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Do You Remember What First Brought You to APA?

By Lisa R. Higginbotham, CRM, FiveStar Awards and Engraving, and Awards and Personalization Association president


A look at the many values of membership

(May/June 2021) Wow, has this been a year or what? I can’t believe it is April (as I write this column). And since I always live in my numbers, looking back at April 2020 was sobering. I am grateful that April 2021 is showing an upward trend. Jeff and I both got our vaccines, and we are so ready to travel! I am still sad that we had to cancel the 2021 International Awards & Personalization Expo, but please know that we value our membership’s health and safety above all. It was not a decision made lightly. In fact, it was very difficult.

I’ve been thinking a lot about membership lately. Do you remember what first brought you to APA? I remember vividly my first Vegas show. I brought a friend with me because I didn’t want to travel to Vegas alone, but I really wanted to find out more about this industry. She was a bit older than me, and as a “thank you,” she decided to buy us tickets to see Wayne Newton. I was mortified! Check your oxygen tank at the door; I just prayed no one would see me going in there.

But shows aside, I was quickly taken in and overwhelmed by so many things. I jumped into the education because I needed to learn more. To this day, education is the most valuable piece of APA membership to me. I always buy the recordings and use them for training my team. I use them myself for a refresher and to see the sessions I missed. I can’t tell you how many times I have gone back to Randy Allen’s CorelDRAW class from a couple years ago! When I hire for my graphics and laser areas, especially, the first few days always include some APA video training. We have also added a “continuing education” component for our entire team.

The networking part of APA is tremendous. My heart hurts because of missing it this past year! I always come back from one of our industry gatherings with tricks and tips I haven’t tried that make an immediate impact on my business. While I love regional and small group events, Vegas is the pinnacle.

During COVID, I filled my time with our webinars and the Conversation Circles led by Dan Bencsik. Instead of five webinars, we held 20! But I so missed meeting in person. Still do. I just love this industry and my association peers. It’s always amazing to me that people from literally all over the world are willing to help me grow my business.

Like many of you, we cut every last thing we could from our expenses during this past year. But there are some things that I could not do without, regardless of my role on the board. I have long said that my cost for APA membership—which is lower than any dues I pay to the four different chambers to which we belong (and get nothing in return)—is way too low for what I get back! I am also a member of a CEO peer advisory group, with an extremely expensive membership, and during COVID I thought for a fleeting second, “Should I cut this?” But my group chair vehemently told me there was more reason than ever to stay in my group during COVID, and he was right. Same thing with APA for me—honestly, the Conversation Circles were a godsend. And APA extended grace to memberships that were lapsing.

Before I get off my soapbox, I have to talk about the Coupon Book. I always think, “oh that’s nice,” and it gets buried on my desk. But this year I saved DOUBLE my membership dues with just a couple coupons. It made me feel guilty, so I made an additional donation to ARIEF with my renewal.

I can go on and on. But especially during this tough time, I need my peeps! And so do you! I urge you to not only renew your APA membership, but invite others to drink the “secret sauce.” I can’t imagine being in this industry and not being a member. And, personally, I shop my industry member suppliers first. Won’t you do the same?

Until we meet again, let’s #ThriveTOGETHER

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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