July 22, 2014
I’m just back from Chicago, where I spent a week at the ASI Show, the Counselor Best Places to Work conference and squatting at my BFF Sharon Biernat’s house, an oasis of cool in the middle of the city that I never want to leave. Sharon, a distributor sales rep with Skokie-based Creative Promos, and her fabulous husband Bob (All Hail Bob!) open their home to me and the parade of industry crazies I invite over every year and they do it with grace, hospitality and style. Sharon’s house is the best unofficial B&B in Chicago and I thank her for letting me treat it as my home-base — with limitless gourmet snacks and never a pesky “last call” with which to contend.
One of the highlights for me last week was the privilege of presenting Brown & Bigelow’s Cindy Jorgenson with the 2014 Counselor Woman of Distinction Award. And hoo boy, does she deserve it. Read below for the full text of what I wrote about Cindy for the upcoming issue of Counselor. And I’d just like to add that in addition to being one of the most talented people in the industry, Cindy proves one thing: For those who say that nothing good ever happens at God-awful Shenanigans (yeah, it’s a hellhole, but it’s OUR hellhole…), know that Cindy and I first met there 13 years ago have been each other’s industry girl crush ever since.
And now, without further delay, the many reasons why Miss Cindy Jorgenson is this year’s Woman of Distinction…
You would think — considering that she’s climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, swam with whales, cage-dived with great white sharks and repelled through cavernous waterfalls – Cindy Jorgenson, what with her penchant for putting herself in precarious positions, is a charter member of the Justice League. In fact, as an 18-year industry vet and the current vice president of sales for Counselor Top 40 distributor Brown & Bigelow, she’s intent on tackling a Herculean challenge closer to home – completely upending the industry’s reputation as one of an old boy’s club.
“If you look at the management teams and boards of directors across the industry they’re still very male dominated,” Jorgenson says. “But on the sales side it’s very female dominated. In general, women don’t take as many risks and can lack assertiveness … We tend to play it safe. However, our attention to detail, ability to multitask and to emotionally connect with people give us an edge that can’t be ignored. My goal is to continue to motivate women into this industry and once here, help them move beyond support positions into sales and management.”
Bill Smith Jr., president of Brown & Bigelow and Jorgenson’s boss, concurs. “Cindy has been a role model for many people at Brown & Bigelow, especially women. She has mentored sales assistants in their transition into sales, new sales people learning our industry as well as experienced sales people making the transition to selling national accounts. Credibility is her greatest strength. Sales people respect her because she’s actually done what she recommends.”
And it’s this kind of commitment to mentorship that Jorgenson, who’s a past president of UPMAPP, is quite familiar. “I worked for a small distributor prior to joining B&B,” she recalls. “I started, at age 21, as an assistant to the owner who was also the largest producing salesperson. I held this position for 18 months before moving into sales, and I now know – without question – that first 18 months is why I’m in management today. Not only could I see the sales process, but I had the opportunity to view and come to respect the management side of the business as well. The owner/salesperson I worked for in the beginning told me that when I become successful, I must reach back and take someone’s hand, just as he took mine. Serving on the UMAPP board allowed me to do that; my position at Brown & Bigelow now allows me to do that every day by coaching sales partners on prospecting, time management, generating leads and proving a return on investment.”
“Talk about a go-getter – if you can keep up with Cindy, good luck,” says Rena Ashfeld, national sales manager for MN-based supplier Advance Corporation. “I’ve had the privilege of being on UMAPP Board with her, being one of her suppliers and her best friend … to see her at work is amazing. She mentors and cares deeply about this industry. This girl can multitask during the day for her clients, spin around like Wonder Woman and network at night like a rock star. She’s truly a force to be reckoned with.”
Jorgenson advises that the best course of action for younger sales professionals is to start on the inside. “The learning curve is enormous in this industry,” she cautions. “My advice would be to learn on the company’s dime. Collect a salary, learn the business, make mistakes and get some product knowledge under your belt. When you have that, then transition into sales. You’ll go with more confidence and less costly mistakes.”
