engineer and conductor unions, who have not yet voted, have the most concerns regarding quality of life.

    If no agreement is reached, the U.S. Congress may step in under the Railway Labor Act. The legislature can impose the recommendations of the PEB or order negotiations to continue while the trains operate as normal.

    Published with Permission from PPAI

  • October 31, 2022 10:50 AM | Christina Sanders (Administrator)

    The promotional products industry’s biggest trade show is set for this January, and The PPAI Expo 2023 is returning with strength in numbers.

    The 2021 PPAI Expo was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it returned to its in-person format with cautious enthusiasm in January 2022 with pandemic-related safety measures. The PPAI Expo 2023, on the other hand, will be the 20th Expo at Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, and excitement is high.

    In fact, as of October 24, registration numbers continue to trend high for both distributors and exhibitors.

    According to an internal report, as of Monday, October 24, The PPAI Expo 2023’s onsite attendance is trending to be up almost 40% over last year’s. The Association is expecting representation from most, if not all, top distributorships across the country.

    And for good reason. There’s plenty to be excited about.

    • Promopalooza: The PPAI Expo Party is returning Live from Allegiant Stadium on January 11.
    • Engaging and respected keynote speakers have been announced.
    • Expo Live is slated to return, producing thought-provoking content throughout the week, including interviews with industry experts, compelling TED Talk-style presentations by leading professionals and more.
    • Networking opportunities abound, including scheduled meet-ups for young industry pros, tech professionals and women leaders.

    Promo pros everywhere have been anxious to get back to Las Vegas for The PPAI Expo. Michelle Britt, a product and systems specialist for Cintas, was the first person to register when registration opened in September.

    PPAI Media spoke with Britt about what makes The PPAI Expo a must-attend event for her.

    PPAI Media: What do you love about Expo?

    Michelle Britt (Cintas): I enjoy collaborating with my peers and exploring all of the new, creative products our suppliers bring to the industry. I love the ability to source new opportunities with new suppliers. I love seeing old friends and making new ones while attending the show.

    PPAI Media: What are you hoping to accomplish at The PPAI Expo this year?

    Britt: Along with discovering new creative products, of course, we are always looking for ways to bring creative, diverse and eco-friendly solutions to our customers. I am looking to leverage our existing suppliers to help with these solutions while onboarding new suppliers that can bring these creative offerings to the table.  

    PPAI Media: How many times have you been to The PPAI Expo prior to this year?

    Britt: Oh gosh, maybe four or five times.

    PPAI Media: If you have any funny or interesting or noteworthy anecdote about an experience at Expo in the past, we’d love to hear it.

    Britt: Well, to be honest … What happens in Vegas …

    Registration for The PPAI Expo is open. Attendance is free for PPAI member distributors and $99 for qualified non-member distributors. Rates are set to rise on December 4.

    Published With Permission from PPAI

  • October 31, 2022 10:47 AM | Christina Sanders (Administrator)

    So, you think you hit it off with a prospect. The conversation is flowing, you feel like you made a good impression and then **crickets** Getting ghosted is never a good feeling. It can drive you mad wondering what you did or said that caused the other person to suddenly cut off all communication with you.

    Your prospect may have disappeared for any number of reasons. The timing may not have been right, or they felt your company simply wasn’t a good fit. A competitor may also have caught their eye. Regardless of the reason, Brian Cristiano, the CEO of BOLD Worldwide, says that you shouldn’t panic if you don’t hear back right away. However, you should take some specific actions to stop a ghost in its tracks.

    In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share some of Cristiano’s best ghost-busting tips.

    How To Stop A Ghost

    Do you have a ghost on your hands? Cristiano says it’s probably because you let go of control of the sale. This momentary lapse in grip allowed the potential client to slip out of your hands. He adds that as a salesperson, it’s up to you to guide the prospect all the way from the initial point of contact to the signing of the contract. If a prospect is ghosting you, follow these tips to get them back before they disappear entirely.

    Don’t get angry. If someone is ghosting you, you may want to go off on them. However, this can only make the situation worse, Cristiano says. Instead, he recommends creating a pleasant climate for them to come back to. Leave them a voicemail or send an email to check in. This will signal that you care about solving their problem, he says. Then you can regain control by offering a few different times to reconnect in the coming days.

    Push for facetime with them. If there’s a ghosting-in-progress, do what you can to get them on a video call. Cristiano says then you can make them feel like they are in control by asking questions. The more talking they do, the more in control they feel, which helps you learn more about their challenge or issue. He recommends weaving in additional psychological sales strategies like testimonials and expert proof.

