There was an atmosphere of being ready to burst following over a year without being able to develop and continue relationships in-person among distributors and suppliers at the Gases and Welding Distributors Association (GAWDA) Spring Management Conference (SMC) here at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, Nashville, Tennessee, US.

This anticipation of finally getting back to business as usual was reflected in this year’s SMC setting two records – it had the most distributor attendees and the most overall attendance in over a decade, surpassing 700 attendees.

The SMC kicked off with the President’s Welcome Reception and Dinner at the Wildhorse Saloon on Monday night, which gave members the chance to network and catch up with old friends dressed in western wear.

On the first day, 2021 GAWDA President Abydee Butler Moore welcomed attendees to the conference during the General Session bringing everyone up to speed on the challenges faced by the organisation when Covid hit and how GAWDA and its consultants rose to the occasion and put together the GAWDA continuity plan which ‘saved the day’. Butler Moore explained the theme for the conference, ‘Eyes Up’.

“Post trauma, we’re predisposed to be inwardly focused,” she said. “I would caution us to beware this internal focus. It’s not what you know, it’s what we do with what we know. Action is power. We need to keep our Eyes Up!”

Source: Keith Hall

2021 GAWDA SMC, Nashville

Source: Maura Garvey

Computers Unlimited’s booth in Nashville

Following the General Session were the Education Sessions. Education Sessions were new to this year’s agenda with diverse content and viewpoints to satisfy all critical interest areas for attendees. Topic areas included Family Business, Safety and Operations, HR and Leadership, Technology, and Sales and Marketing. There was a total of 15 sessions, three per topic area. The general consensus was that the educational sessions were a tremendously valuable addition.

In the afternoon, there was a lively contact booth programme with 120 booths to get around. One of the Technology educational sessions was Implementing E-commerce: From Inception To Launch And the Roadmap to Get There presented by Glenn Bliss and Amy Dardis of General Distributing. The three suppliers this distributor utilised to develop this Ecommerce platform had booths right next to each other to facilitate discussions with other distributors contemplating an Ecommerce platform. Those suppliers were Computers Unlimited, ES Tech Group, and Distributor Data Solutions (DDS).

On day two, the Executive Committee Presentation Session opened with Gary Halter of the board of directors highlighted that the 2021 SMC had 702 attendees, including 246 distributors and 344 suppliers. He also announced the future meeting locations for SMCs. 2022 will be in Indianapolis, Indiana at the JW Marriot. The 2022 Annual Convention will be at the Marriot Marquis in San Diego, California. The 2023 SMC will be in Philadelphia, and the 2023 AC will see a return to Hawaii.

Following Halter’s presentation, 2021 President Butler Moore discussed GAWDA’s four strategic pillars for this year, placing a special emphasis on member engagement within GAWDA.

“At GAWDA, we are setting out to achieve four strategic pillars this year,” she said. “Driving content-centric meetings, running data-driven operations, maximising volunteer talent, and evolving and growing membership.”

Source: Maura Garvey

Distributor Data Solutions’ booth in Nashville

The first day focused on educational sessions and this second day Butler Moore focused on Member Engagement, which includes face-to-face meetings, virtual meetings, GAWDA Consultants, the CGA Programme and Volunteer Engagement. GAWDA is measuring member engagement with each of these member benefits.

The first keynote presenter of the day was Anthony Iannarino, founder of B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, and is recognised as one of the foremost thought leaders of value creation.

He discussed his four levels of value creation - have a good product or service, good experience in business, produce results, and be a strategic partner.

“It’s not enough that people know you, like you and trust you. They need to know you, like you, trust you, and believe that you can create value for their business,” he said. “The legacy approach to sales doesn’t bring value because it starts with ‘why us?’ Our approach starts with ‘why change?’ When you start with the value you can bring, people will invite you in.”

Following Anthony’s presentation, Brad Armstrong of the board of directors took the stage to introduce the Industry Keynote Presenter Ben Glazer. Ben Glazer currently serves as Linde’s President of Praxair Distribution Inc. (PDI) and leads the company’s Global Helium & Rare Gases and Latin America businesses.

Glazer discussed what he has learned during his career with Praxair and changes and observations he has seen during that time. He specifically discussed lessons learned during the Praxair/Linde merger. They set some basic ideas for this complicated deal like not standardising ERP systems and make it a merger of equals for balance. He then discussed some guiding principles like: be an active listener, show respect for others, look for quick wins with people such as workspace, have a plan developed and led by the people expected to execute that plan, know your beginning and end-point, understand the DNA of the organisations (Praxair and Linde), get buy-in from key influencers to reduce noise, decide and communicate quickly to reduce anxiety, and empower people to execute the changes.