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Here with You at Every Step

Niels Norby, NetSoft Studio, LLC
President, APA - Where Personalization Pros Connect


(November/December 2023) No matter where your business is—physically or developmentally—APA offers specialized resources to cater to you.

I’ve been thinking about the cycle of business ownership because I recently completed the sale of my retail shop, officially moving to the supplier side of our association with my newer company. As I see it, there are four “eras” to a retail company’s evolution in our industry, and the upcoming International Personalization Expo is a great example of how the association helps you at each stage.

1. You start or purchase your company. This is the key time when you learn about the industry and do everything you can to make your business grow. When I bought my retail operation, I was lucky to quickly find out about APA. I jumped in with both feet, especially at our Expo, to get up to speed with the education the association offers, to create relationships with key supplier members, and to try out new products and equipment. Do not miss the next Expo, set for Feb. 6-9 in Las Vegas. Attendance is so beneficial that we don’t charge admission for member retailers. Visit to learn more.

2. You evaluate and adjust your business. After three to five years of learning your industry, you start to evaluate your business to see where you are profitable and where you are wasting resources, which product lines are making you money and which aren’t. Retailers you meet at the Expo and on the Member2Member Forum will help you understand some of this stuff and let you know about changes they made to succeed. It was in this era of my retail business operations that I made big changes to our product line and showroom to maximize my profits—and shared the results with APA’s membership. Changing is less worrying when you have so much support!

3. You fine-tune your business. In years 4-14, you have already identified what is working and can fine-tune your processes, making sure you have the right equipment to be as efficient as possible. You’ll also keep an eye on what’s coming in the industry; as new technologies and products debut, you can incorporate them to create new revenue streams.

In this stage, you really know your stuff, and you can achieve so much on the Expo show floor: Get face-to-face advice from representatives of the suppliers you’re already doing business with, evaluate new products and equipment in person, and meet new companies to find out what they have to offer your company.

4. You exit your business with a strategy you already put in place. This likely happens at least 15 years after your entrance to the industry, but planning for this step should start much sooner. It is never too early to work on your exit strategy. Will you sell to a family member? If so, you need to create a transition plan that both you and the next-generation owner understand and “buy into.” Even if a family member is waiting in the wings, you’ll still need a plan B (like selling to someone else) and maybe even a plan C! Talk to other members to find out what they’re doing and how they acquired their businesses to learn more.

I got to step four with my retail business when I was already at step one with my new supplier business. But that’s not intimidating when you have the support, education and connections I found within APA. No matter where your business is in its development, you and your employees benefit from membership. Do yourself and your business a favor: Register now for the International Personalization Expo, and start planning which education sessions, supplier booths and networking opportunities you want to prioritize to ensure your business is thriving for decades to come.

APA - Where Personalization Pros Connect.

The APA is the organization for retailers and suppliers of personalized and customized items. By providing education, meetings, and access to a vibrant network of professionals, the APA is the one place to ensure the growth of your talent, your business, and your professional community.

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