I am in the promotional marketing business where I use promotional products to help my clients stand out and be remembered. I add logos, taglines, and misc. contact information to useful products which keep my clients “top of mind” and their customers and prospects can easily remember them when they need their product or service. I have been in this business for a little over 20 years. I got started after being downsized for the second time with Hershey Chocolate. I had spent eight years as a sales rep before being downsized the first time and then returned as a broker manager for two years before being downsized a second time. I then decided to go back in business for myself which I had done before going to work for Hershey. I always wanted to be in business for myself. When I first started, it was scary times, yet it was exciting to know what was ahead. I thought customers would come to me and I didn’t do much advertising. I figured word of mouth would work and it did a little bit. I eventually started doing some advertising and more and more networking. Networking has been a big help for my business. I started by joining the Dublin Chamber of Commerce and then a few years later I got active in their Ambassador Club and became their Ambassador of The Year. I increased my networking efforts about 8 years ago and about 4 years ago I helped start the BNI Emerald Chapter of which I am still a member. In Networking you’re creating warm sales and the success rate is much higher, making my time more productive and effective.
The reason I am in the promotional business is to help fulfill the needs of my clients by building relationships with them and learning how I can help. I’m a one-person business and my support comes from my suppliers and people I work with so it’s critical that I can trust them. I’m only as good as my suppliers and over the last 20 years I have learned which ones I can count on to be my “partner” in business. When I’m working with a client, I want everything to be perfect. But when something goes wrong, it’s critical that my suppliers both support and stand behind me to the best of their abilities which is why the common phrase “know-like-trust” between customer and supplier is so important.
Greatest impact of COVID-19 on business
Naturally COVID-19 has created changes to my business. Customers were in dire need for face masks so, I converted a regular product line to products that my customers needed. In other words, I learned that I am in business to take care of my customers regardless of the products they need. Face masks and PPE were my primary product line for about six months. Nobody bought promotional products. Today and moving ahead promotional products have regained momentum but certain markets such as “trade shows and company meetings” where large numbers of people gather are very slow to return and likely will be for some time. It’s changed the way we’re doing business but I think it will come back to some degree. I don’t think it will ever come back 100% because businesses are finding out it’s much more cost effective to use virtual platforms for these events.
Actions taken to differentiate business
I think networking by being out in public and building relationships. Again as I mentioned earlier, people are going to want to do business with people they “know, like, and trust.” I was listening to a webinar the other day, and they were asking “why were they doing business with me” …they said… ”because you’re the first person we think of”; “you’ve been around for a long time”; “we see you out there and we know you’re there”. I have a vast background of working with all types of businesses, both small and large whether working “for them” or “selling to them” and it’s given me a good understanding of most businesses. As a result, I feel that I can relate to my customers better than my competition. The only way I am satisfied is if I know my customer is happy and pleased with their results. I’ve been in business long enough to know that there are lots of people out there who don’t think the same way. I actually feel unsuccessful if I can’t satisfy my customer.
Actions taken to make a difference during this pandemic
I work closely with my clients and customers to see what I can do to help them, stay in touch with them, and let them know I’m here for them. I have tried to do this even more than ever before and if I can’t help them, I try to ask them and learn “what they need.” For instance, if I can’t help them, I may know someone who can. I honestly think for anybody to be successful today, referring others is an important asset because it allows you to build that ever important “know-like-trust”.
Biggest learnings since been in business
“The customer is always right”. Sometimes I think the customer may be taking advantage of me but for the most part, I am not sure what I would gain by not letting the customer be right. In business especially in the promotional product business you’re constantly doing custom items and 99 /100 times the customers don’t see the final product till the final product is done. Often customers have a visual of what their product will look like and when they finally receive it, sometimes it’s not exactly the way they had envisioned it. As a result, I learned that business isn’t always going to be perfect and you have to be able to deal with that and make sure you make the best of it and do what you think is right. I was taught “customer is always right” at an early age with my dad having his own business. He had a restaurant and when customers complained about the food, he gave them something new…no cost… no nothing… no questions asked. The best thing we can do is to make sure our customer is happy because that’s where you’re going to get your pearls from…you just want people to feel good. With 46% more in revenue I would jump up and down and that would be fantastic. I would likely use some of it for personal to enjoy and some of it to help improve different areas of my business such as marketing and administrative functions. We’re in the process of remodeling our house so I would likely use some of it for that and once COVID-19 is gone, probably use some for a trip when we begin traveling again.
I’m inspired to help others and making an impact on the lives of others in a positive way through my business. Talking to people, treating people well, and making them feel good and happy is important to me. “Kindness begins with a smile, together we can change the world, one smile at a time” is a tag line that I created and hope to follow. I am trying to live my life in this manner and hopefully I’m expressing that with the way I do my business.
Goals for this year
My goal is to grow the business. I’m also going to try and start some kind of a video for my marketing. It has been a goal for a couple of years and I want to finally get started in some capacity. I know that sometimes the hardest part is to “just start”. My passion for kindness.” Kindness begins with a smile, together we can change the world, one smile at a time”. I want to make it a higher priority to teach kindness to kids in elementary school, trying to get them to think about kindness at a young age. It’s easier to learn when we are young and teaching kids about kindness can have a dramatic impact on their lives starting at this early age and throughout their lives. It’s easier to teach a young person new tricks than an old person new tricks. For instance, I’m already working with the local elementary school where my son went some 15 years ago. I provided them “kindness” magnets to hand out to the children so that they can keep this important message “top of mind”. I want to continue expanding this passion of mine.Location: Midwest / Central Ohio
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