    Send a postcard. Consider this your breakup communication. The tone should have a “wish you were here” kind of feel like a postcard, Cristiano says. Let the prospect know you hope they found a solution to their problem and that you are closing out their file now. Many prospects will be spooked when they hear, “I hope you solved your problem,” and may reach out to you after all. And if they do, circle back to the first tip and don’t treat them harshly.

    When prospects ghost you, remember that it’s probably not personal. They may not be returning your calls or emails for any number of reasons — and you may never know those reasons. While you may not be able to get back every prospect who seemingly disappears, you can follow the play-by-play above when buyers ghost you.

    Compiled by Audrey Sellers

    Source: Brian Cristiano runs the Manhattan-based strategy firm, BOLD Worldwide, coaches some of the most successful names in business and speaks to audiences on how they can create success personally and in business.

    Published with Permission from PPAI

  • October 25, 2022 2:27 PM | Christina Sanders (Administrator)

    Fall is here, the time of year people gather around and tell each other scary stories. Unfortunately, the workplace has its fair share of all-too-real horror stories too.

    By bringing them to light, we hope they can become important lessons on what to do and not do.


    Knowing that his Kentucky company celebrates staff birthdays, an employee asked the office manager to not throw him a party. However, the office manager did not pass along the request and, while he was away, co-workers planned a birthday celebration for the employee. The employee then suffered a panic attack, so he avoided the party and sat in his car during the lunch break.

    The next day, two supervisors confronted him about his behavior, which prompted him to have another panic attack, turn red in the face and yelling at his supervisors to be quiet. The employee used a coping method which involved clenching his fists, causing the supervisors to feel threatened, so they sent him home and told security to not allow him back.

    Even though the employee texted apologizing for his behavior and explained it was how he copes with panic attacks, the company fired the employee, citing fear of physical harm and that his panic attacks did not meet the ADA-level of disability.

    The employee filed a claim for adverse employment action due to his disability. A jury agreed and awarded him $150,000 in lost wages and $300,000 for his suffering.

    Moral of the story: Honor an employee’s request to not be involved in company traditions or public outings that are not directly related to their job duties.


    There are numerous stories of potential and current employees ghosting their employers.

    Applicants fail to respond to interview requests or candidates who have been interviewed or even offered a job disappear with no warning. Even current employees, regardless of length of service, have been known to work without issues and then poof… without warning they do not show up to work, do not call in, and do not respond to managers who reach out not only to find out if they are coming in but if they are OK.

    Conversely, several companies have ghosted job candidates as well. Even though recommended practice, not every application gets acknowledged or sent a rejection letter early in the hiring process. However, companies have been known to interview candidates, promise follow-up, and even make a preliminary offer of employment but then never contact that candidate again.

    Moral of the story: Establish clear communication expectations for every stage of the hiring process and employment lifecycle. Let candidates and employees know that they are valued and who and how to reach out to communicate any issues they have. And be sure to have a welcoming, open communication style so people do not feel disappearing is their only option.


    A recruiter had an interview with a 19-year-old man for a summer internship. While it seemed to be a normal interview, the young man’s mother appeared a few minutes later apologizing for being late as she was parking the car. The mother then joined the interview, continually interrupting to extoll her son’s accomplishments and explain why the company should hire him.
    In fact, there are numerous stories of parents involving themselves in the hiring process for their children, including submitting their child’s resume on their behalf, asking to represent them in the interview since their child was “busy,” or calling to negotiate a higher salary.

    Moral of the story: Be prepared for outsiders intruding into the process. Calmly and respectfully explain to both the child and their parent that the hiring process is an interaction between the company and the applicant which is best one-on-one. Once hired, all personnel information is confidential and can only be discussed with the employee.

    Not A Costume

    Companies often have dress and appearance requirements, some due to safety purposes while others are to achieve the desired “look” the company wants its employees to present. The EEOC protects the employee’s rights to follow the attire and/or appearance requirements dictated by their religious beliefs.

    However, companies often enforce their requirements for all employees without making reasonable allowances such as skirts for women who are not allowed to wear pants or not hiring a woman who wore a headscarf to an interview (whose case was actually affirmed by the Supreme Court).

