I just gave my first All Hands presentation to the Exuma/DockMaster team this afternoon. I started creating the presentation at 8am this morning. The talk started at 1pm. In between creating the presentation and delivering it I drove the 35 minute commute to the office and grabbed lunch. Next week I will post a blog that describes this process of shortening your time frame to ensure heightened levels of focus .
In the All Hands presentation I outlined 3 Words (themes) that should help shape the company in 2010. As per my personal 3 words , the words I’ve selected for Exuma are designed to challenge both me and my team to take our company to the next level. The 3 words are: CHANGE, LEARN, GROW.
CHANGE: It’s cliche, but change is everywhere and accelerating. Look at how quickly Social Media channels have been accepted into the main stream of life and compare the rate of adoption to e-mail. I have no data to back this up, but it seems like it took 10-years for e-mail to garner the same number of users that its taken Social Media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to gain in a year. We must not only embrace change, but we need to seek it out. I’ve instructed my team that phrases like “we’ve always done it this way” or “we don’t work that way” are no longer acceptable at our company.
LEARN: Learning is the antithesis of talking. In other words I am coaching my team to spend more time listening than talking. We are too quick to react – to answer a question before its completely stated. We will never learn and grow if we can’t listen. By listening I mean doing it emphatically and actively. Not simply to placate someone. We also need to look outside of our industry for examples of systems and ideas that work well, so that they can be evaluated and adapted in our own company. Lastly, learn from the mistakes of others as this is often more instructive.
GROW: Last year was about survival. This year we are back in growth mode. We are excited about expanding both in our market and in other markets as well. 2010 won’t be a walk in the park – its going to be full of challenges, but if we can stay focused we can grow our businesses.
I’ve challenged each of my team leads to carry this message through to their respective groups and to develop meaningful incentives to embrace these themes.
I’ve been attending trade shows ever since I graduated from college. I’ll never forget my first trade show. I went to assist a buyer at a national surf and beach wear show. Needless to say my head was spinning. Since then I’ve attended countless technical and computer industry shows, as well as the circuit of recreational marine industry trade shows since 2003.
Most of the time I’ve spent at trade shows has been on “booth duty”. To use a fishing analogy, booth duty is similar to trolling for billfish. The monotony of standing around twiddling your thumbs is occasionally interrupted by a fish strike, whereby the anglers drop the beers, leap up and scramble to grab a rod.
I’ve never had one of those really cool booths that attracts a big crowd. Scantily clad models and mock game shows have never meshed with my marketing model. I remember how jealous I used to be of some exhibitors though. Back in the mid-90s, the biggest hit at the defense and aerospace shows was Silicon Graphics. They used to bring their F-18 flight simulator, tricked out with surround sound and booth babes to lure in the wannabe fighter pilots. They always drew a big crowd, but where is Silicon Graphics today?
Not all tradeshows are built alike. Some trade shows are “steady” as traffic is good throughout most of the day. Other shows are just plain slower. But as a vendor who markets products to the people that attend various trade shows, there is this compulsion that you “have to be there”, even if the show is traditionally slow or possibly not ideally suited for you. You might miss something or someone. You never know when that perfect prospect will happen by your booth. In addition, you need to be there to let your customers know you are still in business.
I am not buying this anymore. No I am not saying that we are cutting our trade shows altogether. On the contrary we are scheduled to exhibit at the IMI Emerging Applied Technology Show and the Marine Dealer Conference. However I am rethinking which shows to exhibit at and which shows to simply “attend”.
You miss quite a bit by exhibiting and not attending. The most valuable interactions I typically have with people at a trade show are not within my booth, but in the hall between sessions or in the concession areas. People seem more at easy and not guarded as if being sold more cleaner than one could use in a life time.
This year and in 2010 we are going to “walk” a couple of shows that we’ve exhibited at in the past. This week is the International Boat Builders Exhibition and Conference (www.ibexshow.com). We will not have a booth at the show this year. This is a big change for us as we’ve exhibited at this show for the last 15+ years. However in this economy when we are trying to do everything we can to stretch a dollar, I cannot justify the expense of a trade show booth at IBEX. So, I will be walking the show as an attendant. I will still be wearing my company shirt and working to strengthen relationships with people that I connect with. I hope to see you there.