March/April 2020 Print

President's Column

Happy Spring!  Well at least it feels like it here in the Midwest.

After starting out the year with much optimism and promise for the year to come, thinking the tariff issue was in the rearview mirror and the economy was humming along, we are jolted back to reality with the Coronavirus concerns and fears.  While there is still much we don’t know, we are beginning to come out the other side with factories re-opening each week.  It will still be a topic of concern for the coming months, but this industry is nothing, if not resilient, and I am confident we will also be able to put this challenge in our rearview mirror soon.

We at UMAPP have been hard at work preparing new and exciting offerings for our membership.  As you read this column, we just held the Room Show at the Airport Marriott and despite some concern a few weeks ago, we had a tremendous registered turnout.  This is important because it means this is still a relevant show for our members and we will continue to keep it on our rotation, allowing our distributors and suppliers to have meaningful engagement.

We are following up the Room Show with a Brew ‘n View Mini Show in Fargo, North Dakota, on April 16 at the Fargo Brewing Company.  This is an opportunity for our membership, outside of the Twin Cities metro to be able to engage with the suppliers in an intimate setting to promote networking along with new product ideas.  This event will be followed up with one in the Des Moines area this fall.

Our biggest news of the year is that we have combined the Fire & Ice Booth Show, typically held in the spring, with the Fall end-user showcase held in the late summer.  This event will be known as the BRAND CONNECTION EXPO and will be held at the Inwood Oaks Conference Center in Oakdale, Minnesota, on August 20.  By combining the best of both shows, in a spacious venue with more than ample parking, we feel this will be an extremely popular event where distributors can bring their clients if they choose.  We also have a nationally-recognized keynote speaker, Dan Nevins, and a golf outing the day prior at StoneRidge Golf Club.  This should be considered a must-attend event of the year and we look forward to seeing everyone there!

I will continue to remain optimistic for our industry despite our current global situation and look forward to a strong 2020 for our suppliers and distributors.  I hope to see you all soon at an upcoming UMAPP Event.

Kent Dunham



Back to top

Guest Column

Reprinted with permission from Promotional Consultant Today. 

Top-Shelf Tip No. 35:

 "A good objective of leadership is to help those who are doing poorly to do well."

Jim Rohn

Tips For Helping A Struggling Employee

It happens on sales teams of all sizes: Someone gets on the struggle bus and can't seem to get back on track. It could be a new hire  who isn't catching on or an experienced employee who is suddenly struggling with output or productivity. Whatever the case may be, if one of your sales reps is performing poorly, it's your  job as a leader to uncover the problem and help the employee get back to full productivity.

Executive coach and entrepreneur Lolly Daskal says that some of your most important work as a leader will be with those who are struggling. So how can you help an employee who's not performing at their best? Keep reading this issue of Promotional Consultant Today for Daskal's top tips for helping struggling employees get back on track.

Identify the issue. Before you can develop a plan for improvement, you need to back up and discover the root cause of the problem, notes Daskal. When you do, you can understand the context of what's happening and work together to develop solutions that will work over the long haul.

Communicate clearly. Telling someone they aren't meeting expectations is bound to be an uncomfortable conversation. Daskal says you can couch it in a positive light by remembering that as their leader, you're responsible for their success, and you're offering candid feedback to help them improve and become more self-aware.

Focus on facts. Getting negative feedback is never easy for anyone. To help prevent negative reactions, focus on the facts

by giving clear examples of times when the employee failed to meet job requirements. Explain how these behaviors affect not just the rest of the team but also the employee's own future—including promotions, recognition, raises or bonuses and job security.

Work on a solution together. Don't tell your struggling employee, "This is how it's going to be." Instead, Daskal recommends working with them to devise a solution together. Giving your employee a chance to take ownership of the situation is empowering and provides extra motivation for improvement.

Keep expectations clear. Make sure the employee understands what's expected in the future. This step may take the form of a structured performance improvement plan that sets out what must change for the employee to remain part of the organization.

Praise efforts. Behavior responds to encouragement and rewards. That's why Daskal says that it's important to give praise and recognition for the efforts the employee puts in as they work to move in the right direction. If the employee is improving, let them know their hard work is not going unnoticed. 

Hire a coach. Many leaders have coaches themselves, and they know how useful a coaching relationship can be— especially one that brings in a point of view from outside the organization. A good coach can help the employee process situations from the past week to work toward better results in the future, notes Daskal. 

Follow up. Once you've formulated a plan, create a schedule for regular follow-ups to assess the employee's progress and address any challenges that may arise.

If someone on your team is struggling to keep up, don't let them continue to flounder. Take action to address the issue and help guide them back to the path to productivity.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

Source: Lolly Daskal is the founder of Lead from Within, a successful leadership firm that offers custom-made programs in leadership and organizational development. As a leadership coach, Daskal is an advisor to Fortune 500 CEOs and boards. She is one of the top executive coaches in the world.


