The Leader Board


A Life Of Purpose

Hall of Fame inductee David Woods, MAS, capitalizes on what’s really important in a life well lived.

by Tina Berres Filipski

Growing up in a small, rural town in Massachusetts, David Woods, MAS, expected to spend his life working at the local paper mill, like his father, or as a mechanic at the garage where he was invited to apprentice. Fate had a different plan. 

Encouraged by his pastor, two high school teachers and the family doctor, he decided instead to go to college. “They said, ‘You can work in the mill like your father and grandfather, but you have the ability to do more than that, if you want to,’” he remembers. Woods took their wise advice and enrolled at the University of Florida in 1961, later transferring to Boston University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration. A few years later he earned an MBA from the University of Michigan and completed an intensive management program at Harvard Business School.

It was the start of a remarkable career and a lifetime of volunteer service to the promotional products industry and to a number of other philanthropic and charitable organizations near and dear to his heart. This month, Woods will be inducted into the PPAI Hall of Fame during The PPAI Expo in Las Vegas. He was nominated by Joe Fleming, president of Hub Pen Company, a friend and colleague for more than 20 years.

Woods’s route to the promotional products industry was a long and winding one that took him from his first professional job as a management consultant with Deloitte and Touche in Manhattan to CFO for a packaging company startup. When the company was acquired, he was offered an opportunity to run a division as general manager. After gaining this experience, he gave in to his entrepreneurial leanings and raised the venture capital to start his own company in the soft-drink distribution business. The venture taught him that he enjoyed working for himself.

Ten years later, Woods sold his interest in the company and was looking for his next challenge when he took a call from his former accountant at Arthur Andersen. The caller asked Woods if he had any interest in running an ad specialties company. “I said, ‘I might—what is that?’” says Woods, with a chuckle. After some due diligence, he decided to pursue what looked like a great opportunity. 

The promotional products company was Lee Wayne Corporation, a distributor based
in Sterling, Illinois. It was housed in an old shopping center, had about 40 employees and was in financial trouble. Woods was eager to take on the challenge to turn the company around. Two years later, in 1993, he sold the rebuilt company to fellow distributor HALO (now HALO Branded Solutions). After serving as executive vice president of HALO and for a brief time as president of HALO International, it was time to move on again—and the next opportunity was one he never could have imagined.

In 2002, Promotional Products Association International was gearing up to move its
trade show from Dallas to Las Vegas, and the Association needed a COO to support the team during those preparations. Woods, who had just finished his role as PPAI’s immediate past board chair, was the right guy for the job. He packed up his Jeep and headed south to Dallas where he spent a year working alongside President and CEO Steve Slagle, CAE, and the PPAI staff.

“I loved working at PPAI and I could have happily lived in Dallas the rest of my life,” Woods says. But, again, fate intervened—and this time it took him back home to Massachusetts, where another company needed a turnaround. The company was distributor Adventures In Advertising (which later became AIA Corporation) based in Quincy, Massachusetts; it was owned by 4imprint PLC, a British company that also owned distributor 4imprint, Inc. based in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. 

Once Woods was hired as CEO, he realized the only way to save the company was to move it to Oshkosh, where it could share office space and resources with 4imprint. The move proved to be the right decision, but two years later the chairman of 4imprint PLC decided to sell. Did Woods want to buy Adventures In Advertising? Absolutely! With backing from a private equity group, Woods bought the distributor, shortened the name to AIA and moved the company to nearby Neenah, Wisconsin. “We had great people and created a strong mission, vision and values, and built a winning team. I was proud to be the coach of that team,” he says.

Life was good. In addition to running AIA, Woods had become deeply involved in volunteer leadership at PPAI and Promotional Products Education Foundation (PPEF). “I didn’t get into this industry until I was 47—I had to catch up,” he says. From his first committee role, he was hooked and continued to serve for many years contributing his expertise and enthusiasm to more than a dozen committees and action groups. He served two terms on the PPAI Board, and as chair in 2000-2001. He also served on the PPEF board and as chair in 2009.

One day someone asked him, “When are you going to do the things you really want to do? How much is enough?” Woods had been working since he was 10 years old, helping on a farm; he was now 73. It was time.

