Two Offers, One Choice

Searching for a new job is always stressful, but it can be even more stressful when trying to pick between multiple offers. You’re faced with making a decision between two companies, two compensation plans, and two career paths. Needless to say, it can be daunting.

Compensation should never be the lone deciding factor when choosing between offers. It’s really more about what’s best for the individual on a personal level. To pick between multiple offers, you really have to consider what is most important to you. Here are a few top things to consider when comparing offers:



This is typically the very first thing that people ask. We all have basic human needs and want to ensure that wherever we go that these basic needs will be met. One thing to consider is that benefits are actually part of your pay. I recall calculating this issue for myself at one point, when deciding whether or not to accept a new opportunity.

My position at the time paid $12,000 more per year than the new offer, but they did not contribute to employee health plans. The new offer paid 100% of all healthcare costs, which amounted to a value of $10,000, and had significantly lower copays. The new offer also doubled the amount of PTO I’d receive in a year. This leveled the playing field between the two options, as I determined pay was in reality equal once taxes and healthcare costs were factored in.



You have your work life and you have your personal life. They rarely overlap but your job is really intended to support your personal life. When picking between two offers, take into consideration the workload expectations. I had a coworker at a former company that left an employer because of poor work life balance.

She was really into spending time with her young son and very dedicated to the triathlons she regularly competed in. She took a $45,000 pay cut to go elsewhere. The catalyst was being chastised by her boss “only” working 40 hours a week (her coworkers were putting in close to 70 hours) even though her work was complete. Her boss told her “You give your son love, you give your races love, why don’t you give us any love?”

It was then that she decided her family and her races were more important than the money. She is much happier now that she is in a place where she can be flexible with her schedule and take time off as needed.



We are all looking for that sense of fulfillment and progress in our lives. When we enter the workforce, we have big ideas of where we would eventually like to be. Finding a place that will help you sharpen your skills and develop new ones to help you move forward is invaluable.

Take a look at how each offer could help you on your desired path.

  • Does it make logical sense in helping you reach your long-term goals?
  • Does the company promote from within?

One way to check is by taking a look at the company’s LinkedIn page and seeing how long employees stay with the organization and if they’ve had title changes throughout their tenure. You could also ask your interviewers where they see the company heading and if new opportunities will be created as the company grows.



Comparing two job offers is a challenge in self-knowledge. What matters the most to you? Flexibility or opportunity for promotions? Low co-pays or casual Fridays? Performance bonuses or a high salary? There are too many variables to measure and track. Analyze them as best you can and go with your gut. At the end of the day, the only person who really knows what best for you is you.

Your PPAI Expo Networking Guide

Your PPAI Expo Networking Guide

The PPAI Expo is an event largely built around the products in our industry. There will be thousands of new products, specials, and closeouts lining the 7 miles of booths. With so much to see it’s highly recommended that you go into the show with a plan of what booths you need to hit and which products you need to learn about.

Having a pre-show plan in place will allow for plenty of time to take advantage of the real value provided by the PPAI Expo: NETWORKING. Over 12,000 promotional product industry professionals will be managing the booths, walking the floor, and pulling the levers at the slots. No one can connect with everyone, but stick to our PPAI Expo Networking Guide and you’ll optimize your networking time in Las Vegas.


Outside of the food court, the Starbucks that sits along the walkway to the Expo is the closest place to get a coffee or a bite to eat. It tends to be hectic but will be littered with fellow promotional product industry professionals from 6:00 in the morning to 6:00 in the evening.

Border Grill

The Border Grill is the closest restaurant to the show floor. It’s moderately priced, perfect for a mid-day margarita, and will be slammed by the lunch crowd. It’s a great place to grab a bit with old friends or talk about that new RFP opportunity with your favorite supplier.

Orchid Lounge

The Orchid Lounge is located on the casino floor of the Mandalay Bay and is the ideal spot to have an after-show cocktail.


eyecandy is in the center of the casino floor and, though a bit loud, is a very popular spot with industry folks. The small club has no cover charge. It’ll usually kick off around 10:00 and stays open until 1:00.

House of Blues

The House of Blues is at the Mandalay Bay end of the long (and expensive) walkway that connects Mandalay with the Luxor. The music and food are great. If you have to entertain a large group or want to treat your sales team, the House of Blues the place to go.

Shark Reef Aquarium

The entrance to the Shark Reef Aquarium is just to the left of the food court. It’s really the only major attraction close to the show floor. The aquarium is beautiful and can be the perfect, quiet break from the craziness of the show floor. Tickets are $25, but who can put a price on a little relaxation.

