Manufacturers rep conference stresses education through networking.

Motivational speaker and comedian Charles Marshall gives a humorous talk on the importance of customer service at AIM/R’s annual conference in Boston. Photo by Mike Miazga

Bradford WhiteVice President of SalesJim McGoldrick the 2012 recipient of AIM/R’s prestigious Golden Eagle Award, presented annually to a senior-level management individual of a manufacturing firm that utilizes manufacturers reps and has a proven track record in support of manufacturers reps being the most efficient and cost-effective method of going to market.         

McGoldrick Jr. was presented the award at a reception at historic Fenway Park in Boston as part ofAIM/R’s 40th annual conference. The conference, held at the Hyatt Regency Boston, featured a university theme where best practices and networking sessions were treated as college-level courses. Educational opportunities and productive networking sessions were in abundance during the nearly three-day event.

Lively discussions were commonplace throughout the conference. The manufacturers’ breakfast and orientation hosted by past AIM/R presidents at the historic Boston Opera House generated debate on how a difficult territory should be dealt with. Several prominent plumbing industry manufacturers advocated stepping up assistance on their end and fostering a greater cooperative effort between manufacturer and rep entities.

Upstairs at the Opera House, AIM/R’s Leaders of Tomorrow young executives group hosted a well-attended three-hour session that included rep agency profiles, an introduction to rep contracts, as well asSandra Long’s “Legacy to Leader” talk.

The conference’s general session kicked off with Institute For Trend Research’sDr. Jeff Dietrichpresenting a somewhat brighter picture of the nation’s economic situation both now and in the immediate future.

“What Americans are doing with money right now is a positive,” he said. “People aren’t buying everything they think they want, but they are back to buying stuff.”

Dietrich also noted optimism stems from the nation’s current demographic. “The current average is 2.1 units (children) per family,” he said, drawing a laugh from the crowd for the use of the word ‘units.’ “If you want to be anywhere in the world, you want to be in an economy that is growing and creating the next generation of laborers, consumers and taxpayers. Change is happening. We’re already creating that next generation of those contributing to rebuilding and regenerating this country.”

And the immediate future?

“Another recession is not imminent. That’s the signal we are seeing,” said Dietrich, who noted the year 2029 is one to keep an eye on in terms of significant economic turmoil. “2014 looks like it could be mild and 2018 could be a more significant recession unless we reduce debts and deficits.”

Dietrich’s “Make Your Move!” presentation title was aimed directly at businesses. “There is opportunity even with the economy as damaged as it has been,” he said. “The economy is already healing and is recovering and will grow stronger. We still live in the land of opportunity - opportunity as it impacts our space and the rest of the world.”

Other notable speakers

Calera Capital Managing PartnerMark Williamsontalked to reps and manufacturers about private equity, while Rich-Tompkins PresidentStew Chaffeediscussed the future of the manufacturer-wholesaler-rep relationship, presenting findings from an informal AIM/R rep survey on the topic. Chaffee invited A.O. Smith’sJohn Altepeterand Chicago Faucets’Matthew Hurleyon stage to join the forum. 

A town hall meeting among reps produced beneficial talks on topics such as lead-free legislation and how reps are working with manufacturers to prepare for the upcoming change; Internet sales; health care; and relationships with wholesalers.

Technology consultant and authorPaul Gillindelivered his presentation on rep B2B marketing and social media strategy. “If a buyer’s behavior is shifting and digital is part of it, you need to be aware of it,” he said.

Motivational speaker and comedianCharles Marshall(pictured)  brought the house down with his humorous presentation on customer service. Marshall noted businesses always should remember the letters SERVE: Surprise customers with excellence; evaluate their needs and train to be an active listener; respond to needs; validate a customer’s experience with you; and extend the relationship into a future relationship.

“Good customer service doesn’t mean you don’t ever make a mistake,” he said. “Good customer service and good character means you man up and show up and make it right.”

Other topics of discussion at AIM/R included entrepreneurship, leadership, tablets and cloud technology, and succession planning.

The conference’s new Rep Café session where breakout groups discussed best practices and concerns and then relayed key talking points to the entire assembly was again a major hit and was requested to be included in future conferences.

Michel Sales PresidentKelly Michelwas the conference’s “commencement speaker” on the final day and delivered a tremendous speech outlining his rep career progression, while giving reps poignant advice on preparing for the future.

AIM/R’s 2013 Board of Directors was sworn in with Preferred Sales’ PresidentAlan Guidishtaking over as AIM/R’s new president and Burke Agency’sBrian Burke, the 2012 conference chairman, becoming president-elect.

The 2013 AIM/R Conference will be held Sept. 25-29 in Albuquerque, N.M.

Video interviews from the AIM/R Conference can be viewed atSupply House Times’ YouTube channel.