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  • Writer's pictureBill Petrie

Two Phone Calls

A tale of how two unexpected phone calls changed a year.

It's been an exciting year, to say the least: our twin boys (Drew & Mitch) are halfway through college, it's the first full year without my Father-in-law, who passed away last December, we moved my sister-in-law with my mother-in-law so they could be together just north of Dallas, my business partner, Josh Robbins, and I saw our vision for Promocations come to life with the first PromoCruise and PromoQue to name a few.

That's a lot – especially as it's only September 29th as I pen this little blog. However, the things I listed above weren't the most surprising things to happen this year.

January 18, 2023

After a brief break, I returned to the office to find a voicemail from my very good friend, Javier LaFontaine Delgado, from Showdown Displays. It was a simple voicemail requesting that I return the call, so I did just that. After we exchanged a few pleasantries, Javier got right to the point by sharing that it was his duty as Immediate Past President of the Promotional Products Association of the Mid-South (PPAMS) to inform me that I would be inducted into the association's Hall of Fame.

I was speechless.

I regained my composure, thanked him profusely, and hung up. Then, for what seemed like days, I just sat there in silent reflection. I wasn't sure I was worthy to be in a Hall of Fame – in fact, I'm still not sure I'm worthy – but, at the same moment, there was a feeling of validation. I wrote about the induction ceremony, including my speech, here if you'd like. But, to the point of this blog, it was a phone call I'll never forget.

August 10, 2023

I was on a call with a client when I saw an unfamiliar number pop up. I didn't think much of it as, like you, I get a lot of calls from numbers I don't recognize. After my client and I said our goodbyes, I listened to the voicemail from the mystery caller, who ended up being Kevin Walsh, also from Showdown Displays. Kevin simply asked me to call him back. Kevin and I are friends, but not especially close ones, even though I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. So, as I hit the right button on my phone to call him back, I thought there might be an opportunity for brandivate to do some work for his company. It's also important to note that Kevin also happens to be the sitting Chairman of the Board for Promotional Products Association International (PPAI).

Much like his associate, he answered my call and got right to the point, and I'll never forget what he said. "As Board Chair, I rarely have the opportunity to share good news – and this is one of those times. Due to your outstanding service to the entire Promotional Products Industry, you are the 2024 honoree to receive the PPAI Distinguished Service Award."

Again, I was speechless.

Without my knowledge, my good friend and podcast partner, Kirby Hasseman, had nominated me for this industry icon award. That was surprising and in and of itself an honor. Even more surprising is the committee that determines such things decided I would be the honoree. Keven went on to say something that stuck with me – and it was about the blogs I write every week: he thanked me for writing them and let me know in no uncertain terms, that what I wrote mattered, what I wrote helped people, and what I wrote had more value than I could ever realize.

For someone who writes as often as I do and uses a platform to publish said writings where it's difficult to discern if I truly "reach" people, this was a compliment that moved me to tears. Frankly, as I write this, I still get misty.

We chatted for a few more minutes, and he swore me to secrecy until PPAI reached out to me with plans for the unveiling, and we hung up. Again, I sat there for what seemed like days in silent reflection. Per Kevin's request, I didn't tell anyone except my wife. That's right, Kirby only knew 24 hours before the press release and only with the express consent of Josh Ellis and the crew at PPAI.

During the podcast last week, Kirby asked me what it felt like. Honestly, answering the question before the announcement was made public felt weird. Not bad, just odd because it didn't seem, for lack of a better term, real. Even though I could simply go back and listen to the podcast to find the answer, I'd rather not – it's much more enjoyable to be "in the moment."

I do know this: when most people are recognized, they immediately express they are "both honored and humbled." My sense is they do that without much thought to what they are really saying. As such, I won't say that – at least not verbatim.

I am humbled – continuously so. Humbled by the opportunity to work in an industry I love. Humbled that people seek out and appreciate any guidance or mentorship I can give them. Humbled to work with clients that usually end up being friends. All of that is tremendously humbling to me.

So, how do I feel receiving the Distinguished Service Award from PPAI? Honored and validated. I'm honored in ways I'm not sure that I can express. I've always given my time freely to those who ask, and it's been a pleasure to volunteer to give back to an industry I adore. I know that when I joined the branded merchandise space 23 years ago, I had many people who went out of their way to help me. In my mind, it would be selfish not to do the same. To be recognized in service to others is definitely an honor.

However, I also feel validated. Much of the work of a volunteer, a mentor, and a content provider is done quietly, behind the scenes, and without a ton of fanfare – and that's the way it should be. I don't chase "likes and comments," which makes it difficult to know how much of what I provide is helping people or even if it's helping at all. However, until Kevin pointed out how much he – and others – value the content I provide, I didn't fully understand how impactful it was. That is validation, and it's something that fills me with both pride and joy.

Over the next few months, I'll be traveling to Dallas for dinner and a media day to prepare for the celebration in January 2024, and I doubt you'll be able to wipe the smile off my face. Over the next few months, there will be a ton of opportunities – opportunities I will embrace – to thank the many people who have been a part of my journey. I also know I will learn much through the process, and I look forward to sharing those learnings with all of you.

However, as I close this blog out, I need to share a big takeaway from all of this: if you want to get ahead in the promotional products industry, get to know the people at Showdown Displays.

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