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GAWDA Convention: Members Take To Social Media

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

It’s hard to believe we’re nearly through another GAWDA Convention, but here we are at the end of Day 3 of GAWDA’s 68th Annual Convention in Colorado Springs, CO. The first three days have been full of great networking opportunities and yet another incredible display of generosity from GAWDA members.

Members have been sharing photos from the Convention on Twitter and Facebook, like this one tweeted that was tweeted out yesterday:

Thanks to Doug O’Dell at TrackAbout for this photo…it’s great to see a full crowd, a strong sign that business has returned (and is hopefully here to stay).

One of the biggest highlights thus far has been the presentation of the 2012 GAWDA Gives Back donations to local charities PEAK Parent Center and Partners In Housing. GAWDA members donated $174,444, giving over $87,000 to each of the two worthy causes. It was obvious that this donation meant a lot to both organizations, who let GAWDA members in on the work they do with a special video and thanks from clients of each group.

This year, for the first time, GAWDA members redoubled their generosity to help the newly established GAWDA Foundation get off the ground. With funding now well over $100,000, the Foundation aims to continue to develop the industry’s workforce. One of the ways it will work toward this is through scholarships for distributors, suppliers or end-users, the first of which will be presented at next year’s SMC.

I received a message on LinkedIn this afternoon from a first-time Convention attendee, who came away impressed with what he experienced. He expressed great pride for what members accomplished by coming together in donating to GAWDA Gives Back, and was very pleased with the program put together by GAWDA.

There’s more to come tomorrow, as we hear from the final two speakers. If their articles in the Fall issue of Welding & Gases Today are any indication, Wednesday’s business session should promise great takeaways for members.

What are your top takeaways from the Convention so far? Share by leaving a comment.

Giving The Gift Of Training

Friday, August 24th, 2012

GAWDA's 2012 Gives Back recipients teach clients the skills needed for success.

While there are larger organizations than GAWDA, there are few who leave as great of an impact on the cities in which they gather. Through GAWDA Gives Back, association members have donated almost $1.2 million dollars to deserving organizations, saving lives and changing them forever.

In 2012, GAWDA has selected two charities in Colorado Springs to be on the receiving end of this incredible tradition of giving. Welding & Gases Today spoke with the directors of Partners In Housing and PEAK Parent Center to find out what these organizations are all about in “A Look Inside 2012’s GAWDA Gives Back Recipients.” When you have a few minutes, I strongly encourage you to read about the charities. They are doing some amazing work in the state of Colorado.

In referring to Partners In Housing, the article brings up the adage, “If you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day, but if you teach him how to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime,” and rightly so. In fact, the same saying could be used to talk about PEAK Parent Center. What both organizations have in common is their mission to teach. Whether it’s helping homeless families or parents of children with disabilities, neither PIH nor PEAK offer their clients a handout. Instead, what they offer is education, training, resources…things to help them eat for a lifetime.

For me, this mission rings true with GAWDA as well. Whether it’s the Annual Convention, SMC, regional meeting, GAWDA University, Welding & Gases Today magazine or the GAWDA consultants, there is an incredible amount of education that the association offers members. In the end, training and education are worth more than any handout.

While the convention is just around the corner, it’s not too late to make a difference. If you’re thinking of supporting GAWDA Gives Back, get to know the organizations and people GAWDA’s leadership has selected for this year’s donations and go inside GAWDA Gives Back.

Social Media Takes Root At SMC

Friday, May 4th, 2012

Another great Spring Management Conference is in the books for GAWDA. One thing that was different about this year’s meeting was the fact that there were no simultaneously scheduled breakout sessions. If you ask me, I think this is a good thing.

Last year there were three sessions (technology, HR and GAWDA Consultants), and attending one meant missing possible great takeaways from the other two. If your company sent multiple people, it would be possible to divide and conquer, but for many, it meant missing important information. This year, everyone sat in on the technology discussion. I believe this was an important conversation for all to hear.

Following Tuesday’s session, I had an interesting conversation with a young distributor employee, who shared an exchange with his company president during the session. The distributor president told the young employee, “I’m so glad you were here to see this discussion on Social Media. I wish there was a separate session for guys like me.” Although the president recognized the importance of Social Media, he perhaps did not recognize the importance of his involvement in it. The young employee, taken aback, told the president that he needed to be there too, and that the conversation about Social Media was one he needed to be a part of as much as anyone.

As the MI Committee stated in the technology panel discussion, when implementing new technology, whatever that technology is, employee buy in starts at the executive level. For employees to embrace change, the leaders of that company must embrace it as well. Social Media is not just about IT and technology—it’s about building relationships and communicating with customers and industry partners. And it is not merely a young person’s game. The over-55 age group is one of the fastest growing demographics on Social Media.

