As a new small business owner, you should take every chance you can to strengthen your product knowledge and gain industry exposure. Like it or not, as a newbie in your industry your contacts are limited, your product-knowledge is lacking and you could surely benefit from a major networking binge.
So, what can you do to change all of this?
The answer is simple: Attend an industry expo as soon as possible.
As the co-founder of Grass Roots Flooring, this was one of the many things on my to-do list. Luckily for me, the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) — a well-recognized organization within our industry — held their annual expo at a time that coincided with our first month in business. Sure, we thought it might be risky to attend an expo so early, but we went anyway! At worst, we’d come back home with a better understanding of our industry. At best, we’d have some new suppliers, set the foundation for lasting relationships and have a better understanding of our industry.
If you’re ready to take a big step in business and attend a major industry event, trade show or expo here are seven tips to help you make the most of your experience, particularly if it’s your first time attending one:
1. Do your homework.
This is not the time to procrastinate. Prior to attending an industry event, ensure you know who else will be there. These days every event is sure to have a dedicated website with agenda details and key information. Some may even have a dedicated app that contains the agenda and an attendee contact list — which we were happy to have at the NWFA event. Make sure you’ve browsed the information and made a note of the suppliers, industry veterans, and even competitors that you’d like to meet.
2. Seek out industry veterans.
An expo in any industry will be chock-full of experienced leaders that have a ton of experience and advice to share. To our surprise, we met many of them and we soon realized that the wood flooring industry was very reminiscent of a close family. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we expected to be shunned as outsiders; but we certainly didn’t expect to be taken in with open arms by leaders who were actually excited to introduce us to the rest of the “family.”
This experience helped me to remember that there are people in our industry who were in our position at some point in their careers — and they actually wanted to help us. The lesson: seek out those who can be of value to you and make them part of your professional network.