What Your Kids Can Teach You About Business

I have always believed that lifelong learning is the best way to improve upon one’s behaviors, ideas, and ultimate goals in life. Throughout my life, I was taught many lessons that I still carry with me because they have helped teach me how to conduct myself within society and within many different business cultures. These particular lessons are ones that I wanted to pass on to others, as well as my own daughter. Personally having a daughter has lent itself to many new eye-opening examples; I am constantly learning from her bright personality and tenacious nature. I always try to inspire her to be the best she can be, and by doing that I have learned many new things about myself and my business.

For example, I think an important lesson to teach a young person is to give back to those less fortunate than them, or those in need. Recently, the Dixon Ticonderoga Company participated in the 2016 American Heart Association’s Heart Walk that took place at the University of Central Florida (UCF). I am very pleased that the company raised over $10,000 in donations for the Association’s mission, but I am even more pleased at the fact that my employees and their families took time out of their busy schedules to attend, volunteer, and walk or run in the 5k event. I believe their involvement in each of our charities helps teach the youngest members the importance of giving back to the community.

The following childhood lessons I was taught are not only helpful in carrying out our best day-to-day lives, but they also help you to prosper within a corporate environment. These lessons are the ones that we have heard growing up, and I think it is worthwhile to remind ourselves of them to help us be our best selves and to be successful.

  • “Treat others how you want to be treated”— treat everyone with respect, and learn how to interact with different types of personalities. In order to make lasting relationships, it’s important to remain polite, kind, and approachable.
  • “Silence is golden”— make sure to sit back and listen. Don’t be reactive or defensive, but rather be proactive in your voice and behavior. Take in everything around you—sometimes the best lessons come from silence.
  • “Respect your elders”— respect those that have more experience than you—use these people as your assets for guidance and direction as you begin to navigate new cultures and environments.
  • “It’s no use crying over spilt milk”— don’t take things too personally, and don’t get too upset over a mistake you or someone else makes; there is always a solution, and all mistakes create lessons for moving forward.
  • “Do your homework”— always be prepared, and know what situation you are walking into. It says much more of a person if they are ready to go, and know why they are doing something.
  • “There’s no such thing as a stupid question”—ask away! It’s the only way you will learn from others and even yourself. Questions provide answers, and answers get you to where you need to be.
  • “Work hard, play harder”— work your hardest at anything you do, but remember to give yourself time to breathe and take some breaks. Breaks can often lead to creative thinking, or just give you the time you need to enjoy life.

Paying Tribute to a World Class Professor and Mentor

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My past experiences and opportunities have helped motivate me to ensure that I am successful today. As CEO of Dixon Ticonderoga Company, I recognize that I am now in a position that I am able to give back to those who have helped me along the way. One person in particular that made a huge impact through my scholastic journey was Dr. Barry DuVall, Professor and Director of the Technology Advancement Center at East Carolina University (ECU).

Dr. DuVall has served as my own personal mentor and had pushed me to be the best student I could be. For the last 35 years, he has spent his life teaching as well as serving as the Director for numerous, prestigious technology based projects, and authoring several textbooks and more than 60 articles. He was the recipient of East Carolina University’s Max E. Joyner Faculty Award for Faculty Service to Continuing Education, 2000, and was recognized by the National Association of Industrial Technology as an Outstanding Professor of the Southeast, 1999.

My special give back to Dr. DuVall, to distinguish and appreciate all his hard efforts, was crowning his achievements with a Lifetime Achievement Award. I have been one of DuVall’s most loyal students throughout the year, and the opportunity presented itself to recognize him for all he’s done, not only for me, but many other students as well. On September 28th, myself and Dr. David White of ECU, presented Dr. DuVall with this prestigious award.

In addition to celebrating Dr. DuVall, we also were able to kick off the 1st Inaugural Dr. DuVall/Tim Gomez Teacher’s Choice Scholarship Award to two honorable students in the College of Engineering and Technology at the University. This Teacher’s Choice Award is extra special to me because at one point in time, Dr. DuVall had chosen me to strongly influence and coach, and now we can do this forever in his honor.

I am pleased to continue to have ties to my alma mater, and to one of the most influential people in my life. I can’t thank Dr. DuVall for everything he has given and shown to me, and know he has impacted other students in the same manor throughout his dedicated administrative role.

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Here is a great article written about that day: http://www.ecu.edu/cs-admin/news/DuVall-Scholarship.cfm

Dr. Barry DuVall: “This was a surprise, I mean that’s for sure”

Reporter: “A scholarship award day turned into something special for retiring East Carolina University Technology Systems Professor, Dr. Barry DuVall.”