Back to top

Industry News

Towel Specialties, the parent company of Cobblestone Mills and Xpress Towels, announced Wesco Marketing as the recipient of the 2019 Sales Rep of the Year Award. Wesco Marketing is composed of industry-veteran sales reps Jeff and Shelley Stevens, Mark Fulwider, and Larry Willis. The team, based in Southern California, covers six states.

American Solutions for Business is proudly celebrating 20 years of their proprietary eCommerce Platform, called ACES – short for American’s Customer-Centric eCommerce Solution. Introduced in January 2000, ASB Founder & CEO, Larry Zavadil, and Dion Harste, VP of Information Technology were set out to take advantage of the eCommerce wave they could see coming and developed the platform in a time that predated Facebook and Gmail. Initially, ACES started as primarily an office supplies online store for the first year before introducing apparel – a plan that was sketched out on a bar napkin between Harste and Rob Dubow, owner of St. Cloud, MN-based apparel decorator. The program was named “Just in Time” (JIT) and is still one of ASB’s most robust eCommerce features, allowing customers to order branded merchandise in quantities of one (no minimums, no inventory). Today, the platform hosts over 12,000 customer eCommerce sites. Due to ever-evolving customer needs and advances in technology, 95% of code is updated every two years, ensuring a dependable, state-of-the-art user experience. ACES has countless features that have been added over the years, including multiple eStore options, allocation dollars, approval rights, split shipping, retail-style graphics, points program, variable templates and more.

Top 40 Supplier, Innovation Specialties reopens its west coast campus four years after a devasting blaze challenged the future of the company. Senior VP of Sales, Chris Hodge reflects, “It was a very challenging time for our team, but our customers never lost faith in our ability to deliver and that kept us going”. The campus has been rebuilt to reflect the dedication of the team and to promote a culture of collaborative creativity. With high ceilings, massive windows, and an open concept floor plan the future is looking bright at Innovation Specialties.

Hub accepted the ASI Counselor® Distributor Choice Award for Pens at the ASI Counselor® Distributor Choice Awards held on January 5 at the Orange County Convention Center in conjunction with the ASI Show in Orlando.    This is the fifth consecutive year the pen supplier received the Distributor Choice Award for pens.   Fellow HPG company HandStands also accepted the Distributor Choice Award for Auto Accessories.  ASI Show Orlando was well attended and marked the first year all HPG brands exhibited: Hub, BCG Creations, Beacon Promotions, Best Promotions USA, Debco, HandStands, and Origaudio.

American Solutions for Business hosted a State of the Industry panel with leaders from top industry organizations, which included Andy Cohen (ASI), Paul Bellantone (PPAI), David Natinsky (SAGE) and Matt Bruno (PSDA). 

The panel was moderated by ASB’s VP of Sales – West Coast, Wayne Martin.  “This panel allowed key industry stake holders to share their thoughts about the major influencers and disruptors that will impact our future,” explained Martin. “It also provided a forum that demonstrated their shared passion and commitment to the industry and ASB.” 

The panel discussion covered a wide range of topics such as sustainability, technology, cross-generational connection, tariffs and more.  “While each of the panelists represented different categories and roles in the industry, there was consistency of message throughout. The need to add value throughout the supply chain, the benefits of working with trusted partners and the importance of a hybrid approach to serving customers,” expressed Paul Bellantone, President & CEO of PPAI.

The panel spoke in front of hundreds of ASB sales associates and team members during the general session of the American Solutions for Business national sales conference.

Tekweld’s Vice-President of Sales and Marketing, Ray Rodriguez, has announced that Tekweld is the recipient of ASI’s 2020 Counselor Distributor Choice Award for the Sunglass Category. The award was presented at the Distributor Choice Award Ceremony held at the 2020 ASI Orlando Show.

Also announced is the appointment of Regina Harrington to Central Regional Sales

Manager. Harrington will report directly to Rodriguez. Her promotion was effective

December 9, 2019.  “Regina comes to us with 16 years of promotional sales experience, most recently from an ASI top forty supplier,” commented Rodriguez from the floor of the 2020 ASI Orlando Show. “Her established presence, strong communication and relationship building skills and familiarity with promotional products distributors in her covered states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee gives Tekweld a huge sales advantage in this territory.”

Another announcement is the appointment of Matt Kozar to Southeast Regional Sales Manager. Kozar reports directly to Rodriguez. His promotion was effective December 2, 2019. “Matt’s previous 5 years of promotional products sales experience in the southeast, previously with an ASI top forty supplier, allows him to hit the ground running for Tekweld,” said Rodriguez while formally announcing Kozar’s addition at the 2020 ASI Orlando Show. “Matt’s proven ability to cultivate strong business relationships, positive attitude, strong work ethic and organizational skills make him a strong asset, not just to Tekweld but also to our distributor accounts he calls on daily.” Kozar will be covering the states of Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. 

