US, China Agree To Suspend Planned Tariff Increase

A détente has been reached in the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China. President Donald Trump has agreed to suspend a previously-planned increase of import tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. That increase was set to begin on January 1, 2019. Reaction in the promotional products industry, which imports the vast majority of the items it sells from China, was mixed.

Per the agreement, the Trump administration will hold off on boosting tariffs from 10% to 25% for at least 90 days, Newsweek reported. During that timeframe, Washington will continue to negotiate with Beijing to resolve ongoing trade tensions. However, if the parties are unable to reach an agreement after the three months, the 10% tariffs will indeed be raised to 25%.

Import tariffs are a major issue for the promotional products industry, so the development in trade talks between the US and China garnered ample attention from promo executives.

“This is a hugely positive, but likely short-term development, for our industry and the global economy,” Eddie Blau, CEO of Top 40 supplier Innovation Line (asi/62660), told Counselor. “A 15% additional tariff increase would have been a tremendous blow to continued promo industry growth. I believe China will make enough concessions to satisfy the Trump Administration and avoid the further increase. However, I wouldn’t bet on the current 10% rates going away in three short months. This is a long-term and contentious negotiation.”

David Nicholson, president of Top 40 supplier Polyconcept North America, suspects that the stay on the tariff increase will make things a bit easier for the promo market to start the year. Nonetheless, “suppliers will still need to increase prices, but at more moderate levels, which should help keep the current market momentum going. In terms of the broader economy, we remain in a situation with a great deal of uncertainty. I’m not sure that is going to change any time soon. As long as this exists, businesses will be hesitant to make long-term investments and will likely take a ‘wait and see’ approach. That is never good for the overall health of the economy.”

Meanwhile, Paul Lage told Counselor that the 90-day extension lengthens uncertainty for the promo products marketplace. “Many products take longer than 90 days from purchase order to receipt,” said Lage, president of Top 40 supplier IMAGEN Brands(asi/93990/47700). “Pricing to the end-user can be variable, especially for custom overseas orders.” Even if tariffs don’t rise to 25%, Lage anticipates that they will be in place, in some form, through 2019 – a negative for the branded merchandise industry. “There’s a list of issues between the two countries that’ll take years to resolve,” Lage told Counselor.

Executives at Top 40 supplier BIC Graphic (asi/40480) said they’re hopeful that the 90-day hold on the tariff rate increase signals a de-escalation of the trade war, but added that the full implications for the promo industry won’t be known until negotiations are complete. In the interim, the firm is aggressively marketing that its product portfolio contains a wealth of items made outside China. “Nearly 50% of BIC Graphic’s order volume is produced in our U.S. facilities, and we have product sourced from other areas (Korea, Vietnam, India) to provide additional options that will not be impacted by potential tariff increases,” said Melissa Ralston, chief marketing officer at BIC Graphic.

In return for the stay on the tariff increase, China will agree to purchase a not yet agreed upon, but reportedly substantial, amount of agricultural, energy, industrial products and more from the United States “to reduce the trade imbalance between our two countries,” according to the White House. In addition, China has agreed to designate Fentanyl – one of the drugs driving the opioid crisis in the U.S. – as a Controlled Substance, meaning that individuals selling the drug to the U.S. would be subject to China’s maximum penalty under the law. “The principal agreement has effectively prevented further expansion of economic friction between the two countries,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the media.

Investors around the world are breathing a sigh of relief, as stocks and oil jumped on Monday, CNN reported. Major indexes in Hong Kong and Shanghai grew more than 2.5%, and stocks were up 2% or more in London, Frankfurt and Paris. Crude oil spiked by more than 4%. “The good news is that this truce should be seen as Washington recognizing the potential damage on the US economy if tariffs escalate further,” Tai Hui, chief market strategist for Asia Pacific at JPMorgan Asset Management, told CNN.

The deal came as a result of Trump meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping during the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires over the weekend – the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders since the trade war erupted in July. The Trump administration has already imposed tariffs on about $250 billion worth of imported Chinese goods, affecting approximately 6,000 items. Trump has pushed for these tariffs as part of an intellectual property investigation of Chinese high-technology companies. As for China, the total amount of U.S. products subject to Chinese tariffs comes out to $110 billion, which is 85% of U.S. goods that entered China last year.

The damage has already been done to the world’s second-largest economy, as China’s manufacturing sector failed to expand for the first time in more than two years in November. China’s National Bureau of Statistics said the stagnation was a result of “trade frictions” with the United States and a weakening global economy.

