Collaboration Keeps Spirits High

Recently, Vernon created a monthly, virtual get-together for our salespeople called “Coffee Collaborations.” The inspiration came largely from Kelli Denes, our Director of New Business Development. These virtual sessions provide a great opportunity for our field team members to connect, drink coffee, share ideas, and strategically plan for their business. This informal gathering was an instant hit among the group after just a few sessions. Socialization is one of the hallmarks of a career in sales, yet it’s become one of the many casualties of 2020.

This month’s call was our best one yet.  Each team member came prepared with a project or idea that they had pitched to a client recently. The exchange was fabulous.  The energy was contagious, and the creative ideas were flowing.

Hats off to all for the peer reviews & support. 

Collaboration, teamwork, and ingenuity…indeed, a very good week for Vernon!

Time for a check-up

As we approach Thanksgiving and the end of the calendar year, it is important to set aside some quiet time to review your personal and business goals to see where you stand. Today we will steer clear of your personal goals, yet we will take time to explore the business side.

How can it be that I feel five years older now than I did in January and February, pre-covid? Holy cow! The fact of the matter is that most of us began the year with goals. It does not matter whether you are an individual business owner, or you find yourself working for someone else, you had goals.

“I want to make $100,000” (Salesperson)


“I want to have my company sell more than $3 million” (Distributor Owner)

And then what happened? The calendar flipped to March and all of us (and I mean all), lost control of our ability to reach our goals. That helpless feeling set in. We all experienced it.

I am certain that it took some time but eventually, most owners and salespeople came to the realization that goals needed to be reset. Any goal setting training will start with the premise that “goals must be realistic and attainable”.

Our company realized that we needed to furlough people to bring our costs in line with the number of orders and amount of business that we were receiving. We were early to the game of restricting travel resulting in saved expenses since every dollar was more important than ever. We canceled some national meetings and made decisions to postpone some incentive trips. We essentially had to “right-size” our company.

Our account executives found that orders were hard to come by and since they are commissioned salespeople, they had to adjust their personal budgets to better align with their income.

All of us took whatever support we could find, but the reality is that even at the end of October, nine months later, things are different. Companies and individuals that were “supported” by PPP (payroll protection plan) and unemployment insurance and other programs are faced with a future of surviving and moving forward without that assistance.

Now is the time to look toward the future of your own business. I don’t believe that it is politically incorrect to reference Thanksgiving as a time for all to appreciate what we have as owners and salespeople that have helped us through the tough times and to identify those people and services that have helped you steady the ship and say, “Thank You”. Now is the perfect time to establish your 2021 goals and set the plan to achieve them. It is also a time to consider help and support if you need it.

Unfortunately, many business owners cannot survive heading into 2021 with 30%-40% less business. Some salespeople cannot survive if they find themselves in situations where valuable support services or employment benefits have been reduced or eliminated. These are the owners and salespeople that need to look at their options.

The message here is not intended to say that everyone needs help or doesn’t need help or that they need to make some changes. However, I do believe that everyone does NEED to assess and evaluate their situation so that they are NOT surprised when we turn the calendar to 2021. It is always prudent to review your personal situation at the end of a tax year. It has never been more important than this year due to the current situation.

P.S. If your self-analysis reveals that you should explore some options to change, we might suggest that you request our White Paper titled “Is the Grass Really Greener” which outlines important questions to ask during your due diligence process.

How to balance work-life during COVID-19

If you’re anything like me, finding a work-life balance during COVID-19 has been a whole new beast. You work from home, finish up your day, then you go…. well probably not too far.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have been working from home for over two years now. However, the current COVID-19 restrictions have put a whole new meaning to that.  

Here are four ways I try to keep the balance:

Have a routine – Every morning I wake up at the same time, feed and let my dogs out, and start the workday. Also, make time for lunch, or in my case gym time (this might be a workout at home) to help clear the mind mid-day. This might seem like a simple thing, but when you’re working from home, it’s important to be able to stick to a routine.

Take breaks – In a regular 9-5 there are breaks that are, in most cases, mandatory. These should not go away just because your office location has changed. It’s important to take a little time during the workday to stand up, move around, and maybe take a 10-minute walk. I’ve found that this helps me to refocus and re-energize to get me through the day.

Set a stop time – Actually end your workday. If you’re newer to working from home (like many are right now) this might seem crazy, but yes, it’s important. I try to set a time of 5pm to turn off my work and step away. Does this always happen? Of course not, but having a set time helps me separate work from the rest of life.

