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Making Meetings Count

By John Burgess

September 13, 2023

For my first column for BoxScore, I thought I would lean on personal experience with AICC and its various meetings and conferences. I am often asked what the benefit is of being an AICC member, particularly an Associate member. I think it’s a fair question, given the commitment in time and cost that can go into attending national meetings and summits, along with the sponsorships we provide to help defray the costs of some of the meeting activities.

The benefits are immeasurable. Certainly in this post-COVID-19 world, I believe face-to-face contact has become even more important than it ever was. The ability to spend precious one-on-one time with customers, co-vendors, Emerging Leaders, and others is priceless. To understand the dynamics of the industry at that snapshot in time—both the good and the bad—is business intelligence you cannot gain from any other source. Unlike trade shows, which of course have their place in the hierarchy of personal contacts, AICC meetings provide a much more relaxed environment to meet and get to know customers, and the opportunity to meet their families brings with it a much more personalized environment.

The network of co-suppliers is a valued resource. There is a technique to networking that most understand, and some don’t. To me, the essence of networking is that it’s a two-way street: If you are just the recipient of information and not sometimes the provider, the network will come to a grinding halt. With the number and quality of co-suppliers involved in AICC, the visibility to new projects, machinery upgrades, and greenfield installations is second to none.

What does it take to be a successful Associate member or, for that matter, general member? This is the million-dollar question that should be asked. I think the answer is obvious and straightforward: You have to be prepared to get involved. The AICC slogan “When you invest and engage, AICC delivers success” is so true. Success does not come from just attending one national meeting, playing a round of golf, and expecting business to flow through the door. There is a learning curve to go through as a new member. Who do I target? How interested is the business owner-operator in discussing my product, or is the association made at these meetings going to give me a path to the customer at a later date? I can also tell you from personal experience that if there has ever been a problem with a product or service provided, it’s much easier to discuss that in a casual setting such as a national meeting rather than in your client’s boardroom.

One of the more difficult things when attending these conferences is to remember this is work, not a vacation. It isn’t work in the traditional sense; however, it does afford you the opportunity to meet existing and potential clients from dawn to dusk—and beyond. But don’t oversaturate that potential client; make your point and, if possible, arrange a meeting in the real world after the conference. Most general members offer an open-door policy to fellow AICC members; the “keep it in the family” ethos does really work and can be of great benefit.

The strength of AICC is built upon its members and their active participation in the organization. This, in turn, creates opportunities for innovation to further enhance and support the industry and ultimately benefits all of us associated with this vital and sustainable economic endeavor.

John Burgess is president of Pamarco and vice chairman of AICC’s Associate board.