A bitter jest in the advertising community imagines a client discussion proceeding along these lines:
"Sales are down. What should we do?"
"Slash the sales promotion budget!"
We bring this up because it illustrates a natural human reaction. When business turns down, the need to cut costs often leads to an illogical cutting of the very costs that could slow the downturn and reduce its impact on profits. There is a tendency to assume an entirely defensive posture and wait for better times. This does nothing to improve matters.
The present economic environment is a curious one. Employment remains high, but business expansion has been impaired by the continuing lack of investor confidence. Operators who have become accustomed to the ongoing strong demand of the past nine years are attempting to adjust to a less robust market and a more cost-conscious clientele. That adjustment obviously calls for reducing expenses. Less obviously, it calls for exploring ways to improve efficiency and increase the value of existing services.
The distinction is not especially subtle. Cost-cutting surely is an ongoing objective, but it cannot be pursued independently of equally important goals. The way to reduce costs to zero is to go out of business altogether. What's needed is greater attention to allocating expenditures to areas that will yield the greatest returns.
With that in mind, we urge every operator who has not already done so to plan to attend the upcoming National Automatic Merchandising Association annual convention and trade show in Chicago. Participation in a NAMA Expo is a pleasant and informative excursion during good times, but an absolute necessity when economic clouds gather.
The NAMA National Expo offers three benefits to registrants, any of which would be worth the cost of attending. First, the trade show provides an overview of products, equipment and services that's unrivaled anywhere in the world. The exhibitors always include a healthy percentage of first-time participants whose wares may not be showcased to the industry anywhere else. Any operator who is looking for new things to add to an existing service, or new services that can build business, is sure to find the widest range of available options at the NAMA trade show.
Second, the formal educational opportunities at the NAMA National Expo would justify the expense of the trip. The workplace service industries' 50-plus years of ups and downs have proven that industry education gains in importance when business conditions become problematic. The 2001 NAMA Expo offers a curriculum that provides something for everyone, from experienced full-line and four-C vendors and coffee service operators to proprietors of start-up companies. This industry always has rewarded intuition and creativity during an operation's formative years, but these fine entrepreneurial qualities are not sufficient to propel the enterprise through its critical first expansion phase
The industry also rewards experience and practical, hands-on skills; but this empirical wisdom often is insufficient to plan and accomplish the transition to new, more efficient management practices and information technology, or to design and control expansion of a successful, narrowly-focused business into other types of service. Education is required in both cases, and NAMA is the place to get it.
Third, the informal educational opportunities are more than worth the price of admission. The NAMA Expo provides ample networking opportunities, and many veteran operators consider these to be among the event's main attractions. The chances are very good that any operator who is encountering a problem can find others who have had the same experience, and have developed solutions to it. Similarly, any operator who has found a solution to a common problem will find an appreciative audience, some members of which may be able to propose improvements to it.
We have often recalled the explanation once given to us of the real value of a national convention and trade show. "If I give you a dollar and you give one to me, neither of us gains by the transaction. But if I give you an idea and you give one to me, each of us comes away with two." And the more ideas are exchanged, the more everyone stands to gain.
These benefits are greater now than they ever have been, and they make this year's Expo an event that no operator can afford to pass up.