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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.

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.”

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!

KINF thank you

*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.

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.

Introducing the NEW Ticonderoga Electric Pencil Sharpener

An unsharpened pencil has no point. I like this phrase because of its double meaning. Yes, an unsharpened pencil literally has no point, but an unsharpened pencil also is almost worthless, its potential hidden away until someone takes the time to sharpen it.

As the CEO of the ‘World’s Best Pencil’ company, I often get asked about pencils and pencil sharpeners. After all, what makes our pencils the best? I have many answers to that question: the premium wood that comes from reforested areas so you can know you are doing something good for the environment and something good for your writing abilities, the eraser is of a higher quality and does its job better, but the most important thing to most people is the core, which has a special formula to make it less prone to breaking.

Sometimes people do have complaints, but most of the time, the problem lies with the sharpener they’re using. If your pencils are coming out off-balance or broken, it may be time to consider a new sharpener.

I am pleased to announce that Dixon Ticonderoga Company is introducing its first electric pencil sharpener. This pencil sharpener is made with the same Ticonderoga quality that we put into all of our products. It has a powerful motor, and you can be sure that your pencil will be sharpened perfectly.

Click here to read more about our new Ticonderoga pencil sharpener. Check out our new Ticonderoga Pencil Sharpener in our favorite green and yellow below. However, we also have it in black and silver for those of you who prefer a classic look.

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Happy Holidays

Are you in the holiday spirit?  I am.  It’s hard not to be, surrounded as I am with Dixon and Prang elves working hard to fill our holiday orders.  The Dixon USA offices are brimming with holiday cheer.  Colors surround us daily, though red and green seem to dominate our offices this time of year!

The holidays, as you know, are all about giving.  Dixon employees are some of the most generous and giving people I know.  There is pure joy on their faces when they see the Kids In Need Foundation truck back up to deliver free school supplies from our company.  Pallets of pencils, chalk, paint and art markers are sometimes delivered by multiple tractor trailers.  The Kids in Need Foundation organizes this task, and we are so grateful to them.

I urge you to join us in giving to area classrooms.  Feel the joy we feel throughout the year in our profound dedication to youth and education.  It will feel great – I promise!

Thoughts on Thanksgiving

As a Dad, I’m always looking for fun and easy activities to do with my family.  We try to limit the amount of time my daughter gets to spend on technology in my house, and increase the amount of time she spends on creative tasks. Another Dixon Dad, Bruce Miller, showed me this easy and colorful craft perfect for the Thanksgiving holiday, and I asked him to make this video.  You can see how quick and easy it is, using our precise and vibrant Prang Art Markers and Prang glue, of course.

Bruce turns a plain ole’ coffee filter into a beautiful Thanksgiving card, poster, placemat – or in my family, refrigerator art.  Another suggestion is to stick it into the middle of a fall flower arrangement for the table centerpiece.  My daughter is making them to mark the place settings at our Thanksgiving table.  I’m guessing she places herself smack dab in the middle between her doting grandparents.

Simple, affordable, easy and remarkable – Dixon, Prang and Lyra products all provide young artists with the tools they need to create.

If you are looking for something for the kids to keep the kids busy while you cook, this craft will give you one more thing to be thankful for.  Why not take a few minutes and join them?  Making crafts is about making memories as well.