Cirque du Soleil

The Las Vegas nightlife presents a great opportunity for industry managers and team leaders to initiate some group bonding. Seeing a Las Vegas show is the perfect group activity and there’s no show better than Cirque du Soleil. It’s a bit

pricey with cheap tickets ranging from $40 to $70 depending on the show, but there’s just something about seeing a grown man bend himself into a pretzel that makes your stretch sales goals for 2018 seem much more attainable.

Regardless of where you spend your time at the PPAI Expo you will have a great time. It’s a wonderful show and you’ll be surrounded by all of the great people who make our industry. Have a blast!

Are you exhibiting at the PPAI EXPO or will you be walking the floor and checking out the new products? Read our top tips for success at our industry’s largest trade show!

A Guide to PPAI Career Resources

PromoPlacement was recently invited to spend the day at PPAI headquarters.  The PPAI was terrific and it was a great day. It was wonderful to meet all of the men and women who are directing our industry’s future.

“Happy to spend time with Patrick McHargue, Director of Talent at PromoPlacement. Always looking for ways to bring new talent to industry companies and help promotional professionals find the right opportunities. Thanks for making the trip from St. Louis for the visit!”

-Paul Bellantone | Chief Executive Officer of PPAI

After meeting with the professional development team at PPAI, we were very impressed with the education and career tools available through PPAI. We were so impressed that we want to remind you of all of the great PPAI career resources at your fingertips.

Resume Posting

If you’re actively seeking a new opportunity in our industry, the resume posting service provided by PPAI is a great place to visit. To make the most of this resource, you simply upload your resume and complete a short form. This platform allows you to get your background onto a platform that’s well-travelled by industry hiring managers looking to add to their team.

Job Board

The PPAI job board is quite popular with industry hiring managers. Essentially, it’s the inverse of the resume posting platform. Hiring managers who are looking to fill opportunities fill out a short form and upload a job description. You can even see the date the job opening was posted so you can be sure that the opportunity is active and still open.

Online PPAI Education

The online education portal on is really the hidden gem of career resources. To access it, you’ll need to know your PPAI username and password. Once signed in, you’ll get access to a myriad of live and on-demand educational seminars. These seminars aren’t exclusively focused on career advancement, but are an invaluable asset when looking to round out your industry know-how and expertise.

Topics covered in PPAI’s online education platform include SAGE, client development, decorating methods, supply chain, social compliance, social media best practices, and industry-specific sales practices.

If you’re looking to advance your career or searching for a new opportunity in our industry, these PPAI resources are excellent places to start your journey!

Career Advancement Reading List

Blog Title - PP - Career Advancement Reading List

To say that “Knowledge is Power” is the height of cliché. It’s also undisputedly true. The more you know, the better off you are. Few forms of knowledge are as beneficial as a firm understanding of how to develop yourself as a person and advance your career.

With that goal in mind, we’ve compiled our list of the best career and professional development books that we’ve read:

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

What Is It About?

  • Written by the COO of Facebook, Lean In covers the obstacles, both internal and external, facing working women. Sandberg examines gender interactions in the workplace, the idea of “having it all”, and how to make the best career choices.

Who Is It For?

  • Both women and men

Most Important Lesson?

  • Increasing the number of women at the top of the business world will benefit everyone.

David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

What Is It About?

  • Gladwell examines the upside of our disadvantages and the downside of our advantages. He talks through dozens of historical examples of how underdogs best powerhouses and the hidden advantages of being the little guy.

Who Is It For?

  • Anyone considering taking a leap

Most Important Lesson?

  • Don’t wait. You have all you need to get started. Start today!

Never Eat Alone: and Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi

What Is It About?

  • Never Eat Alone could be the How to Win Friends and Influence People of our generation. It’s full of short, impactful chapters on how to connect with others and build your business or career by forging and managing relationships. Networking isn’t about collecting contact information, but sharing your expertise and providing value for others.

Who Is It For?

  • Everyone who wants to expand their network

Most Important Lesson?

  • Be bold and go after what you really want.

The Start-Up of You by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha

What Is It About?

  • Co-written by the founder of LinkedIn, The Start-up of You instructs you how to take control your professional future. To maximize your career, you have to know what you’re good at, what you want to do, and what the job market values. Merge all three and you’ll set yourself up for the best career possible.

Who Is It For?

  • Everyone!

Most Important Lesson?

  • You’re the boss of your career.

Smartcuts by Shane Snow

What Is It About?