Tim Gomez: “I love this man. He’s retiring after 50 years. I love it because I’ve caught him off guard today. He had no idea I was planning on this. As humble as he is, he deserves to retire in this way.”

R: “Dr. DuVall was not only honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award, but also two scholarships were given out in his name.”

DBD: “I just would never, ever anticipate anything like that, that’s wonderful.”

TG: “He’s the most driven, dedicated person I’ve ever met in my life. He represents the fighting spirit of our great University. He always goes for the underdog.”

R: “Timothy Gomez is speaking from experience.”

TG: “I worked 60 hours a week while going to school, so my undergrad grades weren’t the best in the world, but my master degree grades were straight A’s, but that’s when he changed my life. He helped me get into a grant program that allowed me to excel and really focus on my education.”

R: “Gomez is now the CEO for Dixon Ticonderoga, which is one of the oldest companies in the United States, and an industry leader in writing instruments, arts & crafts, and fine art products.”

TG: “I don’t know what made him take a liking to me. Liking to me was him staying on me, riding me to do good. He just did this for every student, he made us be everything we could be, and he wouldn’t settle for anything less.”

DBD: “You just never know what to expect when you work with others, ya know, and I could tell some of those people, they have a spark in the eye and energy and enthusiasm, he was like that. And that always makes it worthwhile, that’s why I’ve done it so long.”

R: “and DuVall’s legacy is going to continue through this scholarship, that will help student’s in need, just like Gomez was.”

TG: “The two scholarships today is just a start, we’re actually going to be doing some more scholarships, so every year the Dr. Barry DuVall Teacher’s Choice Scholarship Award at East Carolina is here to stay for a very, very long time.”

DBD: “Oh, it’s wonderful, yeah, really appreciate it.”

Rough Seas Make Great Captains

In many ways, being a CEO of a company is like being a boat Captain. The Captain is responsible for the vessel’s safe and efficient operation, as well as being responsible for all persons on board. As CEO for Dixon Ticonderoga Company, I am in charge of ensuring that all business runs smoothly across North America. In addition, I have a management team and full staff of employees that depend on me for key decision making, strategic initiatives, and direction.

Having immense work and personal experience in the world of boating, I have learned what is needed to execute a successful trip on the water. I believe this skill is easily transferable to my role as CEO at Dixon. When I started, I had initially planned and charted my course through the art industry. As we all know, obstacles can arise at any given time. Having some years under my belt as CEO, I know all too well that things can change in an instant in the corporate world of art supplies and disrupt working synergies. The best of Captains can navigate through tough winds and high seas, just as I have throughout my time at Dixon Ticonderoga Company. I know the importance of continuing to steer the company in the right direction, and to be able to analyze and appropriately react to any unplanned events that may arise.

In the spring of 2015, Dixon acquired Maimeri, a fine art company based out of Milan, Italy that was founded in the early 1900’s by Gianni Maimeri’s family. Gianni is the current CEO and his family is still involved in the high quality paint production that has been implemented by Gianni’s grandfather. Gianni’s grandfather started the company. He was a very well-known artist, and created and mixed all the oil paints by hand to meet his satisfaction—there was nothing else on the market at the time to fulfill his professional needs. Through the acquisition, it was highly important for me to translate the amazing tradition and legacy that Maimeri carries with its name. For example, the Artisti oil paint line was developed in 1923 offering 102 different colors—the same formulation has been used for the last 94 years…wow!

As I dial into Maimeri’s fine art landscape, I begin to recognize the challenges and opportunities of my new course. There had been a long transition of integration of the line’s color products into Dixon’s systems, while trying to keep brand integrity. Finding efficiencies within our company and manufacturing systems both internally and commercially has been very important. In addition, this acquisition has been beneficial for both entities; Maimeri distribution has been maximized through this opportunity—it is now being launched globally to complement our other phenomenal products. As we continue to grow as a company, I have been fortunate enough to have access to some of the best companies and executives within the Fine Art industry. This allows me to bring new expertise into my voyage, so I am able to explore new waters, and I love being part of a company that is able to showcase phenomenal products.

My job as Dixon’s Captain requires that I apply my knowledge and leadership skills to make sure the company delivers and receives the best value possible. There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to the inclusion of a company and all its products, and I need to be able to rely and count on my support staff and crew to navigate the tough winds at sea. I am proud to have the best people to help me, and we are taking off like a space ship! As we drive the market with new and innovative ideas, I am highly looking forward to future acquisitions to grow the company, opportunities to continue to give back to the community, and developments in products to keep our key customers happy and increase sales. The next generation in Fine Art Supplies is coming, and gunning ahead. I am excited to continue to chart through the waters ahead, and see what other hurdles come up in the very exciting, fast paced world of arts…more to come!

