Five Questions with Paul Bellantone, PPAI President and CEO
The Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) board of directors named Paul Bellantone, CAE, as the organization's new president and chief executive officer on June 22. Having spent the past decade with PPAI serving in various positions, most recently as executive vice president since 2007, he has a strong background within the promotional products industry and a commanding grasp of PPAI's inner workings.
Following last month's announcement of his move to CEO, which occurred on July 1, Promo Marketing caught up with Bellantone to discuss how the appointment came about, what his plans are for PPAI, and his thoughts on the industry's future.
Promo Marketing: When did you learn you were being considered for the position of PPAI president and chief executive officer? What did you think when you heard?
Paul Bellantone: Last April, when the board announced the formal search would begin, I threw my hat in the ring immediately. Because I was but one applicant in an active national search for a CEO, it took a bit of time before I felt comfortable that I was being considered a top candidate. I was thrilled when the decision was made. I believed all along that I could do a great job as the next leader of PPAI, but I must admit, when selected, I was moved by the warm reception of the staff, board and the industry.
PM: With past president and CEO G. Stephen Slagle, CAE, set to retire in the beginning of 2012, how will the transition occur over the next six months?
PB: The association is in great shape and this is a great place to start.
My official duties as president/CEO began July 1, and working closely with Steve for the past 10 years put me in a position to hit the ground running. I've presented the board with my own 30-60-90 day plan and a number of my longer term goals will be set during this period. Steve has influenced and revitalized a 108-year-old association and the industry over his 15-year tenure, and together we will continue to work over the next few months on board-driven association and industry advocacy as we work through our transition.
PM: What will your duties be in the new position? Will you be performing some of your previous responsibilities, or will the executive vice president position be filled?
PB: My primary duties as president/CEO are to advocate the viability, visibility and credibility of our members, the industry and the medium, and to lead a vibrant and progressive trade association. Everything else we do supports those efforts. How the actual day-to-day duties shake out is yet to be determined. We have an incredibly talented and dedicated staff to call on, but I haven't given myself a deadline to back-fill any positions or create new ones. I continue to be positively impressed by the people and the professionalism at PPAI. The team here has an unsurpassed collection of skills and strengths. My objective will be to leverage this capability and competence, and match the resources to the short- and long-term challenges and opportunities we identify as priorities.
PM: What can distributors expect going forward? Are there any plans or changes coming that will affect them?
PB: I think it is important that we will not make changes solely to seem like we're doing something different. PPAI has an aggressive strategic plan that guides the energies of the board, hundreds of volunteer leaders and staff. It is the foundation of all our efforts. My first short-term goal is to communicate the strategic plan to the members and the industry because in the end, this strategic plan is our promise to the membership.
Once we communicate the plan—in print, online and in person through member meetings and town halls—we will make sure the goals we're focusing on match the needs of all PPAI members and the industry.
In general, I think distributors and all members should expect more association outreach, industry presence and inclusiveness in the direction of the decision-making process. The foundation and plan for a forward-facing PPAI is in place, and it is now my role to execute this plan.
PM: What is your outlook for the industry for the rest of 2012?
PB: PPAI's 2010 Sales Volume Study reflected an increase in distributor revenue of 5.9 percent over 2009. While we are hopeful for continued growth based on the findings, I remain only cautiously optimistic that the trend will continue.
I have concern when I visit and speak with members who are facing real business challenges but are waiting for the return of "normal." I believe what we are seeing in the markets and business is the new normal. I don't think we will see the stability and market certainty of the past any time soon. Our industry, like all industries, will need to adjust to these new realities.
That said, there are a number of industry companies that have found new ways to add value, grow and even flourish in the current business environment. It is the role of PPAI to help all our members identify these and other industry successes, and teach them how to incorporate new ways of doing business into their own models.