Friday, May 21, 2010

Thoughts and opinions about the IRGA (International Reprographics Association) Convention, May 2010 - 'wrap-up'

Well, the annual IRGA Convention ended late this afternoon, and although the number of attendees was still down from two, three, four, etc years ago, attendance at this year's convention appeared to be about the same as last year. Next year's IRGA convention will be held in Las Vegas. Hopefully, the recession the reprographics industry has been enduring will be over by then and that plus the location of Las Vegas will attract a higher number of attendees.

About this 'wrap-up' I'm about to type; I am not a good note taker (when I take notes during an event, I lose track of what I'm listening to, so I prefer to do my write-ups from 'memory recall' rather than from written notes.) So, pardon me if my write-up misses some of the stuff that happened at the convention. (Those of you who wish to do so can submit your own 'wrap-up' by posting "comments" to this post.)

First, I'd first like to mention Mike Cully. Mike Cully is the outgoing IRGA President. Mike is an outstanding guy, and I'm sure that everyone appreciates the personal time Mike has devoted to the IRGA. I absolutely love Mike's sense of humor, and I am positive that Kevin Cully, his brother and partner in Air Graphics, has had an influence on Mike's sense of humor. (Kevin is a great guy, just like Mike.)

Second, I'd like to mention Gary Wilbur (of RS Knapp / Napco), who will be the IRGA President after Mike Cully leaves office. Like Mike, Gary has devoted a ton of time and energy to the IRGA, and I wish him success as the next President of the IRGA. If you are an IRGA member, support Gary's efforts, and one of the best ways of supporting Gary (and the IRGA Board) would be to encourage your local competitors to join the IRGA this year.

Third, Steve Bova and his SmithBucklin Group team members did another outstanding job organizing this year's convention.

Fourth, I am compelled to mention that this years Convention Education Program Chair, Casey Simpson (who is a member of ARC's Global Solutions team), did a truly outstanding job. The educational breakout sessions were excellent - thought provoking - actionable - etc. The Open Space Technology session held this afternoon was Tanner Bechtel's idea, and my own personal opinion of this method of collaboration and networking .... it was excellent. (Tanner is also a member of ARC's Global Solutions team.)

Now, on to the convention "wrap-up" .....

Last year, I said that K.P. Reddy's presentation (about BIM) was 'worth the price of admission.' (KP Reddy is President of RCMS Group and he is an expert in BIM technology. Last year, RCMS Group was a private company; but at the end of September last year, RCMS Group became an ARC-owned enterprise. KP is now part of ARC's management team.) My "nod" for this year's 'worth the price of admission' presentation goes to Henry Givray, Chairman and CEO of SmithBucklin Group. The subject of his presentation was "The Passion of Leadership". Only one word can truly express my opinion of Henry's presentation - AWESOME! There are many of us who think we know all there is to know about "leadership", so "why bother to hear another presentation about that subject?" After all, many of you own businesses and "what can anyone tell us that we don't already know?" During Henry's presentation, he points out the differences between "management" and "leadership" and points out that the two don't necessarily go hand in hand. (One of my ex-partners, Martha Korman, has, for many years, said that "managers transact, but leaders transform.") For those of you who "think you are leaders", I invite you and suggest to you that you dwell hard on the presentation that Henry gave today, for there are many of us who think we are leaders even though we've not yet gone beyond being managers. In Europe, I have the privilege of working with a young man who is a natural born "leader", not to mention an exceptional "manager." In spite of his abilities, he would have paid very close attention to Henry's insightful presentation this afternoon. Actually, he would have been 'riveted' to his chair, like I was. (For those of you who attended Henry's presentation but were dawdling with your iPhones, iPads, Blackberries and other gadgets while Henry was giving his presentation, you missed one of the best presentations about leadership and management that I've ever heard .... and at 63 years old, and considering that I've read a lot of books on that subject and attended lots of events where that subject was discussed ..... I think that's saying something. Henry's presentation was not just excellent, it was extremely well organized and given with, yes, PASSION. Thank you, Henry.

