Reflections from PRSM’s National Conference

Emma Condon
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I recently attended the national conference of the Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association(PRSM) in Orlando, Florida. PRSM’s national conference is a big deal for professionals in the business of developing and maintaining retail facilities―it amounts to over 400 retail representatives from more than 150 major brands moving through a convention-center sized exhibit hall that packs nearly twice as many vendors into 15 tight aisles.

This year’s conference theme was fittingly “Re:Think” and featured a keynote speaker and educational seminars centered around that mantra, which I adopted as my own for the two-day conference, starting a conversation with everyone willing to engage. I learned a lot about the facilities perspective, the retail industry and how retailers think about Ecova in the context of their facilities.

“We already have an energy management system in place,” was the response I got from more than one earnest retailer. What Ecova does goes so far beyond hardware or software. These interactions made me rethink how to communicate that value to clients in the context of the show and in general.

I was also struck by the wealth of information I gained in conversation with other vendors. Some gave me casual tutorials about how to break through the messaging noise of an exhibit hall staffed by more than 1,200 vendors and some gave me the industry buzz on the growing popularity combined heat and power generation in Canada. In the end, I reconsidered my assumption that this conference was about meeting only with clients and retailers, because it was about a connection to my industry as much as the retailers.

Lastly, and most impactful, I rethought how I approached conversations about data. I love data, Ecova loves data and we expound the value of good data in making smart decisions and defining our successes, but what about the bad news data? Not inaccurate data, but the data that proves we missed a target, we trended the wrong direction. In her data-driven seminar Alana Dunoff, President of AFD Consulting, told the assembled professionals to “embrace bad news data” and use the power of that knowledge to affect organizational change. If it’s true that no one cares about good news, then bad news should carry the weight to get attention and make things happen. I think Ms. Dunoff is right; embrace the bad news and rethink things. In a business or an exhibit hall it helps to be open to the kind of information that makes you rethink your approach.

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