Finding Oneself Through Fine Art

Albert Einstein once said, “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” I could not agree more with his statement. Although I am personally unable to draw more than just a simple stick person, through the recent acquisitions of Fine Art companies such as Maimeri, Daler-Rowney, and Canson (to be finalized in October 2016), I have the desire to push the limits of my creativity, and become more inspired to be an artist. I believe inspiration and passion are the two key driving forces to better understand my own capabilities to unleash the hidden artist in me, and the art landscape as a whole.

Now that Dixon Ticonderoga Company is the number one, largest global art company, I find it to be my moral responsibility to support the arts in all individual’s lives. I strongly believe that the development of arts in a person’s life can become an instrumental part in their future successes. Growing up, I did not always have it easy. I can directly relate to the children who benefit from the Kids In Need Foundation (KINF), and that is why we continue to be the national pencil and fine art sponsor/supplier. Arts give children a sense of accomplishment and help them to think outside of the box. I believe if I was exposed to the arts starting at a young age, it would have been extremely instrumental in my growth and development. Dixon Ticonderoga and myself are proud sponsors of the KINF, and are dedicated to continuing to inspire students and teachers worldwide for these reasons and more.

I am also very proud that our brands are able to represent each stage in an artist’s life—we have products that reach every level of consumer as they begin pursuing the arts in their childhood, and continue to express their creativity as they move through school and into the adult world. Once a child applies color onto a page, and colors outside of the lines, doors open. The opportunity for personal and scholastic growth is something I strongly stand behind; it’s been proven that having access to arts in schools help students develop, and that students under the age of 4 whom are exposed to art will be more successful in their later endeavors.

Just as art plays an instrumental role in the lives of students across the world, I too have welcomed more creative thinking into my life. It is not just 1+1 anymore, but rather unlocking the variables of each Fine Art possibility and creating working synergies. Due to my background, I am tempted to think more of the left side of my brain—most of my thinking has been mathematical and concrete up until now. With the addition of Fine Arts in not only Dixon, but my personal life, I am able to reflect on this thinking and start to merge the left side of my brain with the creative right side.

I want to continue to encourage people of all ages to get inspired and paint their own creative horizons. I know the addition of the arts in programs will help to inspire passion throughout our communities, and I am really excited to continue to grow the Dixon Ticonderoga Company business as our three legs of business are further added to. With our main focuses in writing, arts & crafts, and fine art, we are dedicated to playing an instrumental role in everyone’s lives.

School Supplies Changing Lives

With 16 million kids living in America who come from families struggling with extreme poverty, getting school supplies can make all the difference in the world to their future success. Having personally experienced a rough childhood, I know the struggles that come with being unable to afford necessities to have the best quality of life.  Dixon Ticonderoga Company, and myself, are extremely proud to be an on-going corporate partner with The Kids In Need Foundation (KINF); we mutually understand the importance of providing the value of a level playing field, increased confidence and better grades to children and students in need through writing, arts and crafts, and fine art product donations.

Starting in 2009, I had a creative vision to make a significant difference in the lives of these underprivileged children through donating enough Dixon Ticonderoga pencils to the Kids In Need Foundation to reach from the East Coast to the West Coast. Depending on the route travelled, the distance between the East Coast and the West Coast of the United States ranges between 2,600 and 3,200 miles.  My aspiration was to celebrate the Foundation’s 20th birthday in 2015 by donating enough pencils, pencil end to end, to reach this goal, and we were successful in that objective.

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The Foundation’s mission is “to ensure that every child is prepared to learn and succeed by providing free school supplies to the kids most in need.” Over the last 20 years, the Kids In Need Foundation has distributed almost $700 million in basic supplies, and I am more than proud to be a part of its initiatives.  My friend and colleague, Kristine Cohn, Senior Director of Development and Corporate Partnerships Kids In Need Foundation, has said that “Dixon’s donations are so important because pencils are listed as the number one core product needed by students and teachers across the country—the product is consumable, so the need is always present…the Dixon Ticonderoga pencil is the most iconic brand name in pencils across the world, and donation recipients ask for them by name.”

