I recently returned from Industry Week in Las Vegas, ready to share all the new technology on display at AAPEX. But, my dear readers, we are going to hold back on that column until next month. If you allow me, I’d like to talk to you about a topic that’s a lot closer to home.
This year’s pilgrimage to Vegas was a way for me to truly network with peers and colleagues. Networking is always a big part of any trade show; heck, oftentimes it’s the only reason worth going. For us, the networking usually starts months before the show as our team, spread throughout Florida and Puerto Rico, plows through several conference calls and countless emails to create our “Vegas Agenda” (a truly collaborative document that we all share using Google Docs, so every member of the team is on the same page). This shared document is a thing of beauty! A road map, wish list and cheat sheet, all rolled into one, which allows us to digest and process every one of our 50-plus scheduled meetings at AWDA and AAPEX.
Because we value our time in Vegas, as well as our vendors’ time, this shared agenda makes us a better team. At a very personal level, those conversations with our various vendors and partners lead to some of the most rewarding on-the-job experiences we’ve ever had; a true testament to the power of face-to-face communication.
Yes, the meetings can be rewarding, but they can also be a drag. This year, however, we had a very special treat as one of our own, Raymond Guffey, was honored as 2013 Counter Professional of the Year. This is perhaps one of our industry’s highest recognitions, awarded by this fine publication and sponsored by the folks at Affinia. We are very lucky to count Raymond in our ranks and congratulate him on this most wonderful achievement. It was Raymond’s first opportunity to attend Industry Week, and we were delighted to have the coolest kid in the class hang with us at the show! Raymond joined us at AWDA. For a guy who’s never been in those meetings, he took to it like fish to water, sharing and opining up like a CEO. So there we were, an already well-prepared team made even better by riding with the Counter Professional of the Year, taking names and making deals!
On that second day at AWDA, meetings started rolling into one another. At times you can’t recall if you are talking to a brake guy or a chassis conglomerate. It’s time to dig deep, recall that agenda prepared months in advance and plow, plow, plow your way through the end of the day. Finally, our very last meeting rolled in at 5 p.m. Agenda or not, we were down for the count. As we slumped our beaten bodies and drained minds on the Venetian suite in the last room of the unending hallway in the 19th floor, it happened: Mr. Counter Professional of the Year gave us all a lesson in why having exceptional humans like him in all of our companies is essential to our survival.
We were sitting with one of our great vendor partners, a company that has gone the extra mile to help us grow while making friendships with everyone in our team. The conversation soon rolled into the vendor’s frustration of being seen as an import-only supplier, when in reality they produce and market lots of domestic applications. Sometimes customers’ perception is everything, and being boxed-in as import-only, engine specialist, dealer expediter, or any other misplaced label is almost impossible to overcome, no matter how hard you work at it.
We were talking about an A/C compressor application for a domestic vehicle. Turns out their application its less expensive than the OE offering, with the same fit and function. That’s when Raymond chimed in like the counter pro that he is: “It’s not only that your price is better, but do you know about the missing sensor?” Raymond’s question thundered through the room waking everyone up. Amazingly, or perhaps not, not one person in the room knew what Raymond was talking about; not the guys who build the part, nor the guys who distribute it. Turns out that A/C compressor requires an extra sensor in the back and you cannot reuse the old one. The OE offering does not include the sensor and you cannot buy it from the OE replacement channels; it’s only available at the dealer. It adds a trip to the dealer and another $28 bucks to an already expensive repair; however, unbeknownst to all, this vendor’s application includes the sensor, for free! It was a jaw-dropping epic moment when Raymond got through his deeply knowledgeable product sales pitch. Without another the word, the meeting was adjourned in unison and we all fought each other to buy Raymond’s first drink.
In that unexpected instant, we were all reminded that people are our most powerful asset. Find great people, then nurture and prize them, and who knows, you too might one day be able to say that the Counter Professional of the Year works with you!