The promotional products industry has been keeping a close eye on the trade war, fearing that tariffs will cause increased product costs, price fluctuations, supply chain disruption and thinner margins. At the ASI Power Summit in October, a majority of surveyed industry leaders forecast the anticipated price jumps to be along the scale of 11% to 20%. So far, headwear, bags, keychains, technology products and accessories, certain drinkware (including stainless-steel items), stationery, coolers, cases and some outerwear are among the items suppliers and distributors anticipate will be affected by tariff-driven price increases.

Christopher Ruvo contributed to this report.

CORRECTION:
An earlier version of this article said that Top 40 Distributor Kaeser & Blair (asi/238600) did not include pricing in its 2019 catalog. That is incorrect. K&B’s Best Buys catalog is indeed carrying pricing.

Why Rituals Matter To Your Success

In business, rituals play an important role. The famous business and life coach, Tim Ferris often talks about his five morning rituals: he makes his bed, meditates for 10 to 20 minutes, does at five to 10 reps of a light exercise followed by some strong tea and finally, he finishes his routine by journaling for five to 10 minutes.

Since we are creatures of habit, rituals can set the intention and tone of our day. Like running through scales, rituals can be mindless ways to clear our minds and allow us to listen to ourselves.

Michael Hyatt, CEO of Michael Hyatt & Company, a leadership development firm, says that there are five benefits to rituals, which we’ll explain here.

First, Hyatt points out that the whole point of the ritual is as much mental as physical. He uses the game of golf as an example. He has a set of rituals, or steps, he goes through every time he approaches the tee box. He says, “I’m not just fine-tuning my stroke, I’m also conditioning my mind for the best possible shot. By dropping into the groove, I get out of my own way.”

Hyatt points out five benefits of optimized rituals:

  1. Help put you in a mental and physical groove for high performance, whatever you’re doing. You’re lined up for the workday with far fewer distractions.
  2. Allow you to perform at a predictably high level. The routine leaves less to chance, so you can focus on performing your best.
  3. Stop you from overthinking, so you’re not constantly engineering and reengineering your entire performance. This frees you up not to worry about whether you can perform but helps you focus on simply how best to do so.
  4. Allow you to upgrade your performance because you’ve broken apart the individual steps. Now, you can focus on tweaking them individually.
  5. Give you a sense of purpose and confidence. By working your ritual, you set your mind and body at ease and take control of what you can control.

That’s why even the most seasoned musicians run their scales before performing. So what are your rituals?

Source: Michael Hyatt is the founder and CEO of Michael Hyatt & Company, a leadership development firm specializing in transformative live events, workshops, and digital and physical planning tools. Formerly chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, Hyatt is also a New York TimesWall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author of several books, including Living Forward and Platform.

Ask The Most Important Interview Question

Business blogger Brendan Reid says there is one specific question you can ask during an interview that will help you to clearly understand a job candidate. 

Ask this question: Walk me through how this role and company will be different from previous experiences you’ve had.

The Research Test: Reid says he likes this question because the answer always reveals how much the candidate has researched the company and the position. If they don’t refer to specifics or cite examples that indicate they’ve done their homework or if they don’t demonstrate a clear understanding of the role, then it will be apparent.

The Self-Awareness Test: Self-awareness is an attribute that Reid says should be highly valued in candidates. If you aren’t self-aware and you can’t evaluate yourself objectively, it’s very difficult to be successful on a team. This question is great at revealing self-awareness. The candidate is forced to think critically about their own experiences and compare them with this new one. In the process, they must point to gaps and deficiencies to provide a thoughtful answer. The best candidates will be able to thoughtfully analyze and identify areas of difference and speak to how they will manage through them.

The Depth of Competency Test: Many candidates can speak at a surface level about a topic or function. The Internet makes it easy to prep basic answers to most questions, so the goal here is to force candidates to demonstrate a depth of understanding. It allows them to show how they can apply concepts from one job to a different situation.

The Learning Test: Another important attribute to look for in candidates is dedication to learning. The best teams are the ones that learn and improve every day. By asking a question about differences and gaps, you provide the context for the best candidates to talk about learning. Some candidates will try to minimize the relevance of differences. The best candidates, on the other hand, will speak to specific steps they intend to take to close the gaps. They’ll talk about learning.

Try this question in your next interview as an efficient way to discover the capabilities of your job candidates.

Source: Brendan Reid is an executive at one of the largest software companies in the country and the author of Stealing the Corner Office. He also writes a business blog and provides one-on-one career coaching.

Four Ways To Combat Lukewarm Leadership

In the backdrop of uncertainty, a mere spark of ambiguity or apathy by leadership can ignite the pervading fuel of resistance among the masses. Today, we will share four ways to combat lukewarm leadership from business coach and author Brian Braudis.

