Staying Ahead of Our Changing Industry

What goes around comes around … It wasn’t that long ago that the Federal Reserve Board was worried about inflation and a runaway economy. They set in motion a number of rate increases that contributed to a downturn in the new housing market. Lately, even existing home sales have slumped. But the Fed is now thinking that maybe the economy is strong again, new housing starts are going to pick up in a few months and inflation may be on the rise. They are considering a rate hike in the foreseeable future.

The interesting thing about our industry is that it does not track well with the economy or with new home starts as it once did. In the past, we could predict that our unit sales would decrease along with new home starts. Some companies in our industry are still tied to this roller coaster. For example, if you sell water softeners only, then your business is still mainstreamed in that old model. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you know the risks of lack of diversification.

Changes & New Opportunities

Actually, I think the phrase “what goes around comes around” doesn’t entirely apply in this case. It implies that those who can predict the future only can because the future is the same as the past. Well, that’s just wrong because: “The future ain’t what it used to be.” So what does all this have to do with the water industry? It means that our industry is changing rapidly. Changes are being driven by many factors, and everyone in this industry is living in a time when the future will not be predicted by the past.

There are two key drivers of change: technology and new business models. Either can bring vast disruptive changes and new opportunities all at once.

What’s the takeaway from all this? Change is inevitable, so you should plan for it at every opportunity. But how do you plan for something that is by definition unpredictable and indefinable? Actually, it’s easier than you think. If you know where to look, you will discover that the future is neither unpredictable nor indefinable.

Trade Show Attendance & Networking

Many successful people have already figured this out. This is why they have joined the Water Quality Association (WQA). It’s also why they attend WQA Aquatech USA. I see them at the trade show every year. They are the ones who move through the show floor, spotting the new innovations and talking up the techies about the exhibited equipment. They are the ones who network from morning until night. To the uninitiated this “networking” looks like idle conversation. Nothing could be further from the truth.

These people also preplan their time at the show. They start out by leveraging their WQA membership. They establish a relationship with key people on the WQA staff. They are introduced to key leaders on the WQA committee and board structure. Networking skills aren’t anything fancy but they are the basis for future planning.

I can’t emphasize enough that one of the greatest investments you can make is to attend WQA Aquatech USA. There is no better place to gain incredibly valuable information and insight as to where this industry is headed. Your competitors will be there. Your suppliers will be there. And I can guarantee you will find new ideas, new innovative technologies and new business models to explore.

What to Expect from This Year’s Convention

Here are just some of the things you will see at this year’s convention in Orlando:

  • Sixty-one new exhibitors who have never before attended WQA Aquatech USA (by the time you read this, this number will be higher);
  • More than 330 exhibitors;
  • WQA industry issues report outlining everything you need to know about important regulatory issues;
  • Wall Street report on the industry;
  • Report on the gap between
    consumer expectations of water and what the utilities deliver;
  • Dealer Days on Friday and Saturday—offering special business classes, and hands-on product teardown and service sessions;
  • Opening reception;
  • Keynote speaker—remarks on
    managing and understanding different generational employees; and
  • More than 60 hours of education.

I could go on, but WQA’s program guide and website have the entire event laid out in comprehensive detail. To sum up, WQA Aquatech USA 2007 is the only place where you will find all of this information and opportunity bundled together. Change is happening fast in this industry—don’t miss this opportunity to stay ahead.

Peter J. Censky is executive director of the Water Quality Association. For more information, contact WQA at 630.505.0160, or by e-mail at info@mail.wqa.org.

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