by Debra Levy
The four elementswater, air, fire and earthwere each represented in great abundance at the North American Association of Mirror Manufacturers (NAAMMs) Fall 1998 meeting, held at the Hospitality House in Williamsburg, VA, on Sept. 19-22.
The seminar session showcased three of the elements; from Water as a Natural Material, to the light air of Steve Kissells presentation called Surviving Life with Laughter to the fire seminar called So You Want to Sell Me. And, as with many industry meetings, the earthin the case of the deep Virginia clay beneath the well manicured golf courses of Williamsburgwas the star.
The event began with the first of three golf outings and a reception on Saturday evening. After a meeting of the NAAMM board of directors on Sunday morning and a program overview by president Jim Stroupe, the half-day educational program began. It featured Kissells lighthearted look at getting through life in a lighthearted fashion and interesting presentation about the difference between positioning ones company and products and competing against other companies and products. The session was presented by Arnold Sanow. The rest of the day was open to explore the area and more time to commune (fore!) with the earth. A reception and dinner rounded out the evening.
Monday morning brought a hard-hitting session called So You Want to Sell Me, presented by Lyle R. Hill, author of The Business column in USGlass. When not writing, Hill also serves as president of MTH Industries and Glass America, a chain of retail shops that perform commercial and residential and auto glass replacements. It was in his capacity as the purchaser of large quantities of mirror that Hill spoke. Never one to replace brutal honesty with tact, Hill told the manufacturers what he believes they do well and do poorly to sell their products.
"Unfortunately," said Hill, "in our industry mediocrity looks great. We have so many bad suppliers that just being average is a plus. Speaking for customers, Id say it is good for us to know where you as a supplier are going. We are tired of having a salesperson come in, hype a product, get us on board and using it, only to find out a few months later it has been shelved."
"I also believe that many of our reps do not serve you well," Hill told the group. "I have too many reps who we never see, or if we do see them that dont know the product line, or if we dont want to buy their product line they just happen to have an alternative line to offer. That alternative line usually competes with yours."
"The glass industry is very diverse," said Hill, "but there is one thing we all have in common: we have long and strong memories. If your company has disappointed us, or lied to us, or becomes our competitor instead of supplier, we will not forget. And we will probably do our best to use you as little as possible because of it."
"The speech was like medicine," said one attendee, "it was a little hard to sit still for and hard to swallow, but in the long run it was good for me."
Hill was followed by Pat Hentges of Process Water Consultants in Richmond, VA, who spoke about the use of water in mirror manufacturing. Hentges told the group about some of the new regulations effecting waste water disposal and about the use of "gray water"not "tasty" enough for human consumption but good enough for use in cleaning, etc.
In response to a question about whether or not a closed water system can work, Hentges responded that he had never seen a successful closed system. "There may be one," he said, "I just dont know of any."
Hentges was followed by an environmental and technical update moderated by Kelly Craver and then it was off the links again followed by dinner.
NAAMM has become a more vocal and pro-active group within the last two years and this meeting bore some of the fruits of that effort. Attendees were impressed with the quality of tightly-focused seminars. "It was a good session," said program chair John Matthews of Carolina Mirror, "we like to think we get better as we go along."
The elements, it seems, were in harmony with the association
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