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Counselor PromoGram
Vol 1140, July 22, 2014
Counselor Unveils 2014 Best Places to Work
The 2014 Counselor Best Places to Work list was officially unveiled on Thursday night at a reception that kicked off the 2014 Counselor Best Places to Work Conference. Held at the Hotel Chicago Downtown - Autograph Collection, the conference began with a cocktail reception to unveil the 90 companies that comprise this year's Counselor Best Places to Work.
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"These are the companies that are totally dedicated to their corporate cultures and to the well-being and productivity of their employees," said Tim Andrews, president and CEO of ASI. "They're the leaders in the industry when it comes to workplace success, and we're happy to honor them."

The top five companies on this year's list are: Birmingham, AL-based distributor Concepts & Associates (asi/166235) at number one, followed by The Book Company (asi/41010), Bullpen Marketing (asi/150076), Proforma Albrecht & Co. (asi/116308), and Custom Logos (asi/173183). Click here to watch a video interview with Tim Hennessy, CEO of Concepts & Associates, who shares how his company reached the top of Counselor’s Best Places to Work list.

And, click here to view the complete 1-90 rankings of the 2014 Counselor Best Places to Work.

Panel Debate: Perks Versus Pay
Last week’s Counselor Best Places to Work Conference began with a panel discussion featuring a common question for companies today: What’s a better hiring and retention tool, perks or pay?
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“Good pay gets you in the door with top candidates,” said Tim Andrews, president and CEO of ASI and one of the three panelists for the session. “But, it’s perks and benefits that help companies to retain the best people.”

Indeed, the panel believed companies today need a mixture of good pay and unique and attractive perks to hire, motivate, and retain good workers. “Top pay and compensation programs are vital to attract good people today,” said Cindy Jorgenson, vice president of sales for Top 40 distributor Brown & Bigelow (asi/148500) and another member of the panel. “But bonuses and such lose their appeal after a short period and they start to become expected. Companies need to be creative with how they pay people today and maybe spread it out. Make it a little unexpected with how you pay and reward your best people.”

And, with much of the conversation focused on the increased movement toward flexible work schedules, the panel believed that the most progressive companies are certainly experimenting today with forms of scheduling flexibility. “How do you want collaboration to look at your company? This is something that you have to clearly define if you’re going to move to a more flexible work atmosphere,” said Jason Lauritsen, director of the Best Places to Work program at Quantum Workplace, Counselor’s research partner on its Best Places to Work awards. “Ultimately, though, you don’t have to spread perks around your company like peanut butter on a piece of bread – it doesn’t have to reach every corner of your company. Some people need to be in an office, and some people can telecommute.”

Click here to watch a video interview with Quantum’s Jason Lauritsen for more tips on how to identify and hire top employees today.

Three Keys to Transforming Biz Culture
Employee engagement, consistent transparency, and brutal, company-wide honesty are critical to improving office culture, according to David Woods, president and CEO of AIA Corporation (asi/109480) and a panelist at this year’s Counselor Best Places to Work Conference.
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In an afternoon session at the event, Woods detailed how his company took drastic steps to reenergize its workplace and improve efficiencies.

“Back in 2011, we began what we called our Transition to Excellence program,” Woods said. “We thought we were a good company, but we wanted to be great.”

With the help of a consultancy and guided by internal surveys and conversations, AIA set out to learn how it could get better. “We found out our people wanted more training and they wanted to see a career path for themselves,” Woods said. “They also wanted more control over their work and didn’t want company leaders to be making all the decisions for them.”

AIA later took another step in its transformation by holding a voluntary employee retreat at a resort, asking attendees to be blunt in their assessments of the company. “Nothing was sacred,” Woods said. “We learned that we just weren’t communicating very well. As leaders of AIA, we started to understand what we could be doing better.”

After gathering information, AIA worked to implement a host of improvements, developing cross-functional teams, a peer coaching program, and a mandate that staff resolve problems one-on-one. “If someone has an issue with someone else, they have to go to that person and work it out, instead of pointing fingers or talking behind their back,” Woods said. “We want concerns handled honestly, fairly, and professionally.”

AIA has also instituted an incentivized suggestion box campaign – with ideas and concerns all posted publicly – that led to 445 company changes in the program’s first year alone. “We’re really breaking down the barriers,” Woods said. “What’s so important is that people at the top have to be committed to the effort.”

Counselor spoke with Woods following his session to get more advice on improving company culture. Click here to watch the video interview.

The Joe Show: Unique New Products
In this episode of The Joe Show, Managing Editor Joe Haley shows off several items that’ll pique the interest of clients and prospects. Looking for a perfect product to target to travelers or on-the-go salespeople? How about some items that would appeal to the inner tech geek in all consumers?
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Click here to watch the latest episode of The Joe Show.

Want more videos? Subscribe now to our YouTube videos.


KL&P Acquires Safe Designs
San Carlos, CA-based KL&P Marketing & Motivation (asi/238325) has acquired Safe Designs Promotional Marketing (asi/316200), the companies have announced. Financial terms of the deal, made public on July 15, were not disclosed. Going forward, Safe Designs will operate as a division of KL&P, and Linda Westwood, Safe Designs’ owner, will serve as a company consultant.