Speaking of those, Jorgenson points to a doozy of a faux pas she made early on in her career: “I took too long to realize the importance of the supplier-distributor relationship,” she admits. “That first distributor I worked for had the mentality of ‘we are the suppliers’ customer and they must do what we say.’ That couldn’t be more wrong. Our suppliers are just as important, if not more so, than our clients. Without them, we have nothing to sell, and without their processes, procedures and quality control measures nothing would ever get delivered. If you’re still beating up your suppliers stop and start partnering with them – I promise your business will grow.”
For Jorgenson, the woman who never met a goal or challenge she didn’t like – all while wearing heels as high as carjacks – her love of the industry remains constant. “It’s the products, the people, the independence, the fact that salespeople define their own lives and income, the creativeness, the constant change you must make in yourself to stay competitive, the crazy, chaotic deadlines, the pull-your-hair-out, must-have-a-freaking-cocktail-right-now pressure,” she says. “I love it all.”
July 10, 2014
Filed under: Personal
Well, hey there!
I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and are enjoying a fabulous summer!
I was on vacation last week, and had the opportunity to get a call from my friend, Dov Charney, the embattled founder of Counselor Top 40 supplier American Apparel. Our chat was off-the-record, but it reminded me of a column I wrote about him in the May, 2013 issue of ASI’s supplier magazine that I edit, SGR. What I said then, still stands today:
In the 17 years I’ve been in the industry as an editor with ASI, the person I get asked about most often, hands down, is Dov. He and I have been friends over 12 years now, as I first met him when I profiled him for Counselor magazine. He wasn’t the famous – some would say infamous – personality he is now, but even then, I knew he was about as unique and unconventional as they come. He is, and always has been, a human A bomb and spending time with him is like being inside a Dyson – crazy, exhilarating, breathtaking and confusing. That’s quintessential Dov Charney.
Now let me acknowledge what everyone is thinking: Yes, he is a lunatic, and yes, he makes questionable decisions to say the least. But he is also – and I’ll stand by this statement every time – the most innately talented marketer I’ve ever met. While the rest of us are limited to five senses, Dov has a sixth – the ability to spot trends well ahead of the masses and craft them into products and a lifestyle brand that the hippest of demographics covet. And say what you will about his business acumen, but after a rollercoaster of profits and losses, his sales have been on a steady incline of late, increasing the sales of his promo division from $90.2 million in 2011 to $96.8 million in 2012 to $99.2 million in 2013.
Whenever he shows up in the news – and let’s face it: he’s not unfamiliar with the inside of a lawyer’s office – friends ask me what he’s really like. Here’s what I say: It’s simply not in his DNA to ask permission to do what he wants with American Apparel, even now as it’s a publicly-traded company; it wouldn’t even dawn on him to ask, or to care, what people think. And I remind people that a lot of what’s been written about him is sensationalized and exaggerated for effect. In reality, Dov is quite charming, very sweet, more than a little nerdy and, in my interactions with him, utterly harmless – but with a big intellect, a bigger mouth and personality that could most politely be described as weapons-grade wacko.
There are a few people in the industry who creep me out to the depths of my soul – including one head of a Top 40 company with whom I wouldn’t be alone without a taser and pepper spray. Dov Charney – with his jaw-dropping talent and despite his over-the-top eccentricities – isn’t one of them. I’d happily spend time with him any day of the week because when he’s creating and innovating, there’s nothing more mesmerizing. And as a Leo, known for our loyalty, I’m sticking by my friend – whether he’s the genius, the mad man or both.
More next week from ASI’s Chicago Show, featuring my favorite event of the year, the Counselor Awards banquet (aka, the Counselor “prom.”).
March 8, 2013
Well, hey there!
Hope you’ve all been doing well! For me, it’s been a particularly crazy time in Michele World, what with lots of travel in January (Orlando for the ASI Show, then directly to Dusseldorf for the PSI Show, then on to Paris for, well, nothing — j’adore Paris!) and caring for my Mom, who’s had some health challenges in the past six weeks.
