What’s Your Question 35?

Tuesday June 23, 2009 | Filed under: Community, Industry Initiatives, Members

Let me admit something right off the bat - I'm not under 35.  However, I was more than happy to answer some questions for the new Facebook group "Promo 35," which provides an online forum for young industry professionals.

The group is the brainchild of Charley Johnson of SnugZ/USA (asi/88060), who is posting several interviews with industry leaders and movers and shakers.

The interviews have thought-provoking questions, such as "what do you wish you knew back in your 20s that you know now?" or "what piece of advice would you give the younger generation hoping to be in your shoes later in life?"

Read my answers here if you're on Facebook.  If not, they're below. 

The last question, #35, is crafted by the interviewees.  What would your question be?  Post it on the blog now or email me here.

1. What do you wish you knew back in your 20's that you know now?

Early in my career, I thought every decision - no matter how small - was life or death, do or die, must win at all costs. What I've discovered is that you pick your battles, and you pick when you must win and when you just want to win, and you save your ammunition for the times that you really need to unload it. Many people think they have to win every debate, every business discussion, every last nickel on the table. That isn't the case, and in fact in the long run you ultimately lose because everyone thinks you always have to have it your way.

2. What one thing do you wish you would have done in your earlier days? What one thing do you wish you would have NOT done in your earlier days?

A. I wish that I had spent more time just out of college traveling and visiting the world and learning more about other cultures. I've been able to do that in the last few years, but I think that my personal and professional development would have been helped by having some of those experiences early on and not later. Of course, easy to say but tough to afford when you're earlier in your career. (Although travel and experiencing the world doesn't have to be expensive to be good.)

B. I really don't have any regrets. If you approach things that are difficult with an eye to learning from the experience, and taking that away with you, I think really you have few regrets.

3. What piece of advice would you give the younger generation hoping to be in your shoes later in life?

Be honest. It's okay to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them, and acknowledge that you made them. The worst thing to find out is that someone isn't honest, isn't truthful and tries to cover up every little error in judgment they make. We make a hundred decisions in a day - sometimes hundreds of decisions in a day - and not every one of them are going to be the correct ones in the long term. But in the moment, you have to make the decision, and you have to do the best you can.

4. What helps you get up and go to work in the morning?

I love what I do, and I love the people I do it with, both professionally and in my personal life. I long ago decided that working somewhere that I didn't like, with people I didn't respect, or spending time with friends who I didn't really like that much, was a big waste of time.

5. Name a vice you have?

I'm not sure it's a vice, but one thing that I sometimes struggle with is tackling the biggest problems and biggest issues first. It's natural for me to try to do the little stuff first, and get to the big, bad stuff later. But if you tackle the bigger, tougher things first you're fresher, you have more energy and your brain is going to be more engaged. Plus it makes everything after that seem simpler.

6. What would you stand up for no matter how much backlash came with it?

After really gathering the facts, and deciding what I think was right, I'd stand up for that position no matter what.

7. Is the customer really always right? Please no politically correct responses; we want your honest opinion.

Absolutely not. But neither are we. One of the most important things in business is to really listen to the other parties and understand where they're coming from, calmly explain your position and where you're coming from and then trying to reach some sort of a middle ground that works pretty well for everybody. There's nothing worse than people who call me yelling about something, or staking their ground and saying "you must do this or else." We've all talked to those people, we've all gotten their letters and emails, and we've all met them. Sometimes you just have to say, "Is this really worth the effort I'm putting into this?" And if it isn't, you have to walk away. One of the hardest things is "firing" a customer, but I certainly have done it and I certainly explain to people that I plan to do it. Usually, if they're reasonable, they'll calm down and realize that they've been too aggressive or just plain too mean. If they don't, then I don't want them as a customer, or as a prospect or as a friend.

8. What famous person has this world put up on a pedestal that you believe does not deserve to be there?

Rather than an individual, I'd say a whole host of "famous" singers, performers and politicians. We sometimes idolize people for no good reason other than they're doing their job.

9. If all of a sudden you had control over the entire promotional product industry what ONE thing would you change?

I would try to take away some of the paranoia that exists among and between distributors, suppliers and decorators. There's a lot of unproductive worry about relationships, and I think in the long run it hurts the industry more than it helps any one business individually or the industry as a whole.

35. Your turn to ask a question, you can ask any question you want, something you want the readers to think about and answer for themselves.

If you could do anything, knowing that you wouldn't fail, what would you do?