“The synergy of both companies will further enhance customer access to creative services, fulfillment, print solutions, and branded merchandise,” KL&P said, in a statement announcing the deal.

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Founded in 1989, KL&P Marketing provides marketing services, incentive programs, and promotional merchandise to clients, which include the Fortune 1000. Established 30 years ago, Safe Designs offers safety, award, and branded merchandise programs. Combined, the two firms “are on track to exceed $10 million” in 2014 revenues, according to a KL&P statement.
Six-Figure Employee Empowerment
During the “Empower Your Employees to Win Six-Figure Deals” session of Counselor’s second-annual Best Places to Work conference on Friday, Chuck Fandos, CEO of St. Louis-based distributorship Gateway/CDI (asi/202515), said that while he and his business partner Conrad Franey do remain involved in working with clients, they are firm believers in giving their sales and customer service reps a fair amount of autonomy in dealing with large clients.

“First of all, I would say that we train our people to treat all clients, regardless of size, with the same level of excellent service,” Fandos said. “We train new employees for six months, putting them through what we call ‘Gateway University’ which includes basics like e-mail etiquette, but also teaching about product safety issues, marketing strategies, and how to provide top-notch service.”

Fandos said he’s learned over the years to identify certain traits in staffers and prospective employees that would make them ideal candidates for working with clients of all sizes, but especially Fortune 500 entities. “I look for people who are self-motivated, who are able to multi-task and have a great sense of organization and follow-up,” Fandos said. “And they have to be creative. Clients love working with people who use creativity in a fun way.”

Counselor spoke to Fandos after his session to find out more tips for empowering employees. Click here to watch the video.

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Hire and Retain Top Talent
A company’s best source for finding talent is its own employees – but don’t assume employees are actively recruiting for you, Jason Lauritsen, a director at Quantum Workplace warned attendees at the Counselor Best Places to Work Conference. “You need to think very intentionally about how you inspire employees how to tell your story.”

Companies should train their most engaged employees on how to tap into their social networks and join networking groups to actively promote the company. As an example, he said, employees could be provided with a paragraph highlighting all of the great things about working for the company, which they could tweak and put into their LinkedIn profiles.

Here are some other tips from Lauritsen for how to hire great employees today:

  • Job candidates “like transparency,” he said. “Their B.S. detectors are really tuned right now,” because they already know about your company through websites and other online sources. “Be able to articulate why this is a great company and why the candidate should want to work there.”
  • Make hiring a team sport. Lauritsen says prospective hires get a better feel for a company when they get to meet its employees. Plus, the employees can help to gauge whether a candidate will fit in to the company’s culture.
  • Highlight development opportunities. “Employees are much more likely to join your company if they feel like there are career development opportunities for them,” he said. “They need to feel certain that there’s a path to get ahead.”
Creating a Culture of Customer Service
Great customer service just doesn’t happen. Just ask Dan Taylor, founder and CEO of BamBams (asi/38228). For him, it’s about having the right people and fostering a corporate culture that enhances and stresses customer service at every turn. “You’re intentional about it,” Taylor said during a morning Best Places to Work Conference session on Friday. “You model it. You reward it and you talk about it when it’s not going well. We always talk about corporate culture in some form or fashion. We talk about successes and we talk about failures.”

Those discussions happen at weekly meetings which are held first thing every Monday morning. These meetings ensure that every team member is on the same page in terms of their commitment to serving clients, and like with every good sports team, it ends with a huddle. “We come to the center and say, ‘What’s the word of the day? Customer service,’” Taylor said. “Then we put our hands together and say, ‘1, 2, 3, customer service.’”

Over the years, the team at BamBams has gone above and beyond for clients. In one particular incident, an order for a client in Houston was stuck in customs in California. Two reps made the trip and pressured the customs agents until they finally released the shipment. Then those reps piled into a car and drove the 1,400-plus miles to meet the client’s in-hands date. The entire adventure was chronicled and the company celebrated the victory and still talk about it today. In addition, reps are rewarded at meetings with gift cards and other incentives. It’s those celebrations that help further the customer service culture at the supplier firm.

Counselor caught up with Taylor after his session to find out more secrets for how he builds a corporate culture based around customer service. Click here to watch the interview.


ASI Chicago Video Recap
The Windy City was the place to be last week, as The ASI Show Chicago blew into town for three days of jam-packed action. Counselor’s cameras were also on the scene to catch up with show VIPs, interview Counselor Award winners, and speak to keynoters. Here are all the videos recorded during the show.

Trade Show Floor Opens

The Joe Show Day One

Person of the Year

International Person of the Year

Erik Wahl on Creativity in Business

ASI Promocar Debuts

The Joe Show Day Two

Counselor Awards Red Carpet

Distributor Entrepreneur of the Year

Supplier Entrepreneur of the Year

Distributor Family Business of the Year

Supplier Family Business of the Year

Distributor Woman of Distinction

Supplier Woman of Distinction

Marvin Spike Lifetime Achievement Award

Bess Cohn Memorial Humanitarian Award

Counselor Product Close-Up: Safety Items
In the latest episode of the video series Counselor Product Close-Up, the focus turns to safety products. What markets should distributors target for this growing product category? What demographics are best suited for safety-product promotions? 

