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!

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.

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.

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.

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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