If you’re planning to attend an industry trade show in 2013, we’re here to help.

As the industry continues a dynamic growth trajectory, it seems like there's less and less downtime for gas, oil and mining support service contractors. But just after celebrating the holidays and as you gear up for the coming year, it's a good time to consider whether attending an industry trade show or conference is in the cards for 2013.

I'll admit I'm biased when it comes to talking about the value of trade shows. That's because GOMC is part of the company that organizes the biggest annual show for the Environmental Services industries, the Pumper & Cleaner Environmental Expo International. When it comes to seeing the latest equipment, learning through valuable seminars and seeing everything related manufacturers have to offer, there's nothing like the Expo, set for Feb. 25-28 in Indianapolis.

In this issue, you can read about the depth and breadth of seminars at the coming Expo and explore a sampling of the machines and other products that will be on display. I think the pre-Expo coverage offers compelling reasons for you to consider making the trip.

Related: Why is WWETT the Industry’s Best Trade Show?

But whether you join us in Indy or look at any national or regional conference or convention to attend this year, we're offering a new feature aimed at helping steer you in the right direction. Starting with this issue of GOMC, we're including a calendar of industry events. We're looking to highlight trade shows and conferences aimed at helping build your business.

We've scoured the Internet to find offerings throughout the year in North America. In a growing industry, we know there's no way we've listed them all. So if you have a suggested event to add to the list, please send it my way at editor@gomcmag.com. We're going to continue to track the industry and add new events all year to build a more comprehensive list.

As you look over the calendar and consider what events will help you most, here's a few arguments I'd make to convince you that going to a trade show is a great idea:

Related: WWETT Preview: Build Your Business

Network with other contractors.

Doubtless there's a lot of day-to-day issues you'd love to discuss with another company owner or manager who understands what you go through. The last thing you'll do, however, is sit down and have a frank discussion about industry challenges with your local competitors. That's where a quality industry event comes in handy.

If you know many of the best support service contractors attend a particular regional or national conference, you've identified what might be your best opportunity for networking. While you're leery of talking to a competitor, you'll find dozens or hundreds of like business owners from other areas to talk to at an industry trade show. Strike up conversations at lunch. Get to know people when you're looking at the same equipment on the exhibit floor. Participate in roundtable discussion forums, if that's part of the trade show. Then keep in touch with your new friends and build long-term networking relationships.

Grow relationships with manufacturers.

Your equipment suppliers want to help you succeed. That's a simple-stupid statement on my part. But it's human nature that if product suppliers put a face and a story with your name, they'll be likely to move mountains when you need them most. I'm not saying a sales rep won't take your order over the phone or act courteously and professionally without a face-to-face meeting. I am saying the more they know you and what your company does, the more likely they'll be able to offer winning solutions to your equipment challenges.

Related: Calendar: Gas, Oil and Mining Trade Shows and Conferences

When you meet a manufacturer's rep at a conference, you can better explain what you like and don't like about their products. For example, if an excavator company has its latest machine on display, you can crawl aboard and discuss the controls or raise concerns about ergonomics as these issues relate to your work. The experts on hand can offer advice on work-arounds for different procedures or explain how machines can be customized to address your needs.

And if you have a productive discussion with a company representative, you can collect that person's business card and you now have a personal connection to reach out to if you need attention or advice in the future. Having an "in" with an equipment provider sure beats working up a ladder of customer service reps when you have a pressing issue.

Learn the latest about business building.

The Pumper & Cleaner Environmental Expo is among the major industry events that key on business building in addition to stressing the technical side of the environmental services industry. After all, even the greatest technical expertise won't help if your support services company can't ensure the revenue necessary for your company
to thrive.

This year, a large slate of business building seminars at the Expo features a return engagement by popular business coach Scott Hunter, who will give an all-day seminar entitled "2013 – Your Best Year Ever." Hunter draws large crowds to hear an inspiring message that will help any support services contractor become more successful. Other speakers will explore varied business topics, including business marketing, effective management, small business branding and promotion, and using cloud computing technology.

Enhance safety through training.

Major industry events usually include either direct safety training seminars or offer ideas on how your company can build a safety program. If you come away from a conference or trade show with nothing but a handful of ideas on how to improve safety for your employees, your attendance has been a success.

If a trade show has a component that helps you work toward a valuable safety certification, by all means take advantage of it if you can. If the event is known for a strong emphasis on safety training, try sending your safety director or thinking about appointing an employee to that key position if you don't already have one. Many support services contractors have told me that getting everyone home safe at the end of a long workday is a top priority. I know that's true and I encourage you to seek out industry events that help you continue to meet that goal.

Build commitment to the industry from your employees.

Among your work crews, you can probably identify a hardworking individual who's been with you for a few years, knows the ropes now, and could benefit from a few new challenges. This may be someone who's on the edge ... you know he or she could bolt for a new opportunity, or you could give them a reason to double-down on their commitment to your company and your industry.

There's a perfect candidate to ride shotgun with you to a big industry event. A trade show can galvanize a good employee's interest in an industry, and get them thinking about new ways to build your support services company. Seeing exhibit after exhibit of the latest and greatest equipment the industry has to offer and spending time with other high-caliber members of your industry will show your crew leaders they're not just doing a "job," they're embarking on a career. Encourage them to take "ownership" in the company; that is, treat the business like they own it. Then watch as good things happen.

Gain perspective for yourself.

Getting out from behind that desk and away from the work site for a few days can help you address challenges in new and refreshing ways. We're all creatures of habit, to a certain extent, and we've dealt with the same issues the same way for so many years. A conference or trade show — where dynamic ideas are shared in seminars or around the luncheon table — can give you a new perspective and offer a new way of thinking on a variety of topics.

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