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July 24 2006 04:27 PM

    During times of plenty, financial reins loosen and no one is particularly concerned when budgets exceed their estimates. Obviously, we enjoy the abundant mentality and wish it could last forever. But, as with all things, there has to be a balance. Whenever highs exist, lows are inevitable.

     

    Whenever a recession threatens the economy, companies immediately look at where they can cut budgets. Without much forethought, the first to hit the chopping block is training. Because it is viewed on the balance sheet as an expenditure rather than an income generator, training therefore, is a hot contender for elimination.

     

    But this is a very myopic way of thinking, especially for companies that want to remain globally competitive. When resources are under severe scrutiny, look at it as a golden opportunity to analyze your companys strategies. Training is definitely a key to your companys success. Employees are the backbone of any company; taking the time to educate them will take your company to the next level.

     

    Guarantee an ROI

    If your training budget has been reduced, or even eliminated, dont let that stop you from pursuing a training opportunity. If you have to approach management in these times for permission to expend dollars on training, try this tactic: Guarantee that you will bring at least one idea back that will save the company the money it invested in your training. And to get more bang for the buck, offer to share what you learn with other company employees through a formal presentation upon your return. Remember, you are making a guarantee to your company make sure you go to the training event with that goal in mind.

     

    Preparation

    One of the most important training tools is industry trade shows. To make trade shows work to your advantage, it is important to have a plan of action. Preregister whenever possible; it will cost less. Dont waste time standing in long lines for show badges, seminars or special events. It is important to take either your corporation ID number or copies of your resale certificate in case you want to do business with a new vendor at the show. And know what your inventory needs are before the show. Try to plan about six months in advance. This makes your selection easier by establishing an outline of what you need for your logistics process. Preparation and planning saves you money by grouping your orders to take advantage of discounts and special orders.

     

    Go to the show with specific goals. For example, find a more competitive packaging supplier, find another consolidator from which you can seek competitive bids or find products which will automate your workflow. Also, review the show guide. Before beginning to walk through the exhibit hall, mark off the vendors you dont want to miss so you dont forget to make time to speak with them. If the show is extremely busy, make an appointment to meet with vendors with whom you absolutely must speak.

     

    Networking

    Trade shows are perhaps the best way to gather intelligence and contact information for your industry. Visiting a trade show condenses the evaluation process by providing access to multiple resources in as little as two days or less. Most of the best information youll ever receive will come from other people, not catalogs or brochures, so spread your net wide and try to talk to as many people as possible. Be sure to get business cards from your peers so that you can make contact at a later date. Write a brief notation on the back of the card to jog your memory in case, when you get back to the office, you cant recall the conversation youd had with Joe Smith from XZY Company. Also, have a good supply of your business cards on hand. You dont want to miss a single networking opportunity.

     

    Everyone has information you need. What are they interested in? Who do they buy from? Why? How much do they buy? When? At what price? The answers may be valuable as you check out new suppliers, scope out new and existing competitors, partner with allies and even shop for other trade show venues all by listening to what others tell you.

     

    It never hurts to hear from decision makers about what they think is important. Also, people like to be asked their opinions; it makes them feel important. Youll be surprised at just how much information some people are willing and eager to share. Ask them, and theyll probably tell you.

     

    Trade shows are an important training tool because not only do you gain knowledge about different products and services in the industry, you form integral relationships. Some of your best resources can be found at trade shows remember that trade shows are industry gatherings, which means that some-where you will be able to find the solution to any question or problem.

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