Work-Life Balance: Tipping the scale in the right direction

As I sent my kiddos off to school for our new normal, every other day learning plan. I realized I had my house to myself for the first time in almost six months. I love my kiddos and they are mostly self-sufficient, but the days have been louder than I am used to. I can find the bright spots in the gifts of this strange time but part of being my best is in quiet and solitude and I experienced this wholeheartedly this week for the first time in six months.

Being alone in quiet surroundings is not something I never thought I would crave. Quiet is part of how I operate at my highest capacity. I am an early riser because I know, I’m at my best before the sun comes up. My mind is fresh and sharp. I can accomplish my most challenging tasks very early in the morning. This also feeds my soul with the need for quiet and solitude. I have shifted this time earlier over the years to maximize my efficiencies into this productive time slot by myself.

When the hustle and bustle get moving in the afternoon with three active and busy kiddos, my mind is more scattered, and my thoughts shift to assisting in the coordination of schedules. The evenings are held for family and cooking together unless everyone is off at practice and this is another opportunity to carve out what I need to do. This is all carefully orchestrated. Maximize my skills at my best times. Fully engage with my family at the best times. Every day is a conscious choice to make it all happen.

How do you work at your best? Are you up before the sun or are you a night owl who can dive into a project after the day is almost done? I wish I could be more of a night owl- it is just not me. Knowing how you operate and how to fit each piece of your puzzle of life is important! When you find a way to make your life fit best for you- that is the closest thing to balance that we can achieve.

What choices are you making? Do you have the flexibility of choice to operate your business the way you want to? Do you have the security and peace of mind that everything is covered while you step into each role of your life? The Vernon Company has helped generations of Account Executives to find their stride…to make the best choices for them as individuals and the freedom to craft what they want out of life. More family time. More trips. More time for that run with a friend. Now, more time to assist the family through the schooling process as so much of it is done at home in our current situation.

What is it that you want? We can help those dreams come true. Yes, you can have your cake and eat it too. Welcome to the good life.

Communication will always be important.

We hosted another one of our Coffee Collaboration Zoom calls last week.  We’ve been holding these since the beginning of Covid-19 to connect with our team in a positive new way.  I am always delighted to see everyone join these forums.  We begin the call with a coffee, toast then a quick way to break the ice.  We then head into smaller breakout sessions with our peers to discuss specific topics.  At Vernon, we’ve found this to be a great way to communicate and “buddy” up with our peers.   We’re finding ways to share ideas, propose solutions to challenges, and balance workloads in these unusual times.  If you’re not with Vernon, reach out to your local association or directly to PPAI to see what events they’re holding and take advantage of our incredible network.

I remain inspired by what I am experiencing on these calls.  No one could have predicted how advantageous and effective collaboration could be in a time when many we ready to declare defeat and wait for normalcy to return. 

Success most often requires teamwork – in an unexpected blow to in-person collaboration, we’ve found a way to succeed together in the Information Age. 

What teens can teach us about brand loyalty.

There are so many things I’m learning from raising boys. When they were younger, it was the usual – and obvious – things. Mine, in particular, were very rowdy. I remember saying, “No, Mom is not your jungle gym,” on more than a handful of occasions. Mine were also louder than others, or so it seemed in our tiny house. And if I remember correctly, they were also very inquisitive and both could negotiate their way out of nearly any situation when challenged. What’s interesting, is that with each step and misstep, I continue to learn from them. I am surprised how often I expect to be the teacher, yet, I constantly am reminded that I can also be their student.

Lately, their strongest influences seem to be their peers insofar as what’s cool, what’s “lit” and what’s a “cap” (which apparently means a lie). Of course, as has been the case for decades, that extends to what they wear and how they wear it. In today’s culture, the fascination and dependence on social media and by extension social media influencers permeates so much of their personalities. It’s not unusual to see teenagers randomly doing dances they’ve seen – and memorized – on TicTok or proudly wearing some “merch” featuring a saying or logo from a YouTuber they follow. It’s literally everywhere. Which to me is a little crazy, given that when I owned a pair of “cool Jordache” jeans when I was a kid, that was a huge deal. Brands were not as savvy then as they are now.

But when I think about the fact that in fewer than 10 years, both of my boys will (hopefully) be well out of college and could possibly making buying decisions within their workplaces, it makes me want to know and understand the importance of creating brand loyalty early and consistently. If anything, we can all learn something from hugely successful brands like Apple and Google. These are the companies that clearly know the value of having brand loyalists who can, in turn, advocate on your behalf. On a small scale, it happens in my own household with one son finding a new, cool influencer and sharing them with his brother and his friends.

