Super 7 Sale at

Missed our winter sale?  Looking for a good buy on awards?  Just wishing that you were on a beach somewhere warm (me too!)  Purchase online at and save 7%!

Here is the offer:

7% off all merchandise : 7 days a week : now thru March 27th

Orders must be placed on the web site to be eligible – sorry, faxed copies of abandoned carts won’t work, the computer will only give the discount for orders placed online.

This was going to be a free shipping offer – but we couldn’t program that!  Since our UPS shipping works out to about 7%, we are giving you that instead – think of it as free shipping, but different.

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.


Wither the Equestrian Business?

Doug Emerson contacted me yesterday, wondering if I had a good feel for where the equestrian market is headed.  I don’t, but I have been watching this closely!  Please chime in if you have something to add.

Back in January, when inflation was relatively tame, and gas was only $3.25 a gallon, I met up with the Langers (of Langer Equestrian Group) at the USEF annual meeting.  Larry postulated that this year was gong to be ok, but 2009 was going to be really tough.  His assessment (one that I might add I agree with) is that owning and showing a horse is not something that people can start – or stop – whenever the price of food or fuel changes.

I have guessed that many people showing competitively have invested at least upwards of $250,000 between horses, their stable, a truck, a 5th wheel, maybe an indoor ring and land for all of the above.  Sure, there are people who compete from their backyard and haul a two horse trailer behind the pickup truck (it is what we used to do!), and this is a large part of our business, but larger shows like those run by Larry or Bob Bell attract competitors with greater expectations.  Land, barns, trainers, horses and professionals to haul animals do not come cheaply.  If you have made this kind of investment in your riding career, you do not stop just because the price of diesel went from $4 per gallon to $5.

Lets look at this differently; I own a motor boat which I keep on a mooring.  I figure that every year, between commissioning, the mooring, decommissioning, local fees and fuel it costs several thousand dollars to have this boat.  Last year fuel cost $4 per gallon.  Last week boat gas was going for $4.99/gallon.  I burn about 150 gallons/year, so the cost of owning the boat will go up another $150 a year.  As a percentage, this isn’t a lot, but the psychological damage is huge.  I use the boat much less.  I expect that we will see the same thing in the equestrian world.

People who own an equestrian estate won’t (or can’t) sell the property if they want to.  For them, this is a liquidity crisis.  No one wants to purchase their vehicles, or their horses, or their farm, since everyone else has the same problem.  Some equestrians will be able to weather this storm, others will have to stop showing and hunker down for a while (or worse).

This will all blow over folks.  Within a year or two market forces will bring new fuels to market.  Vehicles will become more efficient and new technologies will begin to enter the marketplace.  However, as it takes some time for everyone to put the brakes on, it may take a while for everyone to come back to the table, so if we see lots of folks exit the industry, it could take a while for us to return to the same level of activity.

From the standpoint of a ribbon manufacturer, I do not expect that we will see a huge fall off in order activity.  As long as each class still has at least 6 competitors, 6 ribbons will be awarded.  However, my guess is that classes with less then 15-20 entries are money loosers, and no show manager can afford to have too many shows that are money losers without doing something about it.  Frequently  that something will be cutting marginal shows – and that is something that we will certainly feel the effects of.

Philadelphia USGA Olympic Selection Trials

Jenn and I spent last week at the USAG Olympic Selection Trials in Philadelphia, PA.  We were there to exhibit along with the other USGSA members at the gymnastics trade fair held in conjunction with the trials.

Traffic at the show this year was very good.  Cathy Feldman of USAG told us that they had a record 1,900 paid attendees before the show started.  I heard later that another 500 signed up during the show.  As usual Thursday (the first day) had the best quality of attendees with lots of club owners hitting the floor. By Saturday we were tired, and the hall was full of young kids bent on stealing as many knick nacks as they could get their hands on.  Thieving kids is one thing, but when you see them handing all of your sample ribbons and medals to their mom a few booths away, it makes your stomach turn!

As usual the mega-raffle was a huge hit.  We raffled off $68,000 in gymnastics equipment!!

While we were there we took in the women’s gymanstics trials on Friday night along with folks from Mancino Manufacturing and Deary Gymnastics.  Where was Gibson?  The women looked great and as someone who doesn’t eat, breathe and sleep gymnastics, wow – they have gotten really good in the past four years.  Best of luck to all our competitors in Bejing this summer!!

About our ribbon company

Here is something that I wrote over a year ago.  It never got used in any marketing piece, but I still like it.  Let me know what you think.

About Our Award Ribbon Company

Welcome to, the nation’s best web site for award ribbons, medals, engraved silver and buttons. We are the internet division of Hodges Badge Company, which has been manufacturing and selling top quality award ribbons since 1920.

As a fourth generation, family-owned and operated awards business, our values and goals all revolve around the people that make our success possible – our customers and employees. We have an experienced staff of true professionals that are fully committed to a level of quality and customer service that is second to none in the awards industry. Our philosophy has always been quite simple; bend over backwards for the customer – at any cost – and treat them, as you would wish to be treated.

You can take advantage of our expertise with just a click of the mouse. Whatever your needs are – from full color dye sublimated ribbons, to horse show awards and custom medals, – we can handle your project every step of the way. From initial design to final delivery – we will design, manufacture and ship – all in house. We are all eager to serve you in the most efficient and responsive manner possible.

President and CEO, Rick Hodges, guarantees your satisfaction. “We treat every job like it was our own and our top priority is the customer, period. We offer customers the convenience of one stop shopping, without sacrificing the quality and service that is desired. We stand behind everything that we produce and we are both confident and proud to offer you 2 unconditional guarantees”…

1) Quality Guarantee:

When it comes to quality, there is no substitute. Pretty good isn’t very good at all. It needs to be the best it can possibly be. We assure you that the quality of our craftsmanship will meet or exceed industry standards by any measure. If at any time we fail to meet these quality standards, we will, without any question, redo the job at our cost. We will expedite the production of any redone materials to the best of our ability – including express shipping at our cost when necessary. If, for some reason, reprinting is not an option, we will refund 100% of your money.

2) On-Time Guarantee

We realize that timeliness is an equally critical component to the quality of printing and customer service that we provide. We take great pride in the manner in which we produce every job – right down to the final delivery. When we give you a date that we will ship your job, consider it done. If for any reason, other than an act of God or major equipment failure, we don’t ship it when we say, we will not only absorb the shipping cost, you won’t pay a dime for the ribbons.

Shipping Charges

I am sure that this comes as a surprise to no one, but with gas at $4/gal and diesel at $5/gal (at least it was that high in Sacramento where we were last weekend), UPS has raised their rates again, and the camel’s back finally broke.  We are increasing our shipping charges today to better match what we are paying to UPS.  I wish we didn’t have to do it (I simply hate raising prices) but for us shipping charges are just a pass through, so keeping these new charges all to ourselves is not helpful for the business.