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An Interview with Paul Bellantone

PPAI’s President and CEO, Paul Bellantone, joined our own Ashley McCune, President of Facilisgroup, for a short interview discussing some of the many questions our Partners have regarding the future of the promotional product industry. Paul delivered insight on what he believes the industry will look like moving forward and the ways in which it may change. 

When posed with the question of what industry he believes has responded best in the face of COVID-19 thus far, he candidly stated that our industry has proven to be very nimble, with a massive shift to PPE sales combined with a quick adjustment to virtual engagement, both with clients and with one another. He also highlighted the notion that what the world is practicing isn’t necessarily social distancing, but physical distancing, pointing out that virtual social engagement has exploded as a result of relying on digital communication to interact and conduct business.

PPAI already has plans in the works for alterations that may need to occur to the 2021 PPAI Expo to ensure safety and compliance in the wake of COVID-19. Some of these potential adaptations include shrinking down the Expo from 3000 booths to 1500 with a greater amount of space between each booth and shortening the event from three days to two days. A virtual element will also be integrated to lessen the burden on suppliers to be physically present. In the event the Expo cannot happen, an alternative event would be held next spring in a centrally-located city that would eliminate the need for air travel. While the PPAI Expo is a huge priority and source of revenue for PPAI, “healthpitality”, or health and hospitality, comes first at all their events and any changes or additions will be made accordingly.

Looking ahead, some companies that Paul said he and PPAI are keeping an eye on for signs of reopening or a semblance of our old normal returning are the organizations that center around bringing people together. Those in the events industry, sports industry and entertainment industry are key players to look out for, especially regarding the potential return of professional baseball and the reopening of Disney Parks. What these industries and organizations do next will serve as a blueprint for many to follow.

Paul wrapped up the interview by highlighting a few things that have stuck with him personally during COVID-19, including the evidence that so many so-called barriers to remote working are unfounded from a hiring and operations standpoint. A company can now broaden their search to find the best candidate for a position in the country, rather than just in their city, and vice versa. He then summed up the session with a very fitting quote for today’s uncertain environment, “Once upon a time, the world didn’t end.”