What it means to be a Leader

What does it mean to you to be a good leader? Everyone has a different leadership style, usually ones that we have learned or the ones we respond best to. What is the right style for you? What style do you respond to the best? In my opinion, being a leader is not a title, and trust me there have been many managers that I have had that were not leaders. They were more of a driver, cracking a whip and telling others what to do without showing how or leading the way. They would often sit in their offices checking the numbers and would come out when you did something they deemed good and give you praise, only to remind you in the next sentence that you are only as good as your last deal. Does that sound familiar?

I learned a long time ago that I respond better to someone who will go out, roll up their sleeves, and do the dirty work with me. Someone that finds the way to motivate his or her team and is always is there to keep that motivation going. I remember my first “boss” who did this. Howard Toole, CEO of Rome Radio Partners in Rome, GA, is a mentor of mine that I was happy to call my boss then and who to this day is someone I still consider a friend. I worked with him (notice I said with him and not for him) from 2011 to 2014. There are many things that made Howard a great leader, but what stood out the most is that he celebrated each win and took each loss with us. When we did lose, it wasn’t a harsh lecture, but rather a discussion on how the outcome might have been different. Howard would go to war with us and lead the charge. He was open to going to any meetings, discussing strategy, and helping with creative solutions to help us win the account. To me, that is what makes a true leader, not directing people, but doing it with them.

In November of 2018, when I was asked to take the position as Eastern Regional Manager for the Vernon Company, I wasn’t a leader from the start. That was a title I had to earn from my peers and the individuals I work alongside at Vernon. What was most important for me was to lead by example, not by being a “boss”. 

There are many qualities that make a good leader. The qualities that stand out the most, to me, are communication, understanding, patience, and the ability and willingness to work with the team. Those qualities have allowed me to build a solid rapport and trust with all 500 Vernon family members. The great thing about Vernon is anyone has the capacity to be a leader; and I’m grateful that we have plenty of them in our Vernon family. That’s the best thing about Vernon – we want everyone shine in their own way.

Do you agree? Take a moment and think about what you want and need in a leader and leave your thoughts and comments below.

A new way to meet.

The idea of a video conference call used to make me cringe. There are many things about it that are hard to get used to. Maybe you don’t feel like you look your best, your shirt isn’t the look you wanted to portray to your clients or your team. Maybe you are mildly interested in the meeting and would prefer to be able to tune out (you would never do that-I know) but, it could happen.

I am here to tell you, if you aren’t meeting face to face by video conference call- you are missing out!

I am part of a work group where we are constantly told, show up with video, no matter how you feel you look. Hair not washed, no makeup on- it really doesn’t matter.  Even though we say it, people are hesitant. You sit there on a call and while you get to see everyone else, you are also seeing yourself! Let’s be clear, we are our biggest critics and you are the only person that will notice.

Here is what you gain personally when you do a call by video:

  1. Face to face meetings
  2. The capturing of expression and body language
  3. The ability to smile at one another, or show you are really concerned without words
  4. Better flow of when to answer and less overtalking by the visual experience
  5. Be more engaged in the meeting

Efficiencies of the video call:

  1. The ability to quickly and easily share what you are talking about on the screen
  2. The ability to look things up while on the meeting and share them
  3. There are apps where can connect your software to your outlook calendar for easy scheduling

The bottom line, I don’t care what you look like today- the meeting isn’t shaped by weather or not you put makeup on, shaved, didn’t shave, or you put a hat on your head. What does make a difference is the deeper human connection and efficiency of the video call. Once you get used to doing them, you will feel cheated if you only get a phone call.

Here are some tips I use for a last-minute video call:

  1. Have a standard spot that you use. Jump on a video meeting by yourself and look for a nice background. Anything that looks cluttered-remove it. Is the lighting decent? Are you showing something that you don’t mind the world seeing? I like to look out the window when I work but the video view was of my door. I have a cart that I roll over to create the space I want so I am not compromising my workspace as I want it.
  2. Give yourself a quick refresher. I know I am going to see myself for the duration of the meeting and I feel better with a bit of lip gloss on. If I wore a sweatshirt, I throw a scarf on. If you work from home, change to a shirt that’s a better color for you. If you don’t, again, no one will notice but you.
  3. Don’t apologize for the way you look. You look great- think of the alternative and know the meeting will be better because you showed up and that’s what I really want.

Happy meeting!

Here are some links to free video conference calling apps that I have used and enjoyed:

https://www.freeconferencecall.com/

https://zoom.us/meetings

Don’t have a camera? No worries, you can do this from your cell phone. Or you can pick up an inexpensive camera at any major retailer starting at about $20:

https://www.target.com/p/logitech-c270-3-0mp-webcam—black–960-000694-/-/A-13252212

https://www.amazon.com/Hrayzan-Streaming-Microphone-110-Degree-Conferencing/dp/B07T3S1TCG/ref=sr_1_6?crid=2ILOK9WJACSEV&keywords=computer+video+camera&qid=1574434960&sprefix=computer+video%2Caps%2C210&sr=8-6

Chris Vernon Named Among Industry’s 50 Most Powerful People

Chris Vernon, MAS, CEO and President of The Vernon Company, has been recognized among the Counselor’s Power 50, the annual ranking of the most powerful executives in the $25 billion promotional products industry. This is the 14th consecutive year he has made this prestigious list. Mr. Vernon is the only Iowan represented on the Power 50 ranking.