    Companies have had to pay large settlements due to not giving employees who wear beards and long hair the same employment and promotion opportunities. While some requirements do not need to be accommodated due to critical factors such as safety as long as enforced consistently for all employees (i.e., not allowing a firefighter to grow a religiously-required beard because it would cause his life-saving mask to no longer fit properly), many dress codes allow for some flexibility.

    Moral of the story: Review your dress code to evaluate its requirements for “wants” versus “needs.” If an employee makes an accommodation request for any legitimate reason such as medical or religious requirements, consider if the appearance policy can be flexed to honor the employee’s rights while maintaining safety and keeping the general “look” desired.

    HR does not have to be scary, and you do not need to face your fears alone. Reach out to Affinity HR Group to help you navigate the “horrors” you may face.

    Published With Permission from PPAI

    McAllister is a contributor for Affinity HR Group, PPAI’s affiliated human resources partner. Affinity HR Group specializes in providing human resources assistance to associations such as PPAI and their member companies. To learn more, visit www.affinityHRgroup.com.

  • October 25, 2022 2:23 PM | Christina Sanders (Administrator)

    On January 1, a new food packaging standard goes into effect in California that will have implications far beyond the state’s borders. In October 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsome signed Assembly Bill 1200 into law, which bans perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in food packaging at the beginning of 2023.

    Impact On Promo

    Considering the size of California’s economy – approximately 15% that of the United States, making the state the world’s fifth largest economy – its PFAS requirements on food packaging will likely impact U.S. promotional products businesses regardless of where they are located.

    Grimaldi Law Offices, a firm specializing in chemical and product law, noted in its analysis of the impending rule change that it “effectively creates a new national standard for food packaging and cookware disclosure requirements.”

    Food packaging is defined in the regulations as being, in part, to mean a nondurable package, packaging component or food service ware that is comprised, in substantial part, of paper, paperboard or other materials originally derived from plant fibers.

    • Examples of these products include food or beverage containers, take-out containers, liners, wrappers, eating utensils, straws, wrappers, utensils and disposable plates, trays and bowls.
    • PFAS substances are used in paper-based food packaging to resist liquids and grease.

    PFAS was also a topic of discussion at this year’s PPAI Product Responsibility Summit, which included a session on the substances and how industry companies can respond to impending regulations.

    The Regulations

    Assembly Bill 1200 requires manufacturers use the least toxic alternative when replacing regulated PFAS in food packaging.

    • Additionally, beginning January 1, the bill requires the manufacturer of cookware containing certain intentionally added chemicals to list online the presence of those chemicals. Manufacturers will have to include similar information on the product label beginning January 1, 2024.

    PFAS are a group of synthetic chemicals used in several industrial and consumer products. They are sometimes referred to as “forever chemicals” as they do not readily break down in the environment. They can also accumulate and persist in the human body. Due to these factors and more, PFAS substances are coming under increased scrutiny at the federal level.

    Published with Permission from PPAI

  • October 18, 2022 11:03 AM | Christina Sanders (Administrator)

    October 12, 2022 was a beautiful day at Brookside Golf Club in Pasadena as the Foundation for SAAC hosted 74 golfers for a fun day out on the course while raising money to fund scholarships for SAAC youth. Attendees were welcomed by lunch, Raising Cane’s refreshments and a hosted bar. The annual event featured new activities this year to keep the fun going all day long, starting with a putting contest hosted by Dan Madden of Nadel. Ed Maloney was the big winner of this first-time event, taking home $200 in cash and a Raising Cane’s gift basket worth over $150! 

    Bobbi Buescher, wife of the late Jim Buescher, kicked off the shotgun start with sentiments of how much SAAC meant to Jim and how wonderful it is to see his legacy continued with a fun golf outing. Out on the links, games hosted by SanMar, Geiger, and BANG! Energy encouraged everyone to have a great time and stay hydrated. Course refreshments were sponsored by ELIQS, Celsius Energy Drinks, and the Foundation for SAAC.

    While the golfers were vying for first place, another new feature, a wine tasting event, took place on the Mediterranean pavilion. A dozen SAAC members sipped selections from DAOU and Buffalo Ridge wineries and noshed on charcuterie while enjoying the sunshine. Joe Gavern of Imagen Brands said he enjoyed having a non-golf option for the Foundation’s biggest event of the year. Special thanks to ALPI International, Koozie Group, and Dan Madden for sponsoring the first-ever wine tasting event.

    As SAAC golfers filed in for dinner, the silent auction stole everyone’s attention with offerings of luxury items including trips to Florida, Dodgers, Kings, and Galaxy tickets, golf packages and more!  

