G&J Marketing in Palm Harbor, Fla. held one of its educational conferences a few weeks ago in which 60 industry members brainstormed ways to make this industry more profitable. Actually, the range of topics covered was a lot more extensive, but the underlying purpose for all attendees was to agree on what to do about this very challenging business environment.
A summary of this 2-day meeting was prepared by Dr. Ron Cichy, a presenter at the conference and a director and professor at the School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University, Dan Mathews, senior vice president and chief operating officer at the National Automatic Merchandising Association, and Greg Sidwell, president of G&J Marketing. Their summary is available on VendingMarketWatch 05-11-09. It's encouraging to see so many operators and suppliers recognize the need to invest their time and money in identifying new and better ways to do things. It's one thing to complain about conditions, but quite another to get off your duffer and do something about it. These individuals recognize the situation is challenging, but not hopeless. They returned from the 2-day meeting with some concrete ideas to put into action. Every business owner needs to have a long-range business plan. This is a given. In challenging times like the present, the business plan serves as a road map to success (and possibly survival).
The plan is a document that allows you to organize and manage your thoughts and your resources. It has always amazed me how many vending and coffee service operators ignore this basic business tool. The G&J meeting in Atlanta, Ga. uncovered numerous strategies operators can use to improve their companies.Not only were operators in a position to learn from one another, but there were also business experts such as Michigan State University professor Ron Cichy leading seminars on important business topics. The conference was invigorating. The ideas will only help those who put them into action, and here is where the business plan comes into play. A formal business plan gives the owner a tool for putting ideas into action. The plan itself is something that can only be useful if it is actually used. But without it, the business owner is lost. There were more ideas that came out of that conference than an operator can hope to "get his hands around" in the short term. A business plan allows the owner to set goals and strategies for achieving them. Big goals in particular require planning.
The ideas that came out of that conference were similar to those that our staff at Automatic Merchandiser hears in conversations with operators and suppliers regularly. Many industry members recognize the big challenges facing this industry. Many realize that the industry needs to become more professional in order to become more profitable and more relevant to the customer base.Getting the industry to that point takes commitment, and it will not happen quickly. But it will happen. Congratulations to the organizers of the G&J Marketing conference, and to everyone who made the time and investment to attend.