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Inspiration in Challenging Times




(September 2020) The idea of guiding a business through a historic year sounds impressive. But the reality, as you know, has been challenging. I’m sure you’ll join me in pausing to wish 2020 were a little more ordinary—dull, even.

But it’s worth noting that the people in our association and our industry are anything but ordinary or dull. When you pair remarkable people with remarkable challenges, you get to see what those people are truly made of. Grit. Innovation.

To borrow a phrase: When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

That’s happening in our association, our members’ businesses, and our industry as a whole. We’re figuring out ways to surmount every obstacle that 2020 has thrown at us.

And, boy, has 2020 gotten creative in producing new obstacles. Pandemic. Riots. Earthquakes. Wildfires. Flooding. You name it, and 2020 has probably tried it or is just about to.

Overcoming these obstacles isn’t easy. It’s certainly not always fun. But it’s worth it. My business will celebrate its 60th anniversary next year. I see friends and colleagues in the industry (like Mike Montecalvo on page 44) marking their milestones and startups that have the potential to tally decades of success in doing what we do best.

What do these businesses have in common? They overcame obstacles. They stayed tough, came up with new ways to do things, and always kept their eyes open to the next challenge and opportunity.

The subject of this issue’s feature is a good example. Gifts are products we should certainly consider selling at this time of year to ensure we can grab our fair share of holiday spending. But this year, that matters even more. 2020’s busy season for our industry simply wasn’t. Many of our companies had to be closed due to the pandemic. COVID-19 restrictions decimated sales of personalized products to schools, teams, and conventions.

For many retailers and suppliers, gift sales have helped to offset the loss of awards sales. (Signs, of course, have been another source of revenue as public places are bedecked in social-distancing reminders and other instructions for the new normal.)

The emphasis on gifts underscores the flexibility needed to survive and thrive into 2021 and beyond.

As retailers sell and personalize different products than they normally do, suppliers distribute products they’ve never offered before (jumbo hand sanitizer anyone?) and innovate with products no one has ever seen before.

I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s unlikely that 2020 will provide years of happy memories. But it can provide enough income to carry your business into better times, if you’re willing to tough it out and make the changes necessary to push past each obstacle. 2020, the pandemic, and other challenges will end, and the lessons we learn now can boost business for years to come.

Awards and Personalization Association

The Awards and Personalization Association is the organization for retailers and suppliers of personalized and customized items. By providing education, meetings, and access to a vibrant network of professionals, the Awards and Personalization Association is the one place to ensure the growth of your talent, your business, and your professional community.

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