Representor Spring 2021 - From the Top


Channeling the entrepreneurial spirit for success

by John O’Brien, CPMR
Coakley, Boyd and Abbett
ERA President

I am honored and humbled to be writing my first article as President of the ERA. In the spring issue of The Representor, we traditionally look back on the recently concluded ERA Conference. We highlight the Keynote Speaker. We discuss takeaways from the General Sessions. We make plans to implement the lessons learned in the Breakouts Session. And we tell epic stories of the networking experiences, getting to see friends and colleagues that we don’t see on a regular cadence and spending time together.

The 2021 ERA Conference will always be remembered as the first virtual conference ERA ever put on and the theme, “Stronger Together: Reconnecting and Reinventing for Success,” could not have been more appropriate.

Our industry was founded by entrepreneurs, and like all entrepreneurs, the need to be flexible and adapt to the changing climate is the cornerstone of success. As Conference Committee Chair, Craig Anderson, CPMR, of Sumer Inc. and Co-Chair Bryan White, CPMR, of Catalyst Unity Solutions recognized early on in the development of the conference, that ERA was going to have to do things differently if we wanted to make this work. In that time, the ERA staff, Erin Collins and Neda Simeonova, pivoted from an in-person conference to a virtual one. They started reviewing virtual conference companies that would be able to host the ERA Conference and ultimately landed on the one that provided the best platform for our needs. Then the real work began.

ERA Conference Sub-Committees

The conference sub-committees had the difficult task of finding relevant speakers willing to present virtually.

The Keynote Sub-Committee, under the leadership of co-chairs Adam Grigor of Tech-Trek Ltd. and Gary Zullo of Arrow Electronics, brought us Kevin Brown. He delivered a conference opener that really got us thinking and coming up with ways in our own life to make a difference every day.

The General Session sub-committee, chaired by Craig Sanderson of Sager Electronics and Bryan Teen, CPMR, Tech Marketing Inc., produced Michael Knight with his keen insights into the future of this industry we all call our own. Thought-provoking and sometimes startling, Michael delivered on the opportunities the future will present to all of us. As we’ve all reinvented our companies based on market conditions that were presented, Bernard Baumohl provided a fascinating economic overview of the world in which we now live. Finally, Phil M Jones provided some timely tips to take back to our salespeople so they can better prepare for the new virtual world of sales.

The Breakout Sub-Committee, chaired by John Hutson, CPMR, of The MacInnis Group and Holly Myers, CPMR, of Genie Group, handled the amazing job of researching, deciding, and locating speakers for the Breakout Sessions. Year in and year out, these sessions provide the opportunity, in smaller settings to delve into topics that each one of us deal with daily. The ideas brought forth from these sessions are usually the ones that allow us as attendees to develop plans and see trends that allow for the flexibility and ability to change quickly.

The Sponsorship Sub-Committee, chaired by Lori Bruno of Luscombe Engineering of San Francisco and Scott Lindberg, CPMR, of Quell Corporation, had the unenviable task of raising money through sponsorship in a year with great uncertainty for all of us.

Through many generous sponsorships, we were able to secure all the top-notch presenters for this conference.

As we were all reinventing our companies, ERA, too, was reinventing other ways to bring value to our membership.

A number of initiatives were launched in 2020 aimed to reconnect an industry that had been built on in-person interaction. The podcast, ERA Talks, and the ERA Water Cooler sessions were introduced, followed by the release of ERA’s Manufacturers’ Rep Toolkit — all developed to nimbly reconnect ERA with its members and the industry.

It is with this entrepreneurial spirit that we all move forward, adjusting to the current business climate, being flexible enough to make changes on the fly and nimble enough to make them quickly. Together reps, manufacturers and distributors can all continue to grow and succeed.