The theme of the event, “Think Forward”, was omnipresent throughout the three days, as presentations and member meetings touched on many topics that are at the heart of the concerns of industry leaders. Supply chain concerns, labor challenges and building a strong culture were all discussed throughout the annual meeting.
“This event allows our members and vendor partners to work on their business, not their business, with a focus on the future,” explained JC McKay, Vice President of Business Development for FLAG.
“Our theme for this historic meeting was ‘Think Ahead’ – an appropriate message for members who have struggled with supply chain challenges, HR issues and labor shortages. over the past two years,” said John McKay, President and Founder. “Each year, we raise the bar for the Annual Meeting in terms of the quality of our keynote speakers, the tour we take of a member’s facilities, and the time and attention we devote to panel discussions, networking with vendor partners and peer group interactions.”
As part of the annual awards dinner at US Bank Stadium, the close-knit FLAG community was also invited to gather at the Minnesota Vikings football field. FLAG has distributed 11 awards, with Gold Member accolades to Amherst Label, Apogee Industries, ATL Corp., Creative Labels of Vermont, Graphics Universal, International Label & Printing, Luminer Converting Group and Niagara Label.
For 2021, UPM Raflatac received the FLAG Vendor Partner of the Year Award and Judy Abelman, Director at LPC, received the Brad Brown Strategic Partner Award. Meanwhile, Lofton Label received the Member Tour Host Award.
“The tour is an incredibly unique opportunity that FLAG has provided since its inception,” noted JC McKay.
In 2011, the annual FLAG assembly had nine members and four supplier partners. During this time, the association has reinforced its staff. In 2021 alone, FLAG added 18 members. So far in 2022, the association has added four members. “There’s no downside,” said Dwane Wall, president of Creative Labels of Vermont.
FLAG offers a 90-day grace period for new members, a policy that was successfully implemented at Labelexpo Americas 2016. Since then, 75 new members have joined.
According to JC McKay, 44 members have saved over $100,000 since joining the association, seven of which have saved over $500,000.
The educational sessions featured a versatile group of speakers. Following JC McKay’s ‘State of the Association’ speech, L&NW Editor-in-Chief Greg Hrinya looked at the latest trends in label and packaging printing affecting both members than suppliers. A panel discussion followed, featuring Kern Cox and Dovie Jeffcoat of Clemson, with Augie Ullmann of Jobot and Cindy Edwards of Engage PEO. The panel explored workforce challenges and how to best position converters and suppliers for hiring in the current climate.
According to Jeffcoat, students are looking for competitive salaries and benefits that take into account a balance of family, health and life. Learning and growth opportunities are also essential, as are companies with established sustainability initiatives.
“We want to introduce this industry to students much earlier in their lives,” Cox said. “Giving them this information can change their lives in a positive way.”
Hiring practices are also critical. Ullmann cited a survey of 3,500 manufacturing managers, which found that only 29% of new hires had all the skills required for their current roles.
“Companies need a compelling job value proposition for potential employees,” Ullmann said. “Stop thinking of hiring as a matter of replacing specific employees. Don’t ask who we need now, ask what we need for the future?”
“People are looking for a career path, not just a job,” Edwards added.
Keynote speaker Curt Steinhorst also addressed the labor challenge facing our industry. In his opening remarks, Steinhorst said, “It’s never been harder to find people to work for you, and it’s never been harder to keep them.”
According to Steinhorst, 47.4 million workers left their jobs in 2021, 55% of them looking for a new job. More recently, there were 11.3 million job openings in February 2022.
“There are an infinite number of things pulling on your most limited resource,” Steinhorst commented. “Your most precious resource is your attention. $275 billion was spent in 2021 to capture your attention.
Closing the event on April 21, Brian Van de Water of SPL Consulting, discussed “The Power of Triple E”. Van de Water emphasized the importance of leadership and culture in a company, saying, “How we lead affects how our teams live.”
Van de Water cited many statistics to illustrate the importance of leadership. A study from Stanford University indicated that work is the number one cause of stress in 74% of respondents’ lives, and that three out of four employees are disengaged at work. Meanwhile, seven out of eight don’t think their companies care about them.
“Look at all the good things going on in your business and recognize that you have every opportunity to build your team,” Van de Water stressed. “Your team does miracles for you every day. Recognize them for that.