More and more manufacturers find it worthwhile attending. 

AIM/R officers for 2010 are (from left) Alan Guidish, Preferred Sales, Senior VP - Industry & PR; Mark Creyer, L & R Associates, President-elect; Steve Fleming, Reid Pacific Co., Senior VP - Membership; Ken McGregor, McGregor & Assoc., Senior VP – Conference; Mike Parham, Pepco Sales, President. Missing from photo is Brian Burke, Burke Agency, Senior VP - Education. (Photo by Kim Burke, Interep Systems)

For almost four decades AIM/R has looked at itself with justifiable pride as the education and advocacy hub for independent manufacturers reps in the PHCP industry. After almost a decade of fierce debate within the organization about whether to allow manufacturers to attend its annual conference, a “yes” verdict was reached several years ago. Its 38th Annual Conference, held March 17-20 in Las Vegas, laid to rest any lingering doubts whether it was the right decision.

A growing number of manufacturers have found the conference worthwhile attending and their participation has paid off in tangible ways. Programming at the Las Vegas event was highlighted by sessions on four topics jointly developed by an AIM/R Manufacturer Advisory Committee (MAC) charged with defining subjects of mutual interest. The hot topics chosen were:
  • Transitioning Manufacturer Relationships for Succession;
  • Surviving the Economic Downturn of the Past Year;
  • Best Rep Practices for Communication and Promotion of Products;
  • Shifting the Marketing & Customer Service Function to Reps.

Brian Burke, AIM/R’s Senior VP - Education, hosts one of the rep-manufacturer breakout sessions along with Sandra Wiedebusch, National Sales Manager for Heritage Plastics. (Photo by Jim Olsztynski)

Other educational programming included a presentation by author John Sileo on “Avoiding Identity Theft in Your Business.” Sileo has authored a book, “Stolen Lives,” and built a consultancy around his personal experience after spending two years consumed with a legal and financial nightmare after a business partner - and former best friend - engaged in various scams under Sileo’s identity. He held the crowd’s attention by detailing a variety of everyday casual activities that easily result in security breaches.

For instance, Sileo noted that 13% of identity theft occurs when someone in a retail establishment skims credit card information. A simple prevention measure is to tape a note to the front and back of credit cards asking that proprietors ask for a photo ID before accepting them. According to Sileo, 95% of retailers will oblige. He also alerted AIM/R members to a phone number to call, 1-888-5OPTOUT, which prevents anyone from establishing credit in your name.

Bradford-White’s Bruce Carnevale (holding microphone) and Anvil’s Harold Arrowsmith were among manufacturer executives in attendance addressing rep concerns. (Photo by Kim Burke, Interep Systems)

AIM/R members and service providers conducted additional sessions on:
  • Succession Planning Within Your Agency;
  • Taxes & the Obama Administration;
  • HSAs and the Obama Health Care Program;
  • How to Survive an IRS Audit;
  • What Happens When a Customer or Principal Goes Bankrupt;
  • How to Screen Salespeople Before Hiring;
  • Warehousing: Buy/Sell, Consignment & Commission Sales Pros & Cons;
  • Increasing Productivity Through a Paperless Office.

The latter was a breakout session sponsored by AIM/R’s energetic LOT (Leaders of Tomorrow) group, consisting of young agency principals and heirs.

Supply House Times’ Editor Jim Olsztynski (at right) shares some camaraderie with rep Brendan Cross (Harcro Sales, Hayward, CA). (Photo by Kim Burke, Interep Systems)

A tradition at every AIM/R Conference is the annual “Town Hall” meeting, in which members gather to discuss any topic they wish that is bedeviling the organization or their businesses. One of the key themes dealt with at this session concerned the fact that reps need to “toot their own horn” more in making sure customers’ top management understands what they are doing. Sometimes reps get badmouthed by top management (“We never see them!”) who base their impressions on lack of personal contact, even though the rep in question may be doing a terrific job for operational staffers at the branches and inside desks.

AIM/R announced that its 2011 conference will shift from spring to a fall date. The spring conference has become increasingly hard to schedule due to conflicts with numerous trade shows, buying group meetings and other industry events taking place at that time of year.

The 2010 Conference concluded with the annual volleyball tournament sponsored bySupply House Times. For more about this year’s AIM/R Conference, read my “In Closing” column.