Monthly Archives: December 2011

The PPAI Expo 2012 and the Path To High Performance

Of all the things I have to look forward to at The PPAI Expo next week in Las Vegas, I am most excited to hear and meet our Education Day keynote speaker John Foley.  Today, I will share a bit about John Foley through a recent exclusive Q&A with PPAI’s PPB magazine. 

For those of you attending The PPAI Expo, be sure to hear Foley’s motivational presentation, The Path to High Performance” on  Tuesday, January 3, from 3:30-5 pm in the South Seas Ballroom, Level 3 of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.

When John Foley flew as a lead solo pilot for the Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron, and as a fighter pilot and Naval instructor pilot, he counted on discipline, trust and teamwork to ensure a triumphant outcome in this high-stakes environment. Today, using his Blue Angels’ experience as a model, Foley delivers 60 to 100 keynote presentations annually teaching audiences and companies how to engage teams, build trust and reach their highest performance and sustain it.

“I create a picture of what a high-performance team, organization or person looks like,” he told PPB recently, “and then we break it down so that it’s a combination of process and mindset that accelerates people’s performance dramatically and teaches them to sustain it. There’s a real ‘Wow’ factor. How do you take a 22-ton jet and fly it 36 inches from another —upside down—and how do you repeat that? The Blue Angels do it 300 times a year.”

Although Foley’s accomplishments are indeed praiseworthy (he graduated from the United States Naval Academy and holds master’s degrees in business management from the Stanford Graduate School of Business as a Sloan Fellow, international policy studies from Stanford University and strategic studies from the Naval War College), he’s had his share of disappointments and setbacks as well. Those have served to make him all the more grateful for what he has achieved. Talk with Foley for five minutes and his attitude of gratitude spills over into the conversation. To express his thankfulness for his many blessings, he created Glad To Be Here®, a foundation supporting charitable works around the world. Foley donates 10 percent of his speaker fees to charity—half to his client’s choice and half to the foundation which, to date, has given out more than a quarter of a million dollars.

He is also founder and president of CenterPoint Companies, which provides business performance training to Fortune 500 corporations.

What is the hardest lesson that you learned through experience?
You learn more from your failures than from your successes. I’ve had many setbacks. I got rejected from the Air Force academy—they said I wasn’t physically qualified. I overcame that. I played football at the Naval Academy and, while I lettered for two years, I never achieved as much as I could have. My belief level wasn’t high enough. I limited myself there. One day while flying jets, I shot a missile by mistake. I got grounded and went through the whole Navy process. I learned that I’d gotten complacent. They could have fired me but didn’t. You learn from your mistakes. I started a company that was going to be the NASCAR of aviation and it physically blew up on 9/11.That was a setback that allowed me to start the company I have now.

When was your lowest point and how did you get through it?
I went through a divorce, and I learned so much from that. I also learned you don’t point the finger at anyone else because there are three pointing back at you. I’ve had some personal setbacks, too. When that company blew up, I was $400,000 in debt. I worked myself out of that hole. Now I have a very successful company. Those are the kinds of things I’m grateful for. I’ve changed my view now, too. I look inside myself and ask what I could have done differently to change the situation.

How do you regain trust once it has been broken?
Trust is the key to execution. Do you do what you say you are going to do? You won’t get anything unless you give trust first. If you want teamwork, you have to demonstrate teamwork. If you want people to be passionate, you have to be passionate. When trust is broken, our natural reaction is not to trust that person. The opposite is what we need to do—extend trust. You earn trust every day. As a Blue Angel, you are expected to fly the jet a certain way, lead the formation, be on time, and be physically and mentally prepared. Trust is created mostly by your actions, not by your words. I live that every day.

How can we stay focused, on task and on goal in our everyday work situations?
I call it the Glad to Be Here debrief, and I use visualization to stay focused. I’ve trained my mind to wake up happy. I do that with gratitude. When I first wake up, I think about what I’m grateful for. Then I reflect back to what happened to me in the past 24 hours and project forward 24 hours, and think about what I’m grateful for. I do this every day. For example, in preparing for this interview, I didn’t think about the questions. Instead, I spent time thinking about how I could make this better for you. I want you to be successful—that’s my motivation. That’s the way to look at life.

