Be Prepared

Like anything in life, the better you prepare, the better the experience. We are working hard gearing up for our National Sales Meeting in April and like anything else, a successful show is closely related to the amount of thought put in on the front end. Our Account Executives give their energy during these few days with their friends and colleagues but without a plan its just time away and fun experiences. Our hope is that it’s both of those things and so much more.

It’s important for our people to know what they will need before the meeting and to come prepared with:

  1. Artwork from their top customers. That way, they can quickly share it with suppliers at any moment.
  2. A list of upcoming customer events and projects to make it easier to collaborate and brainstorm with suppliers on-site.
  3. Reach out to.

It’s also common for our account executives to reach out directly to top suppliers in advance to better prepare them for discussing specific clients and ideas during the meeting.

We also strongly encourage participants to approach the meeting with specific goals in mind, such as:

  1. Striving for conversations with five suppliers about proactive marketing campaigns.
  2. Sending customer art to three suppliers ask them to prepare storyboards and virtual samples that can be discussed in person at the meeting.
  3. Finding one or two favorite products and using those for a self-promo project after the meeting. This is a great way to showcase the product to clients while promoting themselves.

By having a plan and building intention into once-a-year opportunities like our annual sales meeting, our reps can have a great experience but come with a plan to maximize the event. If they can make everything happen by having art files already sent, there is no follow up, they can get back to work and the work from the show starts rolling in. Then, the chance to shine is with their customers by bringing the suppliers’ great ideas to life.

Don’t be afraid of Social Media

As someone who has grown up with social media for a good part of his life, ranging all the way from the Myspace days to where we are now with LinkedIn, Snapchat, Instagram, etc., a question that has always been on my mind is; “How do I leverage this new age communication to benefit my business goals of boosting new and existing sales?”

I’d be lying if I said I knew the exact formula to make you really stand out, but if you’re new to social media, the following 6 recommendations will help to make this space seem a little more manageable.

  1. JUST DO IT. I’ve been guilty of this as much as the next person, spending so much time thinking about “What should I post?” or “Will people even care about this?
  2. ” that I end up not posting anything. That’s why I always say just start with anything. Let people know that you’re out there and that you’re active in social media.
  3. Almost as important as actually creating the post, is posting consistently. I personally use LinkedIn for most of my business-related posts, and I try to add new content at least three times a week. Setting up a consistent schedule will ensure that you are getting your name and brand out there without overwhelming your connections (or yourself) with too much content.
  4. Once you’ve committed to posting frequently with a schedule that is manageable, we’re now back to the question of what to post. When considering different subjects and topics, I believe that your primary objective is to make the content unique. You want to show people your personality while keeping it professional (let people see who you are and why you’re different). This is really your opportunity to shine!
  5. After each post, I use a simple feature available on LinkedIn that allows me to see “Views of your post”.  Knowing know how many people have seen the post itself as well as any likes, shares or comments really gives me an idea of how well the post was received and helps to point me in the direction I need to consider going in future posts.
  6. Finally, always consider your audience. You’re going to want to connect with the right people to get the most benefit out of each post. For starters, connect with the clients that you already have good relationships with to increase their top of mind awareness of you, your products and your services. You should also add prospective clients that you’re trying to win in order to grow your customer base. The goal would be to create interest with prospects with useful content that gets them to think, “Wow, I need to work with this person!” Along with connecting with potential clients, you can also message them directly using LinkedIn’s InMail feature. This is another effective way to reach them, particularly if you’ve been finding it hard to connect using more traditional methods.

As we all know, there are so many ways to reach new and existing clients to boost your business, and using social media is an easy addition to the ones you’re already using. Once you get started, you’ll be surprised how easily you can become a social media-posting whiz.

Brands That Give Back

Would you be willing to pay a bit more if you knew someone or something was befitting from your purchase? Would you choose to purchase a product from a business that made regular charitable contributions over one that did not? Would you like to get your brand on a product that’s known to be environmentally friendly? If you answered yes to any of these, then you’re not alone. More than 50% of us consider a brand’s social (responsibility) status when making business, employment, and purchasing decisions.


Business to business relationships are stronger when they share common principles. It’s easier to sell a product when you stand behind it not only in quality but in social responsibility. Brands that give back are more likely to fly off shelves than those that don’t. It’s the same concept as “Made in America”. People want to purchase products that are good for our economy so it’s important to communicate those brands and efforts; don’t make your customers look for the good, show it to them.

Promotional products are the perfect example of a business to business relationship. We work with suppliers and decorators to meet our customers’ needs. It’s equally as important to believe in the brands we do business with as well as the products we sell.


