Last month was significant for two reasons: The PPAI Expo 2012 in Las Vegas, January 2-6, offered attendees more education, more new products and more selling ideas than any other show in the industry. It was also the start of my fourth year on the PPAI Board of Directors—and the beginning of my term as your PPAI board chair for 2012.
When I think of all of the industry leaders who have served you as board members or as board chairs, it’s truly an honor to join their ranks. But becoming board chair also comes with a healthy dose of responsibility. As chair, I believe your board owes you several things: the courtesy to listen, the fiduciary obligations to be stewards of your Association and the courage to make the right, not necessarily the popular, decisions.
As a member, you also have some responsibilities: to get involved and volunteer; to educate others about this industry, including your local, state and federal legislative representatives; and to protect your livelihood by doing your part to ensure your clients’ messages are displayed on safe products that are compliant with Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and state guidelines.
When I reflect on our industry, four C’s come to mind: community, change, commitment and courage. We work every day in an industry that has a strong sense of community. This comes from close and fair partnerships between suppliers and distributors. In our small industry, it isn’t unusual to have both customers and competitors as friends. As a supplier, I’ve traveled across the country for years with many of the same suppliers, and I know from experience that in times of trouble even my biggest competitor offers help. I’m sure it’s the same in the distributor and business services sectors. When you step back and take in the view, our industry is a lot like a family. There may be feuds and fights among us, but we pull together when outside threats appear.
At a time when government action and budget cuts target our industry, we need this spirit of community more than ever. We also need commitment and courage to face some of the inevitable changes coming our way. I’ve heard some of the best minds in the industry argue that the industry is mature and growth is unlikely, but I disagree. Our industry will continue to evolve to meet the needs of customers if we all will pull together to bring fresh ideas to buyers.
Any new chair’s first column would be remiss without recognizing his or her predecessor and the rest of the board, particularly classmates. Eric Ekstrand, MAS, PPAI immediate past chair, is quite simply a class act. The guidance, communication and processes he put into place that resulted in the hiring of Paul Bellantone, CAE, as PPAI’s president and CEO were flawless—and we got the right guy.
Add in any other number of issues such as the End Buyer Initiative, the Governance Task Force, the Product Responsibility Action Group and you have a chair who has earned all of our respect. What else can you expect from a man who earned a living running into buildings on fire [until recently he had a dual career as a firefighter]? To Eric and his wife, Sandy, I say thank you for your leadership, your friendship and gift of your time and energy to this Association and industry. Since I’m talking about class acts, I have to include my classmates: Joe Scott, MAS; Bruce Felber, MAS; and Charles Duggan, MAS. Any of these gentlemen could be writing this column—and they will at some point in the year. Their contributions to this industry are many and varied, but to me their friendship and support are at the top of my list.
And there is one more gentleman I want to recognize: Steve Slagle, CAE, PPAI’s former president and CEO. For 15 years Steve worked tirelessly on behalf of the Association. He was at The Expo last month, and it was terrific to see him again and wish him well in his retirement.
Now let’s turn our eyes to the future. This year, PPAI offers many new initiatives and programs.
We will have more regional input for GRAC (Government Relations Action Council), we’ve introduced a new and more inclusive certification program that will bring a higher level of professionalism to our members (see page 80) and we’ve broken down barriers to volunteering. With Volunteer Central (find it at www.ppai.org), we pledge to find a home for everyone who offers to serve. There will also be movement on the Association’s governance, so expect revisions in the bylaws to bring them up to date. Who knows, maybe PPAI will even look at changing its name as have many of the regional associations. Let me or other board members know your thoughts.
As I close this first column, I’ll continue a habit I had when I was president of Upper Midwest Association of Promotional Professionals (UMAPP). I’ll list five things I’m thankful for and invite you to send me your own list:
1. My family, most of all my wife, Jodi
2. The many mentors I’ve had who only asked me to do the same for others
3. The great people at Molenaar who pick up my slack while I’m on PPAI duty
4. Books—mere words that can transport the mind
5. Music—humanity’s heartbeat
Our industry and Association face challenges, but we have much to be thankful for—and don’t forget to pay it forward.
Steven Meyer, MAS, is vice president of sales for Willmar, Minnesota-based supplier Molenaar, LLC (UPIC: MILINE).