The ranking is determined by a panel of editorial experts at ASI’s Counselor magazine, “the voice of the industry,” and is based on factors such as nominees’ achievements, industry influence, corporate revenue and the overall health of their respective companies.

“It is truly an honor to be recognized among so many of my industry peers,” said Vernon.  “I consider myself lucky to work alongside a highly engaged and customer-centric team here at Vernon. We constantly strive to bring our clients great brand-building ideas, value, and service.  I really feel like this recognition is more of a reflection of the way we work together as a team. I couldn’t be more proud.”

Winterize Your Business

Winter is here and along with it comes flu season, weather delays and all the extra commitments that go along with the holidays. It is no surprise to hear that winter can affect how a business is run, creating distractions by hindering projects, delaying deadlines, and impacting overall communication. So, just like many people who get their annual their flu shots, winterize their vehicles and request time off for holiday fun, now is the time to make sure that winter doesn’t freeze your business this season.  

If you or anyone you work with is feeling sick, they should stay home to keep from spreading illnesses. Office environments can be havens for airborne illnesses like colds and flu. Charles Gerba, a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona, found in his study that after four hours, bacteria on the front door knob at an 80-person office spread to about 50 percent of commonly touched areas (like the centrally-located coffee pot). Ew. So do everyone a favor and stay home – where thanks to technology, you can still be productive! Consider using video conferencing or simple phone-only conference calls to continue conducting business from home. These are also great tools to use to avoid having people drive in inclement weather just to attend a face-to-face meeting.

If you’re lucky enough to have a support team to lend a hand (like Vernon Account Executives do) lean on them to assist with product research, pricing, order follow-up or even working with customers on your behalf. Having others to rely on can be reassuring when you’re not feeling your best or when the weather isn’t cooperating with your sales plans.

In regards to bad weather, there is some data supporting the notion that bad weather can actually make us more productive.  It might sound crazy, but unpleasant weather is thought to improve concentration and productivity, in part because a rainy day or snowy day kills the potential for leisure time outdoors. Of course, that makes perfect sense – if we aren’t distracted by the sunny possibilities outside our window, we’re able to focus on the business at hand.  

Rather than try to hunker down and wait out the winter, you can keep your business moving even when bad weather and runny noses try to slow you down.  

5 Ways to Improve Your Marketing

No matter what industry you’re in, it’s likely that the successful marketing strategies you used just a few years ago aren’t generating the results you want in today’s ever-changing business setting.

Here are five ways you can ensure that your marketing efforts keep you moving in the right direction.

1. Know your niche.
Begin by understanding your business niche. What do you do best? Who needs what you do? Who uses your products/services?  How do you best reach these prospects? The more you understand about your business and who you are specifically marketing to, the easier it will be to reach those individuals. The same can be said for knowing who is not your ideal audience.  For obvious reasons, this will save you time, money and energy in your marketing efforts.

2. Market to customer needs.
Always assume your prospects will buy only what they need. How can you convince them of that need? Emphasize the features of your product or service that reduce costs and solve problems for the customer. Sometimes you can reposition or reformat your messaging to better suit the customer’s needs. Just because your product or service is the same, doesn’t mean your messages have to be. Be creative!

3. Understand what works for you.
We often fall into the rut of thinking that we already know what the customer wants or thinks. Many marketers make decisions based on their gut instincts, but with the wealth of data available to them, this doesn’t need to be the case. Ask, survey and request feedback from your customers.

4. Create a great customer experience.
Today’s most successful marketers create remarkable experiences for customers. There are numerous points of interaction between a customer and brand that should be taken into consideration. These interactions are growing richer and richer and marketing is often responsible for creating and managing these experiences. Strive to successfully deliver positive experiences and these in turn will have a positive impact on your business. For example, one of the highest forms of praise is a positive online review of your product or service. Satisfied customers are also more likely to refer you to friends and family when they’re happy with their buying experience.

5. Never stop learning and trying new things.
Does anyone even remember how we marketed before the Internet? As technology and access to information change, companies must be nimbler than ever when it comes to marketing trends and technology. Savvy marketers are actively blogging and tweeting the latest data and information, using online platforms like LinkedIn to boost their recognition, and analyzing customer data using CRM software. Your marketing strategy should not be limited to one tactic or approach. Consider incorporating social media, content marketing, customer data, mobile marketing and event marketing with promotional products into your mix. Stay up on the latest trends by reading blogs and white papers and attending educational webinars.

The Vernon Company is recognized as one of the largest and most successful promotional product firms in North America. Founded in 1902 by F.L. Vernon, we serve more than 40,000 customers from our Newton, Iowa corporate headquarters.

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