We’ve taught Millennials to recycle, be kind to the earth, and be charitable; so it comes as no surprise that as adults, they want to work for socially responsible companies. They prefer to work for businesses that participate in local humanitarian events, make regular donations, sell environmentally responsible products, and give their employees the opportunity to actively participate in altruistic events. We have instilled this giving mindset in Millennials, so it’s imperative to lead by example and give them the tools they need to be successful as our future leaders.

Trying to attract new employees? Make your social responsibility report available to the public. A sustainable company sells itself to potential employees and a social responsibility report can also be used as a sales tool to help your account executives acquire customer relationships. Remember, the only way to provide annual content is to make annual efforts; holding us accountable to DO GOOD all year.


We’ve all heard the definition of TEAM as “Together Everyone Achieves More” and that holds true in just about every aspect of life. Communities are brought together through partnerships that are formed for the “good” of a cause. For example, if an organization decided to hold a benefit, and they needed some logoed items, that would be an opportune time to partner with that organization to provide items at cost or as a donation. It’s likely that those companies that participate will end up listed as sponsors on one thing or another, building community partnerships.

Benefits and fundraisers are all around us so partnering with other socially responsible companies should be simple. Oftentimes, larger corporations can partner with smaller companies to achieve their common charitable goals by using their larger footprint to spread the word; businesses of all sizes CAN make a difference.


We’ve all been asked if we would like to “round up” at the register, right? Pay a bit more to feel good about our gasoline or soda purchases?  Purposely choose the family meal deal just because $1 of every purchase is donated to St. Jude’s even if we don’t want that extra 2-liter? Life is busy so if we can give back a bit by simply purchasing a little something, shouldn’t we?

Want to feel good about your promo purchases? At Vernon, we make an effort to give back all year so it only makes sense that we partner with brands that give back too. Here are a few of our favorites: Hit’s AWS lineSweda’s Basecamp lineCharles River Apparel’s Clothing for a CausePCNA’s Ecosmart line and PCNA’s Welly line.

Ripple Effect

Here’s a beautiful story of a ripple effect of kindness. The Salvation Army “exists to meet human need wherever, whenever, and however, they can”.  But they wouldn’t be successful in their efforts to save the world without the generosity of humankind, and that kind of munificence can be found right here at Vernon. We have generous employees who take the initiative every year to collect donations (for the Salvation Army) on an Angel Tree and a Children’s Clothing Tree at the home office. Vernon employees open their hearts each year by filling the trees with toys and clothing, but this year they had a bit of help reaching their goals from a bunch of little artists in town who are making the world a better place by “using their creativity to be part of something bigger than themselves.”  The students of the Art Junkie Studio create art year-round, which they typically donate as silent auction pieces for fundraisers and benefits. This year, they used 20% of their open house proceeds to purchase toys and clothing items for Vernon’s trees, helping them reach their goals of charitable donations for The Salvation Army.

Family members, teachers, and community supporters came out on a cold and rainy day to purchase paintings of “Fancy Goats” and cows named “Henrietta” not because they needed or wanted children’s paintings, but because they were proud to support the kids donating to charities, encouraged by Vernon, and powered by The Salvation Army.

Brands that give back are all around us, making the world a better place. Ask yourself, ask your customers, ask your employer, what can I-YOU-WE-do to give back? And…give back for the right reasons; because it feels good and it’s the right thing to do. Good employees, healthy business relationships, and an abundance of sales will be an effortless by-product of your DO GOOD deeds.


As I reflect on this passing year, I feel great pride knowing we all work in an exciting industry – a field that is ever-changing & dynamic. That pride also transcends the innovation into tradition. In a time where it seems like nearly every business is a ‘start-up,’ it’s incredibly rewarding to work for a century-old family company. And it goes way beyond the name Vernon.

Attending the national sales meeting, co-hosting a holiday luncheon, connecting at an industry show – it always feels like home to me. I have had the pleasure & honor to work with my dad and brothers for many years. Additionally, my email and text messages are filled with notes from people I have known my entire life – these are my extended family members.

Remarkably, most of our newer team members fit right in – sharing everything but the past.   

Both groups make up Vernon’s greatest asset – our team. My father instilled those words in us. We all share in that legacy and we are mindful of the blessings associated with working in the same industry & hometown for all these years.

As the shades are drawn on 2019, let’s all reflect on our incredible team – and on our successes and set-backs – and learn from them. When that ball drops on December 31st – it’s a new slate.

May your personal and professional dreams come true in 2020. Wishing the very warmest regards to my work family for a joyous holiday season and a prosperous new year.  

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:—black–960-000694-/-/A-13252212

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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