    As the excitement continued to grow the winning team of the golf tournament was announced, with Todd Turquand’s foursome taking home some hardware! During dinner, the Foundation recognized 12 past presidents of SAAC among the dinner guests and thanked them for their years of support. 

    Overall, the day was a great success, and many voiced their pleasure with the event, citing the Foundation golf tournament as “the best networking we’ve done all year!”

    The Foundation for SAAC is blessed to have a wonderful group of board members, volunteers, and sponsors who made this day possible. To learn more about the Foundation for SAAC, visit saac.net/foundation

  • October 17, 2022 8:32 AM | Christina Sanders (Administrator)

    Relationships are the lifeblood of our industry. It’s a lesson I’ve learned, and now I’m reinvesting into my regional promotional products association, SAAC. By sharing my experience, I hope your company reevaluates its commitment to regional associations, whether you’re a distributor, supplier or industry player.

    I’m a "geriatric Millennial,” a micro-generation born in the early 1980s. I’ve spent my 20s and 30s in the promotional products industry. I couldn’t wait for the prophesized collapse of the trade show circuit, allowing me to get back to the native way of doing everything as my peers do: online.

    This idea was constantly challenged by my first promo boss and mentor, Bob Levitt. Bob is “old school promo,” which I believe is “Relationships First, Online Last.” This approach reeked of inefficiency to me for years.

    As Bob and I drifted apart in our careers, with him heading to a Top 2 distributor, and me venturing with my own independent distributorship, I continued on the path I approached most things in life: Why call when text is faster? Why visit when I can send an email?

    For the first couple years, it seemed to work well. I’d research products online, check inventory online, submit estimates and purchase orders online.

    My solopreneur business stayed flat throughout the pandemic. At the beginning of 2020, the business was on an upswing, with the company growing 100% plus per year for the past three consecutive years, and now with now employees across the country.

    With this growth, an entirely different level of management was required. This continues to be my greatest challenge. I’d love to be out prospecting all day, but now the company needs different things from me. Instead of selling all day, I’m supporting the team to sell all day. Guiding them through the process of fostering relationships with industry suppliers to enhance their knowledge and assist our clients.               

    As I look back as every single crisis, the solution has always been an interpersonal relationship with our suppliers and decorator partners. SAAC has always been the nearest and easiest avenue for little distributors like me to maintain and develop relationships.

    As my team at Radar Promotions has grown, the SAAC Expo has presented a unique and valuable event for our company each August. After more than five years in the industry, the regional and even PPAI Expo shows have lost some allure to me: I show up, and I talk with a lot of suppliers and decorators, but you pretty much know who’s who and what they do. What was very illuminating to me was how valuable our team’s first trade show was to them. Watching my Radar team think about how certain products could be decorated and sold to their unique clients was eye-opening.  

    The other truly unique asset that Regional Associations bring to the distributor experience is organized factory tours. I’m registered for two this month at the Picnic Time Family of Brands and Vantage Apparel. I haven’t been to a team-based factory tour before, and I’m looking forward to it, especially because these suppliers aren’t primary suppliers for our company. With that said, every primary supplier in our list of preferred suppliers started off NOT being one, so I have no doubt that these SAAC-Organized Factory Tours will energize our creativity and selling brains on how we can sell more.

    I’m calling out my Millennial self for this one, The PromoHunt toolbar by Tony Wavering is one of the best tools I have seen in our industry. If you don’t already have it installed, you need to install it today. This aggregates all buyer group pricing, if you’re a member, regional association specials/perks, and online stores and easy presentations. This no-charge toolbar, alone, has paid several times over for the minimal cost of being a SAAC member, and I cannot stress membership and participation for all distributor peers in SAAC’s area.

    Maybe Bob was right all along. My age might have been the biggest liability in my success. I can definitely say that after eight years working on both the supplier and distributor side, the relationships are what matters. When competitors can foster mutually beneficial and symbiotic relationships, and distributors can truly partner with suppliers, we will all succeed as industry. Join a regional association today.  

    Looking for a Regional Assocaition in your area, Click Here.

    Want to learn more about membership in SAAC, Click Here.

    Published With Permission From Ryan Paules, Radar Promotions

  • October 13, 2022 9:07 AM | Christina Sanders (Administrator)

    Effective leadership drives any organization, be it a business, a team or, in the case of this week’s 2022 PPAI Leadership Development Workshop, a regional association. Takeaways from the three-day event will inform executive directors’ and board members’ decision-making in the year ahead.