“I really haven’t retired, but I’ve changed my focus,” says Woods, who stepped away from AIA in 2016 but still lives in Appleton, Wisconsin. These days he continues to lead not-for-profit organizations and is also raising capital for a biodiesel startup. His major efforts benefit nonprofit organizations that feed his passions for the arts and helping disadvantaged youth. 

Since 2008 he’s served on the board for the Bergstrom Mahler Museum of Glass, and as a board member and now president of the Green Lake Festival of Music where he’s heading up a $1 million fundraising campaign. Woods also lends his expertise to the Beaver Brook Association, a 2,000-acre wildlife conservation area in Hollis, New Hampshire that offers programs for inner city kids, and the Chicago All Stars, a group working to build an after-school performing arts center in the Chicago Loop area for at-risk youth. He also finds time to mentor three young people, one of whom is a talented musical artist. Woods had the privilege of presenting the young man’s debut at Carnegie Hall in November. 

Woods says his desire to help others is something his parents taught him. “We were rich in everything except money—always rich in love and kindness, and I was taught to help other people.” He also enjoys honoring the memory of those who gave him his start. “The people who helped me when I was young are gone and I can’t help them—but I can carry on their traditions. Nothing makes me happier than helping a disadvantaged child.”

An avid traveler and lifelong car fanatic, he’s also enjoying leisurely road trips to see friends back east, and his sons—two of whom live in Michigan and one in Tennessee, along with his six grandchildren. Woods recognizes the importance of making each day count. “Never forget, too late comes too soon,” he says. “I want to achieve everything I want in life by next Tuesday because you never know what’s going to happen.”

Asked what he’s proudest of over his long life and career, Woods takes a thoughtful pause. 

“I have been blessed by having some terrific people come into my life and change it dramatically,” he says, counting also the many friends he’s made and relationships he’s built over the past 25 years in the promotional products industry. He’s also proud of rebuilding Lee Wayne Corporation and AIA into strong, vital organizations. “These things are a team effort and I’ve coached some terrific teams,” he adds.

Among the things he wants to continue is to make a difference to others. “When I was a little kid in some tough situations, somebody was always there to help me. I want to be that somebody for the next generation.”

Tina Berres Filipski is editor of PPB.


A Dynamic Achiever

Hall of Fame recipient Janelle Nevins won the hearts and respect of many, and left the industry a great deal better simply by being herself.

by Tina Berres Filipski

Janelle Nevins studied to be a teacher at the University of Tennessee—and taught third grade for a time—but her most valued contributions to education extended well beyond the classroom. For almost 35 years she was a trailblazer, mentor, motivator and leader whose influence made a significant and positive impact on the promotional products industry.

It all started with Coca-Cola. In 1978, Nevins, who lived in Atlanta, was on maternity leave when she began to work part time for her husband, Art, who owned a distributor company with his father. On a bet, Nevins made a cold call on the Coca-Cola Company and, to her surprise, won her first client with an order for 50 lighters. Over the three decades that followed, the company purchased more than a quarter of a billion dollars’ worth of merchandise from Nevins. Those she worked with at Coca-Cola became lifelong friends until her death following an illness in 2012. 

This month, at the PPAI Expo in Las Vegas, Nevins will be inducted into the 2018 PPAI Hall of Fame.

Nevins’ sparkling smile and Southern charm belied her powerful determination to be the best at everything she touched. As principal at Nevins Marketing, and later as senior vice president at Summit Group, she was known for taking risks, trying new techniques and allowing intuition to play a role in her decision-making process. 

“Janelle was a ‘consultative’ salesperson before the term ever hit the industry,” says Marsha Londe, CEO of Tango Partners, a close friend and industry colleague who nominated Nevins for the PPAI Hall of Fame honor. “She focused on what was best for the client, the campaign, the product, the moment. Some people do great things on a broad canvas; others make a difference to individuals. Janelle succeeded in both.” 

Londe describes Nevins as a savvy businesswoman who took educated risks, embraced new technology, created the first catalog programs and developed innovative services for her clients. She offered her expertise to anyone, including her competitors, Londe adds, with common sense, energy, passion, advice and perspective. 

