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

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.

Careers

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.

Partnerships

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.

Purchases

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.


Reflections

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:

https://www.freeconferencecall.com/

https://zoom.us/meetings

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:

https://www.target.com/p/logitech-c270-3-0mp-webcam—black–960-000694-/-/A-13252212

https://www.amazon.com/Hrayzan-Streaming-Microphone-110-Degree-Conferencing/dp/B07T3S1TCG/ref=sr_1_6?crid=2ILOK9WJACSEV&keywords=computer+video+camera&qid=1574434960&sprefix=computer+video%2Caps%2C210&sr=8-6

Winterize Your Business

Winter is here and along with it comes flu season, weather delays and all the extra commitments that go along with the holidays. It is no surprise to hear that winter can affect how a business is run, creating distractions by hindering projects, delaying deadlines, and impacting overall communication. So, just like many people who get their annual their flu shots, winterize their vehicles and request time off for holiday fun, now is the time to make sure that winter doesn’t freeze your business this season.  

If you or anyone you work with is feeling sick, they should stay home to keep from spreading illnesses. Office environments can be havens for airborne illnesses like colds and flu. Charles Gerba, a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona, found in his study that after four hours, bacteria on the front door knob at an 80-person office spread to about 50 percent of commonly touched areas (like the centrally-located coffee pot). Ew. So do everyone a favor and stay home – where thanks to technology, you can still be productive! Consider using video conferencing or simple phone-only conference calls to continue conducting business from home. These are also great tools to use to avoid having people drive in inclement weather just to attend a face-to-face meeting.

If you’re lucky enough to have a support team to lend a hand (like Vernon Account Executives do) lean on them to assist with product research, pricing, order follow-up or even working with customers on your behalf. Having others to rely on can be reassuring when you’re not feeling your best or when the weather isn’t cooperating with your sales plans.

In regards to bad weather, there is some data supporting the notion that bad weather can actually make us more productive.  It might sound crazy, but unpleasant weather is thought to improve concentration and productivity, in part because a rainy day or snowy day kills the potential for leisure time outdoors. Of course, that makes perfect sense – if we aren’t distracted by the sunny possibilities outside our window, we’re able to focus on the business at hand.  

Rather than try to hunker down and wait out the winter, you can keep your business moving even when bad weather and runny noses try to slow you down.  

Time is a DIRTY four-letter word

I reached into my archives for today’s topic. Why is it that with all the improved technology and organizing tools at our fingertips that most everyone that I speak to says that there just isn’t enough time in the day. It should be just the opposite. Right?

We should be golfing or going to the spa three afternoons a week, because we have accomplished so much!

Now I don’t know about you, but I would have a hard time finding the golf course or the spa, because it has been so long since I have been to either. Shame on me.

I am beginning to come around to the concept of making sure that I set aside some “me time” in order to avoid burn-out. If you are anything like me, this is a really tough thing.

As I sit here on a Friday morning, I am thinking about the vacation that I have coming in less than two weeks. This is my first real vacation in quite a while. Whew, vacations take a lot of planning! To be honest, I am not really spending any time planning the vacation however I am planning my work schedule leading up to the vacation and then also planning the time when I return from the vacation. Seems kind of funny, but this is what I am doing today!

The bottom line is that I hate the feeling that I do not have enough time to do what I need to get done. Why is that? Some recent analysis (it isn’t that hard to figure out) has proven to me that this feeling comes from spending inordinate amounts of time on things that are not your top priorities. I start every day with my list of things to do. I am very disciplined about this. I hope that you are as well because this is very important in business today. So far, so good…right?

This is where my strategy starts to go awry. At the end of every day (not until the end of the day) I realize that I was busy as can be, but I did not accomplish any of the things on my list. How can this be? I just told you that I am very disciplined. Well, it appears that I am disciplined until I walk into my office at work, until that first email that I was not expecting arrives, until the phone rings, until someone brings a problem to my desk, until…you get the point!

My disciplined approach was not disciplined enough. I have come to the realization that I need to set aside pre-defined time blocks. Small time blocks should be set for the less important things. The larger time blocks taking up most of the time, MUST be set aside for the things that will really make a difference! Seems simple, doesn’t it?

If anything on your list needs to get bumped from Tuesday to Wednesday to Thursd (does anyone ever do this?)…we must make sure that they only include the less important function or tasks.

Experience should be a great teacher for all of us! Common sense must prevail if we are to succeed. It is ironic, but sometimes we must all slow down to figure out how we can be more effective with our time.

My final thoughts for the day reveal some quick easy tips (for anyone) to follow to be more productive. Here is the scenario: I have one hour to kill, perhaps late on a Friday afternoon, and I am not sure how to make the best use of my time. What can I do?

Here are some things that will make a difference.

  • Order FREE Spec Samples for your customers. Many suppliers will produce these at NO COST.
  • Create a selection of flyers to send out weekly…use such headings as Exciting Trade Show Ideas, Hit ‘em straight with these Golf Promotions, Top Gifts for your SPECIAL customers, etc.
  • Make up some virtual spec samples for some of your key customers. Many suppliers offer these for FREE!
  • Order and Create embroidery tapes for your key customers so that you can produce some apparel samples as gifts.
  • Send out Thank You cards.

These are five simple things that can help you to increase your business today. Of course, you hold the key because you need to act.

Good luck!

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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