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Industry Associations and Events Spark Creative Ideas

October 1st, 2014 | Posted in Blog

Companies that are considered leaders in their industries don’t get that status by accident. One important factor we’ve seen that sets those businesses apart is active participation in national trade associations and industry shows.

These groups and events offer invaluable opportunities for business leaders whose focus is normally on local matters. They can share experiences, ideas and best practices with their peers in other markets.

In our industry, the “Kitchen and Bath Experts” association, or KBX, was formed by a few dozen local companies, including ours, throughout the United States. The group has annual conferences around the country where members get together, socialize, and talk about our business challenges—and their solutions.

We also make an effort to attend the annual Kitchen and Bath Industry Show, where the manufacturers we buy from display their products.

Experience has taught us that the expense of attending these events is worthwhile because of what we learn. Participation also puts us on the map in terms of our visibility and reputation with our suppliers. That can pay off in dollars and cents.

At our association conferences and trade shows, we expect to hear what other people are doing, and why. Round-table discussions at our KBX meetings, for instance, work like a “think tank” for best practices in our particular line of business.

I have come home from these events with ideas for new revenue streams, new ways to offer customer service and solidify customer loyalty, and tips for improving relationships with both vendors and employees.

For me, one of the most valuable benefits I brought back from the last conference I attended was the reassurance that what we’re doing in Wilmington is working well, not just for us, but in other markets. Talking to our peers in very different cities also gives us a wide perspective on how things may be different elsewhere. We have learned about different “market personalities,” which helps us understand that some ideas may travel well, but others may not.

Even though we understand the benefits, and are willing to spend the money, it’s always a challenge to spare the time needed to attend national events. We don’t go to all of them, but even those we consider essential can seem to interrupt the more urgent tasks on a manager’s “to-do” list. It feels like you are always too busy to spare the time for a conference or a show. It can look easy to skip one if you haven’t already made the commitment of time and money.

My advice, as soon as you have decided an industry event is important, is to lock it into your calendar and pay for it. That will help you feel it’s a priority, even compared to the day-to-day crises that will always come up as your travel date approaches. Just like other hard-to-quantify investments that take time and effort, such as study and research, we know we will get back real value.