Forums, Trade Shows and Crawfish Etouffee

Aug. 1, 2009
ARA’s The Rental Show Returns to New Orleans in 2012

If you don't have anything special to do Sept. 10 and 11 this year, I highly recommend you check out the AED Executive Forum in Chicago. I've gone almost every year since the forums started about a decade ago and every year I learn something. It certainly will make you think if nothing else and most of the people I talk to that attend the forum get some ideas they can apply to their businesses and at the very least think about their businesses in a new way. Is there anybody who can't use some original ideas?

Even though the conference is put on by a distributors' trade organization, you don't have to be a distributor, nor is the content more applicable for distributors than for rental companies or anybody else in this industry. If you're the owners of a pure rental company, you wouldn't be the only one in attendance. This year there is quite a line-up of economists and financial experts. Does that mean you'll leave the conference knowing exactly when this recession is going to be over and the construction business will be more on the upswing? I'm not sure you'll get the definitive answer, but I do believe you'll know more about it than you do now. That's certainly one of the factors that motivates me to attend the forum. More important may be coming up with a few ideas to deal with the economy the way it is and how to go on to the next phase. And the networking opportunities with others in the industry are invaluable.

There aren't a lot of forums for thought and dialog about the issues that are important to us in the construction equipment industry and I heartily commend AED for trying every year. Some years have been better than others, but I guess it's the same with just about anything else you do.

The theme of this year's conference is “The nuts and bolts for steering your business past today's potholes toward future profitability.” That's a lot to promise, but you'll come away with something in your toolbox I suggest. The president of a company called Chicago Tube and Iron, who is also a professor at Northwestern University, will talk about “How We Got Here and What Have We Learned?” and a lot of us have been trying to figure out the answers to those two questions. The agenda includes a “construction market report;” a panel called “The Lending Landscape: Credit Answers for You and Your Customers;” a panel on M&A and restructuring on whether you should “buy, sell or save;” and a contractor panel called “Pain Points: Customers Tell You What Hurts and What You and Your Manufacturers Can Do About It.”

These are all important issues and when people are talking about them and looking for dialog and insight, there's a lot to be learned.

And if you can't find a good restaurant in Chicago, you're not trying.

You can find more information at

Since I started off talking about a conference, let me go on to the topic of trade shows and express support of ARA's decision to go to New Orleans in 2012. ARA's management and its Rental Show Work Group, comprised of some intelligent people who have been around this industry for a while, have obviously been listening to its members — rental people and exhibitors and responding to their thoughts and let's give them credit for that.

Last year's ARA show was disappointing for all concerned, and as has been expressed in this column and elsewhere, a lot of factors teamed up to lessen attendance at the show, the primary one of course being the economy. People didn't want to take time away from their businesses, didn't want to spend the money to travel and, most importantly, were not looking to buy equipment, which is the central motivation for attending an ARA convention.

But the grumbling included comments about people being tired of going to Atlanta. The destination of a trade show does impact peoples' decisions on attending and people love going to New Orleans. It's a fun city that people enjoy and people will come for that reason alone and while they're there, look at equipment and even buy some. Of course when the economy is booming and people need equipment, people will go to cities that inspire them less, but people love New Orleans, it's that simple. I'm putting in my order for crawfish etouffee right now.