Do something to tell your body that work is over – So, this is where I have had to alter my routine since the beginning of the pandemic, that I didn’t find necessary before. These days you can’t easily run to the store for fun or go out for happy hour with some friends. For me, I always try to take my dogs on a longer walk after I’ve finished my workday, and then I read on the balcony. Since COVID-19 I’ve realized there is apparently a limit to how much binge-watching you can do… and I think I’ve hit it. With that, I’ve been trying to add in little things that change up my day and enjoy some things that I normally “wouldn’t have time for”.

This is how I’ve been able to keep a “normal” balance between work and my outside life during COVID that has helped me stay on task. I’d love for you to share your experiences and suggestions. You can reach me at

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.

Face masks may reduce COVID-19 spread by 85%, WHO-backed study suggests

Reprinted from 6/2/20
Written by Rachel Rettner

Here’s how much face masks, social distancing and eye protection may help with preventing COVID-19 spread.

Social distancing, face masks and eye protection all appear to reduce the spread of COVID-19, in both health care settings and the general community, according to a new review commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO). 

The review found that keeping a distance of at least 3 feet (1 meter) from other people lowered the chances of coronavirus infection or spread by 82%, and keeping a distance of 6 feet (2 m) could be even more effective.

Wearing face masks and cloth face coverings was also linked with COVID-19 protection for the general public; the same was true for health care workers, but there was a trend suggesting that N95 masks provided greater protection in health care settings than other types of masks. Eye protection, which people perhaps tend to think about less than nose and mouth protection, may also provide additional benefits in both community and health care settings, the authors said.

However, the authors note that the findings on face masks and eye protection are based on limited evidence. And overall, none of the practices examined in the study fully protected against COVID-19.

“Although distancing, face masks and eye protection were each highly protective, none made individuals totally impervious from [COVID-19] infection,” study lead author Dr. Derek Chu, a clinician scientist in the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact, and the Department of Medicine at McMaster University in Ontario, said in a statement. For this reason “basic measures such as hand hygiene are also essential to curtail the current COVID-19 pandemic and future waves,” he said.

For the new review, published June 1 in the journal The Lancet, Chu and his team examined studies on COVID-19 as well as the related conditions SARS and MERS. Overall, the researchers analyzed information from 44 studies involving more than 25,000 people in 16 countries. (Seven of these studies involved COVID-19, 26 involved SARS and 11 involved MERS.)

The studies examined the effects of social distancing, face masks and eye protection (such as face shields, goggles and glasses) on virus transmission. (The researchers considered these measures separately rather than in combination. They were not able to examine how a person’s duration of potential exposure affected their risk of infection.) 

With social distancing, the chances of infection or transmission of these coronaviruses was about 3% when people kept a distance of at least 3 feet from others, compared with 13% when people kept a distance of less than that. What’s more, for every extra 3 feet (up to 10 feet, or 3 m), the risk of infection or transmission of these coronaviruses was reduced by half.

With face masks, the chance of infection or transmission was 3% with a mask compared with 17% without a mask, a reduction of more than 80%. And for eye protection, the chance of infection or transmission was 6% with protection and 16% without.

“Our findings are the first to synthesize all direct information on COVID-19, SARS and MERS, and provide the currently best available evidence on the optimum use of these common and simple interventions to help ‘flatten the curve,'” study senior author Holger Schünemann, a professor at McMaster University, said in the statement.

Additional analysis in health care settings found that N95 respirators were 96% effective at protecting workers in these settings, while other types of masks (such as surgical masks) were 77% effective.

These findings show that “for health care workers on COVID-19 wards, a [N95] respirator should be the minimum standard of care,” Raina MacIntyre, a professor of global biosecurity at the University of New South Wales’ Kirby Institute in Australia, and colleagues, wrote in a commentary accompanying the study. 

The review also “supports universal face mask use, because masks were equally effective in both health care and community settings,” the commentary said.

However, the review did not include any randomized control trials — the goal standard of medical research in which people are randomly assigned to a treatment or control group. (There were no randomized control trials on this topic.) Rather, the review looked at observational studies in which researchers observe populations without assigning a treatment. Randomized controlled trials now are needed, particularly those examining the effect of face masks on infection risk; and two such trials for masks are currently underway in Denmark and Canada, the authors said.

Originally published on Live Science.  

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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