Nevins, clearly an achiever, founded Nevins Marketing Group with her husband in 1980 and built it into an Atlanta powerhouse. In 1999, the company was acquired by a group of private investors to become Summit Marketing Group, and she joined Summit’s board of directors that year. In 2002, she was named board vice chair.

Nevins was known not only for her professional acumen but for her passion in strengthening the industry and her generosity in mentoring others. She became an active volunteer with PPAI in the 1990s, serving on almost 20 advisory councils, task forces and committees over the next decade. Most notable was her work on the End Buyers Task Force in 2007 during a time when PPAI began its initial outreach to marketers to raise awareness of the power of promotional products and launched its involvement in the annual Ad Week in New York. In 2002, she was instrumental as a member of the Centennial Committee, the group responsible for all efforts that celebrated PPAI’s 100th anniversary. In 2003, she was elected to the PPAI Board of Directors where she continued to make her mark on the industry over the next four years. 

Nevins was the recipient of many honors throughout her career, beginning with recognition as one of the 30 most influential women business leaders in Atlanta in 1998. That same year, she was honored by ASI as one of the 15 Most Outstanding Women in the Promotional Products Industry, and as Counselor’s Person of the Year in 1999. She was named to ASI’s Power 50 list twice and was honored with the PPAI Woman of Achievement award in 2013. In 2016, she became the first inductee into the Georgia Association of Promotional Products Professionals (GAPPP) Hall of Fame. Her company’s work was also recognized with numerous PPAI Pyramid Awards for outstanding promotional campaigns over the years.

A strong believer in the power of community, she helped found PeerNet in 1993, an industry business consortium of distributors and suppliers that brought together leading company principals to share knowledge and best practices. Today the group continues to thrive with more than 400 distributor sales associates and 41 supplier members. 

She also gave back to the industry in many ways as a member of GAPPP, for which she served on several committees, spoke at monthly meetings and was a board member in 2000. Even when she became ill, she continued attending GAPPP meetings as often as her health would permit.

Nevins was a joiner from an early age. In college, she became a member of Sigma Kappa sorority; she later served on the Atlanta chapter of the UT alumni board from 1975 to 2012 and was president from 1980 to 1984. In her hometown of Atlanta, she was an active volunteer for a number of organizations including Habitat for Humanity and the Atlanta Union Mission.

Simply stated, Janelle was a leader and a doer. “She was masterful; a professional who loved her industry and generously shared her knowledge and know-how,” says Londe. “She thrived on relationships, and each recipient of her talent became a friend, someone whose career she then followed.

Janelle simply couldn’t stop herself from helping others, no matter how busy her personal life or business schedule.”

Londe adds that Nevins kept a sticky note on her desk, a daily reminder that she executed perfectly. It read, “Communicate well, lead the way you want to be, and let focus and discipline be your middle names.”

Tina Berres Filipski is editor of PPB.


For The Love Of Learning

Education is at the heart of Charles Duggan’s history of industry service.

by Jen Alexander

Benjamin Franklin believed that an investment in knowledge pays the best interest, and for Charles G. Duggan II, MAS+, his investment in helping to educate fellow industry professionals has certainly paid dividends.

“I love taking what I know and being able to share that knowledge with others,” says Duggan. “The part that drives me is telling people what promotional products can do. The educational standpoint is what has excited me from the start. The bottom line is we’re in an awesome industry, and my lifelong goal is to help others in the industry.”

Duggan has applied his devotion to education through his volunteer service with PPAI and Promotional Products Association Midwest (PPAM) for more than 20 years, and his efforts have been recognized with the PPAI Distinguished Service Award, which he will be presented with during The PPAI Expo in Las Vegas this month.

Duggan, who began his promotional products career with Alexander Manufacturing Co. before moving to MagnaTel, Astor Chocolate and then to his current home at Goldstar, says his role as a supplier is not one of a product seller; rather, his goal is to help distributors. “My job is to help distributors help themselves, and that’s all about showing distributors how promotional products are being used in the marketplace.”

Distributor Ted Davies, one of several who nominated Duggan for the award, has been the grateful recipient of Duggan’s efforts to help him succeed. “Just a couple suppliers understand how to market a product. That is what makes Charles stand light years apart from everyone else,” says Davies. “Some call it program selling—I call it a game changer. He is a true partner.”

