Distributors Are Keeping Busy—And Keeping Their Sanity—With These Strategies

Two questions likely on every promo professional’s mind right now are: what can I do to remain afloat and what are my competitors doing? And the biggest question business owners everywhere are asking—what are the key strategies to implement now to help them pull out of the COVID-19 economic downturn? As expected, the answer will not be a single idea but a collection of practices, behaviors and habits that all play a part in keeping the gears turning and helping companies and their employees to emerge strong and healthy.

Craig Sahli of distributor Graphics Network, d.b.a. Kaeser & Blair, Inc., in Tulsa, Oklahoma, says his focus right now is on practicing mindfulness and acceptance. “The first thing I’m doing is not sitting in my home office [for] eight or 10 hours a day counting all the emails and phone calls that don’t come in. I’m doing daily maintenance stuff, spending some time looking ahead and planning, working on a self-promo item for when the time is right—and then getting the hell outta there!” He adds, “There’s a silver lining in this; we’ve been given the first opportunity in our adult lives to slow down, rest, read books, watch movies, snuggle with our partners and pets and put things down. Push fear away. Breathe. Sit outside and watch the clouds roll by. Yes, we are in serious economic jeopardy—embrace the suck. Things will work out. No. 1 is stop making ourselves crazy, stay physically healthy and mentally well-balanced.”

Other distributors are using their extra time to update their programs and operations. Patty Perry, owner of Red Rhino Promotions in Daytona Beach, Florida, says she’s working on cleaning up her contact list and business database, making changes where and when necessary, and attending webinars. “Also, I’m checking in with personal calls to as many clients as I can reach, getting their home addresses and sending out self-promo items that can be useful during this time.” It’s a plan shared by Christine Gaddi, owner of distributor TheKeepIT.co in San Diego, California, who also says she’s working on rewriting her business plan and looking to take classes to earn her CAS industry certification. Bonnie Feerman Silverman, owner of distributor Silver Line Specialties in Marietta, Georgia, says she’s keeping in touch with her clients and checking on them. “Some days, I just send a funny joke,” she says.

Judy Sharp, president of distributor Sharp Ideas, Inc. in Fresno, California, says that with the extra time she’s decided to reorganize her office, but she’s also working together with suppliers on projects six to eight weeks out. And in the midst, she’s sending out thinking-of-you cards and emails to her clients. “Some [notes] won’t be seen immediately, but I want [my clients] to know I’m thinking of them,” she says. “My motto is ‘this is now, but not forever,’ and certainly not the ‘new normal’ many speak of.” Danielle Lum, senior brand strategist at distributor American Solutions for Business in Glenwood, Minnesota, says she’s also finding herself busy—even busier than a typical workday in the office. In her role, she’s focusing on supply chain products, revamping her distributer website and working towards her CAS.

Jessica Gibbons-Rauch, CAS, director of marketing at distributor Trend On Brand in Winfield, Illinois, believes the unanticipated changes present the opportunity to look inward and invest more time, effort and passion into professional goals. “What are those parking lot items you haven’t had time to look at? What is your strategic plan? What other revenue streams are out there? Do your processes work? Many of my clients were on track to grow explosively and when you are doing that by the seat of your pants, you kind of ignore things like duplicatable standard operating processes. This is a great chance to go back and document how and what you do. Take this time to invest.”

Charity Gibson, national account executive for supplier Peerless Umbrella in Newark, New Jersey, offers a sprinkle of positivity and some valuable advice to distributors during this time from a supplier’s perspective. She says, “There are some sectors of business that are booming right now. The money has not disappeared; it has simply shifted. Move your focus to the industries you don’t have to feel bad about calling, then prospect with a consultative approach. Act, because if you simply do nothing then you’ll get nothing in return. There is more than enough business out there for people who are creative, hungry and determined enough to find and/or create it. If you are careful and considerate about how you do it, you don’t have to feel like you’re being insensitive by prospecting, especially if you are going in with a ‘how can I help’ mindset. This is how it should always be anyway. Be a resource and approach truly wanting to assist.” She also suggests reading Our Iceberg is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions by Holger Rathgeber and John Kotter and Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way To Deal With Change In Your Work And In Your Life by Dr. Spencer Johnson. She also suggests registering for the Power of Positive Summit, a free resource available on the web. “Then get up, show up and crush it. If you really want it, you’ll get it,” she says.

filed under April 2020
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