Never stop learning.

Greetings from the Internet – where we are continuing to work hard to adapt to new ways of conducting business! We had another very effective Coffee Collaboration this week. Some of us needed a warm beverage more than others this week; I sure hope everyone is handling these record temperatures in the same way everyone is handling changes to our business climate. 

Our meaningful discussion with colleagues this week centered around the exciting concept of kitting. We discussed ways to utilize this concept for programs such as new-hires, employee appreciation, virtual events, and more. Kitting is particularly enticing now that so many companies are relying on telework these days. Our group brought their usual creativity to the collaboration. The tips and tricks we learn from one another are nothing short of remarkable. 

I’m always grateful for these informal, but insightful gatherings. I walk away with new ideas from everyone in the field, as well as, our supplier partners.  What great fresh concepts and ideas!  I ask myself ‘what is working for the Vernon Account Executives?’ One of the greatest things I learned from my business mentors is to never stop thinking about new ways to get into the market

Keep the ideas coming! The Vernon Company was practically founded on a ‘social’ business model. While we all long for the days when we can gather together in person, enjoying stories about our families and our business, I’m proud to see how well we’ve evolved into life online.      

How seriously are you taking your education?

We’ve just finished attending PPAI’s annual EXPO which, in a “normal” year, is an opportunity for us to meet with others in the industry, network with like-minded industry professionals, see the best and latest products available, and learn and grow by attending education sessions.

PPAI knows the importance of this annual event, and despite all the COVID-related issues, they were able to pull off a virtual event that, given feedback from attendees, was fantastic overall. Much of this praise is due to the number and variety of education sessions available to virtual show attendees. Whether it was a pre-recorded keynote speaker session from years past or it was a live Q&A or product demonstration, the quality of this year’s education was outstanding.

Why should this be important to each of us? It’s because our level of professionalism, the knowledge we bring to our clients, and the expertise we can share with others makes our industry unique. Distributors are the vital link between the customer and the supplier or product manufacturer. The distributor is the primary point person for the client and that client relies on their distributor partner to help them with branding, marketing strategy, and effective promotional programs. It’s where we add value to the customer and can become an indispensable partner.

At Vernon, we’ve always believed that ongoing education is key to our success. This is why at EXPO this year, we offered two unique educational sessions to show-goers.

The first session, which was recorded and can be downloaded here, featured a Q&A session with Jamie Watson from Certified Marketing Consultants. CMC has been providing consulting services to the industry for many years, helping guide distributors who are considering selling their businesses or are contemplating retirement, on the right path. From business evaluations to advice on how to make your business more valuable, Jamie and the entire team at EXPO are truly the experts. They’re also offering a new service for distributors to provide assistance with tax preparations, a much-needed area of education for distributor owners. Plus, Jamie is very well-known in the industry for her expertise with accounting best practices and her no-nonsense approach to business.

The second session Vernon hosted, was an exciting one for attendees, as underscored by the overwhelmingly positive feedback we received. Lauren Bailey, the founder of Factor8, the Sales Bar and Girls Club, held virtual audience members captive with her engaging and enlightening presentation about transitioning from in-person to virtual sales. Lauren is a rockstar! As a twenty-year veteran of the Inside Sales industry, she has traveled the world to launch successful Inside Sales teams, working with in-house and outsourced sales teams primarily focusing on IT, Software, and Distribution. Past clients include SAP, Sony, Waste Management, Ingram Micro, Grainger, Microsoft & Google. During our hour-long education session, attendees were rewarded with solid, actionable takeaways and tips for being more proactive and comfortable with selling virtually.

If you were unable to attend either of these sessions, you will truly benefit from watching the recordings. Fire up the laptop, get your pen and paper ready, and prepare to get your education on!

We were excited to offer these sessions to the industry during EXPO, and we definitely look forward to more engaging education to come!

Welcome to 2021!

2020 – what a year it was!  2021 is continuing to be full of changes.  What to do – what to do?  I try to focus on what I can control and what I can impact.  One of those things is self-development, feeding my desire to learn/grow and also to stay relevant to what the industry is doing.  We all drive the bus to our own growth.  But how, how in the world in all of my hustle and bustle day of the 8,000 things I need to get done do I make time for this on top of everything else I have to do?  I am a huge fan of maximizing your time.  Take a look at everything you do and see how you can squeeze it in.  When you’re on the treadmill, when you are waiting in line, when you have some windshield/air time, schedule it, or carve out some of your Facebook time and divert it to your growth and development time.   It doesn’t need to be an hour or hours at a time, sometimes it might be 5-10 minutes.  There are many different resources and formats that you can use to digest.

Here are some of my top hits:

  • LinkedIn – You can browse your feed when you’re waiting in line or instead of Facebook, etc., jump on LinkedIn.  If you are following the right stuff or have good connections, it’s great what you can learn at a quick glance.
  • Online articles – Great place to find out industry news.  Subscribe to those that you connect with.
  • Google news – Like LinkedIn, you can follow certain customers/businesses/people.
  • Books – Whether it be the old-fashioned kind, the downloaded kind, or get this – did you know your local library has an app that allows you to check out books AND audiobooks??  I wasn’t aware of this, and it’s the best thing that I’ve found out about in the last few years!  Hello audiobooks when I’m in my car and I’ve got some windshield time.  I can go through 4-6 books in a month.
  • Ted talks/Podcasts – Another good thing to listen to on the treadmill or when you’re traveling.
  • Associations/Groups – Get involved and be present.

What makes my top 10 list?