1. Set the tone: Begin with the energy and gusto you want to see in others. What you do as a leader has tremendous influence on those throughout your team and even your stakeholders. People respond to what you initiate. Demonstrate how much you are willing to give and show that you are duty-bound early and often. Make your messages steadfast. When people see and feel your energy, enthusiasm and promise they will not only buy in, they will help spread your all-in message.

2. Communicate: Communication is a standard by which leaders guide, direct, motivate and inspire action. Clear, confident, resonant communication will engender trust and gain followers. Here’s how:

  • Get specific: Simple and concise is more effective than complicated and confusing. Hit the high points in your speeches and save the granular details for in-person communications.
  • Get face to face: Aim for dialog rather than monologue. Employees and team members know the demands on leaders and managers. They know the value of authentic live contact and informal dialog where they can see and feel that their message is being received.
  • Demonstrate beyond words: What you do supersedes what you say. The proven formula for personal communication is 55 percent body language, 38 percent tone and seven percent communication through words. Body language and tone will validate everything that you say. Sending protocol out in a memo is not nearly as effective as walking around and informally sharing your thoughts and expressing yourself on the need for procedures.

3. Be the Island of commitment in a sea of uncertainty: Increased global influence, more demanding customers and disruptive new players are challenges to be surmounted. But to your team members the new economy means uncertainty. Uncertainty leads to anxiety that makes people susceptible to stress, and being less productive and more vulnerable to conflict. During times of upheaval we need leaders who

are anchored in commitment. They bring a calming presence and a higher perspective to the context of uncertainty. There will always be some degree of uncertainty. But when leaders show resolute certainty in their commitment, team members take note and follow suit.

4. Show consistent enthusiasm: Leaders who show enthusiasm remove any hint of being lukewarm. People can visibly see and feel your passion, energy and commitment and they buy in. Your team wants to win and they want you to be successful. No one tries to be second best. Show consistent enthusiasm and your team reciprocate with buy in and enthusiasm of their own.

When savvy followers see and feel your energy, commitment and enthusiasm shining through the daily challenges and frustrations, there’s nothing lukewarm about that.

Source: Brian Braudis is a highly sought-after human potential expert, certified coach, speaker and author of High Impact Leadership: 10 Action Strategies for Your Ascent. He has also authored several audio programs from executive leadership development to stress management. Braudis believes “leadership” is a verb not a title. His passionate and inspiring presentations are based on the foundation that regardless of your position or role everyone is a leader.  Image courtesy of google image search.

Eight Ways To Show Employees You Care

The holidays are almost here. Company parties are taking place and bonus checks are being handed out. What are you doing to show your appreciation to employees? Today we shares these eight ideas to thank employees for their work all year long.

1. Make sure you acknowledge your employees’ contributions. Employees want to know you care about them, value them, and that what they do matters to you. Make time to go around and visit and thank employees, send notes to tell them so, or greet and mingle at a town hall meeting.

2. Giving something to your employees can really help in retaining them. The principle of reciprocity causes people to want to give their loyalty and commitment to the giver. Employees receiving bonuses are 71 percent more likely to stay with their current employers.

3. When you can give a bonus remember to make it a big deal. Don’t let the bonus just be an extra line on the pay statement. Flag it, communicate it and let everyone know. One study showed that nine percent of employees couldn’t remember if their employers had given them bonuses last year.

4. Never neglect to say thank you, no matter what you give. Too often we give the tangible award, bonus or gift and think the item given communicates our thanks. Accompany any tangible acknowledgment with some form of expressed appreciation, whether spoken or written.

5. Wrap up a special memory to take home from work. My own company gives a special gift-wrapped company gift to each employee at the Christmas party celebration. Many have been special, uniquely designed, Christmas tree ornaments that we hang up with fond memories each year.

6. Create the right message that fits your brand. Whether you choose a simple branded card with a handwritten expression, a unique calendar or a collection of great thoughts in infographic poster format, put thought into communicating your respect and appreciation in a special way.

7. Where feasible, close down earlier than usual. Time is precious over the holiday season and is always a valuable gift to give to employees. Wherever operational demands permit, and even if you have to stagger who goes when, giving early departure times over the holiday season will always go over well.

8. One-on-one meetings with the boss. When a positive relationship exists between employees and a boss, managers should make time for a brief but personal meeting with each employee. This is simply a time for managers to personally express appreciation for their employee’s contributions.

Source: Incentive columnist Roy Saunderson is author of Giving the Real Recognition Way and is the chief learning officer of Rideau’s Recognition Management Institute, a consulting and training company which helps leaders and managers get recognition right.