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Cheers! Let’s Network!!

“Honey, I’m networking.” This classic misinterpreted excuse for every golfing trip, bar outing and overnight trip with the business buddies is actually a reality. Spouses across America, your significant-others are not lying: networking is actually working.

Effective networking is a valuable tool for building long term, mutually profitable business relationships. Last week, we had the honor of hosting the GAWDA Seven Springs Regional Meeting. If the GAWDA Annual Convention is the 500 ft. level, and the SMC is the 50 ft. level, then the GAWDA Regional falls in perfect line at 5 ft. With this reputation, Regionals are notorious for providing excellent networking and fun golfing opportunities. For the Seven Springs Regional, we pushed to add strong business content to this mix. It’s the business content that’s going to attract distributors, and distributors attract suppliers. Strong business value presented in a well organized meeting flanked by plenty of social events at a destination location: build it and they will come.

This year, we had over 100 attendees join us at the GAWDA Seven Springs Regional. The event kicked off with a Mountain BBQ the first night where, so far, the only noted complaint was ‘loud music.’ The following morning, multiple industry experts presented various topics during the business session. Ned Lane (Cee Kay Supply) spoke to the group about accountability in the sales process and documenting value through customer value reports. Next, we heard from our Generation Dynamics Panel: Dave and Colleen Mahoney (Noble Gas Solutions) and Neil and Scott MacKay (West Penn Laco). The panel tackled the issues of multiple generations in business, addressing the industry’s future threats and opportunities and how to cultivate success with the younger generation. During the next presentation, Marie Fournier (Tecsys) discussed achieving optimum inventory levels and fostered debate about an accurate industry benchmark for inventory turns. Jim Herring (SafTCart) shared an industry safety update from the GAWDA Safety Committee and Craig Wood (O.E. Meyer) presented the GAWDA update. A golf tournament followed the business session and the event closed with the award reception that evening.

Although extremely time consuming, organizing the Regional meeting is a fun and rewarding learning experience. Planning the presentations requires the most strategy; planning the parties pretty much comes naturally. This year for the presentations, I wanted to showcase mostly distributors. Putting knowledgeable distributor experts on the agenda obviously guarantees their attendance, but it also attracts the largest audience. Distributors like listening to other distributors because it offers the greatest take-home value; you get to see what your industry peers are doing and absorb what’s working for them because it will probably also work for you. Furthermore, two out of the three distributors on the agenda were from outside this Region, empowering them to share more information because they weren’t presenting to a room full of their direct competitors. Suppliers obviously like listening to distributors because they share their needs, wants and expectations in the industry. From my experience, the kiss of death is having an agenda packed with supplier sales pitches. For the one person in the room to whom this applies, there are three others who will walk out or dive into their Blackberries.

After the Regional concludes, the hard part starts again: what can we do next year to top this year? At the very least, we know it will be the ultimate opportunity for networking.

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