Courtesy of the American Supply Association (ASA), up-and-comers throughout the industry will have the opportunity to network this spring in Cleveland. ASA’s Young Executive Spring Forum, taking place May 22-24, will give 150 distributors, vendors, manufacturers and representatives the chance to meet peers around the industry, tour the Oatey facility, and visit the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
“The Wholesaler” spoke with Patrick Maloney, HVAC division manager for Coburn Supply Co. and chairman of Young Executives (YE) about the Spring Forum. Maloney, who has attended the YE Spring Forum for 10 years, told us what first-time and veteran attendees can expect, and some of the things ASA has planned
The Wholesaler (TW): What can you tell us about the conference?
Patrick Maloney (PM): We’re excited that Oatey is going to be our sponsor this year. Typically, we try to have a supplier partner that helps bring in speakers for the Spring Forum. Different leadership from the sponsor company come in and talk to us about what it means to be a leader. There’s a bunch of different facets to leadership, so they are very helpful in getting people to come and talk about the different roles.
We always want to give our supplier partner an opportunity to show off its company. For Oatey, we’re going to tour one of its plants and hopefully learn something from its manufacturing process. Or, we might see some new tools or products it’s manufacturing, that we can hopefully bring back. I think the main thing that we want to get out of it is to learn more about the supplier partner that’s helping to sponsor the Forum.
The other piece is networking. This year, as a result of member feedback, we will have some roundtable discussions. Our members wanted to spend more time talking to each other because they are all coming in from different parts of the country. It doesn’t matter if they’re coming from a single-branch location or a 50-branch location or distributor, they all have the same issues, including hiring the right people, getting young people into our companies, or moving up. We hope they build those relationships and friendships through networking.
TW: Is the Forum generally attended by rookie or veteran industry members?
PM: The term “Young Executive” isn’t necessarily an accurate description. I think it refers to someone who is up and coming within a company. We also have a lot of industry veterans still attend. I would say the majority of people are younger. When I first got into the industry, I didn’t really know anyone. I knew of ASA, and had been to a couple of the conferences and thought that it was neat, but I didn’t know what it could do for me.
TW: What are some benefits attendees bring back to their companies?
PM: We always have at least half a day of leadership training. There was one time we had an accountant who taught us different things that we needed to look at to measure profitability. Another year we had someone with a PR background who taught us how to sell ourselves.
This year we have Alex Goldfayn, CEO of Evangelist Marketing Institute. His message will be on selling tips and strategies, and how to direct sales people. So hopefully what attendees leave with is a different way to look at a sales strategy. Maybe a different way to talk to their peers.
Also, the (sponsor) always has a keynote speaker who shares their experience on leadership or their tenure within the company. What we hope is that it is inspirational. Attendees can take that home and build with it.
TW: What can first-time attendees expect?
PM: We have a first time attendee lunch. That’s always a great thing because it’s only the new people and the YE board members. We’ll explain what they should expect, and during lunch, the board members will discuss different issues in an effort to get to know the new attendees. It might be, “Hey, where did you travel in from and how was the travel?” or “What are you looking forward to/getting out of this?” or “what are your roles?” It’s a networking opportunity.
TW: What can returning attendees expect?
PM: Networking is something that’s always one of the biggest takeaways. Hopefully this time everybody walks away with something tangible. It might just be one thing, but hopefully they take that one thing back and try to implement it within their business.
The second or third time someone comes, hopefully they are seeing the same people and exchanging email addresses or phone numbers. From there, hopefully whenever they run into an issue back home, they can say “Hey I’m going to call this person because I met them at YE and maybe they ran into this issue before.”
TW: Are there any popular returning seminars?
PM: The majority of people that come typically are in a sales role. Naturally a lot of requests for seminars or training are built around sales. I think this year one thing that’s going to be neat is Oatey, and I don’t know how they did it, but they have actually reserved the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for us for dinner, and we’ll be able to walk around in the Hall of Fame all to ourselves. So I think that’s definitely cool!
TW: What are the benefits of hosting the event in Cleveland?
PM: It’s a central location in the U.S., so hopefully it’s easy for people to get there. When we’re looking at locations, we work with the supplier partner that’s going to be the sponsor and find out from them what’s available. For instance, next year we’re going to partner with American Standard, which is in New Jersey, but the company has two showrooms in Manhattan, so we will take a trip to those. We try to work with the supplier partner to find out from them what message they want to get across. What facility do they want to show off? That’s really what we’re looking for; we want to be able to work for them.
TW: What is the focus more on: leadership or networking?
PM: If someone is attending the Forum, then somebody within that company, be it a manufacturer, distributor, or rep agency, saw something in that individual worth investing time and money in. They want that person to hopefully grow and become more well rounded. This is a time where we can learn about something.
The training seminar is key, but there is something to networking with your peers. There’s something to talking to somebody who is a non-competitor. I’m based out of Texas, and for me to call up someone in Ohio or Connecticut and say “I have this issue, what do you do about that?” is valuable to me. That happens because of networking. That happens because we have roundtable discussions, and you grow those relationships.
The training seminar is what we like to highlight, but at the same time the networking piece cannot be undervalued.