Retail Observer

August 2021

The Retail Observer is an industry leading magazine for INDEPENDENT RETAILERS in Major Appliances, Consumer Electronics and Home Furnishings

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RETAILOBSERVER.COM AUGUST 2021 54 Mike Whitaker Training Trends W e've missed each other! As the industry started shifting back to in-person gatherings and events, and moving from virtual to live this spring, most of us realized very quickly how much we had missed the networking, sharing of ideas, and fellowship that are only possible when we're face to face. In the frenzy of a pandemic, most of us were impressed with the connections we could achieve through Zoom, Teams and Skype. But it was hard to know how much we lost from the absence of the in-person industry gatherings we'd always taken for granted. Leading effectively has never been easy. But as we learned in the past year and a half, isolated leadership is much harder. Most of us experienced it for the first time as months and months of travel concerns and health guidance prevented the industry from gathering. So we leaned into technology and kept plowing forward. In my nearly a decade with Nationwide Marketing Group, PrimeTime, our bi-annual trade show and member convention, has become near and dear to me. Those two weeks in the spring and summer are hands-down my favorite time. The planning and execution of another show the sheer size of PrimeTime begins just a few days after we wrap up the last one. About six months later, it manifests in four powerful days where the independent channel comes together. My favorite time is always the day after the show ends. I allow myself that day to reflect and soak up all that happened. But after the virtual shows in August and March, those "day-after" feelings were different – they felt almost hollow and maybe even empty. Sure, the same feelings of exhaustion were there, but the fulfillment and joy were missing. It was shortly after the March show, in a conversation with a dealer and close friend, that I realized why. He said it perfectly: "I miss the magic that happens in between the meetings. I miss the hallways." Virtual events can cover all of the basics of an event agenda – we can cover the industry and the economics, and we can execute a massive educational program, and we'll still have the show specials and great deals, but we don't have the magic of the hallways. At a live show, that's where it happens. That's where the idea a speaker shared becomes a plan we can execute. That's where we share our common challenges. That's where we brainstorm. The hallways are where we solve problems. It's where we reconnect with old friends and make new ones. Not to go overly Biblical, but they're where the iron sharpens iron. Great leaders feed off each other. Great leaders can't help but make each other better when they come together. It's hard to argue that one mind alone can accomplish as much as a few great minds coming together. At many industry events, that concept increases exponentially. In some cases we find literally thousands of great minds together in one location. Those events are where large-scale retail problems are solved, best practices spread like wildfire, and the participants gain unfair advantages in their marketplaces. At the same time, leaders standing alone, like iron, tend to rust. No self- respecting pirate would carry a rusty sword, and no organization can thrive with a rusty leader. If we're bring honest, we've all picked up a little rust in the last 18 months, and it's time to start scraping it off. For all the conversations around the efficiencies of virtual events, the time and cost savings of less travel, and the temptation to stay knee deep in your business as the fall unfolds – before you make your plans, reflect on what you're really missing when you skip these in-person gatherings. And ask yourself if you can afford to miss the most powerful part of these many industry events – the magic of the hallways. GETTING BACK TO WHERE THE MAGIC HAPPENS Mike Whitaker, Nationwide Learning Academy, Nationwide Marketing Group RO

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