Most of this year's educational breakout sessions were very informative and thought provoking. But, I'd like to make special mention that it was nice to see Jim Ryerson (of Sales Octane) back for a second time. If you want to stoke the fires of your sales managers and sales team members, Jim lights fires as well as anyone I've ever met. His presentations are not just chock full of actionable information, but fun to listen to.

During my explorations in and around the trade show, I discovered a company called "ReproConnect". They were demonstrating and will soon be releasing on the market a software program called "ROCR" (pronounced "rocker"). Well, all I can say is 'rock and roll', the guys/gals on this team have come up with an automated way to rename and index files after documents have been scanned. Sounds like an excellent software product to me; one that will save time and allow reprographers to give better, more accurate, faster service to their customers.

About HP, I am a huge fan of HP's "latex" printing technology. If you did not take the time to check that out, you must do so.

The opportunity to "network" at the IRGA is simply outstanding. And, it is one of the reasons why I said, in a post I did last year or the year before, that those of you who do not attend the IRGA convention are idiots. The opportunity to learn from others in the industry (and to share successes and failures and wins and losses) and to discuss and debate industry and business issues is ALWAYS worth the price of admission to an IRGA convention.

Based on conversations I had at the IRGA convention with vendors who sell to the reprographics industry and with reprographers from all across the U.S., it appears that reprographers in the U.S. have finally hit bottom and that an upturn is going to be happening in the not too distant future. Therefore, I'm sticking to a prediction I made in a post I did not too long ago - that by Q3 2010, most reprographers will finally see a year-over-year improvement in their numbers.

And, I say that in spite of one of the more interesting presentations given at this year's convention. The presentation I'm now mentioning was this one: "Paperless and Virtual – Future of the AEC Industry and Reprographics" - presented by Bob Middlebrooks, Industry Programs Manager, Autodesk. Prior to joining Autodesk, Bob was a practicing Architect, so he is very familiar with the reprographics industry .... what reprographers do, where reprographers fit in the food chain, and the challenges that reprographers face. During his presentation, he suggested several ideas for diversification; basically, services reprographers might want to consider offering in the future to help replace revenues from declining prints-on-paper volumes. If you did not attend Bob's presentation, then you might want to buy the tape recordings of the IRGA convention, but I'm going to warn you; if I were to "sum up" in just a few words what Bob's suggestions amounted to (and using the phrase "few words" and "Joel attempting to doing that" is an oxymoron at best), if you follow Bob's suggestions you will be in a different business than reprographers have traditionally been in. Kind of like suggesting that, since reprographers have 'relationships' with A/E firms and GC's, we can rent them cars or sell them furniture. At the end of Bob's presentation, he called for questions from the audience. At first, there was a "stunned silence." Bob said things that reprographers just don't want to hear. I totally agree with Bob that changes are already underway (in the A/E/C industry) that will lead to declining prints-on-paper volumes over the years to come. But, I don't agree with several of the suggestions Bob made to reprographers, about new services they might consider adding. But, 'what do I know', anyway?

Okay, that's it for my post-convention write-up.

Except to say, that those of you who've been reading my blog know that I attended the GGN conference in Rome last month. That conference was attended by European reprographers. To the European reprographers who read my blog, consider attending the IRGA convention next year in Las Vegas. For those who attend, I'll buy the "first round." Although I found the GGN conference to be well run and informative, there is, in my opinion, nothing that matches the networking opportunity offered by an IRGA convention. I encourage my European reprographer friends to also consider joining the IRGA as members.

One final "special" mention about a gentlemen most reprographers know, John Cronin, CEO of PLP. In all my years in the industry, I've never met an industry vendor who was as "participative" as John is. In many (I think I should say, "most") of the customer proposals I developed over the many years I was actively involved in the reprographics business in the U.S., I said, "we are very aware that our success depends on your success; we will do everything in our power to help you make your business more successful." John Cronin exemplifies that phrase. John is always asking questions. John knows that asking customers questions is paramount to his company's success. John is always full of thought provoking ideas and suggestions. If you've never done business with John, you are missing out on a valuable experience. Although many will consider my comments about John to be sort of an advertorial for PLP, they are not meant to be, or intended to be, that. I've made these comments about John because he is that good to work with, and because I think his contributions to the industry have been significant.

Next year in Vegas ..... certainly hoping that the industry will see a very nice rebound by then!

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