Trade shows/mixed groups offer the chance to learn from your peers
By Tom Grandy
If you had been married 25 years and were having relationship problems, would you schedule an appointment with a 21-year-old college graduate? I have a hunch the advice provided wouldn’t help a lot. On the other hand, suggestions from an older couple probably would.
Last year, I spent three days providing free coaching sessions for contractors at the National Air Conditioning Contractors Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. The sessions went really well, with most contractors picking up a few tips from the old guy who has been providing business training to the industry for nearly 30 years. Part of each initial conversation centered on the contractors’ experience thus far at the convention. As you might have suspected, nearly all said they learned a lot. But I’ll bet they learned more by talking with contractors one-on-one in the halls, during breaks and/or at social events than in one or more of the breakout sessions. One-hundred percent of the contractors I talked to agreed: The best advice came from other contractors. That is not a slam on the presenters — I am one of those guys — but when it comes to relating and asking personal business questions, they wanted to talk to someone who had been there.
Contractors who are part of a mixed group have found it their most valuable asset when it came to answering everyday questions about their businesses.
In case you are unfamiliar with the term mixed group, it normally consists of four to six contractors who do similar work, with each living in noncompeting territories. Generally, they meet as a group two to four times a year at each other’s facilities. Each visit consists of evaluating the host companies business while often covering a topic like hiring, marketing or KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) following the company evaluation. What begins as a couple physical visits a year quickly evolves into monthly, or even weekly, phone calls covering specific needs to see if other group members might have input. They usually do! Every contractor I have talked to, across many trades, who was part of a mixed group tells me the same thing: It is the best investment of their time, energy and resources they have ever made.
I encourage you to attend conventions, sign up for seminars and attend chapter meetings and/or live webinars. You will undoubtedly pick up great tips that will help your business. However, if you are willing to be honest with others, while receiving practical, time-tested advice, I would strongly suggest you consider being part of a mixed group.
Tom Grandy is the founder of Grandy & Associates. An industrial engineer by training, Grandy has worked as general manager of a service company and was previously the director of company development for Dial One franchise. Grandy founded Grandy & Associates in 1987 to teach contractors how to run profitable businesses. firstname.lastname@example.org, grandyassociates.com.