I believe that even in this world of consistent technology growth and development, that the everyday need for pencils and core supplies in the classroom is constant. There will always be a need for quality pencil products in order to continue the promotion of learning, and the advancement of an individual’s writing skills. “Studies show that when kids have the necessary supplies to learn, classroom behavior improves, attitudes towards school and learning improve, and kids have a stronger sense of self-esteem” (KINF).  I am personally excited that we have managed to reach this amazing milestone through donations.  As my donation goal had been established in 2009, I had a clear, desired target to reach; I did not know what would happen along the journey, but I knew I would get there.  Just as Forrest Gump had combated his inner struggles of love by deciding to just start running, I saw the immense opportunity to help the children in need that I once was.  By reaching this donation goal, I feel as if I am able to smile when looking back on my earlier years of struggle.  Dixon and the Kids In Need Foundation have reached a coast to coast success, but that does not mean that the mission has ended.  Stay tuned to see where I decide to run next…more exciting things to come!

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*Pictured above is a handwritten letter from a student who was a recipient of Dixon Ticonderoga’s donated products through the Kids In Need Foundation.

New Friends New Family

A Girl On a Mission

Today I have a very special story to tell.

I received a request for time off from one of my Dixon staff employees, however I was unsure of whether I could approve during a period of substantial growth for the company. So I decided to inquire on the reason for such a lengthy vacation?… or so I thought.

Yeah, vacation was the wrong choice of words. A “Divine Mission” is more of what she was headed towards.  Webster’s dictionary defines a divine mission as a type of spiritual mission. It usually requires traveling, but its main focus is to carry out what is believed to be matters set forth by God.

Some of us are designed and put on this earth to be CEO’s, some are called to be athletes, some have callings to be teachers (a special recognition to ALL educators), and others are specifically designed to reach and help people. I’m so proud of Dixon’s Marketing Coordinator, Juldy Hernandez.  She used her vacation time in order to help lives and inspire others.

From the day she was hired, she took off running on her mission within our company. I don’t think I even gave her permission, as she just kind of does it. I am giggling as I write this, because when she reads it, she will agree it is true! LOL. Not only did I find it rare to come into contact with an individual with an incredible passion to learn, but I was also surprised in the purity of her heart. I found it quite special to see what she was doing in our company. I believe she was put on our path to help individuals we come in contact with on an everyday basis. This was in the office, in the classroom, in the community, and believe it or not all the way in Haiti!

Juldy took charge of our Corporate Backpack Donation Program that has so far allowed us to distribute over 20,000 backpacks to children in less fortunate communities. She helped implement this very important community program with extraordinary personal sacrifice. She knew what a difference it could make touching students’ lives in areas that are less fortunate, and she worked unselfishly with many corporations throughout the country to bring this very special program to educators in a real heartfelt, passionate, and sincere way. Juldy also goes out into our local community schools to teach our educators on Ticonderoga Writing and Prang Art supplies. She also handles much of the marketing responsibilities in our Corporate Headquarters in Lake Mary, FL. I knew with her willingness to learn, she would take the necessary steps to do her best at whatever was thrown her way.

What I didn’t know, was what she had strategically planned for her 2015 personal growth project.  In May of this year, Juldy traveled to serve and strengthen the people of Haiti. She supported gospel-based economic & community development programs declaring the good news of Jesus Christ in word and deed. She was also involved with building a missionary home, installing solar energy panels, teaching sustainable economic development, built clean water irrigation systems, and help start up a local farm.  All in all, a very labor intensive week!  While there, she even found time one day to work in a Pediatrics clinic.  I don’t know about you, but I’m inspired and exhausted at the same time! LOL

Juldy had “NO IDEA” she inspired me. Today, I wanted to surprise her by writing a CEO Blog about her experience in Haiti, as a tribute to her dedication to the global community.  I wanted to share Juldy’ s journey with all my educators, customers, and followers. She ventured out from the comforts of her home, children, and job to extend a helping hand to a country in need.

As CEO of a 220 year old corporation like Dixon Ticonderoga Company, I can sincerely say I am blessed to have employees making a difference in the company, community, and in their personal lives. For this I am one proud pencil pusher.

Thank you all for being part of my Dixon Team! #pencilpushers #onamission

 

Giving Back with SunTrust

I’m extremely lucky to have the opportunity to act on my vision of giving back to the community and being able to help future generations. When I am able to come together with other leaders in the community to ensure this vision comes into fruition, I am truly overjoyed.

Recently, SunTrust generously donated $6,000 to A Gift for Teaching, a Kids In Need Foundation affiliate that provides free school supplies to teachers in the Central Florida area. That money will go towards Dixon Ticonderoga Company backpacks filled with high quality Ticonderoga writing supplies and Prang art supplies for students in Osceola, Orange, and Seminole Counties in Florida. In addition, Dixon also donated a pallet of Prang art supplies. I was delighted to join SunTrust Florida Division President David Fuller in presenting this donation at A Gift For Teaching and personally see the appreciation of teachers who have already identified many students in need.

