Winston Churchill said, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
Mr. Churchill was on to something in the quote above, and not many leaders will dispute his statement. Our life experience is enriched by listening. You would think it comes naturally to everyone, but sadly that isn’t the case. In the case of our industry, the best salespeople are almost always those who can put aside their own ideas and listen to the customer. There is something gained in that moment that pays back dividends far beyond a single order. Trust—it’s hard to define but as the Supreme Court said, “You know it when you see it.”
PPAI recently conducted a member satisfaction survey and listened to what members are saying. Some remarks were expected, some members offered unique thoughts and even the person who said, “Taking time away from my business to fill out annoying surveys,” gave us a window into the mindset of members. Thank you to everyone who took part.
Did you know that your Association is overwhelmingly an association of small businesses that do business with other small businesses? Ninety-six percent of PPAI members generate revenues of less than $2.5 million a year. Perhaps this is why we see comments such as, “Groups getting better prices from suppliers” and “We need affordable healthcare”―not to mention the inevitable comments about suppliers going direct and distributors buying overseas.
It boils down to the common misconception that PPAI is a regulatory or enforcement group. It’s not. Actions that limit competition or influence pricing are strictly prohibited by law, and even discussions of these topics are warned against at the start of every PPAI meeting. In fact, since the mid-1960s when the federal government scrutinized our industry’s activities, we have been extra careful to make sure we do not do anything that would be considered tampering with competition.
This year’s member survey also revealed the most valued PPAI products. For all members, in order of importance, they are:
- The PPAI Expo
- Lobbying efforts at the federal and state level
Product safety and regulatory resources (tie)
- Business Partner programs
- Industry research and stats
- Support of the regional association community
It’s interesting to note that in 2006 lobbying efforts and product safety didn’t make the list. Your Association has changed and responded to your needs in becoming the industry’s leading authority for information and assistance on product safety. This issue has become a third rail for us as our customers seek protection for their most valuable asset, their brand. PPAI is the go-to source for product safety from TurboTest™ (see the feature on page 56) to webinars. This is an area that will remain front and center with PPAI to provide you with the help you need to understand and overcome these serious challenges.
In terms of lobbying efforts, not since the mid-1980s has your Association been so proactive. Your involvement on the regional level has made all the difference with recent legislative successes in Florida and California. Add to that the growth of the Government Relations Action Council (GRAC) and Legislative Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D.) and you can see PPAI is making an impact. A member of Congress spoke at this year’s L.E.A.D. and that kind of involvement has moved PPAI from just showing up on Capitol Hill to being selective and proactive about to whom we reach out. We’ve made big progress.
It’s a little harder to get traction on the next two areas: Business Partner programs and industry research. For years, PPAI’s shipping program through FedEx was considered the most valuable offering, but lately the Ink and Toner program has taken off. When you work in an industry as fragmented as ours, it’s difficult to find the one-size-fits-all answer, but the variety of programs PPAI offers makes it easier to construct your own preferred programs. As for research, remember the earlier comment about surveys? Your input makes all the difference in coming up with reliable stats on the industry. PPAI can’t do it without you, so please set aside a few minutes to answer those surveys.
Support for the regional association community was final in the top five. PPAI spends thousands of dollars in this effort—from marketing to town-hall-style meetings to tradeshows—and we realize that, for many members, this is where the rubber meets the road. PPAI is proud of our affiliates, and one of the highlights is the annual Leadership Development Workshop (LDW). For years it’s been held in Texas in the balmy month of June but will move to the fall in 2013 to better serve new regional board members from across the country. For years, LDW has been a meeting ground for the most involved and dedicated in our industry, and I look forward to providing even better value with the date change.
Did you think I’d forgotten your No. 1 most valued member benefit, The PPAI Expo? Not a chance! The crown jewel of the industry, The Expo had a tough 2012 because of an early date. While it was successfully managed, your Board of Directors wants The Expo experience to grow. It is the largest show in the industry, has more education than any other and offers more networking and meeting opportunities than any other show. In 2013 look for The Expo to be bigger than ever with more reasons to come to Vegas and see what’s new.
Steven Meyer, MAS, is vice president of sales for Willmar, Minnesota-based supplier Molenaar, LLC. (UPIC: MILINE). 320-231-2610
Five Things I’m Thankful For:
- The great welcome Paul Bellantone and I have received as we travel to the different regional associations for our town hall meetings.
- The wonderful support from members when I call to ask them to give some extra time to the Association. I’ve never been turned down.
- The PPAI board and staff for an unforgettable and productive spring board meeting.
- My granddaughter, Audrey Retts, who waited for Granddad to call until after the board meeting.
- You knew this was coming: The 2012 KU basketball team for a great NCAA run. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!