Category Archives: Inspiration

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.

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!

Getting Paid in Ticonderoga Pencils

Would you be excited to receive compensation in Ticonderogas?

I recently read a great article on Slate about some students that want to be paid wages in Ticonderoga pencils! According to the article, students in Ipswich, Massachusetts spent 330 minutes trying out a new standardized test that they did not volunteer for. As a result, two-sixth grade classes sent a letter to U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan demanding that he or major testing companies compensate them for their time. They noted that the time they put in, if compensated at minimum wage, would equate to 8,689 Ticonderoga pencils.

Children often make demands of adults that are pretty ridiculous, but in this instance, I believe the students have a pretty good point. What is the harm in these students wanting great school supplies in exchange for the hard work they have put in? I definitely have to applaud them on their choice in pencils. Obviously, these students are pretty smart!

Good luck, kids. I’m rooting for you and will be excited to hear what they say.

How Do You Support Breast Cancer Awareness Month?

When I was asked by our CEO Tim Gomez to write a guest post on this blog, I was truly honored. The truth is, I have a special connection to National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, as I know many others do. Let me first introduce myself, my name is Margaret Harman and I’m a marketing coordinator here at Dixon Ticonderoga Company. My story is personal and I’m pleased to share it with you.

My Aunt Margaret (yes, I was named after her), was one of the smartest and strongest women I have ever known. She graduated from school four years early, raised her younger brothers and sisters, and worked at a time when it wasn’t common for women to do so. Her children grew up to be doctors, lawyers and teachers. Tough as nails, she was the kind of lady who said what she meant and meant what she said. But she always provided you with a safe haven when the world was crashing down on you.

Aunt Margaret was diagnosed with breast cancer. Twice.

In true Aunt Margaret fashion, she was able to beat the cancer both times, partly due to the efforts of people and organizations who are participating in the fight against breast cancer. I am proud that the company that I work for is one of those organizations. One of the ways Dixon helps is by manufacturing a Breast Cancer Awareness Pencil that can be purchased all year long. A portion of the proceeds from this pencil are donated to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Breast Cancer is a disease that affects millions of lives each year. Please join us in the fight to find a cure.

I love you, Aunt Margaret, and I strive to live up to your good name every day.

Where Do You Find Inspiration?

Sometimes the smallest things in life can inspire you to greatness. I recently had the pleasure of corresponding with a man named John Siela. John had a dream to write a novel, but as he grew older and life wore on he gave up on this dream and filed it away as an impossibility. But one day, John was sitting at his desk and he noticed a Dixon Ticonderoga pencil and a solitary pad of paper. These two tools sparked a fire within and gave him the courage to start the novel he always wanted to write. For me, this too is a bucket list item that I want to accomplish in my life, which is why John has inspired me so much. He dared to go for it and I congratulate him for this accomplishment.

I would like to share a note from the author that he recently sent me:

“First I needed a name for the main character and a setting for the story.  I turned my pencil over in my hand and looked at the engraving that I had seen a hundred times before, “Dixon Ticonderoga”. . . and so was born the main character, Dixon.  The name, Ticonderoga, made me think of a deep, dark forest in Canada.  The name and setting were perfect for my novel. . . Maps to Death, The Ticonderoga Experience.

Thank you, Dixon Ticonderoga Company, for inspiring me.  I have used your product throughout my life . . . as a child at school; as a young man writing love letters to my wife while serving in the military; as an adult in the workforce; and now, as a retiree, writing my first novel.  The longevity of the Dixon Ticonderoga Pencil proves their product is a quality pencil, produced by a quality company.”

I hope you can find some inspiration today. If you are having trouble, maybe pick up a Ticonderoga Pencil and let yourself dream.

 If you want to know more about John Siela or read his book,  Maps to Death, The Ticonderoga Experience, click here.