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By Roger Burnett, National Director of Branded Merchandise for WorkflowOne

“So if it’s all for one, and one for all, then maybe one-day, we ALL could ball….” B.o.B.

Make no mistake about it, I was horn-swaggled into participating in my regional association. The details are fuzzy, but Tim Hill from Lanco and Kari Moravec  from Gold Bond invited me to a Tigers game, and next thing I know, I’m the incoming board president of this thing called RAC.

Many of you have no idea what I’m talking about. Let me try to sum things up. The promotional products industry has 27 regional trade associations in place to serve suppliers and distributors in geographic areas.

These regional trade associations together elect folks to speak to PPAI on their behalf, and the elected create their own board of directors to serve the collective needs of the individual associations. It can be  confusing, but know that there are people out there working every day to make the industry you work in the best it can possibly be--and RAC is a respected PPAI committee helping to do that work. Many PPAI board members got their start in the regionals.

But why? Why would anyone waste time doing anything that did not directly benefit them personally? We only have so much time to devote to work, and volunteering can put a dent into that time, for sure.

If we were out having cocktails and I asked you, “What’s wrong with our industry?,” I suspect I’d be hard-pressed to find someone without an answer to that question. We all know things about this business that are a bit, shall we say, difficult.

My passion is education. If the industry is able to provide my salespeople tools to make them the best they can be, that benefits ME. If our industry’s salespeople are ALL good, then the value we can show our clients improves, we’re able to charge more, which again benefits ME. I might be unusual in thinking that a strong competitor makes me better, but I know from personal experience that it does. Others share similar passion for other topics, like legislation, and having a hand in making sure the government doesn’t suddenly decide our industry is no longer “necessary,” or participating in issues such as  product safety, which also could have a drastic impact on what we sell every day.

So, I give. At the level I’m participating, the time commitment is….noticeable. That being said, there are ways to participate that don’t require much time at all. The return on my time investment, however, has been exponentially positive. I can pick up the phone and call many supplier company presidents in this industry right now, and it’s the result of the time I’ve spent volunteering that’s given me that access. When people have the opportunity to know one another in a non-business setting, it provides the opportunity to learn about them as people, not business-people. I know who I can trust from what I see of them in that setting, and I’m hoping they see something in me as well.

Beyond access, I know that the answers I’m providing to my salespeople are the most informed answers I can provide, as they take into consideration not only our corporate go-to market strategy, but also the viewpoint of the industry as a whole. I get to see the whole of the field when I’m considering how to take care of my clients, not just the trees in our own forest.

Lastly, I’m afforded the opportunity to speak for the people in the industry and advise those working daily to improve the marketplace that we all call home. When the ideas you bring to the table are seen as compelling and valuable, it’s very gratifying. I am proud to lend a voice, and I’m always looking for people to talk shop with. Don’t hesitate to reach out to chat with any one of us serving in the regionals.

-          Roger Burnett, RAC Vice-President, Immediate Past President, MiPPA

-          Michael Legel, RAC Board of Directors, Incoming President, GCPPA

-          Dana Zezzo, RAC 2012 Volunteer of the Year, Past President, TRASA

-          Robert Fiveash, RAC Delegate, MAPPA

-          Charity Gibson – Show Chair, AzPPA

(My apologies if I inadvertently left out any members participating in their regional)

Pictured from left to right:

Steve Parker, MAS – RAC Secretary, SAAC; Ted Fuehr, MAS - RAC Treasurer, PPAM; Tom Carpenter , CAS – PPAS; Donna Vorce, CAS – RAC President, OPPA;  Dan Jenne, CAS – RAC Immediate Past President, CAAMP;  Michael Legel – GCPPA; Bruce Korn, CAS – PAPPA;  Jeff Thomas, MAS RAC Liaison to PPAI Board – PMANC; Cheryl Becker PPAI Liaison to RAC Board; yours truly; and Rebecca McLaughlin, CAS – TRASA