Why should you attend industry events?

Mar 4, 2011 | Business

In case you don’t want to read the whole article, I’ll put the answer key right here at the top.
WRONG A) Buy a new machine from a vendor
WRONG B) Listen to a couple speakers and rush back to your office
RIGHT! C) Talk to your peers to generate new ideas for your business

When I think about the best business ideas I’ve had over the past 15 years, I remember distinctly where each of them happened. And not one happened while sitting in my office. I’m not referring to the incremental improvements we make every day or week. I mean those times when you change direction significantly. These are the events that dictate the course of your business for the next 6-12 months or more.

I often try to reproduce the experience by listening to podcasts, and reading books or blogs by people I admire. But it doesn’t have the same effect when I’m in my normal routine. When I’m away from the office, I tend to think about issues in a different light. I don’t know why this happens, because I’d be happy to have really good ideas all the time. But I think when I’m in my normal routine, I allow the constraints of the current situation too much influence. And I suspect that’s why I have a hard time coming up with truly novel ideas.

Another place I’ve tried to do some deep thinking is on vacation. I’ve read many a business book at the beach, and it’s never led to real inspiration. In fact my first day back at work after vacation looks a lot like my last day of vacation, except I’m wearing pants. That is not the same when I’m truly inspired with a new idea.

My best ideas have been generated when I am:

  1. Away from the office
  2. Not distracted by what’s happening at the office
  3. Talking to other people about my business or their business

I suspect my brain is thinking “Hey, maybe we never have to go back to the office if we come up with a new plan! Let’s get cracking!” Then somewhere along the way I get inspired with a new idea, and unfortunately for my brain, I run back to the office and start working on it.

Here is today’s tip for improving your business:

  1. Once a quarter attend some type of industry event. This can be broadly defined — maybe some events are specific to your industry (e.g. countertops), others are specific to your job function (e.g. sales or marketing).
  2. Don’t check back with the office during every break. You need to truly be away from the office for the day.
  3. At the event, you must talk to your peers! It took me a while to learn this. I wasted many opportunities because I sat in the room, listened to the speakers, then left. I got little benefit from those days. But the times where I took every opportunity to talk with the people around me, I had many valuable conversations.
  4. Invite the most interesting people you meet to have dinner afterwards. If you found someone whose brain you can mine for information, don’t let them get away! Buy them dinner and extract all the insight you can.

What events should you attend?

  • Coverings is just a week away on Mar 14-17.
  • The next Stone Industry Education event is Mar 30. There are many more scheduled for 2011, all sponsored by MIA, Stone World, and even us at Moraware.
  • The next SFA Workshop is Apr 14-16, with 6 more scheduled for 2011.
  • The International Countertop Expo is Oct 20-22.
  • You just missed StonExpo, but it will be back next year.

Other ways to do this are take one or two of your coworkers and just get away from the office and do something else. You should talk about work, but not the exact same conversations you have at the office. We’ve had great success doing this while walking in the woods in Oregon, hiking through a canyon in Georgia, and even boogie boarding in Florida.