What is the one accomplishment on your bucket list that has eluded you?
I don’t have a specific list. I’ve accomplished a lot of things, but I’m not yet satisfied. I’m always looking to get better. At this point in life, it’s less about me and more about what I can do to help others. I started the Glad to Be Here Foundation where I donate 10 percent of my fees to charity. What I really want to see is the world come together. We are more similar than dissimilar. Let’s come together as one. That’s not done through ideological, religious or political means but through the core values we share. Everyone wants to be happy, healthy and secure, and have good futures for their children. That’s what I’m working toward, and that’s what we, as a company, want to achieve.

The session is free to all Expo registrants. Register for the show at

Picking Up The Pieces After a Disaster

Getting Back to Business … Tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, fire. If your business was damaged by a natural disaster, what would you do? Where would you go?

These are questions many of our industry colleagues have had to answer, which is why the Promotional Products Disaster Recovery Foundation (PPDRF) Business Recovery Fund was re-launched in the summer of 2011 with the Regional Association Council (RAC) taking over the day-to-day operations.

The purpose of the Business Recovery Fund is to help promotional product businesses “Get Back to Business” in the wake of a natural disaster. The fund can help replace lost equipment—computers, software, cell phones, office supplies, office furniture,  promotional products catalogs and samples—provide a work area, or other assistance needed to get a business back up and running as soon as possible.

Want to see a few examples of how important the Business Recovery Fund is in helping industry companies get back to business?

RAC’s 28 regional associations are integral to the success of the Business Recovery Fund by collecting donations, donating from their own coffers and helping to reach those in their area who have a need but not sure who to call. If you want to donate or know of someone in need, contact Laura McKinney, CAE at or 972.258.3015.

Thanks for reading and making a difference.


An Invitation and a 2011 Public Affairs Review

At least once a quarter I send a personal email note to a select group of industry professionals that are especially interested in the work being done at PPAI Headquarters and our efforts to grow the viability, visibility and credibility of our industry.  I sent the following note to the group earlier today. If you are interested in receiving the quarterly email update, please send your contact information and email to  


I hope this note finds you healthy, happy and closing out a robust fourth quarter.

With The PPAI Expo just a few short weeks away, we will soon be addressing the challenges, opportunities and promise that comes with a New Year. As 2011 draws to a close, I am sharing with this group a quick look back at our Public Affairs efforts and accomplishments during the past year.

Embedded below and linked is the news release that was distributed to industry media outlets last week. Our public relations manager, Kim Todora, did a great job of summarizing our advocacy efforts. I encourage all of you to read it and join us at The PPAI Expo 2012 during education day, on Tuesday, January 3, to get a sense of what is in store for us in 2012.  I’d also like your feedback on how we can continue to raise the bar on our advocacy efforts going forward.

I am also writing to make you aware of an issue that will require your attention as we move into 2012.

Health Care Reform – Reporting of Transfers of Value

With so much that has gone on in Washington over the last year, it seems like a century ago that the health care reform law was passed that included elements of what we had come to know as the “Physician Payments Sunshine Act.” The provisions that were included in the health care reform law require pharmaceutical companies and others to report “transfers of value” given to physicians and others to the federal government on an annual basis.

This reporting requirement is to go into effect for transfers of value in 2012 and the first reports are due to the government in 2013.  We believe proposed rules will be issued any day now by the Department of Health and Human Services. As proposed rules, we will have the opportunity to comment on them, although pharmaceutical companies will have to start dealing with them very soon—even before they are finalized. In addition, the Senate Select Committee on Aging will hold a hearing on the status of the proposed rules next week. We believe this hearing was scheduled mainly to keep pressure on the Administration to get the rules out. If you have any thoughts on this issue I’d like you to call Anne Lardner, our director of public affairs, or me and we can incorporate them into our formal comments.

As always, we’ll monitor these and all other developments closely and report back to you. And as always, I appreciate your support and assistance.

In the interim, feel free to contact me if there’s anything I can do to help you plan for a successful PPAI Expo experience.

I hope your holidays are safe and joyous…and look forward to seeing you in Las Vegas!




CONTACT: Kim R. Todora, PPAI 972-258-3063

PPAI Public Affairs 2011 Year In Review

Milestones, Education, Adoption And Reform 

IRVING, Tex. (November 29, 2011) – Promotional Products Association International (PPAI;, the not-for-profit association for more than 9,000 member companies of the $16.5 billion promotional products industry, today presented its public affairs and government relations year in review for 2011.