  • In Smartcuts, Shane Snow dismantles the idea that climbing the corporate ladder is required to reach the top. He argues that waiting your turn and paying dues is not only the wrong way to get ahead but can actually hinder your progress. With case studies and real-life experiences, Snow makes the case for “lateral thinking”. “Later thinking”—solving problems through an indirect and creative approach, is highlighted as the way that most successful people have made it to the top.

Who Is It For?

  • Professionals who feel stuck and are open to alternative routes to success

Most Important Lesson?

  • Shifting gears and continuing to add to your skill set is very often the best way to get ahead.

Knock ‘Em Dead: The Ultimate Job Seeker’s Handbook by Martin Yate

What Is It About?

  • Martin Yate is considered the job search guru. This book and its companions are the handbook that every job seeker needs. They provide a step-by-step, in-depth understanding of what hiring managers want, how to sell yourself, and win the job you want.

Who Is It For?

  • Each and every job seeker. If you have a resume, you should own this book

Most Important Lesson?

  • It’s not what you know, but who knows you that will land you your next job.

More Best Answers to The 201 Most Frequently Asked Interview Questions by Matthew J. and Nanette F. DeLuca

What Is It About?

  • While Knock ‘Em Dead covers the A-Z of the job search, More Best Answers guides you across the goal line. It’s a tactical and practical handbook for interview prep, interview strategy, interview follow-up, and compensation negotiation. It gives readers the tools to land the interview, feel more comfortable and in control during interviews, and answer tough interview questions that cause other job seekers to stumble.

Who Is It For?

  • Anyone with an interview coming up

Most Important Lesson?

  • Interviewing is a skill. It can be taught and learned. The recipe for becoming a great interviewee is one part preparation, one part observation, one part improvisation, and one part negotiation.

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

What Is It About?

  • First published in 1937, Think and Grow Rich is an oldie, but a goodie. It’s the spiritual successor to Dale Carnegie’s famous How to Win Friends and Influence People. Universally applicable business and networking advice is abundant, as Hill tells of his journey from the poor house to prosperity.

Who Is It For?

  • Everyone!

Most Important Lesson?

  • The power of positivity

What have you read that has added to your career or professional development? We’d love to hear from you!

Planning for Growth & Succession

Planning for Growth & Succession

Planning for Growth & Succession

If you’re an executive or manager, you’re busy. It’s likely your hard work got you to your current position and hard work is the only way you’re going to keep it. Hard work is great, but if all you do is work hard, you’re going to fail at growth and succession planning. Ensuring the future of the firm isn’t about working hard, but working smart.

It’s the responsibility of every executive or manager to have a plan for the future of your firm, your division, or your department. This plan is built around talent. The end goal is to ensure that your firm has the right number, type, and quality of people in the right roles, at the right time, to execute its strategy.

Most managers understand that there’s a connection between business strategy and talent. However, very few managers create plans or processes to leverage this connection for the benefit of their firm. Below is an action-based outline for talent development and succession planning that supports your firm’s business strategy and goals.

  • Create an ideal candidate profile based on your firm’s strategy. Begin this process well in advance of your expected need. Consider both short and long-term business goals. What experiences, traits, competencies, and skills will this person need for success?
  • Get an accurate of assessment of current candidates’ strengths and weaknesses. This is best done utilizing 360 performance feedback from the candidate’s supervisor, co-workers, and direct reports.
  • Think ahead. Don’t just plan how to replace the incumbent, plan 1-3 moves ahead. Succession planning is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Dig deep and learn who the potential candidates are in the mid-level and junior positions within your firm.
  • Develop the skills needed for future roles with on-the-job training, coaching, mentoring, and education. Your executive team should make recommendations on how to prepare their successors, spend time mentoring these employees, and advise them on the unique challenges they may face down the road. Leaders should include their successors in routine projects to help them understand their decision-making process.
  • Stay up to date on candidates’ career goals. Have a quarterly discussion with employees about their career aspirations. What are his or her goals? What does he or she want to do? If their goals have changed, your succession plan may have to as well.
  • Put succession planning on the agenda for meetings of your senior leadership team. Succession is an ongoing process. As potential leaders emerge from within your firm, the senior leadership team should be updated on plans so they know how to meets the future needs of the organization.
  • Link your talent management and development planning to your longer-term business strategy. The future is unpredictable. As your business strategy shifts, so must your talent development process.

At the mid-level of your firm, proactive succession planning leaves your organization well prepared for all contingencies and ensures a strong talent pool for your firm. At the leadership-level, the results are even more significant. It allows your firm to continually strengthen the leadership team that will support your firm’s strategy and goals well into the future.

