By Anthony Suszczynski
WARREN, Ohio – Phantom Fireworks hosted its annual managers meetings this week at the Avalon Golf and Country Club here. With 80 permanent showrooms along with 1,400 temporary locations, the Youngstown-based company brought in 200 store managers from across the country.
The meetings cover sales, improvement opportunities, marketing, social media and new ideas and products, said the company’s vice president, Ron Zoldan.
Phantom uses one of the four nights during the meetings to display their latest fireworks to the managers for the first time. When they shoot off the new fireworks, the managers take notes on the products and grade them. The four-day conference also marks the start of the company’s busy season leading up to the Fourth of July.
What’s most valuable during the meetings, both for executives and managers, is the presence of Phantom CEO Bruce Zoldan.
“[He] spends a lot of time one-on-one with the managers. [He] lends his time to anybody who wants to discuss any issues.” The open-discussion portion is one of the most valuable parts of the meetings because many of the new ideas discussed come from the managers, some of which are ultimately implemented into Phantom’s business policies.
Zoldan also spoke of the importance of charity and Youngstown. Last year, Phantom raised $110,000 for the American Pyrotechnics Safety & Education Foundation.
“This year we are going to diversify the funds that we raise and allocate them to new charities across the country where our showrooms are placed,” he said. “We certainly would like to donate some of the funds raised to stay here in the Mahoning Valley.”
Serving as the keynote speaker was Vera Jones, a women’s basketball analyst for the Big Ten Network whose stops have included ESPN and Fox Sports. She is also former women’s basketball coach at the University of Dayton and Indiana University.
In addition to her career in broadcasting, Jones works as a motivational speaker and professional development coach. Her main message to Phantom managers was to “trust your vision and play through the foul.” Jones explained that adversity is a foul that can blind individuals. By finding the courage to trust your vision, it is possible play through the foul and still win.
Her mother played an integral role in her life and encouraged her to use her message to help others and finish writing her book. Soon therafter, mother died. Jones, a single mother, had to quit her job and move home to help take care of her elderly father. But she remembered what her mother had told her and wrote “Play Through the Foul,” which translated lessons she learned from playing basketball to everyday life.
When her son, Andrew, was 3, Jones learned that he was hearing-impaired and when he reached the age of 12, he told his mother he had blurred vision and headaches. Doctors found that her son had a brain tumor that required surgery. The neurosurgeon told Vera that they would do everything they could to save his life, but that he could die. Jones repeated a part of a poem she had written to help her cope: “Stop hanging out with worry and doubt and make faith your new best friend.”
With the support of her friends, family, and her basketball team, she waited six hours while her son Andrew was in surgery. Andrew made it through the surgery and his mother attributes that to her faith. .
She and her son had to adjust to Andrew’s blindness, which Jones to be a better leader, she acknowledged. One such instance was when the two of them went to New York City. It was there that Vera taught her son to walk as a blind person with his cane. She said he was afraid at first but, as she explained to the Phantom Fireworks staff, “The truth is we all have things that we fear. The best thing you can do is just move toward it one step at a time. Find that courage,” she said.
“Continue to trust your vision. Play through the foul so that we can all win at this game of life.”
Pictured: Phantom Fireworks vice president Ron Zoldan and CEO Bruce Zoldan speak to store managers at the company’s annual managers’ meeting.
Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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