Click here to watch the video and find out. Featuring advice from Counselor editors Andy Cohen and Dave Vagnoni, plus a product segment with Managing Editor Joe Haley, this edition of Counselor Product Close-Up has ideas to help you pitch and sell more safety products in 2014.

Click here to watch the video report.


ASI Radio: Celebrating Six Years
On a special edition of the Tuesday Morning Show today, the hosts celebrated their sixth anniversary on the air. In honor of the celebration, we played some anniversary trivia with our callers and replayed some of the most memorable moments. Plus, we revealed our Favorite Things, recapped last week’s ASI Chicago and Counselor’s Best Places to Work Conference, and debated the ways to improve workplace productivity.

If you missed the show, a recording is now available at And, don’t forget to join us for our next broadcast – Tuesday, July 29. Log on at 10:30 a.m. ET to listen to the show – and give us a call at (215) 953-4979 to hear your voice on the air. 


In The News
AIA Corporation (asi/109480) will host its 18th Annual National Sales Summit at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando, FL, from July 23-25. The theme is “Imagine More,” and the event begins with an address from Harris Rosen, a Florida hotelier and leading philanthropist.

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Alliance Rubber Company (asi/34345) has encouraged American customers since April to spend $1 a day on Made in the USA products as part of its “Band Together. Buy American” contest. Those who took the pledge were entered in a contest to win an all-expenses-paid trip to anywhere in the continental U.S. The contest concluded on July 4, and Anthony Pastor of Plymouth Meeting, PA, was named the winner.

Boxercraft (asi/41325) announced that it has expanded its Fall 2014 line with three new products: the Trendy Team Flannel Pant (F20), the Signature Cotton Boxers (C11) and the Kickoff Fleece Capris (K44). For more information, visit

Hub Pen Company (asi/61966) announced that it donated more than 100 promotional pens to the William R. Caddy Detachment of the Marine Corps League’s 24th annual Caddy Golf Classic, which benefits veteran activities and local charities.

Norwood by BIC Graphic (asi/74400) has launched its latest iCatalog, the Atchison brand Idea Book that features all Atchison brand products, including six new items for summer, organized by promotional themes, such as “Back to School,” “Rebranding Your Business” and more. Click here to view the catalog.

Selco (asi/86230) has partnered with Fast-Fix, a jewelry and watch repair company, to offer consumers local repair services. Each new watch will now include information on finding local Fast-Fix locations and discounts for extra services.

Stormtech Performance Apparel (asi/89869) has launched its Fall/Winter 2014 Collection, including more than 40 new styles and colors. Visit for more information.


People On The Move
Goldner Associates (asi/209800) announced that it has promoted Nathan Potter to the position of IT manager.


Product Spotlight: Proforma

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Only Proforma has the resources to offer a program like Results First. Only Proforma has $4 million per year in sales and marketing support, $430 million in purchasing power and a 150 person support team to truly deliver the results you want.

Click here to learn how Proforma's Results First program can grow your business—even before you join.

Proforma (asi/300094)

Out with a Bang
ASI Chicago, the last national trade show of the season, attracts over 4,300 distributors from firms based in 42 states and eight countries.
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The Best of the Best
Counselor® magazine celebrates the most innovative and unique companies in $20.5 billion ad specialty industry and names top 90 companies.
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All distributors can attend for free.

As the last big show in the Southwest for the year, Promotions Southwest, Monday, August 11, at the Irving Convention Center, is your chance to see products and vendors up close and personal as you prepare for the all-important fourth quarter.

  • Discuss your customers’ end-of-year sales needs with 200 top companies, including Bullet, Hit Promotional Products, The Identity Group, Hub Pen, Leed’s and SanMar
  • See new products for the fourth quarter including unique items for back to school, employee appreciation programs and the winter holidays
  • Benefit from a productive one-day schedule — minimal time  away from the office with a huge payback
  • Learn “How to Sell $100,000 in 30 Days” during a Keynote by industry expert Don Sanders

It’s all in the timing. Find the right products to sell at the right time of the year and you’ll get the sale! Register for FREE at

Follow The ASI Show on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook today!

The following are the dates and locations for The ASI Show in 2015:
Orlando, January 4-6, 2015
Dallas, February 3-5, 2015
Long Beach, March 24-26, 2015
New York, May 6-7, 2015
Chicago, July 14-16, 2015

Plus, don’t miss the ASI Advantages Roadshow, the industry’s #1 traveling show. Visit for the complete schedule and go to for information on all ASI Shows.


KL&P Acquires Safe Designs | Six-Figure Employee Empowerment | Hire and Retain Top Talent | Creating a Culture of Customer Service | ASI Chicago Video Recap | Counselor Product Close-Up: Safety Items | ASI Radio: Celebrating Six Years | In The News | People On The Move
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