“This year exemplifies how a unified industry effort can produce meaningful results,” said Paul Bellantone, CAE, PPAI president and CEO. “It is a year in which industry practitioners joined forces with the Association to advocate, educate and set the stage for our industry to lead the way in public policy and product safety and responsibility in 2012. This was demonstrated most clearly by the industry’s united and immediate response to President Obama’s recent Executive Order. Thanks to vigilant members, PPAI was able to respond preemptively to the order. Thanks to industry advocates, more than 1,500 e-mails have been sent to Washington in opposition to this order to date.”

PPAI will kick-off 2012 with The PPAI Expo, featuring a wealth of product safety and government relations education and development opportunities. PPAI member attendees can meet directly with product safety experts during the show for a free one-on-one consultation.  Education sessions will look at a range of legal and public affairs issues such as product safety compliance and regulations, and the federal and state government legislation pending across the U.S.

March 7-8, PPAI leadership and industry professionals will visit Washington, D.C., for the third annual PPAI Legislative Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D.). Advocates will meet with senators, congressional representatives and their legislative staffs on Capitol Hill to discuss pending legislation and issues relevant to the promotional products industry.

August 14-15, PPAI will host the second annual Product Safety Summit in New Orleans, Louisiana, in conjunction with the PPAI North American Leadership Conference (NALC). Led by an elite group of recognized industry leaders and product responsibility experts, the PPAI Product Safety Summit is the premier education and awareness event for the promotional products industry.

2011 Recap

L.E.A.D. – PPAI Legislative Education and Action Day – On Thursday, March 31, 2011, promotional products professionals representing 21 regional associations and 26 states held more than 120 meetings with legislators and their staff to discuss key issues. PPAI L.E.A.D. advocates shared research and case studies with legislators that clearly demonstrated the impact of promotional products and reminded members of Congress that this industry includes more than 32,000 U.S.-based promotional products companies, 95 percent of which are small businesses generating more than $16.5 million in annual revenues and employing more than 465,000 Americans.

Form 1099 Reporting Repeal – During L.E.A.D., the PPAI industry leadership, small-business owners and staff urged legislators to pass the Comprehensive 1099 Taxpayer Protection and Repayment of Exchange Subsidy Overpayments Act of 2011 (H.R. 4). On April 15, 2011, the bill was signed into law. H.R. 4 repeals expanded information reporting rules that would have required the filing of Form 1099 for payments of $600 or more by businesses and expense payments of $600 or more with respect to rental property.

CPSIA Reform – In July, PPAI led an industry effort to reform the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), urging legislators to pass the Enhancing CPSC Authority and Discretion Act of 2011. On August 12, the bill was signed into law. H.R.2715 provides the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) with greater authority and discretion in enforcing consumer product safety laws requires the CPSC to seek public comment on the economic impact of future rulings and makes revisions to current regulations.

Federal Regulatory and Legislative Outreach – This year, PPAI represented the industry to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in various meetings and events. In March of this year, PPAI representatives met with the CPSC to discuss the challenges the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) imposes on the promotional products industry. Meeting with the newly appointed Small Business Ombudsman, PPAI addressed the challenges of imprints, the presumption of intent and the cost burden of third-party testing on smaller firms. In September, PPAI leadership and industry leaders participated in the CPSC’s North American Product Safety Summit along with other product safety professionals, testing labs and CPSC staff as they evaluated national priorities and shared best practices.

In November, PPAI President and CEO, Paul Bellantone, CAE, petitioned President Obama to reconsider the promotional products spending limit. PPAI was successful in launching a grassroots effort, reaching out to the White House and small-business advocates within the government to mitigate the overall impact of the Presidential Executive Order. The Executive Order, now more limited in scope, calls for each executive agency to establish a plan for reducing the combined costs associated with travel, employee information technology devices, printing, executive fleet efficiencies and extraneous promotional items by not less than 20 percent. Only executive branch agencies must comply with this Executive Order.

PPAI Product Safety Summit – On August 10, 2011, PPAI hosted the promotional products industry’s inaugural Product Safety Summit in Denver, Colorado. The first of its kind for the promotional products industry, this day-long, education and awareness conference was co-chaired by industry leaders, Gene Geiger, CEO of Geiger and Rick Brenner, CEO of Prime.  The Summit featured keynote speaker, Mary Toro, Director of Regulatory Enforcement Division at the Office of Compliance and Field Operations with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and representatives from product-safety labs and product-certification groups. This ground-breaking, eye-opening event explored the latest developments and emerging trends, but also addressed the ways many industry professionals have turned a cost-burden into a strategic advantage. 