    LDW returned this week for its 21st in-person event and the first time the popular conference drew participants together face-to-face since 2019. It included attendees representing all of the promotional products industry’s 27 regional associations.

    “It’s great to be back,” says Brian Deissroth, CAS, PPAI Regional Relations Committee chair. “It’s great to be in-person. It’s great to network and collaborate and share with each other. That’s where the rubber meets the road, being together in person. So, I am really excited that we were able to pull this off.”

    The workshop ran October 10-12, beginning with an afternoon of education and networking specifically geared towards regionals’ executive directors. Its full agenda began in earnest Tuesday morning and ran through mid-day Wednesday.

    Opening Session

    Following a welcome by PPAI President and CEO Dale Denham, MAS+, and Deissroth, LDW’s full education agenda kicked off Tuesday morning with a keynote session led by Jason Jones, Ph.D.

    Jones, a best-selling author, executive coach and organizational psychologist, shared his insights on the power of the human brain and how it can be leveraged to attract, retain and engage membership.

    “Now more than ever, we have to lead from a place of unleashing the best in people,” says Jones.

    The human brain is wired to connect socially. Effective leadership, Jones explained, fundamentally depends on building good connections with another person. He shared three words – care, character and communication – that are fundamental to a mindset to support successful collaboration. A positive, empowering approach to leadership can pay dividends.

    He says, “You can believe in something so passionately that other people look at you and think that they want to feel that way too.”

    The Breakouts

    Much of LDW’s education opportunities are presented through a series of breakout sessions tackling a wide range of relevant subjects. As they run concurrently, most regionals divvied up the sessions among their attendees.

    “There have been several standouts for me at LDW,” says Deissroth. “PPAI’s strategic plan and how the RRC is going to ultimately back that up. The sustainability conversation and LEAD Local in 2023 are both really important to the RRC as well. And ultimately it’s been the collaboration and the sharing and the problem solving from the sessions. I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback today and look forward to hopefully doing this again next year.”

    Breakouts scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday included the technology needs of regional associations, legislative outreach at the local level, effective interpersonal collaboration, legal ins-and-outs and more.

    • A session on sustainable best practices for events and tradeshows drew a standing-room-only crowd, reflecting the attention PPAI and the industry are paying to promo’s sustainability question.
    • A session on digital marketing drew a similarly large audience, as two members of PPAI’s marketing staff shared best practices on crafting the effective, eye-catching emails and messages.

    “For me personally, I find that the synergies are really interesting,” says Stacy Midkiff, Northwest Promotional Marketing Association board member and first-time LDW attendee. “Being able to talk to everybody, other regions, and find out what they’re doing and seeing how their building their membership; it’s really taking it to the next level.

    “We’re finding new creative ideas and ways to go about things, changing our thought processes and coming up with something new. That’s what I love about this. It’s very cool.”

    Promotional Products Work (PPW)

    Tuesday’s education schedule wrapped with a review of PPAI’s Promotional Products Work program and PPW Expo. The review, which drew LDW attendees back into a single session, shared how attendees can include the program’s practices and ideas into their own planning.

    Sparking a back-and-forth her audience, PPAI’s Promotional Products Work Manager Lindsey Davis, MAS, also shared how regional associations can use PPW to support their own goals and how they can work together.

    Evening Fun

    LDW gave attendees several opportunities to network and mingle. And on Tuesday, after the day’s education programming wrapped up, attendees made the short hop next door to Austin Ranch, a rustic-themed event space, for the PPAI Regional Volunteer Recognition Dinner.

    At the recognition event, LDW participants enjoyed a Texas-sized meal, took advantage of games like billiards and cornhole, and celebrated Thea Bruce, CAS, the 2022 recipient of the PPAI Regional Volunteer Award. Bruce was recognized for her long-time service the industry as a board member and former executive director of the Northwest Promotional Marketing Association.

    Bruce has attended LDW several times before, but along with her award, this year’s workshop delivered something new.

    “I first came to LDW as an executive director and meeting with the other executive directors was invaluable,” says Bruce. “We were able to establish the standards and learn from each other. Coming back as a board member, it’s a whole different world. I’ve seen people I’ve known for a long time and met the fresh blood who are contributing and bringing new perspectives to our community. I’m very excited to be here.”

    Published With Permission From PPB

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