2017 ISM EntranceLast week, I winged my way to Orlando for the premiere procurement event of the year – the Institute for Supply Management Conference. With keynote speakers such as General Colin Powell and former UK Prime Minister David Cameron, the ISM 2017 conference attracted more than 2,500 global supply chain professionals. After talking about promotional products with buyers, executives and other decision makers from Fortune 100/500/1,000 companies, I would like to share my takeaways from the event.


For starters, among the people I spoke to, social responsibility was a major concern. Understandably, they wanted to avoid procurement nightmares such as inadvertently associating their brand with products from a vendor that uses slave or child labor to cut costs (there was even a session about supply chain anti-slavery initiatives). Many buyers – especially those for security, health care and insurance organizations – were very aware of the hypocritical nature of offering products to their customers and prospects that do not represent their reason for existence.


ISM 2017 QCA BoothWhen I explained QCA’s role in the promotional products industry, many people were very interested in what I had to say and thanked me for creating this awareness. Others cut me off with comments such as “We limit our use of branded merchandise for just these reasons” and “I have always viewed the tchotchke industry as a dangerous proposition.”


During these conversations with people who had negative preconceptions of the promotional products industry, I persuaded them to see things differently. I explained that QCA’s compliance accreditation program was a simple solution that could help alleviate their concerns. A major selling point was that QCA certification does not require any additional work on their part to vet their promotional partners. In one chat, an SVP from a major health care organization commented, “I guess it’s time to review and update some of our contracts.”


Contrary to popular industry belief, supply chain specialists do want to have this conversation. They aren’t scared off by it because all procurement professionals want to add value to their organizations. The more value procurement can add to an organization’s mission and goals, the more that organization will succeed and procurement will shine.

ISM 2017 Presentation