PPAI Product Safety TurboTest® – PPAI, the leading authority on promotional products safety standards, launched TurboTest to help practitioners manage the ever-changing product safety compliance landscape on August 10, 2011. The TurboTest tool is an easy-to-use question-and-answer user interface exclusively designed with promotional products distributors and suppliers in mind. With just a few clicks, TurboTest tailors each regulatory review to the user’s specific needs, and puts data and tools on the desktop and into the hands of the promotional products professional. TurboTest resides on the PPAI member portal and is easily accessible from most computing platforms, requiring very little training and eliminating the need for software installation. TurboTest is a no-cost, value-added member-only benefit of PPAI membership and is available for a test drive right now at with UPIC login and password.

PPAI Code of Conduct – The Code, adopted by the PPAI Board of Directors on January 9, 2011, is a tangible presentation of what promotional products companies are doing to meet the expectations of the end buyer for product safety, social and environmental assurances and reinforces a company’s intent to follow applicable laws, operate in a responsible manner and adhere to ethical standards for the safety, quality and integrity of products and processes. To date, more than 200 companies have adopted the Code.

50 Years of Excellence in Education and Professional Development – This year, PPAI has conducted 22 webinars, with more than 1,000 attendees, on the subject of public affairs and safety alone. PPAI, the industry’s longest-standing credentialing association, marked its 50-year milestone commemorating the creation of the Certified Advertising Specialist and Master Advertising Specialist programs for the promotional products industry.

About PPAI
Since 1903, the Promotional Products Association International, a not-for-profit, has been the standard-setting international trade association for the promotional products industry. PPAI offers education, tradeshows, business products and services, mentoring, technology and legislative support to its members. Today, PPAI serves more than 9,000 global members who lead the $16.5 billion industry. The multi-billion-dollar industry includes wearables, writing instruments, calendars, drinkware and many other items, usually imprinted with a company’s name, logo or message. PPAI created and maintains the UPIC (Universal Promotional Identification Code), the industry’s only free identification system and universal company database. For information regarding PPAI or to learn more about the proven power of promotional products (including research and case studies), visit the PPAI website at

Guest Blogger: Hillary Feder at The FORUM Think Tank

I have the privilege of serving as a board director of The Forum: Business Results Through People. The Forum, affiliated with Northwestern University, is an organizational trust for thought leadership advocating that the most effective way business leaders can create and sustain organizational value is through their partnership with people. The Forum promotes a people-centered leadership approach by: providing relevant, provocative, and actionable academic research; creating a platform for leaders to dialog, network and benchmark practices; delivering ideas for practical action and experimentation; and, building and supporting a community of champions for people-centered leadership.

The Forum held its annual Think Tank in October and I was joined by like-minded business professionals to hear and discuss the latest research related to people-centered leadership. Two of those attendees were PPAI members whose businesses have an employee engagement and enrichment focus: Jay Donlin with Newton Manufacturing and Hillary Feder of Hillary’s. I asked Hillary to share her thoughts with Connections readers:

Attending the Forum Think Tank last month was a real eye opener to this engagement consultant. “The Enrichment Experience: Engaging Minds and the Power of People in the Workplace” was filled with insights. Bottom line: The industrial age is gone and product patents and technology are the key success factors. Today, technology has made the playing field more level than ever, making the key to company performance unquestionably people. 

What does this shift mean to business leaders? A shift in management practices to connect people authentically and with purpose. Why? Because when people’s lives have meaning, they are driven to create amazing results. The kind of results that have enabled Nick’s Pizza and Pub (a two-store restaurant in Illinois) to outperform the entire pizza industry in several areas of operational excellence: 

  • Slashing turnover from 200 percent to just 20 percent
  • Saving over a quarter million dollars annually in recruiting and training
  • Generating a net operating profit of 14 percent compared to its industry average of under 7 percent

 My colleague and past Forum Think Tank participant, Paul Kiewiet, MAS, details how Nick’s is managed in an article well worth the read. Explore the power of performance-review-in-the-moment instead vs. the limits of an annual performance review. Learn how “trust and track” empowers employees to solve, create and produce vs. the restrictive “command and control.” To learn more check out Creating Greatness Through People and Purpose in PPB January 2012.

Great insights! Thanks for sharing your insights Hillary.