It was great to see so many people embrace Social Media at the SMC. I was live tweeting throughout the event, and saw quite a few people join the conversation as it went on throughout the conference. If you haven’t joined yet, it’s not too late. The industry conversation is always going online. Drop me a line on Twitter at @GasWeldEdge.

#GAWDA Twitter Transcript

Take a look back at the SMC conversation on Twitter. View the complete #GAWDA chat transcript after the jump.

2012 SMC Day 3: Communicating Through Technology

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012
Karl Meinhardt stands before the Technology Panel at GAWDA's Spring Management Conference

Karl Meinhardt stands before the Technology Panel at GAWDA's Spring Management Conference

The final day of GAWDA’s 2012 Spring Management Conference had a distinctly technological flavor. The closing business session featured GAWDA’s Management Information Committee and Social Media speaker Karl Meinhardt. Gases and welding technology itself is a broad, but very important topic. As MI Committee Chair Chris Dominiak revealed in last week’s guest blog, more than 70% of GAWDA members feel they could be doing more with technology.

Meinhardt got things started with an overview of Social Media. While much has been said and written about the use of Social Media to communicate with customers, one of the particularly interesting ideas touched on in Meinhardt’s speech was how Social Media can be used internally to facilitate communications within an organization.

Meinhardt pointed to the example Lockheed Martin, which after surveying its workforce, realized it was poised to lose a great deal of experience and knowledge as the Baby Boomer generation begins to retire. How did the company respond? Lockheed Martin used the power of Social Media to capture this experience for future generations. The organization created an internal wiki, their own private version of Wikipedia, where employees could contribute ideas and experiences.

After the session, I spoke with Josh and Erich Haun from Haun Welding Supply (Syracuse, NY), who were likewise struck by the idea of using Social Media to streamline internal communications. Erich pointed to the training advantage, to be able to reach employees across multiple locations to help do away with the response “I didn’t know you could do that.” Both agreed that the potential for technology to improve internal communications is intriguing.

The technology panel also addressed communication, looking at the The Cloud, mobile technology and the basic problem of implementing new technologies. The MI Committee stressed that, when introducing new technologies internally, it’s important to communicate with employees in advance and involve them in the process where possible. Buy in of the technology by company executives is critical if employees are to buy in. This has never been more true than with Social Media. As Meinhardt said, “If your customers spoke Chinese, you’d learn to speak Chinese.” Sounds like it’s time to learn the language of Social Media.

2012 SMC Day 2: Looking At The Business Landscape

Monday, April 30th, 2012
Juan Williams engages a packed GAWDA audience.

Juan Williams engages a packed GAWDA audience.

Day two of the 2012 Spring Management Conference was full of amazing take home value, between the opening business session speakers and the contact booth program, along with the networking breakfast, lunch and wines of the world reception. Needless to say, it was a very full day, and it may be several weeks before I can fully digest all that I took in today.

The opening business session speakers painted a picture of the business landscape in the year ahead. What are the economic and political challenges/opportunities that will arise throughout the remainder of 2012?

Political analyst Juan Williams offered his predictions for the November elections (Republicans take the House and the Senate, while Obama squeaks by in the presidential election, according to Williams.) He feels that the current political divide has kept important legislation from moving forward, and I would be curious to know how he feels his predicted outcome will impact the regulatory landscape. (Although I didn’t have an opportunity to reach out to Williams at the SMC, I’ve posed the question for him on Twitter.)

Economist Andy Bauer walked through a number of very interesting economic snapshots, comparing current recovery numbers to past recessions. I was struck by his explanation of the “skills gap,” the basic idea that when manufacturing workers lost their jobs in the recession, businesses moved forward, the jobs evolved (newer technology, automation, robotics, etc.), but the workers’ skill sets did not progress at the same rate. If nothing else, this explains why, amidst high unemployment, many manufacturers are having a hard time finding qualified workers. Perhaps it’s the expectations, not the workers, who have changed. It seems like there could be real opportunities for distributors to help bring those workers up to where they need to be, and prepare them to work with welding robotics and other technologies.

Distributors and suppliers connect at the contact booth program.

Distributors and suppliers connect at the contact booth program.

The contact booth program was lively, and I’m beginning to see more oil & gas related products making their way into the show. This brings me back to an interesting discussion from this morning’s breakfast, where the idea was raised that LNG and CNG are much like VHS & Betamax (for the younger generation, I submit Blu Ray vs. HD DVD as a substitute)…there are concerns as to whether they can coexist, or whether one will really become the dominant player.

