Author Archives: Rachel Fox

Think Like a CEO

One can argue that schooling and professional experience alone helps to mold a successful business person; although I see value in this belief, I strongly believe the knowledge one accumulates throughout their lives and personal experiences really makes a strong leader. I have personally received a 15-year successful Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, Masters from Cambridge University in Business Leadership, Masters in Manufacturing, and Bachelor of Science in Industrial Distribution from East Carolina University. With this education in my repertoire, I have been able to address key issues in business such as Operations, Supply Chain & Logistics, Quality, Order Management, Customer Service, and R&D, but those studies in themselves have not been the only component to making me the successful CEO I am today. Having said that, I simply cannot attribute my success to just my time spent in the classroom and business environment—the knowledge I have acquired throughout my years in the “real world” has prepared me to lead the vastly growing Dixon Ticonderoga Company of brands.

As I am constantly learning and improving as an individual, I have been able to identify some important life lessons that allow me to continue to be a dedicated business leader. I believe the following ideas that I have been able to capitalize on will allow others to continue their own personal paths to success and propel their careers forward. Please consider the following notions that I find valuable when you are attempting to improve your work ethic and drive in a company setting:

  • Listen and Observe: in any situation, it’s extremely important to listen to others. Observations are key to be able to react properly—sometimes just sitting back, taking in your surroundings, listening carefully throughout your interactions, and taking notes is the best way to learn how to properly convey yourself to others. This skill is highly important if you are managing others and must make key decisions in business or life.
  • Take Initiative: one must take initiative to be a leader. Without stepping up, there is a possibility of an objective falling short of expectations. Think to yourself, “this isn’t my first rodeo”, and confront a problem head-on.
  • Plan Thoroughly: brainstorm, make lists, set goals, and be realistic when doing so. It’s a good idea to take into consideration the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of each situation to properly strategize.
  • Play Hard: insert yourself fully into what you’re doing—dedicate your time to ensuring something is done right the first time, but don’t forget to have fun while you’re doing it. Your experiences should be enjoyable, and something you can later learn from.
  • Be Transparent and Trustworthy: be open with your thoughts and approachable to others. It’s important for people to know they can trust your opinion and work (through the performance you exude), and come to you when there is an issue that needs to be resolved.

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.