  • LinkedIn
    • The Vernon Company 😊
    • Harvard Business Review
    • Simon Sinek
    • AA-ISP
    • Shari Levitin
    • Dr. Travis Bradberry
    • Steve Richard
    • Suppliers
    • Customers
    • Prospects
  • Books
    • The Infinite Game – Simon Sinek
    • Find Your Why – Simon Sinek
    • It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy – D. Michael Abrashoff
    • Good to Great – Jim Collins
    • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Patrick Lencioni
    • The Energy Bus – Jon Gordon
    • The Power of a Positive Team – Jon Gordon
    • Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell
    • Grit – Angela Duckworth
    • Secrets of Closing the Sale – Zig Ziglar

You’ll be surprised how much time you can fit this in.  Do it – you’re worth it!  Cheers to a great and successful 2021!

2021…… New Year, New You, New Attitude…… Embrace It

Today, January 6th, means we are almost a full seven days into 2021. What have you done to make your situation better? A lot of things are changing around us, but what are you doing to better yourself? We all make New Year’s resolutions, but are they bettering your personal and professional growth? Know your self-worth and make sure that whatever you are doing is bettering your situation, and gets you to where you need to be. Set goals that will make you better.

Make these goals intentional to help achieve success. Make sure you have daily goals; these will help achieve those weekly goals. Those weekly goals should help you achieve your monthly goals, and those monthly goals should get you to your quarterly goals. All this looks and sounds great on paper, but all this can be started by your attitude. You have to have a good attitude about it all, your attitude will dictate your success. Your success will be measured by how many goals you accomplish… be hungry and don’t allow anyone to change your mindset.

Knowing your self-worth and having the right attitude will help push you to complete your goals, and that means success.

2021 is here don’t allow anything to stop you, be hungry… it’s time to Eat!

Year-end checklist for distributor owners

Late December is a crazy busy time for most of us. Between the holidays, home life and, this year, mitigating COVID-19 risk, it seems like there’s hardly enough time to address the year-end needs for your business. Whether it’s tax preparation, evaluating the business, and dealing with employee issues to close out the year, the list of things owners need to begin addressing can seem overwhelming. But keep in mind that taking some time now to shore up your business can help you end the year strong and can help ensure that you start the new year off on the right foot.

The following checklist includes a few of the major tasks you should begin addressing now, before the new year sneaks up on you.

Accounting

Managing your financial records is critical throughout the year, but even more so in December. Maintaining accurate records can help you predict what the next year may have in store for your business. Plus, you’ll be better prepared for tax season. At a minimum, crucial reports to review for year-end include your monthly and annual income statements (also called a profit & loss sheet), a balance sheet, and a cash flow statement. If, like many small businesses during COVID, your profits ended up lower than you had planned, now is the time to give some thought to changes you might want to make. For more tips on evaluating the financial health of your business, it would be wise to speak to an accounting professional who is well-versed in the promotional products industry. We suggest speaking with the professional staff at Certified Marketing Consultants, https://www.certifiedmarketing.com/index.html as they’re offering new services for owners like tax preparation.

Technology

As we near the end of 2020, it’s a great time to look at the technology you use within your business. Back-up your essential computer data and customer and vendor contacts, download any important reports or data files that would make it difficult to do business in case of a disaster, and reorganize your paper and electronic files to ensure that you have back-ups that are readily accessible. If you’ve not yet converted your systems to paperless, it might be beneficial to find an outside vendor who can provide these data storage and filing services.

HR

Once the critical business tasks have been addressed, December is an excellent time to examine your current staffing situation. Take stock of your current staff and determine whether or not additional staff will be needed in 2021 and budget accordingly. Alternatively, you may need to address having too much administrative costs wrapped up in staff.

Now is also a great time to reward employees for a job well done and to help boost morale as you head into a new sales year. In addition, the end of the year is a good time to review your employee compensation and benefits plans to ensure they’re still competitive.

Everything else

Finally, there are a few business odds and ends you should take a look at before you start the new year. Create new business goals for the upcoming year, anticipating the impact that COVID may or may not have on your business. “Hope for the best, but plan for the worst”, has never been truer than during this global pandemic. Also, if you run any company stores or customer programs or if you operate a warehouse, you know that year-end always means that it’s time to count any on-hand inventory. You want to be sure that you’re keeping accurate records and avoiding internal loss.

Remember, it’s these back-office tasks that keep your business running smoothly and can help ensure that your business is properly situated for success in 2021.

We are thankful for…

It’s that time of year when we reflect on and give thanks for the many blessings we have in our lives. In addition to family, friends, and good health, members of our Vernon sales team shared with us what they love and appreciate about working with Vernon. Here are some of their comments:

Luke Sigle, Salesperson: I appreciate the friendship and care that Vernon leadership provides me as a salesperson.

Stephanie Vernon-Critchfield, National Sales Manager: I’m thankful to be part of the Vernon family that makes you feel that everyone is glad to help you be successful.

Jill McFarland-Packard, Salesperson: I am thankful to Vernon for the ability to keep my business healthy and active which I truly feel is because of the strong financial commitment Vernon has made to its Account Executives to keep orders moving even with so much uncertainty and chaos!! 

Kelli Denes, Director of Business Development: I am thankful for a company that treats its staff like family.

Maureen Helm, Salesperson: This year has certainly brought on its share of challenges, but I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to work from the safety of my home. I’m thankful for the Vernon home office staff who are supportive, kind, and always available to help me navigate challenges.

Eddie Moore, Salesperson: I’m thankful to be a part of the Vernon family that has such an amazing culture, I’m happy to call everyone not only coworkers, but friends.

Dave Regan, Senior VP Sales & Marketing: I am thankful to work for a company that is financially stable enough to weather this 2020 storm.

From all of us to all of you, we hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday and surround yourself with all the things that bring you joy.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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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