Not just quality awards, gifts too

Although I am a fairly new employee, I have become familiar with the various products that Hodges Badge has to offer but it wasn’t until recently that I realized firsthand what high quality work they really do. My mother was getting married in a week and I had no idea what to give as a gift. While conversing with a coworker, I was informed that the company creates a vast number of unique frames. Using dye-sublimation, I was able to choose a graphic that would encase the frame. I was also given the option to add text or make the gift a bit more personal. Not only did I receive the finished product in a matter of days, but it was affordable and of high quality. The frame was so beautiful that it sat beside the wedding cake for all to admire. Because of their exquisite work, Hodges Badge has obtained the business of several guests attending the wedding.

Kayla Kesson – Catalog list Administrator

Who Hodges Badge Company is

Vicky and Cathy
Vicky and Cathy

By now you are starting to know what Hodges Badge Company does. I’m going to try and start to show you Who Hodges Badge Company is. Our office and factory has over 170 workers from all different backgrounds working towards one goal: creating and selling awards that competitors and presenters alike are proud of. I’d like to introduce you to six of them.

I’ll start in the factory where we find Vicky and Cathy, mother and daughter. Vicky is the plant manager and has been with Hodges for over 26 years. They have been working side by side for over 15 years.(Come on now – Could you work with your mother or daughter every single day, 8 hours a day for 15 years – that’s impressive)

Vicky can you tell stories of working at Hodges “back in the day”. When she first started, she was in the Rosette department four days a week. Back then, if anyone worked until 6:00pm Jim Hodges gave them $2.00 for supper (Imagine being able to buy supper for $2.00 – boy have things changed).


Moving out of the office and onto the factory floor we meet Dave. Dave has also been with Hodges for over 14 years. He started out in our print shop and while it was slow one winter he helped out with building maintenance (mostly painting to make it look pretty). It seemed that the work agreed with him because that’s where he still maintenance. He’s actually worked his way up to Head of Maintenance now and is responsible for a small team, building maintenance and all of the daily machine maintenance that keeps the factory running. It probably wouldn’t be an exaggeration if I said things would be falling apart around here if it wasn’t for Dave.

There are dozens of hardworking, dedicated employees that work out on the plant floor everyday printing, stitching, stapling, and packaging ribbon and medals. Since I started work here a little over five years ago, I have been to  a few retirement or thank you parties for years of service. That’s one thing I can say is the Hodge’s family knows what an asset the factory employees are and tries to show it too. But I digress.


Meet Lucy. She has been working here for 16 years. She works in the rosette department. This is where one of the first steps to creating a rosette happens. Part of her job is to stitch together the rosette tops. Now to someone like me, who honestly has issues sewing a button back onto a shirt, this is pretty amazing. It’s a true talent. 



Over in the medals department is Terri. Now she’s been here for 21 years and her favorite part of the job is the fact she gets to work everyday with her friends. She was quiet when I told her I was writing up something about our employees for the web. I think she was wondering why I chose her. Truth be told. It’s because everyday I pass by her working diligently and she always greets me with a smile.




And the final person I’ll introduce today is me, Jennifer. I’ve been working here as I said for over five years in Sales and Marketing. My duties include tradeshow coordination and anything related to My favorite part of the job is the fact that I am constantly learning new things. As you know, with the web you have to keep up with ever changing technology. Like this blog for instance. Completely new concept to me…




Don Libey’s 102 Questions

If you run a busines,  espeically a mail order business, see how you do with this list.  Spend some time on it!

