Attendees at the 73rd annual SWA convention had to deal with some surprises in addition to the training workshops and networking.

Adapting to change is a key element in effective leadership, said Stewart Hall in his president's address during the general session at the Southern Wholesalers Association convention. No one realized the ironic significance of those words until later. One of the most memorable moments of the 2001 SWA convention was when Hall concluded his president's remarks by saying that not only was his term as SWA president ending, but he was also resigning as president/chief operating officer of Hughes Supply (Orlando, Fla.).

"Stewart Hall's announcement really came out of left field," said new SWA president Lee Steinhouse, who also is president of Nashville, Tenn.-based Steinhouse Supply. "It's a huge loss to the industry."

Because Hall is joining his son in a business outside of the PHCP industry, he will not retain a position within SWA as tradition dictates. Instead, Joe White, president of Castle Supply (Pinellas Park, Fla.), who served as SWA president in 1999, will remain as chairman of the board for a second consecutive year.

Another surprise at the meeting was the mention of trade show consolidation as it relates to SWA. In comments about his agenda while SWA president, Hall said that he had wanted to explore the possibility of bringing the SWA convention together with some other region.

"We have had some discussions about possibly combining our annual convention with another regional association or an industry association," Steinhouse later told Supply House Times, "but that would not happen for at least several years. SWA will celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2003. A joint show would not be likely until 2005 or later and it would depend on how the numbers work out."

There is certainly interest in consolidating industry conventions, said Frank Rizzo, executive vice president of SWA and president of Association Resources Inc.

"If another regional association or industry group wanted to co-locate, cosponsor or in some way join forces with SWA for a convention and we could figure out a way to make it work, we would be for it," Rizzo said.

SWA is continually exploring ways to make its convention a better experience and attract more people, he added.

Two leadership-oriented workshops were offered during this year's convention. Kent Vaughn of consulting firm Franklin Covey offered tips on time management and prioritizing, guiding participants to evaluate the balance between their personal and professional lives. Allan Hurst, president of Quorum Ltd., also a consultant, was the keynote speaker. He distributed a self-audit checklist for executives to use to examine their companies' business practices.

The membership of SWA includes about 98 corporate wholesaler entities and 75 associate members, including manufacturers and reps. While wholesaler participation at this year's annual convention was about the same as in past years, attendance by manufacturers and reps was slightly less than had been expected, Steinhouse said. He noted that the manufacturers reps may have had a conflict with another meeting.

SWA's 2002 convention is scheduled for March 14-16 at the Wyndham Palace Resort in Orlando, Fla.

"We want to improve participation," Steinhouse said. "My theme as SWA president is getting everyone involved."