So the question is, how hard are you working to build these types of relationships with and for your promo buyers? Are you showing them that you know what’s happening in the promo industry, offering solutions to their marketing problems and assisting them with marketing their brand? For your buyers, YOU are the cool promo expert who knows what can help them create brand loyalists and advocates. The result of cultivating these types of relationships for them, is that they’ll appreciate that you’ve gone the extra mile. They’ll understand that you made a difference in their business. Best of all, they’ll come back to you the next time they have a marketing or branding challenge.

Vernon Company Recognized as Top 40 Distributor

NEWTON, IA—The Vernon Company has been named one of the 2020 Top 40 Distributors in the promotional products industry by the Advertising Specialty Institute’s (ASI) Counselor magazine.  With a 5-year annual average growth rate of 4%, Vernon is 27th on the annual list of top-ranking industry organizations.

“We are very proud to be recognized again as one of the leading firms in our industry,” says Chris Vernon, MAS, Vernon Company CEO.  “We believe our success can be attributed to the hard work and dedication our Account Executives and support staff provide every day, helping clients find effective solutions to their marketing and branding needs.” 

The annual Top 40 Distributor ranking identifies the largest promotional product distributor companies in the nation, based on their previous year’s revenue, as reported to ASI. Vernon reported 2019 audited sales volume at $80.6 million.

Building Today to Create Future Success in Promo

As we’ve all seen, world events can take a huge toll on your business. Recently some of the biggest effects have been seen leading from COVID. It’s easy to say, “I’ll wait for all of this to blow over” or “My client will come back with their orders when they’re ready.” But the real question is, “How can I build today to set up for success down the road?” The following are a couple of different ways to help with that, including utilizing PPE and social media.

Have you suddenly been thrown into the new and sometimes complex world of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)? Many of us have had to learn to expand our perspectives and sometimes move beyond our comfort zone to offer clients an entirely new category of promo products. For some, who jumped on the bandwagon early or who already had experience selling to hospitals, clinics, and other medical professionals, this wasn’t a huge stretch. For the rest of us, however, we’ve had to rethink not only what we can sell right now, but who we are selling to. And the scary situation that we’re often faced with is, even if we get that order, is it a one-and-done?

One way to keep building your business is to look at those new PPE customers as a potential promo/apparel client with long term potential. After you have given them excellent service and competitive pricing, build on that. Similar to your current clients, you can send them a thank you as a way to show them appreciation for the business, but you can include a unique sample to show them the other side of the business you can help them with, making sure that they’re aware that the branding opportunities you can offer them are endless.

Now that so many businesses have been switching over to work from home and similar models, how do you plan on getting in front of new buyers? One suggestion is to start using social media to your advantage. Many local business groups and even municipalities have started hosting virtual town hall meetings. Joining in on these and then connecting with the attendees on social media (LinkedIn or similar) could be a new way to get in front of those businesses. After connecting with these new leads, you can easily message them and introduce yourself and share what you can do to help them. Beyond virtual meeting connections, use social media platforms as a resource for finding new leads that you think could be beneficial. Building these connections and then posting content to keep in front of the new potential clients can take time, but it is another tool to add to your arsenal to stay in front of clients in a world where emails are quickly overlooked.

Adding PPE clients to your regular business programs along with marketing yourself through social media are just a couple of ways you can continue to build for future success.

Puzzle sales are peaking during COVID-19 quarantine

Originally published at 4/10/20
Written by Kristin Schwab

Have you played a board game in the past couple of weeks? Maybe you’re putting together a jigsaw puzzle? You’re definitely not alone.

Puzzles are selling out fast. Demand for them is surging and many stores can’t keep stock on the shelves. At Ravensburger, the global market leader, sales are up 370%. “We’re pretty much experiencing Christmastime at Easter,” CEO Filip Francke said.

The first puzzles to sell out were cozy scenes in front of the fireplace. Next were ones of dreamy, far-away places. Another popular category is expert-level puzzles that are, for instance, of nothing but bright orange mac and cheese.

“Maybe it’s that satisfaction of completing something in an otherwise kind of messy world around you,” Francke said.

The other reasons they’re popular are not so puzzling. 

“It’s very therapeutic [for a lot of folks] because it’s a simplistic play pattern that’s tech free, it’s screen free,” said James Zahn, senior editor at The Toy Insider.

The sales boom isn’t just good for puzzle makers. As big retailers sell out, it’s also helping small toy shops grab a piece of the puzzle.

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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