These 102 questions come from Don Libey of

  1. Who really runs this business and why?
  2. Where are we in serious trouble?
  3. What changes and advances in our products and markets are we not keeping up with?
  4. What is the primary problem with our operating system
  5. Do we have positive or negative leadership?
  6. How clean are the warehouse and the office?
  7. Is our policy on education requirements for employees relevant?
  8. Who cares about the “Mission Statement”?
  9. Is anyone looking at Amazon for a clue?
  10. Who is the problem, and why won’t I get rid of it?
  11. What is the real threat to the business?
  12. If I suddenly need $4 million, where will I get it?
  13. What does the industry think about our company?
  14. Do we beneficially participate in the industry?
  15. What should we stop doing?
  16. What should we do more of?
  17. What part of the grill needs more charcoal?
  18. What is our “Density Profile”
  19. When is the last time we had an original idea?
  20. Who do we rely on for good advice?
  21. Are we an old business or a new business?
  22. What is our most valuable asset?
  23. Will our distribution model be cost-effective over the next five years?
  24. Are we seriously looking at “Cloud Computing as an alternative to our rising data costs?
  25. If we were to revolutionize the packing component of our fulfillment, what would we do to be on the absolute, lowest cost, leading edge?
  26. Why are we pushing so much paper around?
  27. Why are we not 100% EDI?
  28. How do we justify not being 100% bar code capable?
  29. Who is responsible for Big Pictures?
  30. Is there one person who completely and thoroughly understands all of our processes?
  31. When is the last time we took a walking tour of the grounds?
  32. What are we going to do about the cost of health insurance?
  33. Given the increasingly fragile nature of security, are we totally backed up and can we operate in weather, terrorist, or systems emergencies?
  34. Are we organized right?
  35. Why do we fly as much as we do?
  36. What is our primary strategy for growth?
  • More products
  • More customers
  • More Markets
  • International expansion
  • Acquisitions
  1. Given our primary strategy for growth, where do the catalog and the online channels line up?
  2. What is our end-game?
  3. What’s our “Weakest Link”?
  4. On a scale of 1 low to 4 high, how much customer input is there in our business – really?
  5. What is our chosen road?
  6. Do we have any fun?
  7. What are our merchandising strengths?
  8. What are our marketing strengths?
  9. What is the primary thing that got us to where we are today?
  10. When was the last time I personally talked with 25 customers?
  11. What percentage of sales are we loosing to “Net Gnats”?
  12. For our company, what is the truth: are in house analytic systems better or are third party, outsourced analytic systems better?
  13. Do we do nice things for our employees?
  14. Who is controlling the changes in our market?
  15. Can’t we get it all done in 8 hours a day?
  16. Do we require perfection or do we get stuff done?
  17. Has any outside thinking or influence been imported to our company?
  18. Does our CFO have way too much power?
  19. Are we preparing for European-like environmental and “green” regulations?
  20. If our business is based on quality and high customer regard, do our operating policies reflect that foundation?
  21. Are we overdue for a creative makeover?
  22. Are we highly skilled at detail, or are we highly skilled at shooting from the hip?
  23. How’s our lighting?
  24. Do we really need to grow?
  25. How much “shrink” do we have?
  26. Are we good enough to be a brand?
  27. Do we have effective merchandising forecasting systems?
  28. Is there anyone who actually looks at the orders on a daily basis and has a feel for what the customers are buying?
  29. Why don’t we do public relations?
  30. Is our photography any good?
  31. When did we last look at what we pay telephone sales reps?
  32. What does our returns processing look like?
  33. Is our circulation planning up-to-the-minute, or is it a reflection of past years?
  34. Are we selling to the federal, state and local governments?
  35. Do we have an effective image management system integrated with the catalog and web production systems?
  36. What are we doing to avoid ossification?
  37. What is the value of our “soft assets”?
  38. What are three things about this business that I believe in above all else?
  39. Have I surrounded myself with people who agree with me, or with people who are smarter than I am?
  40. During the last year, did we make at least three great discoveries, giant leaps, competitive trims, or huge improvements?
  41. Have I developed the type of trust, respect, and rapport with my counterparts in the industry so that I get to hear about and see the best opportunities first?
  42. Are we good at hiring?
  43. Do our employees- at all levels – talk to each other?
  44. How do we reach decisions?
  45. How much cash reserve do we have?
  46. How much do we know about the future of our SIC focus?
  47. What is our market share?
  48. What are we doing about paper prices?
  49. What is my definition of success?
  50. How much of our earnings is influenced by our location?
  51. Are we a multichannel marketing company, or an SIC focused company?
  52. On my senior management team, who is the thinker, who is the analytic, who is the dreamer, who is the pragmatist, and who is the sheep?
  53. Is our SIC industry fragmented or consolidated?
  54. Which of the Five Cardinal Financial Elements are our strengths and which are our weaknesses?
  55. If by tomorrow at 5pm I had to find $5,000 of savings, where would I go to get it?
  56. If I could have one person on my board, who would that be?
  57. What is it that makes this business more meaningful than just selling widgets?
  58. What is my definition of “Big Money”?
  59. What is our ratio of catalog and online sales in each of the last 10 years?
  60. How does it smell in here?
  61. How much time, attention and opportunity are we giving the “bright-up-and-comers’ on the teams?
  62. Cam I turn this business off in my head?
  63. Why don’t we use more of the 256 known types of direct marketing merchandising offers?
  64. What has been my greatest accomplishment for the business and for my life?
  65. Which 10 of the above 100 questions do I believe are the most significant for my company now and in the future.
  66. Bonus: What if I gave this to everyone?


New Catalogs

I am really excited about some new catalogs that we are mailing soon.  I just finished proof reading a copy of our upcoming Athletic catalog.  We have changed formats, and this book will show up in the new “slim jim” format that is post office friendly.  Sue (our art director) has gone to town with new photography, new products and a host of other improvements that everyone is bound  to love.  For example, the longer format of the slim jim really helps to show off ribbons – which are long and skinny to begin with.

In addition, we have done new photography for almost the entire book.  The medals look classier and everything really ‘pops’.  I hope that our customer’s love the catalog.

I get to see the new school catalog in a couple of days.  I hope that the results are similarly encouraging!


Merit Direct B2B Conference

I had the great fortune of being invited to the 9th annual Merit Direct B2B conference in Westchester, NY last week.  I got to leave the office and spend a couple of days thinking about how one should be running a business during times that are really not very good for the US economy.  Just to rub it in, while I was there, the RI Public Utilities Commission raised electricity rates 21.4%.  Ugh.

There were about 175 people there representing all sizes of B2B companies, all involved in direct mail.  Many of the subjects were similar to the topics that we discuss at NEMOA, but given the B2B focus of everyone in the room, the focus was a little different – and there were all kinds of new companies to meet.

Don Libey gave a great speech on day 2, focusing on the view from 35,000′ – or where he sees the catalog industry heading.  He was clear to point out that he sees no fall off in globalization.  Companies will get better at shipping internationally (because they have to) and trade will increasingly bypass the middle man.  As if to make the point, we lost an order for drug free ribbons to China today (our first ever), but we have a european supplier who wants us to ship ribbons directly to Finland – bypassing his warehouse in Sweden.

One observation I made is that there were few (if any) manufacturers in the room and that vertical markets are the exception rather than the rule.  Most companies were making less than 5% of what they sell.  Also most catalogs were broad shot amalgamations of products.  Carefully calculated to get the most shopping bang for the buck.  Does this work?  We tried it once and it didn’t work well at all.  All that means is that it doesn’t work for us.

A number of pleas were heard for catalogers to join the ACMA (American Catalog Mailer’s Association).  This little group has already saved the cataloging industry over $150,000,000 (that’s 150 million dollars folks) on postage through their lobbying efforts.  Please pay your share, and pony up some money to help with the lobbying efforts.  We did.