The 2012 NSCA Business & Leadership Conference: Kicking Off the BLC

blclogo-0312Several months ago, I wrote an article called MBA — Mixing Business & AV. The article discussed the need for business education within our industry and mentioned a number of resources short of going back to school for a Master’s Degree in Business that would serve our CEOs, Presidents, COOs, Owners and other industry leaders well. One opportunity I mentioned was the annual NSCA Business & Leadership Conference, which I recommended based on good hype and good recommendations from other attendees. At the time of writing that article, however, I’d never attended a BLC.

That all changed on March 1, 2012, when I arrived in Dallas with 224 other AV and systems contracting professionals for the 2012 NSCA Business & Leadership Conference. The theme of this year’s conference was “Adapt. Evolve. Compete. Run your business at the speed of success.” The event began with a golf tournament benefitting the NSCA charitable foundation on Thursday morning. Now, I’m not a golfer, but the attendees who did indulge in the sport enjoyed the tournament immensely, as the conference was held at the Dallas-area resort that hosts the HP Byron Nelson Championship PGA tour event. So, apparently, the golfing was great.

The rest of Thursday was taken up with registration, a first-time attendees’ orientation session, a sponsors’ appreciation reception, the opening night reception and the opening night dinner. At the dinner that evening, NSCA presented its Excellence in Business Awards to five systems integrators who excelled in one of several key categories. In the category of Philanthropic Contributions, the 2012 EIB Award was given to AVI Systems. This midwestern systems integrator partnered with the Stoebner Family Foundation to use telepresence technology to interconnect a 3000-student high school in Minneapolis, MN with students in China and NASA engineers. Additional funding in a separate project provided a high tech streaming system to interconnect an educational telescope so students can watch real-time images from outer space.

The category of Growth Strategies had two winners this year because, as NSCA executive director Chuck Wilson said, “This year’s winners truly represent the exciting strategies being used to succeed in this continued turbulent economy… It is amazing to talk to so many companies that are being creative and resourceful in order to beat the odds and prosper throughout a more competitive industry.” The Growth Strategies winners were Conference Technologies, headquartered in St. Louis, MO, and RPAV of Bowerville, GA. Conference Technologies, Inc., received the Growth Strategies award for growing from two to 10 locations, with domestic and international clients. Driven by customer demand, the use of the same technology to sustain and increase revenue has been applied in their own business model. RPAV followed the mantra, “if you are not going forward, you are going backward. There is no standing still.” They embraced that change is constant and combined conventional principles and out-of-the-box techniques to add intrinsic value and limit risk. Rather than adding new products, RPAV increased efficiency within their organization to save time and increase customer satisfaction. They also created partnerships with the right organizations to combine complementary strengths and resources to achieve objectives not achieved individually.

Sensory Technologies, based in Indianapolis, IN, won this year’s EIB for Strategic Advancement. The company was formed out of an unusually successful merger between Markey’s Audio Visual and Milwaukee’s Video Images, Inc. With an unmatched understanding of the commercial AV industry and one of the most seamless corporate mergers possible, Sensory Technologies rapidly became a trusted firm by many well-known universities, retailers, and Fortune 500 companies, earning a reputation for its ability to offer A/V and telepresence solutions for complex requests.

Finally, the EIB award for Professional Development was given to SIGNET Electronic Systems, of Norwell, MA. SIGNET offers an incentive program to staff to attain certification in each of its four disciplines — life safety, communications, security and AV. An integrator offering the widest range of certifications, SIGNET’s bonus program motivates and rewards employees to earn and maintain certifications by reimbursing employees for the cost of learning material, exams, studying on company time, and the costs associated with maintaining the certifications.

I was very impressed with how the NSCA handles its awards. Most awards are given by the presenter reading a blurb about the winner, who then gives a brief thank you and they pose for a commemorative picture. Not so at the NSCA BLC! After all, the point of the entire conference is to learn from other companies and experts on how to succeed.  Thus, NSCA announces the winners one by one, and then sticks them all up on stage with mics to field questions from the entire group in an ad hoc panel discussion about their companies, their processes and the outstanding practices or unique circumstances that make them a winner. The executives from each of these organizations were relatable and more than happy to share some of their hard-won business acumen with the crowd. Let me tell you, I got more out of that discussion that I ever would have out of 10 years’ worth of “I’d like to thank NSCA…” speeches!

Thursday evening ended with more networking and getting to know the other attendees. The 2012 BLC was underway and would begin the hardcore business education bright and early Friday morning… but you’ll have to wait until the next article to learn all about that!

Dawn Meade, CTS – also known as AVDawn – is the marketing and media coordinator for Net-AV. She is an industry veteran with experience in integration, AV sales and social media. You can find her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/avdawn, on her AV tech blog, and of course, here at rAVe as a staff writer and as part of the rAVe BlogSquad