I can’t attend an industry convention or conference without hearing at least one speaker pontificate on Generation X, and Generation Y, and how you need to communicate with them. There is much talk about social media, texting, and virtual meetings.
All the presentations and stories on the topic are interesting and appear to be well researched. However, in sports, they have something called the eyeball test. A player might have decent stats but when you watch them in person, you can tell they are overrated. Here in Detroit we have Prince Fielder. I have been on the road every week for the last month attending numerous industry events, and my eyeball test tells me there is still something to be said for a face-to-face meeting.
Now, I am not an angry “get off my front lawn” guy like our publisher Mike Murphy. At 36 years old, I fall at the end of Gen X and the beginning of Gen Y. I still see the value of a face-to-face meeting, and that was very evident when I attended the Mechanical Xchange recently in Park City, Utah.
This was the ninth year of the Mechanical Xchange. This high-level event, sponsored by The NEWS, brought together 102 movers and shakers of the HVAC industry representing 24 top mechanical contractors and 29 select manufacturers.
Over the course of two days, the mechanical contractors held 10-20 one-on-one meetings with strategically chosen manufacturers. Now, of course, we were not allowed in the room because, for some reason, nobody wanted an editor in there asking stupid questions and wasting their valuable time. However, in talking with a few contractors, it was clear that these were not just normal business meetings.
Each manufacturer is provided in advance with a white paper on every contractor they will be meeting with. In most cases, the manufacturer has contacted the contractor before arriving at the event to lay the groundwork for the meeting. The end result is that the 40-minute meeting gets right to the point as the attendees drill down on relationships that can help both businesses.
It is senior executives solving problems. This is a connection that can’t take place over the phone or on Skype. It is a person-to-person connection and problem solving.
It is important to point out that the Xchange is not a trade show. First off, there is no equipment brought in or specific products to look at during the event. During normal trade show interactions, most of the conversation involves generalities. And for a great portion of the conversation, the other person is looking over your shoulder to make sure they are not missing different/more important people. Most of the conversations at trade shows are only five minutes long.
At the Xchange, both sides are very engaged with trying to build real relationships while gaining a strategic advantage in their market. Not to mention that it would be hard to get time with these high-level executives at a normal trade show.
Now, these are not always feel-good meetings. It might come as a surprise to some contractors, but occasionally a contractor and a manufacturer can have a difference of opinions. The Mechanical Xchange is a perfect place to talk these issues out and find some common ground. These discussions lead to the establishment of congruent goals and, more importantly, improving the bottom line for both parties.
Xchange is not typical, and it’s not for everybody. Those participants who understand the value of nurturing business relationships often walk away with multiple new opportunities for expanded business in the coming years. There is only one Mechanical-Xchange forum each year. It will happen again next September in Park City, Utah.
Publication date: 10/28/2013