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NEW AT THE 2007 EXPO: Second-Generation Family Open Forum Discussion Group, Reception Encourages Sharing Experiences, Comparing Notes, Solving Problems

Posted On: 8/20/2007

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DAN MATHEWS, NCE, is executive vice-president of the National Automatic Merchandising Association. He holds a bachelor's degree. in Hospitality Management from Michigan State University. Prior to joining NAMA, in 1999 Mathews was principal owner of Vision Quest, a management, organizational development and training consulting company. He also has held several senior management positions with Aramark Corp., as area president, Uniform Services (Schaumburg, IL); area vice-president, Uniform Services (Los Angeles) and regional vice-president, Vending Services Group (Birmingham, MI). His prior experience includes service as labor relations supervisor and corporate foodservice administrator for Chrysler Corp., as well as management positions with Marriott Corp. and Cardinal Vending. He also has been a partner in an alliance of small service industry companies. He is active on the Michigan State University Business College Board of Directors, and is chairman emeritus of the Michigan State University, Hospitality Alumni Association Board of Directors.

At NAMA, we are committed to delivering the very best National and Spring Expos, which is why we work throughout the year to make changes and add programs to ensure that registrants experience the very best our industry has to offer. Right now, building on the success of the NAMA Spring Expo, we are busy planning this year's National Expo, to be held at McCormick Place's Lakeside Center in Chicago from October 10 to 12.

While many of the features that convention-goers have enjoyed over the years will remain part of this year's National Expo, we are creating an entirely new event that many in our industry are sure to find helpful: a special "Second Generation Open Forum, Discussion Group and Reception."

As many industry members know from firsthand experience, vending, coffee service and onsite food management are appealing entrepreneurial ventures. Success stories abound of those who have created successful organizations. And many of them have built substantial companies that are now being inherited by second or third generations.

But family-owned companies face a variety of potentially stressful situations, including transitioning the ownership of the company from parents who may be unwilling to give up control and authority at the time the next generation wants (or should have) it, to current owners who believe the next generation may not be ready for their responsibilities when they have to assume them. Imagine the difficulties confronted by the head of a smaller company in deciding which of several siblings should be in charge, and which should wait for the few other management opportunities that will become available. Imagine, too, being the sibling not selected for the top spot in the company.

In talking with our members, we heard again and again that there are too few resources available to second- and third-generation leaders who are getting ready to move into ownership and operation of the family business, to help them take on new responsibility. To help our members face these issues, NAMA has created a new resource that will help the next generation of family-owned operators learn to address all the exciting -- but sometimes frustrating -- opportunities, challenges and rewards that are sure to pop up along the pathway to success as a company leader.

 This special event will be led by Rick Leffke, president of Leffke & Associates, a NAMA Knowledge Source Partner best known for his success in training and developing leadership and management skills. Leffke specializes in working with clients to clearly establish desired outcomes for managing and growing business through practical skills and training methods.

During this special event, participants can network with one another and take part in a moderated open discussion about all the challenges and rewards experienced by peers in the same situation. The event will be held from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM at the Chicago Marriott; reservations are required.

Craig A. Hesch, NCE, secretary/treasurer of the NAMA board of directors and chief financial officer of A.H. Management Group (Rolling Meadows, IL), is a third-generation industry leader whose father, Donald J. Hesch, served as chairman of the NAMA board in 1996. Commenting on the value of a new event  designed specifically for those working to assume leadership of a family-owned company, he said: "Working your way up in a family business presents challenges that you don't have when you are working in a public corporation. Sometimes it's a matter of resolving the relationships between children and parents, or those between colleagues. Other times, it's a matter of working through issues related to the financial structure of the company.

"The opportunity to share experiences with others who are in my situation and to hear about their experiences has helped me enormously. Instead of feeling alone and wondering whether anyone else had ever experienced what I was going through, I spoke with a number of people who gave me compelling and helpful advice," Hesch said. "This session will be a tremendous opportunity for others who are facing similar issues to help and be helped by sharing the good and bad experiences of family companies and generational ownership."

The program has been organized not only to enable registrants to benefit from Leffke's insights, but also to allow plenty of time for participants to get to know each other, share experiences and network. This will be an unprecedented opportunity for second- and third-generation industry members to create a network that can be called upon in the future. Instead of feeling alone when facing a difficult situation, participants can call upon others who have faced similar circumstances and benefit from their experiences and advice.

This new session is among the first of a variety of resources we plan to create for members facing issues of company ownership. We will be working with members to identify problems, determine the resources that would be helpful and decide exactly how NAMA can help.

This year's National Expo, the world's largest trade show for the vending, coffee service and foodservice management industries, will also muster a commanding display of new technologies and products. More than 290 exhibitors are already signed up for the show, which will open on Wednesday, October 10, and wrap up on Friday, October 12, leaving time for participants to enjoy Chicago or travel home for the weekend.

The educational program will offer not only timely education sessions, but also unmatched networking opportunities. Educational sessions will be offered Tuesday, October 9, through Friday, October 12.

Other events during the National Expo include the Industry Awards Banquet, at which outstanding contributions to vending, coffee service and foodservice will be recognized. Five special awards will be given to deserving individuals whose achievements represent the best our industry has to offer. After the presentations, participants can enjoy dinner and an "Evening With Frank Sinatra," featuring the talented Ron Hawking.

Another highlight at this year's exposition is keynote speaker Tom Izzo, head coach of Michigan State University men's basketball team. For 12 years Izzo has led MSU's Spartan program, racking up accomplishments including an NCAA national championship, four regular season Big 10 championships, two Big 10 tournament titles, four Final Four appearances, four National Coach of the Year awards and 10 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. Izzo will share his winning philosophy with convention-goers at the keynote address.

Other highlights will include an updated and expanded Quality Coffee Certification Program on Wednesday, sponsored by Procter & Gamble; new specialty sessions including Retail Ethnography for Vending and Secrets of Better-For-You Vending; and the Supervisor Development Program, sponsored by PepsiCo Foodservice.

Exhibit hours are 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM on  Wednesday, with the opening reception in the exhibit area starting at 5:00 PM. Exhibits will be open on Thursday from 10:30 AM to 4:30 PM and on Friday from 10:00 AM until 3:00 PM.

Also on tap is the popular Silent Auction, sponsored by Mars Snackfood U.S. Bidding begins at 3:00 PM on Wednesday, October 10,  and ends at 2:30 PM on Thursday, October 11, with a "second-chance" auction slated for Friday, October 12, from 10:00 AM to noon, at which showgoers can bid on all unclaimed items. The Silent Auction benefits the NAMA Foundation, which will contribute 10% of the proceeds to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Illinois.

Whether you are in a family business, interested in learning more about how to make it work for you, or you're just interested in succeeding in the industry, the NAMA National Expo is a not-to-be missed event. It's your chance to see what's new in our industry, learn how to do things better, connect with suppliers, peers and innovative leaders and just have fun. It's sure to be a great event, and I look forward to seeing you there.