Representor Winter 2020 - Executive Commentary

Digging wells and kissing frogs

by Walter E. Tobin
ERA CEO
wtobin@era.org
T: 617-901-4088

The new year, let alone a new decade, tends to bring about a new focus and renewed sense of purpose. As we look within to set the tone for the year, one resolution that I would like more of us to embrace is that of GIVING BACK; to do for others in our lives and in our industry without one thought as to “What’s in it for me or my company?” …To help others — even if they are competitors (who often end up as tomorrow’s coworkers, principals or customers); to make our overall industry a better place to live, bring up our families, provide new opportunities for our valued manufacturers; and to enable our customers to remain ahead of their competition. If you keep your eye on helping OTHERS, it will come back to you and your company 1,000-fold.

A real tangible example of this is the annual EDS Leadership Summit, held this year from May 11-15 at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas. This is OUR event. This is where our industry gathers to see old friends, make new ones, meet with prospective or existing reps, manufacturers or distributors. This is where we meet to take each other’s pulse on how we are doing for each other, what needs to be fine-tuned to ensure that all of us are successful in 2020.

EDS can be a “death march.” I get it. We complain about all of the preparation prior to getting there; the endless reviews and meetings; breakfast meetings at 0700; running (usually late) up and down the elevators to get to the next meeting; expensive late-night dinners with too much food and overpriced wine; the dreaded “one-and-done” drink at the Still Bar with someone that we didn’t get the chance to see during the day (where we usually also see folks that we have been trying to avoid) … It’s all part of the selling that we do every day.

What a nightmare EDS is! Or is it?

Don’t we secretly LOVE the action, love running around, love seeing our GOOD friends who may have been competitors in the past but are now our coworkers, manufacturers or customers?

Come on … We love it! We thrive on it! The adrenaline that we generate could light up the Strip … and often does.

We go to EDS each year to listen, learn, adjust our plans – all to make sure that WE as leaders are doing all we can to ensure that OUR COMPANY is a trusted resource to our customers and that it remains competitive; all so we can provide a great place to work for all of our employees.

What if we took a year off? What could happen? What would we really miss? The answer is PLENTY!

Do you really want your competitors to learn about the latest products or technology from your principals? Do you want to miss your annual review with your rep or manufacturer principals? The thought of some of us pulling out of EDS strikes at the very fiber of being a good industry citizen. There is an old saying, “You need to kiss a thousand frogs to find a prince or princess.”

They are out there, RIGHT NOW. What better place to kiss frogs than Las Vegas? EDS is full of frogs that are really princes and princesses in disguise. All we need to do is find them.

ERA is a not-for-profit trade association that has been around since 1935. We have over 600 members who are all VOLUNTEERS. They find time out of their precious days and weeks to GIVE BACK to our industry, to mentor new employees, participate in our Teleforums, write articles for The Representor. They hold regular chapter meetings and events, etc. All of us love our industry. We love the action and hope it loves us back!

The 2020 ERA Conference Committee is chaired by Mike Swenson, CPMR, president of Mel Foster Company and Craig Anderson, CPMR, president of Sumer, Inc., is the co-chair. Both men have given several hundred hours to help put on a great 2020 Conference. This does not happen by accident. Together with Erin Collins, events coordinator for ERA National, they have assembled more than 100 VOLUNTEERS on various conference sub-committees. Do you think that these 100 or so volunteers have a lot of spare time to give to ERA and to our industry? No more than any one of us. The difference is that they FIND TIME to invest in our industry and in each other.

We all have the same 24 hours in a day. Those folks that all of us have come to know and to rely on know that, somehow, they will “find the time” to help us and others.

We also know that there are many people who never volunteer or want to give back to others, don’t we? We have all drunk from wells that we did not dig. Who dug them for us? Those that came before us!

At the start of this new year and new decade, we must ask ourselves: What are we doing today to help those who will follow us? What will they say about us? Will we leave the industry better or worse after we move on?

As a part of our membership initiatives, we often lose a member who decides to not renew their ERA membership. I try to call each one and ask them where ERA failed them? Where did I fail them? I often hear: “I got nothing out of it. I never heard from anyone. I do not see any return for my dues investment.”

Perhaps these are all valid points. However, I try and tell all new members that ERA is an all-volunteer army. You will get out of it what you put into it! Get involved in the local chapter and chapter events. Get involved on the Conference Committee. Join our Teleforums. Write an article for The Representor. CALL me to complain. Do something other than sit back and wait for someone to do something for YOU first!

My hope for 2020 is for all of us to SEE clearly what this great industry does for all of us and our companies. It is our responsibility to support EDS and other industry associations and events. Invest your marcom budget in each other and in this great industry.

We owe it to those who came before us who built the industry that we enjoy today. If we don’t give back to this great industry TODAY, what does mean to those who will FOLLOW us, who are relying on today’s leaders to develop tomorrow’s leaders? Adopt the mindset: “How can I help?” versus “What’s in it for me?”

If you poll those folks, who we all know are givers and volunteers, who we can count on to help out, you will find that they and their companies get back way more than they put in. Sometimes industry ROI may be more important that financial ROI, and sorely needed in today’s times.

Help me dig some wells and kiss some frogs at EDS. Thanks for listening.

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