By Brian Hall

February brings many seasons, football playoffs, basketball, baseball spring training. But there is another kind of training I am thinking about – winter training for our industry. Chances are, you are reading this article while you are attending one of these events, but why should you attend? Sure, it’s a great excuse to travel to a great city and see new or familiar sights, but it is also an excellent opportunity to prepare yourself for the upcoming busy asphalt season. Today’s trade shows are much more than just displays, it’s a time to learn what’s new in both the industry and the equipment and tools that support it. Let’s look at what makes these trips time well spent.

A concise look at what’s new and a chance to talk to the manufacturer. There are always rumors about what manufacturers are up to. This is your chance to see not only what has changed, but why it changed. Take the time to talk to the engineers, product support staff and executive staff along with the sales staff. Not only will you be able to evaluate the value for yourself, you can get it directly from the source. Most improvements to a product at my company come from suggestions we hear from the field, so here’s your chance. Remember that there is a lot more than equipment on display. There are dozens of solutions to be considered from products and services for the back office to the front line. Most importantly, have a plan and prioritize the plan so that you get the biggest bang for your buck. Remember, time is money.

Opportunities for learning new ideas. Most of the winter trade shows feature education sessions put on by industry professionals. These sessions range from “Best Practices” classes, to leadership seminars, to mix designs and so forth. Also, you’ll find several round table discussions that fit your business plan. These sessions are led by industry professionals that have only one goal in mind, to help your operation run smoother and become more profitable. If you attend a trade show and miss out on any of the education seminars, you are really shortchanging yourself. Even as an exhibitor, my team attends one or more sessions each year so that we can become more informed on the challenges faced by the contractor.

Networking. I know, I hate buzzwords, but this one rings true in this case. Trade shows bring together professionals from all over the region, country or even the world. When you get together with other professionals, you are sure to learn something you didn’t know, whether its techniques, leadership or even business practices. Also, don’t just network with folks in your industry, jump out of your comfort zone and talk to an allied trade. Who knows, this may be the year you decide to start a new striping division or even discover a whole new service to offer your existing customer base. Don’t be afraid to ask for an introduction or strike up a conversation with the person next to you at lunch. It may be the beginning of something great.

Don’t forget the local trade shows. Many areas feature one day shows sponsored by the state and local associations. I remember saying to people in the industry that you couldn’t really start the season until you stood out in the cold at the local pavement show. These events really take what you learned at the national shows and sharpen it even more. Not only is it a chance to speak with local vendors, but the seminars are focused on local issues and jobs that really hit home. The vendors, speakers and attendees are familiar and are just as excited to get the season started as you are.

All of these events are a great way to get the season started. Whatever way you choose to spend your days, I know you will find that is time well spent and a nice way to reward your top performers. Remember to stop by to chat with me at our booth as well as my friends at APE Magazine and tell us what you need from us to make your year more profitable.

Brian Hall, LeeBoy Territory Manager. He can be reached via email at