Duggan’s volunteer service with PPAI dates back to the mid-1990s, when he served on the MAS/CAS Certification Board, eventually serving as committee chair from 2003 to 2005. Duggan’s PPAI service also includes time on the Board of Directors, Executive Committee, Global Task Force and several action groups. The lessons learned from volunteer leadership, says Duggan, filter down into his own job.

“Volunteer service has been an integral part of my job,” he says. “I love the ability to wear different hats; to be able to look at the business from different perspectives has helped me in my own work,” he says.

Bruce Felber, MAS, has witnessed firsthand his friend’s volunteer achievements and is one of Duggan’s nominators for the award. “Every committee, task force, board position and group has felt the passion Charles brings to the table,” says Felber. “Charles deserves this recognition for his years of service and support for the industry, and for those who have been on the receiving end of his efforts.”

Duggan has also taken his knowledge and experience directly to fellow industry members as a speaker at PPAI and regional events, presenter for online education and contributor to industry publications. “When someone tells me, ‘I was inspired by your presentation at Expo’—and they say it 10 years later, that is a memorable moment for me,” he says.

The education Duggan has received from his volunteer leadership with PPAI has allowed him to contribute to the success of PPAM. “I was initially involved locally with my regional association,” he says. “Then I moved to PPAI involvement, and then back to regional volunteering. Being on the PPAI board, I learned to apply goals with actionable measures.”

Being able to get a 30,000-foot view, says Duggan, and then applying it to tactical day-to-day strategies, helped him to put a structure in place that allowed each new class of association leaders to hit the ground running. Duggan has served on the PPAM board in several roles since 2010, including as president in 2015; most recently he was the association’s RAC delegate.

Education is about professional and personal growth, and Duggan acknowledges that growing pains are a natural part of the process. As a volunteer leader, he has not shied away from participating in difficult decisions that were necessary for growth.

“When I was on the PPAI board, we needed a new perspective on volunteer engagement,” he recalls. “I used the analogy of an implosion; we needed to implode our existing volunteer engagement model to make room for a new and better model.”

Volunteer engagement is at the core of industry education, and Duggan believes a grassroots approach to building enthusiasm for both volunteering and learning can only make the industry and PPAI stronger.

“The regional associations are in a challenging time right now; if a regional is in your back yard [27 regional associations operate in the U.S.], you should join it—the relationships you build there are valuable,” he says. “And we are in the relationship business. I think we can look at regionals as the grassroots effort to fill the pipeline for what PPAI needs.

“Strong regionals make PPAI stronger because they become a pool for volunteers to serve on the national level,” he explains. “We are all part of the same industry, so service has to go both ways. We all have talents that our regionals can benefit from. It’s been said that we can all give something, whether it’s time, talent or treasures; there are lots of ways people can participate.”

Duggan says he believes every member of the industry has a responsibility to support their regional association in some form or another. “I think everyone should join whatever regional their business is close to.”

His own efforts to build education opportunities for regional members were highlighted by nominator Dan Gittemeier, who became a member of PPAM at Duggan’s invitation. 

“As a PPAM board member, I watched Charles pursue—with enthusiasm—his responsibility to schedule quality webcasts that were relevant to distributors; to seek enhanced venues and participation in local shows; and afford distributors the opportunity to learn about the intricacies of our business. The industry is better off for Charles having spent his career within our ranks,” Gittemeier says.

Duggan’s nominators are as quick to applaud his business success through customer service as they are his extensive volunteer service, but Duggan says the former is only the result of the latter. “My success has been the result of serving others,” he says. “When you give, the payback is priceless. You can’t put a dollar amount on it.”

Jen Alexander is associate editor of PPB.


Leading By Example

No task is too big or too small for Bill Lazarus, MAS, a 2018 PPAI Distinguished Service Award Winner

by Terry Ramsay

Late one afternoon in June 1996, the Specialty Advertising Association of Greater New York (SAAGNY) board was preparing to host a cocktail party for VIPs at the opening of its signature trade show. As co-chair of the SAAGNY show, Bill Lazarus, MAS, was front and center, ready to greet guests and kick off the event. But right before the party started, Lazarus noticed that cigarette butts were littering the patio, so he immediately dropped to his knees and started picking them up.