AAkron Line, a top 40 promotional products supplier, announced today they have increased production capacity by 50% in their molding department. This supports increasing demand for Made in USA products.  “Increasing our production capacity allows us to ramp up production on our 350 Made in USA products,” says Danielle Robillard, President, and Co-Owner of AAkron Line. “We want to make certain distributors have options to fit their clients’ needs as imported product inventory becomes limited. By increasing production on our domestically made products we are able to offer them readily available alternatives.

On Thursday, March 5, 2020, Maple Ridge Farms delivered a check for $5,000 to Habitat for Humanity of Wausau.  The donation was the result of a “Give Back” program started in September of 2019.  In that program, Maple Ridge Farms offered to donate a percentage of the profits from a specially selected line of gifts.    Joining Tom Riordan at the check presentation were Andy Witt, CFO and Executive Vice President, Jodie M. Schillinger, Executive Vice President, and Shana Gardner, Administrative Operational Support, one of the main architects of the program.  Although not attending the presentation, Molly Neises, National Sales Executive, was also extremely instrumental to the success of this fundraising program.




Back to top

Guest Column II

Reprinted with permission from Promotional Consultant Today. 

Top-Shelf Tip No. 20:

"Knowledge is power. Knowledge shared is power multiplied."

Robert Boyce

Why Don't More People Share Best Practices?

Competition is often tight between sales reps. As a result, many work with a lone wolf mentality rather than embracing sales with a pack mindset.             

However, when team members work together, the entire organization benefits. Want to learn how to get your sales team working

together by sharing best practices? Mitch Ditkoff, the co-founder and president of Idea Champions, says you might be limiting them in 10 ways.

We share Ditkoff's thoughts on why more people aren't sharing their best practices in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.

  1. Command and control. Ditkoff says that most leaders aren't really committed to people sharing their ideas with each other. It sounds strange, but freely shared ideas often end up rocking the boat. Old ways of doing things get challenged. The status quo gets confronted. More emails abound. More opinions. More disagreements. More meetings. Cranky-inducing stuff.
  1. No clear, compelling vision of success. Without a clear, compelling vision to motivate employees beyond the call of duty, many end up just going through the motions, says Ditkoff. Rote takes precedence. Old habits rule. Mediocrity prevails.
  1. No sense of interdependence. According to Ditkoff, people will not take the time to share their insights, ideas and best practices with each other if there is no recognition of the need to collaborate. If teamwork is not a clearly articulated (and reinforced) organizational value, there will be very little chance that the people doing the work are going to make the effort to connect with each other.
  1. Lack of trust and appreciation. People may recognize the need to collaborate with each other, but they may not like or trust each other, notes Ditkoff. Without trust and a genuine appreciation for the perspective of others, best practices will rarely, if ever, be shared.
  1. No clarity about what a best practice is. If you ask people to bring a tuna fish sandwich to a meeting, they can do that. But if you ask them to bring a "best practice," who knows what you'll get. If you want best practices to be shared in your organization, be very clear about what you are asking people to communicate, says Ditkoff.
  1. No intention. No agreement. No buy-in. It's fine to generically request people to share their best practices, but unless your request is understood, honored and owned, it won't amount to anything. 
  1. Fear of judgment. Ditkoff notes that some people have a truckload of best practices to share, but they worry what others will think. The result? They clam up and keep things to themselves.
  1. The perception of lack of time. Face it. If a person thinks they have no time, there is very little chance they are going to agree to share best practices.
  1. Lame listening. The sharing of best practices requires two things: someone to speak and someone to listen. Most of us, of course, would rather speak than listen, says Ditkoff. If you and your team are committed to sharing what you are learning with each other, make sure that listening is baked into the process. 
  1. No platform. Sharing best practices with other people requires some kind of communication method or platform. If your team does not have a reliable way to share what they are learning, it's doubtful they will share anything.

Your sales reps might be sitting on a gold mine of best practices. Encourage them to share what they know by creating a culture that welcomes collaboration.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

Source: Mitch Ditkoff is the co-founder and president of Idea Champions, a management consulting and training company.

Ditkoff specializes in helping forward-thinking organizations go beyond business as usual, originate breakthrough

products and services and establish dynamic, sustainable cultures of innovation.


Back to top



This is a newsletter provided by the Upper Midwest Association of Promotional Professionals.  UMAPP is a professional trade association for companies in the promotional products industry.  UMAPP covers the states of Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Iowa, and Western Wisconsin.  Membership is by company, but all staff are included under the umbrella of the company membership.  

For more information, contact the UMAPP office at:  [email protected]  

Back to top