street wise

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SP Richards’ (SPR) Advantage Business Conference (ABC) continues to go from strength to strength.

While we continue to hear and read stories about a rejuvenated power channel, with the independent sector under more pressure than ever, try telling that to 3,400+ attendees at the annual SPR gathering at the end of July.

SPR certainly likes to take its annual conference to as wide an audience as possible. Three years ago it was Orlando, Florida, followed by the bright neon lights of Las Vegas, Nevada. Then last it year it was back east to the Big Apple, before swinging back this time to the beautiful back drop of the Golden Gate and San Francisco, California.

And the ABC just gets bigger and bigger beating all previous attendance records. "This year’s even far and away exceeded our highest expectation," says SVP of marketing Jim O’Brien. "The record number of participants is only part of the story as we also realised a 20 per cent increase in the number of independent dealerships that attended and each of 50 states, Canada and the Caribbean islands were represented."

Once again, the conference featured a trade exhibition on the agenda with more than 200 companies displaying a comprehensive array of office products, services, equipment and technology.

O’Brien says: "The Office Products Expo, which featured a greatly expanded cleaning and breakroom supplies offering, was an incredibly impressive and productive event."

The event kicked off on the Wednesday evening with the now traditional first night reception, this year a glitzy affair played to the theme of the "streets of San Francisco".

ABC 2004 officially opened the following morning with a dynamic keynote presentation from consultant and professional speaker Rick Barrera, explaining how TouchPoint branding brings customers back time and again.

That was followed by so many highlights over the next three days. Among the 81 seminar sessions, forums and roundtables, which were all filled to capacity, another keynote speaker, George Hedley, explained how from just $500 and a battered old Datsun pickup truck, he was able to build a thriving $50 million construction business in just seven years.

Other sessions addressed the key issues facing the office products industry today, with a particular slant on business and personal growth. Everything from "hiring right and why most people don’t", presented by Dr Wayne Helms, to "how to provide superior customer service", from Beau Hamilton.

As usual with these events, SPR attracts not only the US independent dealer, but the US independent dealer’s family as well. And with this in mind, throughout the event there was a children’s lounge to cater for the younger visitors, while on the Thursday and Saturday there were organised optional tours of San Francisco and the surrounding wine district.

And to cap off ABC 2004, attendees were treated to "The Beat of the Bay" gala dinner, offering a well-received musical taste of San Francisco and superb food.

Thoughts are already turning towards the seventh ABC event which will return to the Marriott World Center in Orlando, Florida from 20-24 July 2005.