Throughout the day, I met a great number of industry veterans, as well as the industry’s newer faces. It’s great to see the next generations getting involved early, and I was impressed from what I heard from the industry’s future leaders.

Looking forward to another promising day tomorrow. Be sure to take a look at the recent Preview of the Technology Discussion from MI Committee Chair Chris Dominiak. The panel is set to cover some of the industry’s most pressing technology topics. It promises to be a solid conclusion to an overall amazing event.

2012 SMC Day 1: Opening With Optimism

Sunday, April 29th, 2012
John and Ron Walters from American Torch Tip Company

John and Ron Walters from American Torch Tip Company

GAWDA’s Spring Management Conference got off to a great start today with great networking during the First Timers’ and President’s receptions. The turnout this year is incredible, and optimism is in the air. This is a great sign that business is on its way back.

It was great to see new faces at the First Timers’ reception. There were several new member companies in attendance, along with first time attendees from long-time members. GAWDA members regularly cite networking as one of the greatest benefits of GAWDA, and today’s reception stood as a testament to this. Members were optimistic about recovering markets across the country, and eager to talk with others about helium supplies and calcium carbide supplies, among other topics. (These events may look like fun, but I assure you, it’s all about business.)

During the reception, I had the pleasure of meeting Saket Tiku, president of the All India Industrial Gases Manufacturing Association (AIIGMA). As a representative of the Indian gas industry, Tiku brought a very different perspective than distributors and suppliers in attendance. I was amazed to learn that more than 90 percent of Indian gas distributors are independents, and that the industry is growing at an astounding rate of 19 percent. The growing industry is in need of new technologies and more advanced products, and Tiku is on a quest to bring higher quality gas cylinders and other allied products to the Indian gas market.

GAWDA SMC President's reception

A packed house for the President's Reception

Live tweeting from SMC got underway with the event, and it was great to see other members joining the conversation on Twitter with the hash tag #gawda. I’m hoping to get even more members involved tomorrow. If you haven’t joined in yet, it’s not too late—and signing up for Twitter couldn’t be easier. Just head over to www.twitter.com/signup and follow the instructions on screen. Be sure to follow www.twitter.com/GasWeldEdge for my updates, and use tag #GAWDA to join the conversation.

If you’re at the SMC, please stop me and say hello (see my picture at left). I’d love to hear your feedback about my blog and what you’d like to see more of in the future. Even if you’re not in Baltimore, I’d love to hear from you, too. Send me a message on Twitter to let me know what you think.

Check back tomorrow for part two of my daily blog from SMC. There’s a full day in store, with the opening business session, contact booth program and more.

Previewing The SMC Technology Discussion

Friday, April 27th, 2012
Technology Panel from the 2011 SMC

Technology panel at the 2011 SMC in Tampa, FL

GAWDA members, get ready for an exciting and interactive technology discussion this coming Tuesday, May 1, at the Spring Management Conference. Social Media Speaker Karl Meinhardt will join GAWDA’s Management Information for an “audience” interactive technology session that will leave you with some great takeaway value.

Back in February, the Management Information Committee sent out a survey to find out what technology challenges are facing GAWDA members. We received a great response, hearing from more than 125 members. You submitted your answers, and the MI Committee is responding to the issues you identified as the greatest concerns.

We asked members “How would you rate your current level or use of technology at your company?” Most felt they could be doing more with technology, with more than 70% of respondents rating their technology use as medium (63%) or low (8%).

What’s keeping members from investing in technology? The results were mixed, with cost (39.4%) and support (32.1%) selected as the greatest concerns.

We asked members “What is your biggest Information Technology problem or concern?” The overwhelming response was “Keeping up with the latest technology and how it can be leveraged to help my business.”

So what technologies do members want to know more about? We received a wide range of responses, and a few technologies emerged as most important to GAWDA members. Is there any value to mobile devices or are they just another IT gizmo?  Is Cloud Computing a passing another passing phase, or is it something I can leverage it within my organization to cut operational costs? These are a few of the questions we will address in our panel discussion.

If you think Social Media is just another passing phase or a cool toy your children play with…think again! Karl Meinhardt will be sure to “wow” you with his unique take on Social Media and how you can leverage it (for “Free”) as a sales and marketing tool and stay more closely connected to your customers.

Join us for a provocative and interactive technology discussion on Tuesday, May 1, to find out what the experts say you should be doing and how your peers are leveraging technology to gain the competitive advantage!

Chris Dominiak Guest Blogger Chris Dominiak is chair of GAWDA’s Management Information Committee. He is manager of information systems and technologies at Norco in Boise, ID.