Now that everything has settled down, I’ve watched with perplexed fascination how everyone has fire-hosed their rage and indignation at Marissa Mayer, the adroit CEO of the once-heralded, now beleaguered Yahoo! Mayer and the head of Yahoo!’s HR department, for those of you as out of the loop as I’ve been, dared to ask Yahoo!’s telecommuting employees to start coming into the office every day to, ya know, work (a move soon after adopted by Best Buy’s management, incidentally). The reaction to Mayer’s announcement? Like she took all telecommuters — not just those at Yahoo! — and demanded the marrow be syphoned from their bodies. And to say she’s been vilified in the media is putting it mildly.
At ASI, our telecommuting policy is at the discretion of each department head. Melinda Ligos, who oversees the Editorial and Education departments, takes an extremely tolerant stance towards telecommuting: “As long as people get their work done, it’s fine with me.” Yet even she saw the LOL value in this cartoon she sent my way, whose message is brilliant in its simplicity.
Of the five magazine editors here at ASI, I’m the only one who’s in the office every day. That’s not to say I’m working harder than my four colleagues who work from home a few days a week, as I certainly am not (a point with which CEO Tim Andrews would enthusiastically concur). In fact, the argument could be made that they’re better, more disciplined workers because they can function in a less restrictive environment. Libertines like me don’t fare well without parameters, rules (not that we adhere to them, but we need to bump up against them) and schedules. If I worked from home I’d be well-versed on the daily Law & Order line-up on TNT and rationalize my way towards mid-day naps and drinking (“but Spaniards do it, and they’re lovely people!”).
Here’s the thing, though, which was Mayer’s point: Her decision wasn’t a referendum on the productivity of people who work from home — for sure, they’re just as, if not more, productive than those who work in the office. (Though one of my colleagues who shall remain nameless — *cough* Joe Haley – uses air quotes every time he says someone is “working from home.”) But there’s no doubt that people who work from home are at a distinct disadvantage.Yeah, I said it. Being physically present in the office, able to look colleagues in the eye and engage with them in meetings, makes all the difference over the colleague who’s calling in via speaker phone, Skype or video conference. You can defend your position, advocate for policy changes and influence co-workers with greater effectiveness being in front of them. Working remotely robs you of the critical ability to metabolize colleagues’ reactions in real-time, read social cues and gauge group dynamics; seeing co-workers face-to-face encourages collaboration and adds to the energy level of the group. And in that regard, Mayer is spot-on.
Cheers, and hope to see you all soon!
December 31, 2012
Happy Holidays, Everyone!
As we wrap up one year and prepare to start the next, I’d like to take a moment to give the airline and hospitality industries a little gift (she says with snark): my now-annual list of Things That Make Me Cringe when traveling.
Throughout my 15+ year career at ASI, during which I’ve been able to travel throughout North America, Europe and Asia, I’ve stayed in the best (the Peninsula and the W in Hong Kong, the Fontainebleau in Miami), trendiest (Mon Hotel in Paris) and skeeziest (the Foreign Businessmen Club in Guangzhou, China, which smelled like something my cat, Monkey, does in his litter box) hotels, and traveled well over 250,000 miles. So here’s what I’m hoping will change if I bitch loud and often enough.
1. Pillow Talk. I know this will sound trivial and entitled, but hear me out. I’ve noticed an inverse correlation between the quality of a hotel and the pillows they offer. Meaning, the swankier the hotel, the more craptacular the pillows. For example, in October, I stayed at the Crowne Plaza in downtown Dayton, OH. Was it a five-star hotel? Absolutely not. But, wowza, those pillows were to die for — fluffy, firm and abundant. Cut to the Westbury Hotel in Mayfair, London, where I stayed in September. Located in the chi-chi area of the city where the “young Royals” party at clubs like Mahiki, the Westbury is most definitely a five-star hotel. It also had pillows so thin I could’ve rolled joints with them.