Contact our team today at to formalize your staffing and succession plans. There’s no time to wait. The future of your firm is too important!

Mark Graham

PromoPath with Mark Graham

Welcome to the fifth installment of what will be an ongoing series of blog posts. Our aim is to explore and learn from the various career paths of promotional product industry leaders.

Our guest interviewee is Mark Graham. Mark is a true superstar entrepreneur in the promotional product industry and was part of the driving force in creating three unique organizations that are changing the way our business works.

Mark Graham

PromoPlacement: First things first, how did you wind up in the promotional product industry?

Mark Graham: I finished university in 1996 and started my career in the corporate banking sector. After 3 or 4 months working on Bay Street (Canada’s equivalent to Wall Street), I realized that I really, really hated it.

I’ve had an entrepreneurial streak my entire life and thought that it could be the way out of my job. Turns out a friend of mine was selling branded t-shirts. It wasn’t a formal business by any means at that time, but there was something there. We partnered up and ran the business together. That business became RIGHTSLEEVE in 2000 when my partner left for law school.


PromoPlacement: What were the early days of RIGHTSLEEVE like? Did you ever doubt that it would work?

Mark Graham: Every day for the first two years, I was in desperation mode. I felt like I didn’t really know what I was doing. Most of peers had attractive corporate jobs, and I was running a t-shirt business out of my parent’s house. It wasn’t the sexiest business.

I had no network that could mentor me. I had to learn by doing. It was a really tough time.


PromoPlacement: You spent 18 months as the President of the Toronto chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization. What does the promo business need to do to spur more entrepreneurship and innovation?

Mark Graham: That’s an interesting question. I’m a huge advocate for the entrepreneurial journey, and I consider myself an entrepreneur first and a promotional product professional second. I never set out to sell t-shirts. I set out to build a business and make a difference.

As an industry, I think we need to create an environment where it’s OK to take risks. Where it’s possible to learn what running your own business is really like. Move the focus of our business from pushing products to solving marketing problems for our customers. If we can foster the mentality that we are problem solvers, we can move up the chain in the eyes of our customers. But here’s the important thing, you have to develop a skill set as an organization that solves business problems, as opposed to being an organization that simply processes orders.

This is how our industry can grow from $20 billion to $50 billion. I think that we can, but not with the current outlook.

If you start a business and your only goal is to sell coffee mugs to companies, my feeling is that you aren’t truly an entrepreneur. You’re a distributor selling someone else’s product. It can be very lucrative and there’s nothing wrong with it, but you aren’t creating much value beyond the margin spread.


PromoPlacement: You helped to found both PromoKitchen and commonsku in January 2011. How crazy was the lead up to both of these launches? What was your initial vision for these two organizations?

Mark Graham: Well, both organizations are near and dear to my heart. PromoKitchen was born out of a time when I was very involved in the PPAI education circuit. I connected with others on this circuit. PromoKitchen was born out of this trend of younger, tech-savvy, promotional product professionals embracing video, blogging, and social media. We thought that we should create something to bring the industry together.

It became an independent resource to help younger people who are getting started in the industry and to share really interesting content. That’s where the idea for education and mentorship came from. Today, PromoKitchen is the leading independent non-profit within the promo industry. It’s made up of a fantastic group of people and is open to everyone. It’s been a real joy to be a part of.

commonsku came out of internal challenges we were having at RIGHTSLEEVE. In 2004 / 2005 we were growing and running into problems with our technology and processes. We looked at what was available on the market and didn’t find what we needed. Then came the question: “How hard can it be to write our own software?” Famous last words. Turns out it was very hard.

Our passion and, in some part, our naiveté saw us through. Fast forward to 2010, we saw that we had something very interesting. We wrote a business plan and decided to market it to the promo industry. The whole idea was how can we offer a world-class, easy to use, beautifully designed, software for the modern distributor. We’ve really been humbled by the response to commonsku. It’s really struck a cord with a certain segment of the industry.


PromoPlacement: What’s been the most satisfying moment of your promotional product career?

Mark Graham: There’s two that come to mind. The highest high that I’ve gotten with RIGHTSLEEVE actually happened at PPAI Expo this year. Seth Godin was keynoting. I’ve known him for some time and have had the chance to do a couple of podcasts with him. He gave an amazing speech. He mentioned a few companies that have pushed the envelop and weren’t afraid to challenge industry conventions. He mentioned RIGHTSLEEVE as one of these companies. I had no idea it was coming. It was a enormous surprise that a hero of mine had recognized my business. It was great for all the people who helped build our company.