Joel Schaffer, MAS, chief executive officer at supplier Soundline and a SAAGNY volunteer leader at the time as well, says this image of Lazarus has stuck with him over the years. “It was not his job; he simply took it and filled a void. He did it with so much drive and dedication that the [event staff] realized they needed to follow his lead.”

Lazarus, vice president of distributor Promotional Breezes (PPAI 256312), has a history of jumping in when he’s needed. As a long-time industry volunteer, he has lent his talents to both PPAI and the regional association community. Years ago, Lazarus was instrumental in building the SAAGNY Foundation, the first charitable foundation in the industry, raising more than $25,000 annually for nearly a decade.

At the same time, Lazarus noticed a common problem at trade shows. Participants were encumbered by the number of giveaways that they were collecting and carrying, so he and Schaffer together pioneered the idea of trade show valet services, which offer participants the convenience of dropping their samples at kiosks located throughout the show. The items are then packaged for each individual and held until the end of the event.

The Valet Express, as it was first known, was introduced at the SAAGNY show, and its legacy remains in shows across the country today. Schaffer, who nominated Lazarus for this year’s PPAI honor, says, “[Lazarus] alone took an idea, ran with it and made it an institution. Driven by a quest for excellence, he did it all. While others ‘didn’t have the time,’ he set aside his business and personal needs to serve thousands of showgoers up and down the East Coast while raising needed funds for the SAAGNY Foundation.”

After Lazarus moved to Florida, he became actively involved in the Gold Coast Promotional Products Association (GCPPA), holding various leadership positions, most recently as GCPPA board president in 2009. “He took his training, experience and relentless drive to the Gold Coast and made the GCPPA the strong association it is today,” says Schaffer.

Lazarus’ volunteer service with PPAI has included leadership roles with the Conventions Advisory Council, the Distributors Advisory Council, the Education Advisory Council and the Distributors Advisory Council, as well as with the Association’s Distributors Committee, Leadership Committee, Conventions Committee, Strategic Planning Committee and the Chairman’s Committee of 100. He was inducted into the SAAGNY Hall of Fame in 1999, featured as one of PPB’s Best Bosses in 2010 and received PPAI Fellows Recognition in 2016.

“By volunteering, I developed friendships and business relationships over the past 35 years that otherwise I would not have had,” says Lazarus. “I learned that you can be friendly and develop mutually beneficial relationships with competitors. 

“It’s true that giving back to other organizations helps you grow your business, because the more contacts you have, the better off you will be in the long run. But more importantly, it helps you grow as a person. This industry has been so good to me and my family.”

Lazarus has mentored a number of volunteers in the promotional products industry, teaching them his signature style of seeking out improvements, identifying the opportunity, then rolling up his sleeves and getting to work. Most recently, he has inspired his son, Steven, to further his volunteer involvement at PPAI and step forward as president of GCPPA. Lazarus says, “My whole life, I have volunteered for a variety of different organizations. Steven was always by my side helping and seeing how rewarding it is to give back.”

Lazarus will receive the Distinguished Service Award, PPAI’s highest honor for volunteerism, during The PPAI Expo 2018 in Las Vegas. He says, “When I received the call, I was totally shocked. To be honored by industry colleagues for this prestigious award and to be among the top volunteers in our industry means so much to me. I am someone who gets involved because I enjoy doing it, not for any recognition.” 

Schaffer is thrilled to see his long-time friend and industry role model receive the award. He says, “We as an industry need to have just a few more Bills, and the value added to association membership and benefits would be incalculable.” 

Terry Ramsay is associate editor of PPB.


PPAI’s 2018 Promotional Products Pioneers

At the PPAI Chairman’s Leadership Dinner on January 15 during The PPAI Expo in Las Vegas, the Association will also recognize three individuals as Promotional Products Pioneers for their vision, drive, innovation, character and leadership.

Marty Lott, owner and president, SanMar — Honored for developing a new business model

Bill Schmidt (deceased), previous CEO, Hit Promotional Products — Honored for developing a new business model

S. Allen Dohan, chairman, The Allen Company — Honored for his decorating innovations


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