DALLAS - Speed dating for HVAC distributors and vendors. That’s how many described the distributor/vendor meetings that transpired the last few days of the WIT 2013 Distributor/Vendor Conference at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas. Held annually, this year’s conference delivered a packed agenda for attendees to learn, network, and make business deals all under one roof.
Originally known as We Invest Together, WIT & Co. Ltd. is a buying group that brought in speakers who addressed family business practices, multigenerational issues, creative negotiation, company insurance, and other topics. Along with the meetings, WIT provided opportunities to network over meals as well as at a special welcome reception.
FAMILY BUSINESS TIESKeynote speaker, Frank Dowd IV is the chairman at Charlotte Pipe and Foundry Co. in Charlotte, N.C. His presentation, “The Peaks and Valleys of Family Business,” brought issues of family businesses to the forefront.
“Between 60 and 85 percent of businesses in the world are small businesses,” he said. “Many of these are family-owned and operated.”
The future of a family-owned business was one subject addressed in the presentation. Dowd encouraged attendees to ask themselves if they were going to sell the family business when they were ready to age out or if they were going to keep it in the family. If the decision was to keep the business in the family, “Who should be the next CEO, who should be the next owner, and how do we reconcile the interest of family members who work for the company?”
All of these situations can provide a potential for conflict in the business, especially when it comes to the varied approaches of different generations.
“Conflict in family business occurs when we expect family from other generations to behave like we do,” warned Dowd. “But a successful family business has a shared vision, clear procedures and distinct expectations regarding family participation in the business.”
He suggested that family businesses consider holding a multigenerational shareholders meeting.
“It not only educates current and future owners in the history, culture, and operating principles of your company, but it is also part of a continuing effort to be transparent and keep essential business information flowing to all shareholders,” said Dowd. “It’s important to show appreciation to our shareholders, to remind our associates and executives how important family shareholders are, and to provide an occasion for the growing family to get together and renew friendships.”
CREATIVE NEGOTIATION SKILLSThere are many skills applied to negotiating a profitable contract and according to Dan Coleman, founder of Excelsior Learning and author of “Bursts of Fresh-Squeezed Ideas,” creativity is one of them. During his presentation, “Ignite Your Negotiation Performance,” Coleman explored what derails a negotiation and offered strategies for distributors and vendors to apply in future negotiations.
Creativity and coming up with new ideas is not an art form but a learned skill, according to Coleman. He encouraged attendees to come up with new ideas every day.
“Decide on an idea quota,” said Coleman. “It should be at least five a week and you should always write them down. Aim for growth to a double-digit number in your idea quota. This will help you break the things that perplex you or need solving in your work and negotiations. It could even work for your personal life.”
Understanding that coming up with creative ideas on a regular basis can be challenging, he went on to explain a method of creative thinking called excursioning. This method requires that you observe some unrelated process, task, or event and apply the fundamental principles you have gleaned from your observations to the problems your business or negotiations are facing. These force connections introduce not necessarily new ideas, but new combinations of ideas. For example, when looking for new ways to approach a negotiation or certain difficult customer, it could be wise to observe a physician with good bedside manner explaining conditions and multiple complex options to a patient.
“Borrow an idea from the physician’s communication and force connect it to your own difficult negotiation,” said Coleman. “In reality, 97 to 98 percent of new ideas are a new force connection, not necessarily a new idea.”
Moving past the idea quota and creative thinking, Coleman discussed other methods and negotiation tactics. He told those in attendance that one key to successful negotiation is thorough preparation. He went on to offer the following tips:
• “Anchor at your aspiration point. Do not let them anchor you at your reservation point.”
• “Make smart trades, but do not give anything away for free.”
• “Don’t teach your counterpart to expect you to sweeten the deal.”
• “Don’t use ranges. It is not in your interest to do it.”
SPEED DATING MEETS BUSINESS TALKSThe final 2½ days of the conference were spent in pre-arranged meetings between distributor members and vendors. Each meeting occurred between the decision makers of the respective companies and were limited to 15 minutes. At the end of the time, the distributors would switch tables and head to their next vendor meeting.
According to WIT, participants gave this experience rave reviews on the overall success of the meeting in regards to networking and business opportunities for all in attendance.
“We hosted more than 700 attendees with awards, board meetings, council meetings, workshops, general sessions and more,” said the organization. “Post-conference surveys provided more than 97 percent positive reviews on the conference’s overall format.”
Visit www.wit-co.com for more information.