2. Let There Be Light. For those of you who know me, you have no doubt heard me rail on more than one occasion about the horrendous lighting in hotel rooms, which cause me — I’ve been told — to emerge from my room with make up so heavily spackled on that I resemble “a hooker from Bangkok” (thanks, Ron Ball!). I’m now expanding this gripe to include the overall electrical issues in hotel rooms. In this day and age where everyone has roughly 8.5 gadgets that need to be plugged in, how is it that hotels can seriously get away with only having one outlet for use? And why are they never located next to the bed? Am I the only one who needs to sleep next to my BlackBerry while it’s charging? Anyone? (Crickets… Crickets…)
3. Are You Talkin’ to Me? Oh, cab drivers… How I have a love/lament relationship with you. Love, love, love how you’re always there when I need you and, for the most part, are cheery, chipper people always happy to make small talk. But here’s where you lose me: With everyone’s smartphone now fully equipped with GPS and Google Maps, you’ve pretty much taken a laissez-faire approach to your job as nine out of 10 cabs I took in 2012 saw the driver ask me for the address of and directions to my destination. Really? Be prepared. In 2013, every time you ask me to do your job, I’m handing you a red pen and a Counselor article to edit.
4. Come Fly With Me (Or Not). Hands up: Who loves the airlines? To answer that question, I’m going to defer to my pal Dana Zezzo, marketing and social media guru for Jetline and the industry’s favorite road warrior. To put Dana’s travel schedule into perspective, he estimates that he’s flown 85 segments in 2012 alone — more than once a week. However, he still gets relegated to middle seats, even though he has “Gold” status with United. “When your flight arrangements change because of airline delays or plane changes, everything you’ve done to pre-select your seat or get upgraded means nothing,” Dana says.
So, here’s my advice to the airlines: If you want to keep frequent fliers like Dana Zezzo and, to a lesser extent, me — both of us with our big mouths and social media pulpits — happy, try taking a page out of Zappos’ customer service playbook.
5. WTF, TSA? Let me state up front and categorically: I understand and respect what the TSA does and why they’re stationed at airport security areas. Truly, I do. Here’s what I don’t get: the maddening inconsistencies. In the U.S., you’re required to remove your shoes when going through security. In Europe, if you shuck off your footwear, they’ll look at you like you’re having a psychotic break. In China, you have to walk through a device that scans your body temperature before you enter the country, lest you have a fever. In the U.S., I’ve sat next to people on planes who I’m fairly certain had typhus. I’ve been stopped at U.S. airports for having lipstick, perfume and water in my carry-on bag, but waived through with lighters, corkscrews and a Swiss Army Knife that was a self-promo item from a distributor. Not too long ago, a TSA agent in Philly insisted on searching my ponytail. I’ve been frisked in Florida and had my bra set off alarms in Frankfurt, Germany. And I was once detained in China for bringing an apple (yep) on a train from Hong Kong. Surely there must be a way to implement uniform travel safety requirements that make sense. Because, ya know, my red Chanel lipstick isn’t a threat to anyone except the bartender who’s got to scrape it off my Grey Goose glass at the end of the night.
Cheers and hope you all have a fabulous 2013! More in the next few weeks, with tons of photos from the ASI Orlando Show, PSI Dusseldorf and PPPC Toronto!
October 18, 2012
I know, I know. One week I’m in New Orleans, the next in London, the next Dayton, OH. For sure, my travel schedule can get crazy but one of my favorite things as an editor in the industry is getting out to meet new people and spending time with old friends. (Aside: My colleague Joe Haley, ASI’s managing editor and star of The Joe Show, doesn’t think I travel enough. “It’s so blissfully quiet when you’re not here,” he says.) I got to do both at the “Up Close and Promotional” client event hosted by the distributor Shumsky, held last week in Dayton.
Believe it or not, after 15+ years covering the industry for ASI’s magazines, I had never been to a distributor event before. Supplier events? Tons of them. But this is the one of the few invitations one of our editors has received to cover an event like this, so I jumped at the chance. My take? It was phenomenal, on a multitude of levels. From the top-notch supplier participation, to the level of engagement from the clients, to the Shumsky team’s attention to detail, creativity and organizational skills, I loved it. And to take a page from the event’s theme, “Add Some Color to Your Brand,” color me wowed.
