The value of attending conferences

With the conference season now in full swing, many retailers and suppliers have already been faced with the dilemma of finding the value in attending conferences over running their businesses. The enclosed report by Paint Place Group of Stores business development manager, Angie Bell, outlines the benefits of attending conferences over manning the business.angie 2

Small business owners are busy. With 2016 calendars filling up fast, it comes as no surprise that many operators approach their annual conferences with feelings of stress and apprehension. They are not alone. It is becoming increasingly common for small business owners to justify their non-attendance at valuable, industry specific events.

There are many reasons why guests choose not to attend. These include both the upfront costs of attendance and the incidental costs of leaving their businesses unattended for the duration of the conference.

Whilst larger stores have the luxury of relying on their managers and additional staff members, some business owners are sole-operators. This does not necessarily mean that they are disadvantaged. It may be more challenging, but there are many valuable reasons why sole traders should participate. Ultimately, attending conferences provides business owners with unique opportunities unsurpassed by online courses or internal business communication.

Here are some tips to help small business owners justify the expenses involved and understand the benefits of attending conferences.

  1. Network to increase your net worth

Networking is undoubtedly the most valuable aspect of any conference. Nobody understands the struggles that small business owners face better than small business owners themselves. Discussing strategies amongst professional networks results in new ideas and increases the effectiveness and efficiency of their businesses. Without this kind of exposure, small business owners run the risk of becoming isolated and missing out on new trends or ideas.

Along with industry peers, conferences expose members to new suppliers and business opportunities. Discovering innovative products and services will give business owners the competitive edge they need to survive in the current marketplace. Business successes can be benchmarked against other similarly profiled stores and growth strategies can be developed based on this informal information sharing.  It is also a good opportunity to gage how their competitors are tracking, as suppliers are connected to others in the same industry.

  1. Starting a business is easy
    – staying in business is the challenge

Attending conferences provides business owners with opportunities to learn new skills. It is the perfect time to gain a fresh perspective and break out of the same old routine. Attending sessions that focus on different areas, such as marketing or visual merchandising, will provide valuable insights and ideas on how such principles can be applied. Just remember that it’s ok to be selective about which sessions are attended!

There is no need for guests to participate in every event throughout the period of the conference, in fact, it is important that they commit their time wisely. Only attend sessions of interest or ones that might spark new ideas. If a session fails to meet expectations, it is OK for attendees to remove themselves from the situation. There is no need to feel bad! As attendees have paid to be there, they need to ensure that each event is hitting the mark. It is so important to provide your organisation with feedback about the conference you attended to be a part of its evolution in the years to come. This will help to ensure your needs as a business owner are always at the forefront in the minds of the conference organisers.

  1. Work on your business,
    not in your business

Focusing on the day to day of running a successful business often leaves little time for business planning. Attending conferences provides small business owners with the perfect opportunity to plan their year ahead, including assessing what worked well over the past year and which areas they need to work on during the following year.

In order to get the most out of a group seminar or conference, small business owners should put some thought into what they want to achieve from their attendance.  Are they looking for new product opportunities that they can use to penetrate their existing market? Do they want to explore new markets with their existing product range? Or are they looking for something completely different so that they can further diversify their business? Attending industry specific events is a great reminder that small business owners (particularly sole operators) are not alone and that opportunities are readily shared amongst members.

  1. Weighing up the costs

While there is a cost associated with any conference, the information that is taken away and the additional contacts made will be worth far more than the cost of attendance. Your time can be extended after the conclusion of the conference to take advantage of the conference location and the tax-deductible portion of the trip. You can claim the cost of attending seminars, conferences or education workshops that are sufficiently connected to your work activities and if attendance involves travel, you may have to show that you have reduced your claim to exclude any private portion of any trip.

Paint Place Conference

The Paint Place Group of Stores conference is just around the corner, to be held from March 17 to 20, at the Hilton Hotel Adelaide. Members of the group have finalised their travel arrangements and have put plans in place so that their businesses run smoothly in their absence.  More than 70 per cent of stores are expected to attend the 28th annual conference themed on working together to ‘focus’ on key strategies and ensure the continuation of the brands position as channel captain of independent paint stores in Australia.

Historically, Paint Place Group members come away with information, knowledge, strategies and tools that help them maintain a competitive advantage that only independent paint specialty stores can offer in the Australian marketplace.

We plan to offer our members the perfect balance between knowledge sharing, networking and business planning. However, above all else, the most important thing about attending conference is to have fun!

Angie Bell

Business Development Manager

Paint Place Group of Stores