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“Craft Your Vision” was the theme to the 47th Annual AIM/R Conference, held September 11 - 14, 2019, at the Walt Disney World Swan hotel in Orlando. The event was packed with more than 400 reps, manufacturers, and service providers who filled their days with networking opportunities and educational sessions that provided an immediate takeaway for use in business.
The event was a year in the planning. Conference Chairman Charlie Parham, CPMR, President of Pepco Sales & Marketing, and a third-generation independent rep, made it his mission to provide an event that maximizes attendees’ time and provide an elevated level of opportunities for forward-thinking learning.
As noted in a recent AIM/R press release, Parham was quoted as saying, “Craft Your Vision was this year’s theme, and I chose that for two reasons. First, I wanted to offer a ‘visionary’ conference, try some new things, and level up the production value a bit. Second, I’ve been working on Pepco’s mission, vision, value, purpose, and so that theme reflected my state of mind. It’s important for all of us to take some time to think big.” He went on to say, “I wanted to have a good mix of professional speakers, rep speakers, and some non-traditional content. Our members want a full agenda of solid education. We take the responsibility seriously and refuse to host a conference that has a lot of empty space.”
The event offered opportunities to engage in learning from industry experts, peers, and high-profile thought-leaders focused on delivering ideas and methodology to reach the next level.
One of the highlights of the event was that of Rory Vaden, Brand Builders, a New York Times bestselling author who spoke on Rock Solid Reputation. ‘Success is not owned, it’s merely rented, and the rent is due every day,’” said Vaden. In a solid 1.5-hour presentation, he provided a step by step process to developing a solid reputation, which had attendees feverish taking notes and pictures of the presentation slides. Afterward, Vaden held several one:one discussions with attendees regarding these techniques.
A dynamic Special Keynote Presentation from the Disney Institute on Disney’s Approach to customer service was presented to a packed and standing room only crowd. The time-tested methods on how to deliver world-class experiences, and apply to one’s business, made a powerful impact on the group.
Special presentations also included honoring greatness in the industry channel. Mark Whittington, EVP of Elkay Corporation, was named the Golden Eagle Award winner. This award recognizes senior-level plumbing manufacturing executives who have actively supported independent reps and the vital role they play in the supply chain. The AIM/R Hall of Fame welcomed two new inductees - Sam McCullough of McCullough & Associates and Dave Watson of Dave Watson Associates. The awards are bestowed on members for their dedication and efforts that help build a solid organizational foundation. A full writeup of the individuals can be found on page 16, in the Industry Connections section.
In other sessions during the conference, consolidation and its impact on the industry was addressed. John Aykroyd, President, IMARK Plumbing, discussed consolidation and provided an update on the IMARK group. His message hit home when he stated, “We are independent distributors, you are independent reps. We are tied at the hip.”
Kevin Murphy, CEO and Jake Schlicher, Senior VP of Product Strategy, Ferguson, discussed the evolving industry and the place of the rep from a wholesaler’s perspective. Murphy stressed the importance of having relentless customer service to attain strategic growth and the value of the rep in the distribution channel.
Other sessions in the packed lineup included Relationship Best Practices featuring Kate Rhoten, Executive Director, MRERF, and Brian Shirley, CPMR. Hugh Hornsby Everflow Supplies also presented on Who Have You Held the Door Open for Today. In a post-interview Hornsby, summed it up by saying, “We can’t do it the way we used to do it. We need to give folks a place to go, help them find their WHY, discuss what they can do with their career, and invest back in them – and this will build our industry into something great.”
Other notable events included concurrent sessions by industry peers covering topics such as How to Build and Market your Agency’s Brand to Managing a Remote Sales Team.
Connecting with peers to discuss challenges and opportunities is vital to the health of the channel. One opportunity is by being part of Leaders of Tomorrow/Today (LOT/T), a rapidly growing division within AIM/R. In the same press release, the group was described as such: “The group iis designed as a forum for the next generation of agency leaders, who are navigating a very mature supply chain while bringing to the table new visions for a more streamlined way of doing business in a heavily digitized world. They are strengthening awareness of the valuable role that independent reps play in their markets.”
LOT/T held three educational sessions by industry veterans Hugh Hornsby, Everflow Supplies, Beau Jolly, Tipton Co., and Chris Eynch, L & R Associates.
“AIM/R brings together individuals to grow through strengthening relationships with people passionate about our industry. Attending the annual conference allows for unique opportunities to engage with wholesalers, manufacturers, and manufacturer’s representatives from all around the country who are committed to be a better industry partner. Working with representatives who are an AIM/R member allows our company to grow beyond sales – and into strong partnerships, greater innovation, and education,” said Lauren Berenato, National Specifications Manager, Jomar.
The R.A.M (Rep & Manufacturer) Roundtable is a cornerstone of the AIM/R conference. The forum provides noncompeting manufacturers and reps an opportunity to exchange ideas and challenges in the channel, and open dialogue to ask the questions to explore how each side can best serve the other.
RISE (the Rep Information / Solution Exchange) is another conference roundtable, but for reps only. During this session, reps self-select a topic of interest, such as compensation or succession planning, and join with others to share information and ask for help on their challenges.
Mark your calendar for next year’s event, taking place September 16 – 19, 2020, in San Diego. For more information, please visit www.aimr.net.