- April 01, 2008, By Yolanda Simonsis, Assoc. Publisher/Editor
PALM SPRINGS, CA
It's no secret that winter meetings for most associations are anything but grueling, particularly when they're held at such posh resorts as Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa. But there's no denying this year's meeting planners for the March 9-12 Assn. of Industrial Metallizers, Coaters & Laminators (AIMCAL) energized its business leader members with a roster of animated speakers who held the attention of the nearly 120 registered attendees and offered valuable tools to improve their businesses.
On Monday keynote speaker Commander Kirk Lippold, former commander of the USS Cole, captivated attendees with a first-hand account of the suicide terrorist attack by al Qaeda on October 12, 2000, in the port of Aden, Yemen. Entitled “Leadership and Accountability When It Matters,” Lippold's presentation illustrated how a leader must react instinctively when his crew is in mortal danger. His memories were complemented by close-up photographs depicting the results of one of the most brazen acts of terrorism. The comparison between Commander Cole's horrific experience and his quick but calculated response with that of business leaders under extreme economic pressures — while not life threatening — drew recognition. Preparedness and responsiveness to quickly changing events that affect businesses are not merely recommended, they are mandatory.
The remainder of the AIMCAL program supported the first session's message, beginning with a roundtable, moderated by Mark Spaulding of Converting, and including Bill Stratton from Adhesives Research; Pradeep Tyle from Uflex; Steve Jackson from Amcor Flexibles; Dante Ferrari from Celplast; Eric Maerklein of Brady Coated Products; and Bob Connelly of Madico. Each panelist answered prepared questions that addressed how they have dealt with customer demands, growing sales in a budget-conscious environment, combating cheap imports, investing for the future, and the impact of sustainable efforts.
Drawing the most participation from the audience was the subject of sustainability when Jessica Bodine of Mica Corp. intimated that each audience member must personally promote the value of the products our industry manufactures, specifically referencing the developing misinterpretation of plastic bag recyclability. As editor of PFFC, I agreed that if our industry is not proactive on this issue, we may once again find ourselves in a defensive position about the our industry's products (also see PFFC, March '08, p14) similar to the dilemma we experienced in the late '90s, when clean air initiatives threatened to shut down some converting businesses.
The evening event included an awards banquet reception honoring metallized product winners, with Grafo Regia singled out as the winner of the Peter Rigney Top Product of the Year for its conversion of Harina Tortillas Selecta (see March '08, p52).
On Tuesday Rick Farrell of Tangent Knowledge Systems shared his first-hand experience about how selling in today's business environment is actually about not selling, presenting, answering objections, and closing…i.e., using the time-worn standard approach to sales. Instead, Farrell suggests playing the role of a “change agent” rather than a product-centric sales person focused on transactions. His book, Selling Is Not About Selling, offers a refreshing approach to sales, instructing readers that if they want to be truly ineffective in sales, they should “never leave anything out. Leaving nothing to the imagination is a sure way to lose sales.” The ideal presentation, he says, is no pitch or presentation at all but uncovering within a partnership relationship how your company can help resolve your customer's challenges and problems.
The second half of the meeting featured Ira Blumenthal of Co-Opportunities, who energetically addressed “Brand-Building for Your Future.” Having counseled such companies as Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Wal-Mart, Kroger, and other big names, Blumenthal entered the room playing a harmonica and quoting Bob Dylan. “Times, they are a changing,” he said, and we must adapt to them. He told attendees they are all brand managers — it is not the job of only one person with this title. He focused on the philosophy, strategy, guiding principles, and best practices to create, build, maintain, and manage brand success, sharing anecdotal experiences to bring home the significance of promoting and adapting to remain a successful player within our industry.
The last day began with Dr. David M. Lampton, dean of faculty and director of China Studies at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced Intl. Studies in Washington, DC. He addressed how China's increasing national power seems to be changing the global landscape in military, economic, and intellectual terms. He believes, particularly in the US, that we are overly fearsome of China's military power, when it is the economic and intellectual challenges and opportunities that we should fear most. He warned that if we are not competitive enough in the future on those fronts, we may stand to lose our national strength.
Completing the formal program was Dr. Robert Fry of DuPont, Wilmington, DE, who offered his annual “Economic Outlook for the Converting Industry.” The standout message for most attendees was Fry's belief that while we aren't technically in a recession now, we likely will be in the near future.
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