commonsku – Distributor Digest May 2013


Join me as we talk with commonsku CEO Mark Graham about the background of writing software specifically for the Promotional Products industry, what and why a distributor may be interested in the platform, what other products commonsku might replace in a distributors business and the nuances of launching a new product into an unsuspecting marketplace.

President’s Message – May 2013

I began my year as RAC President with an address to the Delegate Assembly.  (A link to the address is found at ROGER’S ADDRESS).  In that address, I make reference to Not Kidding Ourselves.  It’s in keeping with that mission that I approach you today.

In my travels to visit with member Regional Association leaders, some patterns have started to reveal themselves that were sufficiently worrisome that I thought it was important to document them and get working on solutions, as the implications are reasonably serious.

This is about survival.

It’s not surprising to anyone reading this that the single largest contributor to the overall revenue for a Regional Association is that which is generated from their once or twice per year trade-shows.  Distributors and supplier patronage to these events has been the linchpin to the continued viability of the Regional Associations, and the revenue generated from those events provides sufficient annual funding to guarantee content to each Regional member, plus it ensures the continued existence of these trade associations.  Think of them as the “Black Friday’s” of the trade association industry.

What may be surprising is to know just how vulnerable this makes the entire Regional Association Community.

There are a number of forces at work to diminish the value of the trade-shows we produce.

  • The internet has diminished the need to participate in a trade-show in order to see product or gain access to information.
  • The perception of trade-show as for-profit enterprise has introduced a number of competitors into the trade-show space and exponentially increased the frequency of trade-shows in each market, thereby diminishing their value.
  • Many distributors or distributor groups hold private events that resemble a trade-show, reducing the need for distributor salespeople to attend other events.

In any business model, there are always threats, so to position the items listed above as the death-knell for Regional Associations is alarmist, and I won’t do it.  What DOES frighten me, however, are 2 things:

1)  I have not yet been able to identify ONE Regional Association that has found a way to develop a second (much less a third or fourth) viable income stream to prevent against a decline in trade show revenue.

2)  There does not appear to be a concerted effort at the Regional level to address the concern, and there doesn’t appear to be much collaboration at the District level about this topic.

So, it is by virtue of that fear that I state this intention.

                           It’s time to stop kidding ourselves.

As RAC President, I present this opportunity to the President of each Regional Association.  It’s time for the leaders of your representative organizations to come together and work toward possible solutions to this industry-wide problem, and use the collective knowledge of the leaders in our industry’s trade-associations to brainstorm possible outcomes.

Regional Presidents, this is your call to action.

Should you be willing to participate in this all-important initiative, I ask that you register yourself in this LinkedIn forum President’s Forum. (Click the link to be taken to the forum)  There, I will start and facilitate conversations around the topic and present possible solutions as they are articulated by the Group.

Additionally, I will host an ALL-PRESIDENTS conference call to serve as a kick-off on Monday, June 3rd at 4 PM EDT.  Once we have confirmed participation in the LinkedIn group I will distribute the conference call information for all attendees and provide a pre-meeting agenda to prepare you for the discussion.

Without input, we cannot change.  Without change, we cannot guarantee our continued success.  I look forward to your participation in this event, and welcome any discussion in the meantime.


Roger Burnett

President – 2013 RAC Board of Directors