Monthly Archives: January 2014

When Worlds Collide

Based on keynote speaker, Tony Hsieh’s “collision model” this year The PPAI Expo not only created community and co-learning, but an astounding 800,000+ collisions.

The PPAI Expo 2014 Marks 5-Year High  in Attendee and Exhibitor Numbers

The PPAI Expo 2014 Marks 5-Year High in Attendee and Exhibitor Numbers

For one week the promotional products industry comes together to launch their year, and this year they came out in force to gather industry insights and trends and set the stage for the year to come. Whether it is The PPAI Expo’s sheer size and quality or professional development and business-building opportunities, no other industry event provides this level of engagement and access to the promotional products market, its leaders, brands, new products, services and solutions.

This year, The PPAI Expo ranked 53rd among all U.S. trade shows on the Trade Show Executive Gold 100, but it is clear The PPAI Expo is the number one trade show in our industry and 2014 was personally my favorite so far.

The PPAI Expo 2014 generated growth in both attendee and exhibitor participation. At more than a million square feet of exhibition and education space, The PPAI Expo is the largest single gathering of suppliers, decorators, technology providers and distributors in the industry dedicated to showcasing new, green and Made in America products, decorating technology, motivational strategies, professional development and leadership and global access to the promotional products marketplace.

I am pleased to report The PPAI Expo 2014 attracted a five-year high of more than 11,500 attendees from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and 34 countries, representing our fourth consecutive year of growth. Professional development and education session attendance also experienced significant increases. In fact, CEO, Tony Hsieh’s general session had one of the largest crowds ever measured with an overflow attendance of more than double the previous year.

This year, significant growth was generated through an increase in promotional products suppliers, decorators and distributors, as well as the co-location of the Recognition Professionals International conference with PPAI’s brand. pavilion. With the additional growth, exhibit and education space totaled more than 1,100,000 square feet, with more than 1,400 exhibiting companies in more than 3,250 booths.

We hosted more than 120 professional development and certification sessions drawing standing-room-only attendance to education tracks highlighting business management, product responsibility, marketing, sales and service and technology.

With guidance from the Association’s Product Responsibility Advisory Group, industry committees and advisory groups, PPAI launched ‘Product Safety Aware’, a program designed to enhance an industry-wide commitment and culture where companies are not only aware of product safety but are leading the discussion at every level in the promotional products channel.

The general session and keynote line-up included remarks from CEO, Tony Hsieh, The Mark of a Leader’s CEO & Chief Storyteller Doug Keeley;  Valorie Burton discussed how to be better, not bitter; and our industry’s own, Mark Graham of RIGHTSLEEVE and Bobby Lehew of Robyn Promotions who walked the audience through the three important models to consider in business and how to market a business to not merely survive turbulent times but to stay alive and thrive.

We recognized more than 160 companies and individuals with Suppliers Achievement, Pyramid, Image, Technology and Supplier Star awards and during the PPAI Chairman’s Leadership Dinner we gave special honors to Don Lafferre as the 2014 PPAI Hall of Fame inductee, Mike Schenker, MAS, as the recipient of the 2014 PPAI Distinguished Service Award and Peter Geiger as the recipient of the 2014 H. Ted Olson Humanitarian Award.

For the last two years I have talked to anyone that would listen about PPAI’s goal of delivering industry Visibility, Viability, Credibility and Community—we now add Commitment, Culture and Confidence to our pledge of industry advocacy. This philosophy was exemplified through Tony Hsieh’s inspirational keynote address where he explained the Zappos model of creating community, co-learning and collisions. Attendees were excited to hear how builds business by accelerating collisions between co-workers and their communities through organic growth generated as a result of strategic design, location and traffic flow—promoting interaction, collaboration and commerce.

Based on the model, The PPAI Expo week generated more than 800,000 collisions in over a million square feet at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas!

Looking Forward To This Year And The Next

Next year, The PPAI Expo 2015 will be held Sunday through Thursday, January 11-15, 2015, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas; the SAGE Show will take place, April 23-25, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas and Expo East will be held May 19-21, 2014, in Atlantic City, New Jersey. For more information, visit The PPAI Expo, SAGE Show and EXPO East.

I hope to see you at one or all of the upcoming events!


CSPC’s Neal Cohen To Present At The Expo

PPAI is pleased to announce that Neal Cohen, the Small Business Ombudsman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), will be speaking at the The PPAI Expo 2014. The presentation will be an overview of CPSC product safety requirements, including third-party testing requirements for children’s products and the requirements for periodic testing and material change testing. The presentation will also discuss best practices for dealing with the CPSC.

As Small Business Ombudsman, Neal provides guidance on product safety regulations specifically tailored to small businesses. He stays informed on the impact of CPSC regulations on businesses through relationships with manufacturers, retailers, and distributors in a variety of industries. Cohen uses this information to make recommendations to senior leaders at CPSC on ways to solve systemic problems and minimize the effects of regulations without compromising product safety.