“I am so impressed with our team with the execution of this very unique event — the amount of work involved and the detail around it is immense,” says Mike Emoff, owner of Shumsky. “Over the past three years, this event format has been fine-tuned and will continue to be so. Proudly, our supplier partners overwhelmingly feel this is the premier client-facing event in the country today. Our format could not be effective without the trust that we’ve built with our preferred partner suppliers. They were truly superstars and an extra heartfelt thank you goes out to them for their hard work and dedication to our organization.”
Scroll below for lots of great photos from the event, and descriptions of the cast of characters and bon vivants.
Finally, a big thanks to the fine folks at Shumsky for making me feel so welcome, and to all the great people I met in Dayton. Some may think “Cleveland Rocks,” but my money’s on you guys.
April 17, 2012
Hope you’re all doing well and reveling in the fan-freakin-tastic summer-tease weather we’re having!
Me, I’m loving it for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is that I recently bought a new convertible that I adore. I waited way too long to get a new car because — like 99% of the population (I did a survey — really!) — I’d rather gargle with shards of glass than submit to the car-buying experience. Few things are as laborious or annoying. And silly me, I thought that since I knew the type of car I wanted, it would be an easy process. (Insert eye roll and pained sigh here.)
So, leave it to me to show up on a cold, rainy, dreary day in February to test-drive my beloved convertible. It was coup de foudre (“love at first sight,” as the French say), so I pulled out my checkbook and prepared to pay in full, in cash. I say that not to sound like a diva, but because — in this economy — wouldn’t you think the car dealership would show me a little appreciation and love by way of lavishing ad specialties on me?
Let me end the suspense. Not only did the (very nice) guy who sold me the car fail to offer me any promo items with the dealership’s (one of the largest in this area of PA) logo on them, but he astonishingly asked me if he could borrow a pen when we were signing the paperwork. Really??? I mean, at the bare minimum, pens with the dealership’s logo should have been ubiquitous. You know what else would have been nice? A tote bag filled with an ice scraper, a tire gauge, a blanket, an emergency kit and an autoshade. Just sayin’.
My friend Lisa Bennett, the multi-line goddess based in Chicago, had a fabulous suggestion: A company she reps, Toddy Gear (asi/91411; www.toddygear.com), carries these snazzy little antimicrobial, double-sided cloths that clean, buff and polish smooth surfaces — ideal for the screen on the built-in navigation system/satellite radio in the new car. I now have some of these, courtesy of Lisa — not the dim bulbs at the car dealership.
That’s my frustration: There are TONS of cool items like this one that would be perfect for the auto market available in our industry. Why doesn’t the dealership I dealt with know about them? Because, I think, they’re not being properly promotionally serviced. Consequently, I implore local distributorships to call on them now, with voluminous amounts of case histories and bags of samples in tow.
So, I ask you: Am I just spoiled and suffering from a sense of ad specialty entitlement because of the industry we’re in? Am I wrong to expect at least a logoed pen when buying a new car? Also, I’ve never been one of those people to name her car, but this blue/grey metallic convertible is so zazzy, I’m thinking about it. Any suggestions? The one who comes up with the winning name gets a $50 gift card and a ride in my car next time you’re in Philly.
Cheers, and more next week, when I’ll be in Guangzhou, China, for the Canton Show (or, as I call it, “Dante’s Ninth Circle of Hell”) and Hong Kong for the Gifts & Premiums Show. Stay tuned for lots of commentary and photos of the coolest new products and nastiest seafood you could ever contemplate. ; )
March 28, 2012
(Hi Everyone! My colleague Caitlin is guest-blogging for me as I wrap up some magazine deadlines. Tune in next week, when I will be blogging — read: ranting — about buying a new car and the lack of ad specialties used by the car dealer. And now, without further ado, Caitlin’s blog…. Cheers! Michele)
Greetings, Web Friends!
