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Rustic Falls Engraving—better known as RF Engraving—sits at the center of town in Grantsville, Utah. About 30 miles west of Salt Lake City, Grantsville is home to 12,000 people. While RF Engraving has done work across the country and internationally, the majority of their business is closer to home, including from nearby Salt Lake City.

Say you go into a fast food restaurant and order a No. 5 with a Coke. After receiving your order, the employees are off and running.

Sound familiar? But what you might not realize is that the minute you walk into any fast food location, the operational systems are already in motion: How they handle customers, supplies and production is all pre-determined. Business seminars, books and courses often recommend that business operations mirror popular chains like McDonald's.

In-person customer service and relationship-building have been the backbone of the personalization industry for decades—something not likely to change any time soon. Across the board, though, digital tools are helping personalization shops increase sales, find new customers, manage employees and a whole lot more.

There is a proverb from 14th-century England that says, “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow,” a reminder that starting small and persevering can lead to great things. That is a good way to characterize the growth of Becky Gromala’s business, The Silver Squirrel Engravings and Gifts.

Sports are important in almost every corner of the world, with events uniting people with the most diverse of backgrounds. Consider that 1.5 billion people tuned into the 2022 World Cup final game between Argentina and France, according to FIFA. 

Regardless of the category you fall into, preparation helps. After all, it can be easy to think of public speaking in the framework of only what happens in the moment: how your voice sounds, how people perceive what you’re saying. But often, the real key to sounding good in the moment means taking the appropriate steps before the event.

With holiday gifts, some people are planners and others, quite frankly, are not. Personalization businesses are familiar with both types. Clearly, most businesses would prefer to create as many personalized gifts as possible—as early as possible—for the early birds who know what they want and are thinking ahead. But businesses can’t afford to turn down last-minute orders, even if it means burning the midnight oil.

It’s always great when a plan comes together.

Nick Blumer got into the personalization business after spending four years in the United States Marine Corps and 16 years in the Air National Guard, as well as performing network security and HIPAA compliance at a nationally recognized healthcare clearinghouse. When the company he was working for was sold and downsized during the pandemic, Blumer built an online company that sold hats, T-shirts, coffee and accessories. One day, his accountant let him know that there was a business for sale in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, that might be a great fit for him and his family.

If the pandemic-era rise in online and omnichannel shopping accelerated the digital transformation of the retail industry, artificial intelligence (AI) technologies could put that transformation into overdrive. Today’s businesses are embracing the vast potential of AI—and personalization and awards retailers are already reaping the rewards. Among small businesses that have adopted AI, 95% say their investment in AI has largely reduced their need to hire more marketing people, according to a 2022 survey of over 400 small businesses in Canada and the U.S.

There is no historical record, but it’s not hard to imagine: An early ancestor chips away at a piece of flint—and bashes a finger in the process. As long as humans have had tools, we have had to figure out the best ways to use them safely.

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