Over the past few years, I, along with a number of you, have been fortunate enough to meet with Neal several times. Through this outreach, Neal has been able to learn about the industry and understands the unique compliance challenges we face. His continued connection to our industry makes him a valuable resource for anyone concerned with in product safety.

During the 2013 PPAI Product Safety Summit, Neal spoke to industry professionals about children’s product testing, a crucial subject in the industry. Neal also spoke candidly about the CPSC and its practices, addressing concerns and answering questions.

Neal has worked at CPSC in various capacities since 2009.  Prior to joining the commission, he was a criminal prosecutor in New York City.  He received his bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College and his law degree from the Emory University School of Law and is a member of the New York State Bar.

Neal’s presentation, “Product Safety 201: Everything You Wanted To Know About Product Safety But Were Afraid To Ask,” will be Tuesday, January 14 from 10:40 am to 12:10 pm in Jasmine E, level 3. This education session, part of the product responsibility track, is free to members and nonmembers.

For questions about the session, contact Tim Brown, PPAI Product Responsibility Manager, at

Government Relations Today

Guest post by Seth Barnett, PPAI Government Relations Manager.

Government Relations Today is a monthly publication released by the PPAI Public Affairs team and covers political news, industry related updates and product safety insight. To subscribe to GR Today and become a more informed industry advocate, click here.

Budget Deal Reached

A bipartisan budget group led by Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Budget committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) broke a four-year streak this month when they reached an agreement on a budget to fund federal agencies.

Not since April 2009 has the government been able to pass a new budget. Until now, legislators have been churning out resolutions to continue funding government business. This accomplishment brings hope that Congress can continue its bipartisan efforts heading into midterm elections next November.

The next major step will be for an agreement to be reached on an appropriations bill before January 15. While a seemingly less daunting task, the bill must be completed, passed and signed by President Obama by the deadline to avoid another government shutdown. The House returns to work Friday and the Senate will be back on Monday.

Tax Reform Proposals

With a budget on the books, the next item of business for the 113th Congress may likely be tax reform.  While the budget passage opens up the possibility for something to be introduced during the first quarter of 2014, those involved in tax policy continue to argue that a plan may not happen transpire until after the midterm elections.

Nonetheless, Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) of the Senate Finance Committee and Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) of the House Ways and Means Committee have each released proposals for a tax overhaul. In the past six months, Camp, Baucus and Obama have released plans for items they wish to include in tax reform.

Baucus’ discussion drafts on tax reform contain at least one item of note for promotional products—advertising expenditures. Baucus would like to amend tax law governing the deductibility of advertising expenditures by businesses, ultimately putting an unwarranted constraint on businesses that spend money on advertising. The impact to the industry would be as widespread in that businesses would have to make considerations when choosing to allocate advertising dollars. To learn more about this draft item and to take action to protect the industry, click here.

The chairman’s drafts also include a plan for international tax reform that would require U.S. companies doing business abroad to change their cash accounting procedures. This change would require accountability to happen as the income is earned.

Camp and Baucus also both agree on cost recovery specifically targeting small businesses. They also both agree that a lower corporate tax rate is needed; Baucus seeks 25 percent and Camp is asking for a rate somewhere below 30 percent.

New Independent Contractor Debates

Legislation that will have strong repercussions for promotional products business continues to keep PPAI’s attention. Bills that would re-classify independent contractors doing business in the industry include SB 1687, which amends the Fair Labor Standards Act to require employers with independent contractors to classify new hires under more specific guidelines and to re-classify existing contractors if any classification discrepancies are evident.

While the bill, introduced by Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA) doesn’t directly target promotional products businesses, confusion and frustration may be a direct result if it passes. A more strategic piece of legislation that is definitely considered detrimental to industry contractors is SB 1706, the Fair Playing Field Act from Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

Brown is carrying forward legislation that previously was developed and introduced by former Sen. John Kerry. The bill seeks to eliminate Section 530 of the Internal Revenue Code; language in the section governs how and whether promotional products businesses are able to classify employees as independent contractors.

Currently the bill has nine co-sponsors but no bipartisan support in the Senate Finance Committee. PPAI has drafted a letter informing Members of Congress about this bill and its negative consequences for the industry. To add your voice to ours, click here to send a letter or email to your elected officials.

GR at The Expo

PPAI government relations’ staff as well as members of PPAI’s Government Relations Advisory Council will be present during the 2014 PPAI Expo to answer questions about PPAI’s government relations activities. You can find us in the PPAI HQ booth, number 1049. We will have informational documentation, a presentation about product safety and government relations and PPAI Public Affair’s staff available during show hours to answer questions. If you are interested in becoming more involved in PPAI government relations activities, email PPAI’s Government Relations Manager Seth Barnett at to set up a time to meet during Expo.