By: Chris Popp
Director of Sales and Marketing
The Association of High Technology Distribution (AHTD) recently held their Fall meeting under the shadow of Pike’s Peak in Colorado Springs’s Colorado. AHTD is an association that works to increase the productivity, profitability and professionalism of their Automation Solution Provider members and the manufacturers that supply them products and services.
"The Springs", as locals call it, is the home of the famed Broadmoor resort and hotel, where the meeting was held. While humble beginnings were established in the late 19th century, Spencer Penrose purchased the estate in 1916 and began development of the world class resort that has seen so many dignitaries, celebrities and association meeting members grace it’s opulent grounds. The facility is now owned by the real estate giant Anschutz Corporation which, among other sizeable interests, owns the LA Kings hockey team.
DieQua’s Chris Popp and Tom Kahn joined over 320 attendees, almost 75 coming for the first time, for 3 days of education, training and networking events not easily found at any other venue. For the distributors it’s a rare opportunity to share war stories and get advice from similar but non-competing companies. Since most distributors are regional there is no fear of divulging operating secrets or risking customers. Therefore the ability to share is a major benefit.
The manufacturing members also find tremendous value in the event. For one, some of the best automation component and system sellers are available in one location. If they are looking to expand their distribution network, there are few places they can find so many quality candidates in one location. The feedback from multiple distributors on how they want to be serviced by their suppliers is invaluable for a manufacturer looking to become a premiere distribution partner.
For DieQua, it is all these reasons along with the educational and keynote sessions. It never fails that some idea or conversation is a catalyst for a major initiative or improvement in the way they do things.
From the opening welcome reception to the final gavel, the meeting was chock full of activities. Keynote speakers, seminars, group meals and mid session networking breaks, along with a mini trade show, a President’s reception and a final evening gala dinner kept attendees engaged and constantly moving.
If there was a general theme to the event it was leadership and innovation. The idea is that the world is developing faster and faster, and with it there is a need to stay ahead of the pack, or at least keep up with it. Seven speakers attacked various aspects of this concept to spark the imaginations of the attendees and give them actionable plans to take home.
Adam Steltzner Ph.D was the Lead Landing Engineer for the Mars Curiosity Rover Project. With a goal and no practical experience on how to get there, Doctor Steltzner wove a fascinating yarn on how a group of engineers came together and successfully solved a complex interplanetary feat.
Mike Staver, CEO of the Staver Group postulated "leadership isn’t for cowards". His 3 key points were to acknowledge obstacles but deny their power, identify where you are being too comfortable so as to push the envelope, and maintain a high level of energy while figuring out where best to invest it. Oh, and understand the trait that best determines why people follow you.
Charlie Stevens, Partner with Michael Best & Freidrich gave a more practical presentation on strategies to minimize the costs and risks of the Affordable Care Act. With many small to medium sized company owners and general managers present, this was especially timely information.
Brian Gardner, Founder of SalesProcess360 urged that your competitive advantage doesn’t have to be a product feature, lower cost or flashy ad campaign. In his eyes it can be your sales process. Better planning, accountability for goals, and performance measurement can drive you to success regardless the competition.
Jonathan Vehar, Senior Faculty at the Center for Creative Leadership, believes that for innovation to happen, leaders need to search for the value in all new ideas. A major step is to generate lots of ideas and not judge them during the creative process. Further thought and consideration may result in finding a diamond in the rough.
Gary Hamel, author, speaker and world renown business thought leader, was adamant that change is coming faster than most business leaders recognize or are able to keep up with. To build an organization that outgrows change, an evolutionary advantage needs to be pursued. Challenging assumptions, reinventing ways of doing things and constant experimentation are key.
Robert Tucker, President of The Innovative Resource reiterated the need to question assumptions both societal and your own. He believes that to become innovative you have to make innovation an imperative. You also need to manage ideas as assets, collaborate with customers and partners, cultivate a risk taking culture and involve everyone in the enterprise.
Don McMillan, President of Technically Funny cut some of the seriousness with his humorous take on High Tech Distribution. A part of work should be fun. This final session sent the attendees home with a smile.
One of the major highlights of the event is the product showcase. This is an opportunity for many of the distributors to see new product developments ahead of the rest of the market. DieQua of course showed the widest range of servo gearhead technologies available from a single source, supplemented by two new products, one for robotics and the other for high speed, high cycle motion profiles.
There was free time on Friday afternoon to give the attendees the chance to sample some of the local attractions. Golf on a PGA tour course, horseback riding along Rocky Mountain trails and a cog railway train ride up to Pike’s Peak were the planned options. Of course others just enjoyed the amenities of the fabulous Broadmoor resort. The final gala dinner was held at the Cheyenne Lodge, a rustic outpost with views of the mountains above and the city below.
Many ask if it makes sense to have two meeting every year, Spring and Fall. With the highlighted topics regarding the speed of change, we think the question answers itself. The more we can be educated, motivated and interactive with intelligent people that can help our business, the better.