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:



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:






The Vernon Company is pleased to announce that Stephanie Conklin has been named a service super hero by PPAI, the promotional product industry’s primary association. PPAI’s PPB Magazine annually recognizes the industry’s top customer service individuals. Conklin, a longtime Newton resident, was named one of fourteen superheroes for 2018.


“During her more than four decades at Vernon, Stephanie has learned how to support the company’s salespeople so they can focus on selling,” says nominator and Vernon sales rep Michael Propst. When he’s out of the office, she reaches out to the customer if questions arise so the orders keep moving forward and she handles most of the issues before they ever get to Propst and the other salespeople. For example, on one order, the vendor had indicated significant deviations from what the customer requested. Before the problem ever reached the salesperson, she jumped in, straightened it out and sent a resolution to the customer, then updated the salesperson. By taking personal responsibility to correct the errors, she made a potentially big problem a non-issue.


“I’m honored and humbled to receive this recognition,” says Conklin. “The best part of my job is having the opportunity to work with our account executives and help resolve their issues accurately and expediently. I really believe that my work ethic was instilled in me by my family, so I do my best to provide great service to all of our salespeople.”


“These superheroes prove that customer service is not a department—it’s an attitude,” states Tina Berres Filipski, editor at PPB Magazine.


The full article can be found in the November issue of PPB Magazine.

Vernon Life Supporters Raise $4,500 for Fight Against Cancer

The Vernon Company’s Vernon Life Supporters team raised $4,500 for the American Cancer Society in the fight against cancer. The money was raised through a variety of company fundraisers, including a silent auction with over 20 auction items, a book and bake sale, the opportunity to purchase “jeans days” to wear to work, fruit and vegetable sales, pizza and walking taco lunches and the purchase of bird and leaf cutouts for Vernon’s Tree of Hope in honor of loved ones who have or have had cancer.

“Our Vernon Life Supporters team was made up of very big-hearted individuals who were determined to make a difference in the fight to defeat cancer,” said Bruce Corlew, Vernon Life Supporter team member. “Our team has lost two former team members to cancer, and all of us have been impacted by cancer in one way or another. I am very proud and thankful for each one of our member’s efforts and the unselfish way they worked together as a team.”

“The hard work and dedication of the Vernon Company’s Vernon Life Supporters is changing lives for those who are fighting cancer,” said Stephanie Fritz, American Cancer Society North Region Community Development Manager. “The money they raised for the American Cancer Society is going to life changing research, support and education that is saving lives.”

The Vernon Life Supporters Team is comprised of 11 Vernon employees, including Bruce Corlew, Eloise Froah, Jodi Foster, Laurie Fanning, Sommer Kibbee, Aleyna Hinderberger, Kristine Perkins, Melissa Hobbs, Natalie Chandler, Pam McCormick and Paula Zickmund.

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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