Creating International Ties

Hans Poulis

Not every professional gets to say their job entails shaping the economic future of several companies; even fewer can say those companies operate within several countries. But this is the mission of Hans Poulis, CEO and president of the European Promotional Products Association (EPPA), headquartered in The Netherlands.

Poulis brought his extensive experience in promotional products—he founded distributor Poulis Hontelé in 1992 in The Netherlands before serving as chairman for Dutch industry association Platform Promotional Products (PPP) and eventually selling his company—to the role of CEO and president of EPPA in 2010. Since then he has focused on raising the level of professionalism among association members who operate in 14 European nations.

“The promotional products industry in Europe has been influenced by the increasing globalization of its business operations and, due to its extensive range of products, is heavily dependent on EU legislation,” says Poulis. “Therefore, EPPA’s primary concern is to shape the basic political, social and economic conditions of the European promotional product market to balance the local and pan-European needs and requirements.”

Poulis says EPPA has defined two major projects to enhance professionalism that the organization has been focusing on for the past three years. “The first is a European image campaign called ‘Nothing Brings You Closer.’ The campaign concentrates on the effectiveness of promotional products as an advertising instrument, similar to the PPAI’s Promotional Products Work! Week.

“The second project has been the development of a European Certification Program for CSR (corporate social responsibility). The program supports companies in responsible entrepreneurship and is very straightforward in its objective: compliance with law and regulations, and adherence to human rights and ILO (International Labour Organization) standards. The program has a three-level approach in which companies can start and mature toward full compliance with the standards our industry sets.”

Poulis says he would like to collaborate with PPAI and European associations by sharing knowledge on foreign market conditions and local regulatory and product safety requirements. “We know we can learn a lot from PPAI, which has achieved so many successes already. But we also believe we are able to help PPAI members meet the needs of their clients when it comes to doing business in Europe,” he says.

At home, Poulis spends time with his wife of 33 years, Marloes, with whom he has three children: son Raimon, 30, and twin daughters Denise and Daphne, 28. “In May 2012 I became the proud grandfather of my grandson, Teun,” he says.

An active man, Poulis counts running as one of his biggest hobbies—he’s a two-time finisher of the New York Marathon. “I also like to play golf and go skiing in Austria once a year.

Take a look at a typical day in the life of Poulis as CEO and president of EPPA.

7 am – I get out of bed and head to the bathroom for a shower and a shave, get dressed and go downstairs to have breakfast with my wife. After breakfast I grab my iPad to browse through my emails and look at my calendar for the day.

7:45 am – I get in the car to drive to the office, hoping there is not too much traffic on the road (which in The Netherlands is usually the case). During my drive to the office, I make a few phone calls.

8:30 am – I make it through Dutch traffic horror and arrive at the office. Now first things first, coffee! When I sit down to go through my emails, I try to answer the most important ones immediately. I also prepare the rest of my day, which includes a conference call with the board, a meeting about the EPPA certification program and a meeting with the chairman of the Dutch association.

10 am – I have a scheduled conference call with the EPPA board. We attempt to have a conference call once a month to keep everybody updated on the day-to-day business of EPPA. One of the topics for today’s agenda is rolling out the first level of the CSR program throughout Europe. All members of an EPPA-affiliated industry association get the bronze certificate for free.

Noon – I have lunch with my staff in the cafeteria and discuss the Dutch national soccer team’s game the night before in the qualifications for the World Championship 2014.

12:45 pm – I have a meeting with two of my staff members about the current status of the CSR program. At this moment, we are running a pilot for the silver and gold certification levels. The purpose of the pilot is to trial-run the current setup, calibrate the results and finalize the program before fully implementing it by mid-2013.

2 pm – I have a meeting with the chairman of the Dutch association, Joop van Veelen, in nearby Utrecht. While in the car I try to contact the chairman of the Italian association to get aligned on the speech I am giving at the upcoming Promo Show in Parma, Italy.

3 pm – I meet up with Joop at the PromZ event in Utrecht. We catch up on several projects from EPPA and PPP and discuss the economic situation in The Netherlands and Europe and the effect it has on our industry. After the meeting, I walk the exhibition floor and talk to many people I know. I try to have a quick chat with most, but time just flies by too fast. And my intention is to leave Utrecht before the traffic hour starts.

5 pm – Unfortunately my intention to leave early did not succeed and by the time I am in my car, rush hour is peaking.

6:15 pm – I am finally home. Today is Wednesday and that’s the day I always try to go for a run in the forest near my house. Luckily it’s dry this evening and I head out for a relaxing 13K run.

7:30 pm – Dinner time—and I am starving after my run. After dinner I glance at the emails I have missed since I left the office this afternoon. Luckily there are no issues that I need to address immediately. Tomorrow is another day.

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