PPAI is about quantifying what makes a great promo company, and professional development has proven to be a key factor.

  • With the objective of creating a broad and holistic ranking of the promo companies, PPAI 100 scores companies based on eight separate categories.


With the list of top distributors now published, we can look at the rankings’ very top companies and glean information about what those companies had in common in terms of high performance in specific categories. Areas like revenue and growth are no surprise among the PPAI 100’s top-10 distributors, but another category had a strong showing atop the list: professional development.

Ongoing professional education is a huge part of the promotional products world. It is a core piece of what PPAI offers and encourages of its members by providing the structure to achieve TAS, CAS and MAS certificates. The industry’s top distributors have incorporated the personal growth of their individual employees into the larger growth mindset of their organizations.

“Our culture is respect for people and respect for our environment,” says Jo-an Lantz, president and CEO of Geiger, which on PPAI 100. “Education is a requirement for all associates.”

  • Four of the top five distributors in PPAI 100 were determined to excel in professional development.
  • Seven of the top 10 distributors earned what PPAI calls high marks in the category.

“We have worked very hard to ensure development is ingrained in our culture,” says Kimberly Sandifer, chief human resources officer at HALO, the industry’s second-ranked distributor.

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There are different approaches to developing education. Dawn Olds, HALO’s senior VP of industry relations and DEI, says that the company does not have any mandate on industry certificates but puts a big emphasis on learning and development.

“PPAI content is part of the foundational, get-to-know-the-industry part of the curriculum,” Olds says.

On the other hand, Lantz says that continued education reinforces the “respect for people, respect for environment” principles of Geiger, and therefore it is not optional for certain positions.

“When they achieve their CAS and MAS within a defined period of time, they receive bonuses,” Lantz says. “It is all part of our culture.”

Sandifer expanded on that notion by saying that it is about more than satisfying management, it is a perk of the job.

“We know through employee surveys that career development is the No. 1 desire for employees,” Sandifer says. “Since each employee has a unique set of skills, potential and ambition, we have structured our employee development programs to be personalized.  Industry-specific certifications are part of that offering.”

  • Professional development is rarely a quick payoff, rather it is the sort of investment that grows simultaneously with a company, intertwined with its success.

“I don’t know if it is chicken or an egg,” Lantz says of Geiger’s success and its ability to give its employees the tools they need. “I think it is our culture.”

Promo is often described as a “people business,” but it is one with quite a lot of ins and outs for newcomers. The education PPAI offers, along with any programs that specific companies have developed for their employees, is a pathway for the industry to be healthy, adaptive and able to run efficiently.

“[Industry certificate] is not a requirement for individuals to join our team but is a plus as it helps us on-board them more quickly and they get acclimated more quickly to the work,” Sandifer says. It is not easy to put a number to [the value].”