Our second skucon this year in Las Vegas was really a high for me. It was extraordinary to be in the presence of all of these great people who we have the privilege to serve through our platform. We got to see our original vision come to life. That this little idea we had is actually making an impact with these amazing people was really wonderful.


PromoPlacement: Your wife, Catherine Graham, is a well know industry leader as the CEO of commonsku and President of RIGHTSLEEVE. What is it like working so closely with your spouse?

Mark Graham: It is a wonderful experience. We’ve been able to make it work through a clear separation of our roles. She handles things that I’m not particularly good at or fond of and the inverse is true with me. When it works, it’s all about respecting those divisions. However, those divisions are porous and we do collaborate a lot.

When it doesn’t work so great is when neither of us know the answer to something or one of us is giving an uninformed opinion of the other’s job. I’m usually the one committing that offense, but it never works out well. Outside of that we really make it work and are able to do a lot of things together while still growing individually. Mutual respect is critical.

Working together also gives us the flexibility to spend as much time as we can with our three young kids.  Working together isn’t a possibility for some couples, but for Catherine and I it makes everything work a little bit better. We have a shared interest and a common vision. It makes everything exciting.


PromoPlacement: You mentioned Seth Godin’s participation at the PPAI Expo this year and it seems that he’s had more exposure to the promotional product industry over the last few years (largely due to PromoKitchen). Is there anything from Seth that has particularly resonated with you?

Mark Graham: I think that his best book, and perhaps the best business book of all time, is Purple Cow. It’s written in a very light way, but it’s extremely powerful. It’s Seth’s take on how to be remarkable in business. It hit me like a ton of bricks when I read it. It was May of 2006, and I was a time in my life when the business was doing OK, but after reading that I looked at everything in different light.

This single biggest idea of his that sticks with me is from his keynote at Expo: don’t be afraid of risk. “The inventor of the ship is also the inventor of the shipwreck.” Failure is part of the journey, but it should never hold you back from anything.

5 Places to Find Talent for Your Promotional Product Business

5 Places to Find Talent for Your Promotional Product Business

“The employer generally gets the employees he deserves.”

~J. Paul Getty

Most businesses are only as good as the people who work there. If your team is sub-par, your business will be sub-par. In some rare cases, a terrific team can become more than the sum of their resumes and unite to form an exceptional business. It’s a challenging task and finding the right people in a timely fashion is incredibly important to achieve what we all strive for—a great team.

Finding great employees in the promotional product business has always been difficult. Here are five resources that you can use to make it easier and increase your chances of assembling an exceptional team.

Networking – For years, this has been the default method for finding talented professionals in the promotional products industry. Word of mouth is free, it’s also extremely unreliable. You can ask around for months before you see results. It’s a crapshoot. Because our industry is built on relationships this is a reasonable tactic and a good place to start your search, just don’t expect speedy results.

LinkedIn – Think of LinkedIn as a job fair with 332 million people in attendance. It’s the most professional social network and our industry is well represented there. The benefits of using LinkedIn go well beyond the search for great employees. If you aren’t on it and active, you are missing the boat.

CareerBuilder – Along with Monster and Indeed, CareerBuilder is a very popular resume board. Indeed is the largest of the three, but CareerBuilder is the most well-known. CareerBuilder boasts over 45 million resumes. The trick is fine-tuning your search to provide you with just the right candidate pool. Too broad and you’ll waste a lot of time, too narrow and you’ll miss out on strong candidates.

Internal – Odds are you have plenty of talent in your organization right now. Are you making the most of it? A well-managed business should have some sort of succession plans in place. Who has the potential to advance? Who can excel with some additional responsibilities? Before looking to add new members to your team, make sure that you are making the most of what you have now.

Competitors – When it comes to employers our industry is full of compensation and benefit variables. These variables make up the chief differences from one distributor to another or one supplier to another. Some of the major areas of variance are:

  • Commission percentage
  • Pay schedule (paid on booked, paid on shipped, paid on paid)
  • Sales support
  • Marketing support
  • 1099 vs. W-2
  • Room and support for advancement
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Honesty & integrity

Promotional Product Industry Jobs

Analyzing these variables is difficult to do. Most positions fall into the middle of the job spectrum and can be considered “fair/good”. If the jobs that you are providing your employees are on the low side of the spectrum, you are a sub-par boss and are at great risk of losing your people. Being good to your employees isn’t that difficult and it needs to be the cornerstone of your business.

Our next blog post will discuss how to attract talented people to your business!