May/June 2020 Print

President's Column

As I write this, I am astounded how out of touch my February/March column looks in hindsight.  I spoke of the Coronavirus as an overseas issue that appeared to be coming under control with many factory’s opening and sharing my confidence that we will put this all behind us soon…

Who knew what was coming next?  Now it is very specific; Global COVID-19 Pandemic, which has turned not only the promotional industry upside down, but all industries across the world. And let’s not forget the tremendous and tragic loss of lives due to this virus.  In two months, we now have an entire new lexicon of words and phrases – Essential Business, Social Distancing, PPE, Pandemic, Shelter in Place, Stay at Home, etc.  Our physical and social well-being are being tested along with our financial security.

A statement I did make back in March still rings true today- “This industry is nothing, if not resilient” and we see that every day.  We all have had to pivot (another new buzz word) to making and selling PPE or Personal Protective Equipment, from hand sanitizer, gloves and surgical grade masks to custom imprinted face covers, shields, barriers and the like. We also conduct our business on platforms most of us had never used such as ZOOM and TEAMS and inviting someone or being invited is now as commonplace as was scheduling an in-person appointment or making a phone call. Yes, we are resilient, and we are all making our way through this the best we can.

The outlook for the future is showing some signs of normalcy but no one knows when or if we will ever return to what we deemed normal only a few months ago.  We at UMAPP have had to cancel several events such as the ‘Brew N View’ in April, ‘Connects’ event in May, Factory Tours in June and now there is uncertainty surrounding our ‘Brand Connection’ event in August.  Will a large gathering be allowed by then? Will distributors or their end-users attend? Will suppliers be able to participate?  These are the questions the UMAPP board is working on and we have sent out a brief survey to gauge your interest or ability to participate in this event should it go forward. We will continue to monitor this and will keep you updated.

These are unprecedented times and the uncertainty of what is next weighs on all of us.  All that we can do is stay positive, keep innovating and engaging in meaningful ways, with each other and our customers to be prepared for the recovery which is sure to come. We will get through this!

Stay safe, be well and remain optimistic!

Kent Dunham



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Guest Column

Reprinted with permission from Promotional Consultant Today. 

Top-Shelf Tip No. 89:
"We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope."
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Seven Ways To Lead Strong During Uncertain Times

Your employees have a lot on their minds. They are likely distracted by personal concerns and anxiety, and they might be worried about the future. As a result, they may disengage and feel  like the work they are doing is no longer an important part of their life.  Lolly Daskal, president and CEO of Lead From Within, says this is a normal reaction when times are uncertain. 

Fortunately, leaders can help their sales team members re-engage and refocus. In this issue of
Promotional Consultant Today, we share Daskal's tips for engaging with employees during these challenging times. 

1. Show emotional support.  People who are feeling uncertain and anxious do not want good intentions. They want emotional support and vulnerability, a sense of genuine caring and concern. Daskal says the best leaders work hard to support the physical and psychological well-being of their people.

2. Provide insight and communication. Especially in difficult times, employees want a leader who will communicate and provide clarity. At the core of leadership is the leader's responsibility to calm people down and engage them in a way that provides comfort and assurance along with honesty, notes Daskal. 

3. Foster a strong community culture. People often turn inward as they work to cope with stressful situations, but the resulting isolation makes the situation even worse. The cure for isolation and disengagement is community. Daskal encourages leaders to do everything they can to keep their team's community and culture strong, so no one feels they're going through this alone.

4. Minimize distractions. When your employees are anxious, when their work schedules change, when nothing is operating normally it's easy for people to feel scattered and disengaged. According to Daskal, that's when the best leaders step up. They help people focus by setting goals and maintaining accountability—while also remembering to keep
expectations realistic.

5. Remove financial burdens. As a leader it is important to emphasize to your employees that you are there to support them. If they need financial support to help them through, be creative in finding ways to provide it.

6. Make sure you're ready for an economic downturn. Daskal admits she has seen unprepared companies get destroyed in downturns. She says the best defense is an engaged and determined team. Help them feel positive about their work and show them the gratitude they deserve for their critical role.

7. Avoid layoffs if at all possible. The last thing you want to do is to lay off employees. Review expenses and debt levels now and commit to resourcefulness and creativity in leading your team and organization through what may be a lengthy recession.
The first step to engaging with your employees is to express through your words and your actions that you will all get through this together. Then do everything you can to keep your company and people engaged and productive. 

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

Source: Lolly Daskal is the president and CEO of Lead From Within, a global consultancy that specializes in leadership and entrepreneurial development. Daskal's programs galvanize clients into achieving their best, helping them accelerate and deliver on their professional goals and business objectives.

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Industry News

American Solutions for Business has integrated their proprietary eCommerce technology (ACES) with FAST Platform, a technology company with a network of 20+ decorators around the country (a list that continues to grow).  

“This integration with the FAST Platform provides a distributed, nationwide footprint for decorating,” explains Mike Schmitz, ASB’s Senior Director of eCommerce. “This means faster delivery and lower shipping costs for our customers. Sales associates don’t have to search for, source and validate the quality of the printers, since that is all part of the offering provided by the FAST Platform.”

