Observations and musings

Observations and musings

Snow Magazine Editor Mike Zawacki shares what impressed him most in Fort Myers at 2016 Executive Summit.

August 12, 2016

This week we returned from the 2016 Executive Summit, our annual event that focuses on the business needs of the snow industry. In a nutshell, every year we bring in dynamic speakers to discuss our industry and how you can improve your business. The conference is much more than learning, though, because there’s a special emphasis placed on networking and sharing ideas, which attendees do in spades.

Complete coverage of the event, including 2016 Leadership Award recipients and the Top 100 list, will appear in the September issue of Snow Magazine. But here are some observations I took away from the conference (in no particular order).  

*I didn’t believe it could get hotter or more humid than the recent summer weather we’ve had in Cleveland, but Fort Myers proved me wrong. However, it didn’t seem to be an issue for attendees who flocked to the resorts outdoor pools to talk shop. As I mentioned earlier, networking is one of the most popular Executive Summit activities.
I think we need to bring back the opening night scavenger hunt. It was a popular during the 2015 Executive Summit because it not only allowed you to explore your surroundings, but the way the teams were set up promoted a lot of attendee engagement. Definitely will be back on the 2017 itinerary.

*Consultant and speaker Richard Hadden hit a grand slam with his workshop on the art of recruiting and nurturing your businesses most important asset – your people. One thing that really stuck with me was the need for companies to develop a people strategy (hiring, retaining, training) that focuses on the strengths of your work environment. Unfortunately, with everything else on their plates, owners and top managers rarely have the time or energy left to put into creating and maintaining such a program. Yet, this component is vital to long-term success.

*Political insider David Crow doled out a dose of reality in his discussion about the upcoming presidential election and its impact on small businesses. Let’s just say I’m not encouraged by the prospect of either candidate.

*Very rarely would I say a banker had the complete attention of the room, but Bank of the West Managing Director Jeff Burch provided some revealing insight on how your banker could be assisting your snow and ice management business. According to Burch, banks have a variety of programs to assist a wide variety of small businesses. However, there’s a good chance that your banker doesn’t completely understand what it is you do, so a lot of these helpful financial programs and insights are left unused. For example, if you were to purchase equipment or materials from another country (like Canada) you can pay in that country’s currency, which could save you significant dollars on the exchange rate. Or, you may be eligible for short-term loans based on seasonal conditions (which is very popular in agriculture, and applicable to snow and ice management). Your banker can assist you in making those determinations.

*Did you know you could be saying volumes about yourself and how you feel without saying a word? Body language expert Janine Driver educated attendees on this topic. Let’s just say there’s no way you could get away with a lie around here… and you probably don’t want to play high-stakes poker with her, either.

*I’m constantly amazed at how generous people in this industry are with their knowledge. I was able to overhear numerous conversations taking place during networking events, or poolside, or at the bar, and a lot of that was shop talk. I don’t believe one questions went unanswered or one topic went unaddressed. Simply amazing.

*We had a great trio of Leadership Award recipients this year -- Joe Kujawa (KEI), David Lammers (Garden Grove Landscaping) and Peter Smolka (Everest Snow Management). Upon receiving their award, each spoke from the heart about their business philosophies and their expectations for the industry.

*In the end, everything that we talked about during Executive Summit focused in improving and growing your business. Those who attended walked away with a lot of new ideas and knowledge.