4 Things To Do Before SMC

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Members network at the 2011 Spring Management Conference

With GAWDA’s Spring Management Conference only days away, there’s still time for some last minute planning to get the most out of your time in Baltimore. Even if you’re unable to attend the show in person, there are opportunities to learn and network remotely.

1. Prepare Questions
The SMC brings together some of the finest minds in the gases and welding business. Use them to your benefit! To get the most out of your investment in attending, think ahead and write down questions you have for your business. When you know what your questions are, you can seek out networking opportunities with a purpose. If you’re not at the SMC in person, ask questions on Twitter and LinkedIn where appropriate.

2. Sign Up for Twitter
Twitter is a great place to connect with fellow industry members during the Spring Management Conference and beyond. For the 2012 SMC, I will be live tweeting updates from my Twitter account @GasWeldEdge, sharing gossip and insightful comments overheard at the event.

To join the conversation, all you have to do is sign up for a free Twitter account. To find your first few followers, I’ve set up an entire list of GAWDA members on Twitter. During the SMC, search for tag #GAWDA, and #GAWDA to your own tweets about the conference. Share what you’re learning and react to what others are saying.

3. Tidy Up your LinkedIn Profile
Odds are, you’ve got your business card ready for the conference—but what’s the state of your LinkedIn profile? After meeting peers and prospective business partners at a conference, one of the best ways I’ve found to capitalize on those introductions is by taking all the business cards you’ve collected and connecting with those people on LinkedIn. Make sure your profile is accurate and as complete as possible. LinkedIn will offer suggestions on how to complete your profile along the way by adding areas of expertise and more.

4. Do Some Research
It doesn’t have to be heavy reading, but it never hurts to read up on the latest industry and member news. What better way to start off a conversation with an industry peer than by showing you know something about them and their company? Think: “I saw that you just opened a new branch in Columbus. How’s the manufacturing market in that area?”

Where can you find this information? You might bring your copy of Welding & Gases Today along on your flight to Baltimore. Or while you’re waiting in the airport, take a look through the daily news headlines on the mobile version of www.gawdawiki.org.

As speaker and legal consultant Matt Hoffman writes in his blog post “Ten Rules for Conference Attendees,” “The amount of preparation you do before the conference is directly proportional to the benefits you’ll receive after it.” He has some other great tips as well, such as “Don’t tell someone you’ll follow up unless you intend to. Breaking the first promise you make to someone makes them believe you’ll break others, too.”

How do you prepare for the Spring Management Conference? Share by leaving a comment, and don’t forget to tweet during the conference using hash tag #GAWDA.

GAWDA’s Regional Meetings Are A Must

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

GAWDA Regional MeetingThe calendar reads March and that means the seasons are changing.  Of course we know that Spring is right around the corner.  But more importantly for GAWDA members, Regional Meeting Season is upon us.  The season stretches from early Spring to late Autumn.  A quick check of the GAWDA calendar shows that nine meetings have already been scheduled.

Regional meetings are a vital part of GAWDA membership.  They nurture the symbiotic relationship between member and association.  The meetings are better when you attend, and you get more out of GAWDA by attending a regional meeting.

At the meeting, you have the opportunity to visit with distributors in your area and hear what is working for them and share ideas for tackling common challenges.  You get to put a face with a supplier who is in your area and is eager to help you grow your business.  And GAWDA provides an update on the latest benefits provided to its members and issues that are important to our industry.

Birmingham, AL, GAWDA Regional Meeting

Vestavia Hills is the home of the 2012 Birmingham Regional Meeting, March 25-26.

This year, the Birmingham-Dixie regional meeting is first on the docket.  We kick off our event with an evening dinner and cocktail reception Sunday night.  On Monday we start with breakfast and an update from GAWDA.  We then have three great speakers who will deliver “take-home value.”  We will hear from a Morgan Stanley analyst for an economic update, an industry executive on the state of consolidation and a university professor who is training the next generation of industrial distributors.  We will wrap up the meeting with a tournament on Birmingham’s finest golf course to determine the region’s best sand baggers.

Since 2008, I’ve attended regional meetings in Hattiesburg, Mobile, Fort Myers, Biloxi, Houston and Birmingham.  Each meeting is unique in its content.  But all have in common the rich camaraderie of industry friends and partners convening to make this industry better. So do yourself a favor, make GAWDA better, find a regional meeting near you and make plans to attend.

Guest Blogger James Cain is vice president of Atlas Welding Supply in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He is chair of the Birmingham, Alabama, GAWDA Regional Meeting.