Tekweld:  There is no question the events of the last 6 weeks have had and will continue to have a significant impact on our economy, industry, businesses and personal lives.
As you most likely know, Tekweld was designated by the State of New York as an Essential Supplier of goods to combat this invisible enemy. The biggest juggling act and our number one priority is to be socially responsible during this crisis, while also trying to meet our customers demand for essential products in the line. Two weeks ago, we were required to halt production on most of the line to give priority to hand sanitizer orders. While each day continues to bring new challenges, we are happy to report that as of today we are again able to produce both essential and non-essential items currently.

IMAGEN Brands and many of the businesses of EBSCO Industries are making generous donations to their local communities, including sourcing and providing face masks, developing online learning centers for parents, teachers and students, and donating to community funds and local food banks. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, for every Hey Buddy™ Bear sold, IMAGEN Brands will donate a percentage of its teddy bear sales to The National League for Nursing’s (NLN) education foundation.  Comprised of 40,000 individuals and 1,200 institutional members, the NLN is the oldest nursing organization in the United States and the voice for nursing education at all levels, vocational nursing to doctorates.

AAkron Line, a top 40 promotional products supplier and manufacturer, has donated over 5,000 face mask ear savers to frontline workers in their local communities in Western New York, Chattanooga, TN, and San Francisco, CA.

An exclusive design of an ear saver has been introduced that allows elastic bands of the face mask to be comfortably hooked together to prevent rubbing behind the ears. The Fask Mask Ear Savers are made in the USA of a latex-free, thermoplastic rubber.  “These soft and durable ear savers will help keep first responders comfortable while staying safe. It’s our way to say thank you for all they are doing,” says Devin Piscitelli, CEO and co-owner of AAkron Line.  

AAkron Line announced recently that they have begun manufacturing face shields, after waiting nearly a full month for proper certification from the federal government. The new face shields will be immediately available to state and federal first responders while being available to promotional distributors next week.

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Guest Column II

Reprinted with permission from Promotional Consultant Today. 

Top-Shelf Tip No. 58:
"It isn't stress that makes us fall – it's how we respond to stressful events."
Wayde Goodall

How To Work With Someone With A Low EQ

At some point in your career, you're bound to work with someone who lacks emotional  intelligence (EQ). They may be on your sales team or they may work in your client's organization. In today's uncertain and tense work environment, they often add an extra layer of stress and frustration. According to Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a professor of business psychology at University College London and Columbia University, those with a low EQ can't keep their emotions under control. They also can't read and influence other people's

So, what can you do if you must work, even remotely, with someone who is grumpy or volatile? You must learn to adapt. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share Dr. Chamorro-Premuzic's science-driven recommendations for coping with individuals with low EQ. 

Tune in to their current mood state. According to Dr. Chamorro-Premuzic, mood swings are common behavioral currency in people with lower EQ, but this is at least predictable. You can adapt to this by carefully tuning in to their emotions and remembering that they are likely to react in an exaggerated manner to both good and bad events. The more someone's mood fluctuates, and the more they overreact to circumstances and situations, the bigger your need to sync to their emotions and ride their mood waves—so you don't end up crushed by them.
Make things explicit.

People differ in their ability to make sense of ambivalent or ambiguous real-world situations, and most of the people problems we encounter at work fit into this bucket, says Dr. Chamorro-Premuzic. Regardless of your own EQ, if you work for someone who is not naturally adept at interpreting your own emotions and intentions, it is key that you help them understand you. Use explicit communication, put things in writing, set out clearly what you think and want and ensure that your message is understood, without assuming that any subtleties may be captured.

Be a source of insights. Your boss will appreciate when you leverage your intuition and help them interpret other people's intentions, feelings and thoughts. In other words, you become an emotional and social "consigliere" to your boss by effectively boosting their ability to make sense of and influence others, says Dr. Chamorro-Premuzic. This means making them a little bit more streetwise and improving their basic people skills. Note that one of the earliest descriptions of social intelligence from the 1920s was the ability to read people like a book. If you have this gift but your boss doesn't, then you can share the gift with them.

Don't be a stress agent. Even if you cannot apply the above suggestions, Dr, Chamorro-Premuzic says you should at least avoid being a source of stress. This means staying calm, reducing the likelihood of conflict and acting like a soothing and calming influence for others. Note that managers–like people in general–tend to prefer working with people who are
like them. The more volatile and excitable you are, the more you will enjoy the company of stable and predictable people, even if it means that your employees are doubling as informal therapists or coaches. Working in sales requires adaptability. To succeed, you must be able to adapt to all different personality types and respond appropriately. The next time you work with someone who doesn't score high in emotional intelligence, consider the guidance above to create a smoother interaction. 

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

Source: Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is an international authority in leadership assessment, people analytics and talent
management. He is the chief talent scientist at Manpower Group and a professor of business psychology at University
College London and Columbia University.

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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]  

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