Keeping business moving during the holiday season

I don’t know about you, but it seems like during the two or so weeks leading up to the new year it is nearly impossible to get a hold of the people you want. Many people have either left on their holiday break or in a pre-holiday trance and hard to reach. 

So, what do you do during this time period? 

I always try to keep my momentum moving forward in any way I can so here’s some ideas of what I do:

  • Make a list. It seems simple, but I always like to make a list of either people to reach out to, or projects I want to complete.
  • Catch up on all the projects you didn’t have time to do before. Always wanted to put aside some time for creative PSA’s? Now’s the time. 
  • Build your marketing strategy and messaging for the coming new year. Put aside the time to create some marketing materials that you can use once business picks back up, to hit the ground running. 
  • Reach out to clients with a creative and fun email. Try to make the message personal and play into what you can offer them in the new year.
  • Take some time to reflect on the year. Complications of this year aside, what could you have done differently to help stride forward?
  • Set goals for the new year and commit to them.
  • Finally, take a little time for family and yourself. Once you have your goals set, make sure to take some time to relax and refresh, so you’re ready to hit the ground running for the new year!

If there’s one thing I know, it’s that keeping up the momentum and finishing projects that you’ve wanted to do is a great way to build for the coming here and keep yourself on track. 

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!

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)

or

“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.

Communication is King

Nearly a century ago, fans of the American comedy duo Abbott and Costello were made familiar with the popular “Who’s on First?” comedy routine they performed regularly. The premise of the sketch was that Abbott was trying to identify players on a baseball team for Costello, but their names and nicknames were interpreted as non-responsive answers to Costello’s questions. What’s interesting about this comedic back-and-forth exchange is that it was both right (both parties were correct in what they were saying) and absurd at the same time. That’s probably what makes it so funny, even to this day. And what it underscores now more than ever, is that communication is key in life – and in business. In fact, a recent study conducted by LinkedIn shows that the number one skill hiring managers are looking for is the ability to communicate effectively.

So what happens to your business when there’s a communication breakdown?

  • Basic tasks fall to the wayside
  • Schedules become disorganized
  • Roles and functions are not assigned
  • Salespeople and staff get frustrated and restless
  • Customers can feel neglected and lose interest

Why is communication important in business?

Every aspect of your company depends on effective communication. From internal communications to scouting for new business, interaction with someone else is a part of daily culture. Excellent business communication is crucial to maintain healthy workplace relations between the employer and employees. It is also just as necessary to create and maintain lasting relationships between company and clientele. 

Business communication skills include:

  • Verbal communication over the phone or in-person
  • Written communication via e-mail, chat, or text
  • Collaborating and working with a team for a common goal
  • Active listening and problem solving
  • Networking and negotiating

Regardless of the size of your business, you will benefit from assessing how your business communicates internally and externally. Here are a few steps you can take to improve your business communication for success.

Set Clear Goals and Expectations

If you have a clear vision of your goals, you are off to a great start. But it’s important to must communicate these goals in the best way so that all parties involved are on the same page and can carry out what is necessary to complete objectives. That way, everyone knows what’s expected from them and what challenges they may face along the way. Everyone will also understand what they are working towards which will improve overall work performance.

Build a More Dedicated Team

Open communication in the workplace will help create a more cohesive team that can flow from one project or challenge to the next. When employees feel like they are valued and that their opinion matters, they will contribute more and have a better attitude doing it. Increased efficiency and productivity will result. Also, if the team unit is secure, employees will become loyal not only to each other but to the company itself. They are less likely to jump ship when problems arise. If there is an issue, you already have the lines of communications open to put out the fires as the spark. 

Earn the Trust and Loyalty of Your Customers

The same goes for how you communicate with potential and existing clients. If you use effective communication strategies, you will earn their trust and loyalty over time. That means you must anticipate their needs and keep reaching out to them after the initial handshake or sale. Follow up to make sure they are still happy, and if not, find solutions to the various hiccups that can happen after an initial business transaction or decision. Companies who show clients that they understand them, know their needs, and want to help, are more successful every time. 

Improve Customer Service

There is nothing worse than getting negative feedback about your customer service. It only takes one of these unhappy experiences to turn a loyal client against a brand forever.  Be sure your team understands the importance of business communication in customer care. How they react and attempt to solve customer issues will directly impact the company positively, and just as easily affect it negatively. The truth is, so many companies fall short in this department due to poor communication on the company’s end. The best brands are those known to take care of their customers well after purchase.  

Ensure Transparency

Transparency and effective communication will help you manage customer expectations and reduce negative reviews by teaching you how to deal with angry customers and solve problems. The same goes for dealing with your employees. If you’re upfront and open, your staff and salespeople will be more likely to voice their unhappiness or concerns in certain situations that could otherwise bring down the entire team. In turn, they will be more inclined to trust upper management’s decisions in the future.

Sales strategy and effective marketing techniques may rule your business, but communication will always be king when it comes to success inside and outside your organization.

Nothing is Normal

Well, here we are. It has been six months since Covid-19 shook our world, and I am getting tired. I have finally realized that the term “new normal” means nothing is normal anymore. This is a huge admission for me and probably for many others as well.

Anyone who has any familiarity with what a 12-step program is (I am a member) knows that accepting where you are is critical in learning how to survive. Don’t worry as I am not going to get preachy, but I think this is important for all of us to understand.

There is one other strong suggestion that is communicated to people looking for a better life, and it states that we should not spend a lot of time comparing things today with the past. Doing this is a huge waste of time and extremely counterproductive. It can lead to one feeling down and depressed or feeling like things are okay and that there’s no need to change anything.

The reality for all of us is things have changed. We need to accept where we are now, and we need to react accordingly. The cards have been dealt, so now we have to “play the hand” or fold!

Below are some steps that each of us can take to survive, not in the new normal, but to survive in business today and into the future.

  1. Business owners need to get their financial house in order. Bring expenses in line with your current sales NOW! Don’t budget based on 2019 sales! Enough said.
  2. Salespeople should review all customers to examine their viability for the future. This is your pipeline for income. Will your current pipeline provide you with what you need for income? The answer today for most people is NO. Oh-oh… I need to act to change this!
  3. Salespeople MUST acquire new accounts. Look towards companies or industries that are coping or adapting well to today’s world as they will provide the best opportunities for future income.
  4. Owners and salespeople should have all their suppliers vetted. Consolidate your sales with those that provide the best support and services and those that have a strong financial foundation. Many companies are very unstable (both suppliers and distributors). Partner with those that are here for the long term!
  5. Learn how to source and provide Personal Protective Equipment to your current customers and to NEW customers. These sales will help offset unexpected losses in other areas like event planning.
  6. Hone your communication methods and skills to meet today’s new marketplace. Reach out and talk to customers where they are. Also, find prospects where they are. The quality of your communications and presentations say a lot about who you are and what you bring to the table.
  7. Surround yourself with positive people. This might be easier said than done today but doing this or not doing this will have a great impact on your results.
  8. Do not be afraid to ask for help! You can ask industry peers who you know in your local associations. You can call some of the larger industry distributors to see what assistance they might be able to offer. Remember it does not hurt to talk and it just might help!

The ultimate goal is to stay in business and to be successful going forward. To do that, you’ve got to take the time to look at your situation today and to make a solid plan for the future. Once you’ve done this, you can begin taking the steps needed to grow and thrive.

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.

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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