This is Caitlin, and I’m filling in for Michele’s “regularly scheduled” blog post. I work in the Production Department at ASI, so some of you may already know me. I coordinate your print ads AND your digital ads like EmailExpress, eNewsletters, Supplier Specials and Web ads. Since EmailExpress is what keeps me busy for most of the day, I thought I’d share some tips with you on how to get the most out of your e-advertising:
1) Subject lines. Be sure to use an eye-catching subject line for your ad. This is the first thing distributors see in their inboxes, so you need to give them a reason to open the e-mail. Remember the adage “K.I.S.S.” – Keep It Simple, Silly! You want this e-mail to really stand out and too much text will only make it blend in with the rest. Use this space to advertise a special promotion that you’re running or a new product that you’re launching.
2) Teasers. Platinum EmailExpress advertisers are included in a special section of the Promogram newsletter, on ASICentral.com and in our EmailExpress Weekly. You have 250 characters, so use this space to elaborate on your subject line. Remember that you’re trying to entice distributors to click on the link to take them to your ad.
3) Ad content. This is where you want to really showcase your products, but don’t feel the need to cram all of them into one e-mail. Choose a few products so there’s room for both your copy and your images. Are you running a few promotions on a few different products? This would be the space to tell everyone about them! It could be as simple as including 10 extra items for every 100 ordered. Or maybe you want to show next- column pricing. Either way, you want to encourage viewers to click on your ad to get to your site.
4) Graphics. Use the best images you have available and design a really creative ad. My favorite campaigns always lead with a catchy headline and a noticeable image. Do you sell reusable shopping bags? Why not run a grocery store-themed campaign with an over-stuffed shopping cart filled with flowers, baguettes and wine? The point is, creative imagery can intrigue viewers and make your ads that much more memorable.
5) Linking. It should go without saying, but make sure your website is user-friendly, distributor-friendly and up-to-date at all times. Your ad will link to the main page of your site unless you’d prefer that it link to a specific page. Are you running an ad for lip balm and want it to link directly to the lip balm section of your site? We can do that! Do you want to link each product to the appropriate page on your site? We can do that too! Don’t forget that we can link your ad to your Facebook and Twitter profiles as well.
6) Audience. Are you featuring an offer intended for distributors only? Be sure to let us know. If not, please be sure to either supply art for a client-safe ad or ask us to create one for you. Try to figure out the target audience for each product and how to best appeal to them.
I hope that helps you guys capitalize on your advertising! Happy blasting!
Caitlin Fitzgerald has been with ASI for 4 years. She started as a copywriter but transitioned to Advertising Coordinator because she missed working with clients too much. “I like long walks on the beach, romantic candlelit dinners, yadda yadda… But seriously though, I just want to travel,” Caitlin says. “The travel bug bit me a long time ago (in utero, if possible!), and I’ve always wanted to see the world. If all goes as planned, I’m going to Istanbul next year to visit a friend who recently relocated. Feel free to contribute via the PayPal link below. I kid, I kid! Anyway, enjoy the blog and feel free to chime in with your thoughts.”
Caitlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
October 6, 2011
Filed under: Personal
Like so many other people, I was saddened to hear about the death of Apple’s Steve Jobs. You know, the phrase “technology visionary” gets thrown around a lot to describe lesser mortals who really aren’t worthy of that weighty moniker. Steve Jobs, however, deserved it in spades. And while I don’t have an iPhone (I still love you, BlackBerry!) or an iPad, I covet my iPod and stand in awe of the voluminous, astonishingly groundbreaking products and innovations Jobs gave us.
For the this year’s Design & Innovation issue of Supplier Global Resource, ASI’s magazine for industry suppliers that I edit, it was a no-brainer to pick an image of Jobs for our cover.
So, in honor of him, I present one of my favorite quotes ever, which just happens to be from Mr. Jobs himself. I love it because it perfectly embodies his iconoclastic, maverick, and deliciously insolent attitude:
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
Steve Jobs (left) and Steve Wozniak, circa 1977. Let it never be said that a trippy hippy and an uber-nerd can’t change the world.
Cheers and more soon!