SunTrust and Dixon Ticonderoga Company are passionate believers that education is the most important factor to guarantee a brighter future. We are happy to help A Gift for Teaching in their mission to improve public education by providing resources and surplus materials free to teachers for their students in need.

 

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Bowling for Junior Achievement

Over seventy members of the Dixon family recently got together and challenged one another to participate in a fundraising Bowl-A-Thon. The cause is one near and dear to my heart:  Junior Achievement.  I join the massive alumni of Junior Achievement members who believe that the experience of being in Junior Achievement positively impacted my future.  And because of our gutter balls and strikes, we donated just under $2,000 to Junior Achievement – enough to ensure 72 students can participate in JA next year.

When I think back on the high school programs that most influenced me, Junior Achievement tops the list.  I had some of the greatest and most impactful moments in my life thanks to participating in Junior Achievement.  I learned from leaders of my community and value the time they gave to mentor me and this is why I am thankful for the privilege to participate in Junior Achievement today.

The mission of Junior Achievement is timely and significant:  To inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy.  Hopefully, along the way, one of them will also make time to help me improve my bowling score!

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Me with Team EBIDTA.

 

Top Four School Supplies for Students with Special Needs

Hello everyone, my name is Shelley Mathews and I am the Director of Education Sales at Dixon Ticonderoga Company.  The start of the new school year is an exciting and nervous time for all students. This is especially true for Students with Special Needs and their search for quality school supplies.

Shelley Mathews

Here at Dixon, we make it easy for students with special needs to use basic writing tools that are designed to help learn important skills and express creativity.  I’ve compiled a list of the Top Four School Supplies for Special Needs Students. While all of these supplies are perfect for anyone to use (teachers love our triangular shape pencils since they do not roll off the desk), each has characteristics that are ideal for those with special education needs.

  1. Tri-Write My First Ticonderoga or Tri-Write Laddie Pencils—these pencils are perfect for learning to write. Larger than traditional pencils, the Tri-Writes prevent grip slipping; the pencils’ triangular shape allows for a more natural grip. These characteristics create less frustration for students, parents and teachers! Best of all, as students progress, they can transition from the larger-sized My First Ticonderoga, to the intermediate-sized Laddie Tri-Write, and finally to the Tri-Conderoga when they feel ready for a standard-sized pencil that maintains the familiar and comfortable triangular shape.
  2. Prang Triangular Shaped Colored Pencils—like the Tri-Write pencils, these triangular-shaped colored pencils make learning and creative expression more enjoyable by promoting a more natural grip. The larger size (5.5mm compared to 3.3 mm) also allows for less grip slip as students exercise their imaginations.
  3. Prang Washable Markers—these markers have many qualities that are perfect for students with special needs. They have an extended cap-off life so when students (or adults) forget to put the cap back on, the markers don’t dry out immediately. The caps are white, and the barrels of the marker indicate the color, which may prevent meltdowns due to the wrong cap having been put on earlier. Lastly, the tips (or nibs) are made of finely woven fibers, which retain its shape when a student presses down really hard. You can actually see the tip regain its shape!
  4. Prang Color Wands– we have been told by Special Need teachers that our Color Wands are perfect for students with tactile challenges.  The Prang Color Wands have a richly vibrant color and smooth-as-silk applicability.  They are water-soluble so stains wash off easily.  The crayons are also encased in a plastic holder that allow for no messy hands. Students can apply a damp paint brush to the Color Wand drawing and create a great watercolor effect.

Giving Back to Those in Need for the New School Year

Do you know how many children in your city live in poverty?  Here in the USA, there are more than 16.4 million children living below the poverty line.  That’s one out of five American children.  But in the Parramore area of Orlando, nearly three out of four children live in poverty.  Both numbers are unacceptable.

When I think of these children, I think of how important it is not just to be a leader in our industry but also a leader in our community.

For the second year in a row, I’ve had the opportunity to partner with different Orlando-based organizations to give backpacks filled with school supplies to disadvantaged children.  This year, Dixon Ticonderoga Company partnered with the Orlando Magic NBA Basketball team, AMWAY and Orlando City Soccer to donate over 1,100 backpacks to those children in the Parramore area of Orlando. In addition to receiving backpacks filled with Ticonderoga writing and Prang art supplies, they also were able to participate in activities such as an arts and crafts table and they received popcorn and drinks courtesy of Dixon.

Working with these outstanding organizations and the Kids In Need Foundation, it is my goal that every disadvantaged child has the supplies that they need to be successful for their upcoming school year. If you would like to learn more about how to show your dedication to your community by giving backpacks to needy children, please email teachersrock@dixonusa.com. It’s never too late.

 

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