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This year’s AIM/R conference will be held in Seattle. With new features, guest speakers, and understandings to take away this October, I spoke with current AIM/R President Tim Morales who offered up heaps of details. Gaining further insight and information on this year’s event, Seattle and AIM/R have a lot in store for attendees.
Danielle Galian: What new things can people expect this year?
Tim Morales: To start with, Seattle is a first. So in lieu of the Cuban band and cigar rollers we enjoyed last year in Coral Gables, Florida, this year’s attendees will enjoy the sights and sounds of the Pacific Northwest. They will also enjoy the launch of AIM/R’s Comedy Lounge when comedian Don Friesen takes the stage following the Golden Eagle reception and awards dinner. Rumor has it that Don’s “kids think he’s funny and his wife thinks he is an idiot,” and we sure hope he’s as funny as he is billed to be.
DG: What are you bringing back this year?
TM: One session that is back by popular demand is the rep and manufacturer roundtable. During this session, we break up into groups with a mix of manufacturers and reps at each table. A moderator will then allow participants to present an issue or opportunity to their group and solicit feedback. It is amazing how much one can learn by leveraging the experience present at the conference. This setting also creates an environment that encourages communication between reps and their factory partners.
DG: Why was Seattle chosen for this year’s conference?
TM: Venues are selected by the conference chair and approved by the board of directors. Rick Root of Bailey Sales is heading up this year’s conference, and not unlike many before him, he elected to host this event in his own backyard. And what a backyard it is. Seattle is home to Amazon, Microsoft, Costco, and of course Bailey Sales. I am excited about the location and look forward to spending time in Seattle.
DG: What sessions are you most excited about at this year’s conference?
TM: Elkay is sponsoring a speaker named Robb Best who has a rock star reputation. All reviews are that he has a very fresh approach to this age-old subject. Robb if you’re out there... don’t let me down.
DG: Which speakers are people most looking forward to hearing?
TM: There are several great speakers lined up for this year’s conference including Bill Stainton, an Emmy Award winning TV producer. Stainton will share his perspective on a range of subjects from customer service to motivational leadership and managing office politics. We will also hear from Dave Mitchell an award-winning author who will provide insights into “How Great Leaders Think.” Mitchell also has a great reputation, and I look forward to that session.
DG: What can first-time attendees expect?
TM: Expect a lot of energy. From AIM/R reps to our manufacturing partners, you will be surrounded by some of the brightest and most passionate people in our industry. The sessions and speakers are great; however, first timers should also be aware that some of the most powerful knowledge you gain, may well be from the person sitting beside you. Take time to meet and greet as many people as possible.
DG: How can attendees make the most of their experience?
TM: I would strongly suggest that all first-time attendees register for the “LOT/T’s of Brews Networking Happy Hour.” Southern California-based Keyline Sales is sponsoring this event in conjunction with AIM/R’s LOT/T Group, the Leaders of Tomorrow Today. The purpose of this pre-conference event is to familiarize first timers and ensure they get the most out of the conference. Note that this event requires pre-registration.
DG: What are your thoughts on leadership?
TM: As it relates to AIM/R, leadership is about listening and careful observation. In that regard, I am very fortunate to be surrounded by what is likely the most talented board AIM/R has ever fielded. I am also blessed to walk in the footsteps of some extremely bright operators. When you keep the company I’ve been blessed with, leadership simply requires keeping conversations on track, documenting actionable items, setting timelines and following through. I should mention that our Executive Director, Stacey Woldt, does an exceptional job bringing out the ‘A’ game in all of us.
DG: Let’s talk about the AIM/R organization today, what’s new?
TM: I love to quote a phrase from Steve Case’s book, “The Third Wave.” In it he quotes an African Proverb to the effect of, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” In keeping with this philosophy, we recently announced a new alliance with MANA. For those unfamiliar, MANA is the largest association of agents and manufacturers in North America. Effective Q1 of this year, AIM/R Rep membership now includes membership in MANA with all the benefits and privileges entitled therein. This alliance builds on a Memo of Understanding reached with CIPH, the Canadian Institute of Plumbing & Heating and countless joint agreements with the American Supply Association. When you have a long road ahead of you, the company you keep will define the journey. AIM/R intends to go far, very far and we are traveling in good company.
DG: What is the biggest change in the industry from your perspective?
TM: I believe the obvious answer is the consumer shift towards E-commerce. This is in keeping with the theme for this year’s conference “Disruptive Leadership.” Change has never come at us so fast and while intimidating, it also screams of opportunity. I firmly believe that people still want to buy from people; however, they want to buy from people with knowledge and inventory of the product they want. Consumers also want to see that product in a desirable setting. In the absence of these conditions the internet is the obvious option. That said, from a wholesale perspective we need to ask ourselves if we pass this litmus test:
DG: What is the proudest moment for you when looking back at AIM/R’s history?
TM: While it was a bit before my time, I must go back to our founding. For those unfamiliar, AIM/R was formed as a subset of AIM, The Association of Industry Manufacturers. This was a precursor to what is now PMI, Plumbing Manufacturer’s International. In 1973, the AIM Board of Directors led by Fred Schmuck, AIM chairman and then vice president of Fluidmaster saw the need for their independent rep forces to meet regularly, to share best practices and to collectively refine their skills. AIM understood the value and more importantly the potential of independent sales representatives. That vision and nearly 44 years of collective effort have delivered what is today the most potent sales force our industry has ever seen. Today it is unequivocal that there is no faster, more effective or economical access to the plumbing and mechanical market than via the independent rep channel. We owe this status to our manufacturing partners, to the distributors who support our agencies and to decades of AIM/R volunteer leadership.
DG: What continues to motivate you in your role?
TM: I would have to say advocacy. While the clear majority of industry leaders recognize the value that independent reps deliver, there are always new faces in the industry, or a new accountant that finds their way to the rep commission line on a P&L. Today, AIM/R agencies employ more than 5,700 people, operate 237 third-party logistic hubs, and generate more than $7 billion in sales. The typical firm has been in business 38 years and possesses hundreds of years’ industry experience. This tenure delivers a level of stability to our distribution and manufacturing partners that would not be present in our absence. The most successful manufacturers know this and leverage the rep channel to their benefit. I feel motivated to communicate these facts in the interest of all concerned. Bottom line, there is no better way to market than via a rep and there is no better rep than an AIM/R rep. See you in Seattle!
The 45th Annual AIM/R conference will be held Oct. 17-20 at the Westin Seattle. For more information visit aimr.net.