Spent the last three days in Chicago at the Mid West Fastener Association’s Table Top Show followed immediately by the NFDA meeting & ESPS Sessions. Busy week, lots of people, great discussions. All in all, a great week. I’ve got quite a few comments so I’ll just dive in.
I think many of the people at the NFDA meeting were not necessarily at the MWFA Table Top. Some overlap, but several that did not. Both were good. MWFA is one of the larger associations and they can fill a room due to their large membership. Of course, if you sell to people in the greater Chicago area and Wisconsin, then it’s probably a better show for you. There are a lot of complaints these days about Table Top shows that are poorly attended, and the MWFA continues to deliver attendees so this may be a Table Top with staying power. Not all will. Too expensive to drag your stuff out to an area and see 10-20 distributor customers. It’s just harder and harder to get distributors to give up their evening or miss a day to attend a Table Top show, but the MWFA continues to deliver and that’s a good thing. Their after show “bash” is convenient to the show, well attended, and just one more opportunity to continue to network in a relaxed setting.
The day after, the MWFA held its Golf Outing and I opted out of that as I’m a pretty bad golfer and had some other business to tend to in Chicago. Seems like that went well and, really, what’s to go wrong when you get a beautiful day to go golf? I ran around town and then ended up downtown at the NFDA meeting.
This was real interesting for me. I’m a fairly new NFDA member and, as a rep, not necessarily a traditional NFDA Member. And, I get it. I’m kind of a territory guy more than a national guy – at least for most of the companies I represent. There are a few exceptions and that was one reason I thought I could find value by being a host in my own meeting room. So, I knew I had a bit of a challenge as opposed to a company that sells nationally. And still, I found the meeting to be very worthwhile and even the ESPS sessions (the ones I had) to be very productive. I had distributor meetings where I was able to present new information on several of my principals, and I met with some suppliers who were interested in hearing about my agency and how I go about my business. Those were good meetings. Another benefit of attending the NFDA meeting, and one that is probably the hardest to quantify, was meeting with many individuals who just stopped by my ESPS Meeting Room to chat, even if it was only for 5-10 minutes. Many attendees had very full schedules and were holding meetings with some of their largest suppliers so they did not have a full half hour time slot to come visit me. But I did end up spending at least some time with 5 -10 people I had hoped to sit down with. Some stopped by the room, met one at breakfast, shared coffee with a few and, because we are in the fastener industry, met with some over a cold beer. I think when I sort everything out I will realize I made a lot of good connections at the NFDA meeting and you never know what can develop from those.
At lunch there was a presentation by economist, Alan Beaulieu, and that was terrific. I’ve seen him (or his brother – they’re twins so it’s hard to know) at other meetings and I’m always impressed and enlightened. He was very good.
I could write a lot more about the NFDA meeting but I’d like to finish with some of my personal observations on what is going on at the NFDA. Historically, the NFDA has been know as kind of an old boys network. And you cannot blame business owners and executives for wanting to get together with their peers who were facing the same challenges and obstacles. It made a lot of sense to get together with people in similar situations who were going through the same stuff and compare notes and share some best practices. But I think the organization is evolving into something different and trying to be more inclusive. Clearly, they are partnering with other regional associations and trying to do joint events in different cities. I hope this trend continues and the organization does become more inclusive. Honestly, it is for their own good to do so. With continued consolidation and attendance issues at some shows, it makes sense to be more inclusive – even if that means letting a rep in the group!
At the meeting, it was announced that Kelly Cole will be the new president for the upcoming year. I’ve had a chance to get to know Kelly over the last few years and he is dedicated to the industry, to fastener associations and the guy cannot sit still (which I can completely relate to). I expect to see the NFDA reaching out even further into the fastener community to get more people involved, especially with Kelly as the next president.
I invited one of my principals to join me in my meeting room for some of the ESPS sessions. He was very impressed and told me he plans to encourage his company to join the NFDA. I think it would serve him and company well to do so. For me, I’ve still trying to figure out exactly how a rep can best navigate through the NFDA community to get the most out of it. The ESPS sessions were a good step and were worth trying. I’ve got a ways to go and look forward to continuing to fit into that community and that organization in a way that is good for them and me. A step at a time! I got to hang out with some great people and even spent quality time with some people I consider to be titans of our industry. I highly value those conversations and their insights. Truly. Although I’m a fairly new NFDA member I did feel welcome and, for the most part felt like individuals reached out and struck up a conversations even if they didn’t know me very well. For the most part!