Industry Week Gaining Momentum

(October 31, 2018) The Business Solutions Association (BSA), the US trade association comprising manufacturers, wholesalers and manufacturer rep groups, is spearheading an effort in the US to launch an Industry Week. It is something that the association’s President, Avery’s Barry Lane, has been advocating for some time and which he referred to in August when he spoke to OPI ahead of the BSA Annual Forum that took place in Indianapolis in September.

The Industry Week was a central theme at the annual BSA Forum and at the heart of an industry planning session facilitated by Janet Collins. An Industry Week ‘point team’ was also introduced – this includes representatives of leading manufacturers such as Lane himself, BSA Vice President Casey Avent of Smead, executives from the likes of HP, IP, Kimberly-Clark, HON and 3M, NOPA CEO Mike Tucker and, importantly, two senior executives from SP Richards and Essendant.

As Lane explains: “We’ve done the hard work and some of the heavy lifting and now we’ve got not only consensus, but momentum and, I believe, ‘permission’ to take this initiative to the next level.”

At the BSA Forum, participants looked at the fundamental areas of the ‘what’, the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of the Industry Week. The ‘what’ is probably best summed up as rolling up as many as nine existing industry events – such as EPIC, ABC, CORE and the dealer group one-to-ones – to create one, single annual meeting point (“The industry event not to be missed,” says Lane) for the independent dealer channel in the US.

For the ‘why’, Lanes likes to describe it as a ‘CEO’ approach: Cost reduction, Eliminating redundancies, and Optimizing resources.

Avent adds: “The consolidation we are seeing in the marketplace is making this idea much more realistic for everybody – just from the perspective of an executive looking at the balance sheet and deciding which events to participate in or not, this initiative makes a lot of sense. We’ve got buy-in from those stakeholders we need buy-in from; now it’s about execution and participation to make this thing happen.”

For the ‘how’ part, there are a still a lot of unanswered questions regarding areas such as format, location, participants, funding, etc. For example, will there be a trade show or not? This is something that has grated with manufacturers over many years as there has been an expectation – even an obligation – for them to foot the bill for events and, on some occasions, they have been left questioning the return on their investment.

Therefore, the concept of the ‘value proposition’ of Industry Week, both for manufacturers/vendors and dealers, is top of mind. “We have to have enough value to intrigue people,” states Avent, who says the BSA will survey the industry to find out what’s important and build a structure around that.

Ideas that have been suggested so far include different tracks depending on job responsibilities (eg CEO vs sales rep), table-top vendor displays as opposed to a full-blown trade show, one-to-one meetings, and an attractive location that keeps everyone together for the duration of the event.

With the point team up and running – and the possibility of adding more members to it – the goal is to push ahead with the key decisions over the next few months, including the setting up of committees to handle the legal, logistical, financial and educational aspects. SPR – which has existing infrastructure in place for large event organization – has offered a helping hand.

2020 may seem like a long way off, but in terms of organizing an event of this magnitude – selecting and booking a venue, for example – it’s just around the corner. The timing seems right for this kind of event and it will be interesting to see how the initiative develops in the coming weeks on the back of the momentum that BSA has built over the past few months. - (OPI)