Sharing for Success

Through Expo Roundtable discussions, contractors network their way to better use of emerging technologies, improved customer service and marketing ideas that produce results.
Sharing for Success
The Pumper & Cleaner Environmental Expo hosts Breakfast Roundtable discussions where attendees share their thoughts on a variety of important issues. (Photo by Matt VanSkyhawk)

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You make the annual pilgrimage to the Pumper & Cleaner Environmental Expo for a variety of reasons ... surely to see the latest equipment the industry has to offer and to learn the latest technologies through Education Day seminars.

Effective networking with your industry colleagues is another key to making the most of your visit to the 2013 Pumper & Cleaner Expo in Indianapolis. Taking part in the Breakfast Roundtable discussions — set for 8 to 10 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 28 — is the best way to accomplish that goal.

Just ask Mike Stephens, of SCS Stephens LLC in Haslett, Mich., who participated in a Roundtable discussion about maintenance contracts for wastewater treatment systems at the 2012 Expo. He'll tell you he came away with practical advice from fellow service providers who work across the country.

"I was able to exchange maintenance agreements with other contractors from the Roundtable discussion. We showed each other what we use for contracts and that was really beneficial," Stephens says. "If somebody else is doing something that's working, why do we have to reinvent the wheel? If someone's already drafted a really good service contract and good marketing — or a clever idea in another state — why not use it?"

Stephens and other contractors at his table explored some of the ideas they've used to promote maintenance contracts among their customers. Then they exchanged business cards and delved deeper into the topic in the weeks following the Expo. Eventually they were faxing their agreements to each other for critique, looking for ways to improve the documents.

The result is improved service for customers through regular system checks, and an improved environment for everyone, Stephens says. He would like to stay on the topic of maintenance at the upcoming Expo.

"Different people have different perspectives," he says. "I enjoyed being able to talk to companies that were maintaining twice as many systems as I do and those doing a smaller number. It was a really good experience."

Maintenance contracts were one of many timely business topics explored at the 2012 Roundtable discussions. And many more are in the works for 2013. After grabbing a buffet breakfast, participants will choose a topic and start networking. You are invited to move from table to table to discuss a host of topics ranging from providing services to social media marketing.

Hot topics

Dave Gustafson, a University of Minnesota Extension Service engineer and regular speaker at Pumper & Cleaner Expo seminars, led a 2012 Roundtable that veered into a fascinating hot topic: hydrogen sulfide deterioration in concrete tanks.

The discussion wasn't what Gustafson expected, but it brought to light valuable information about an issue that helped inform his table participants from California, Ohio, New Jersey, New York and Virginia.

"Part of the value of the Roundtable discussions is trying to deal with topics that contractors are working on right now. What are the issues we're wrestling with today?" he says. "I was able to talk to contractors about what they were seeing and interpret it from the research standpoint."

Pinpointing important trends in service and maintenance helps participating contractors keep pace with an evolving industry, Gustafson says. As technologies to treat and transport wastewater change and improve, a well-informed contractor will provide better customer service and become a more effective steward of the environment, he says.

And Gustafson says the networking efforts he begins at the Expo Roundtables continue throughout the year, adding tremendous value to his work and, he hopes, to the advancement of the contractors he's befriended.

Gustafson and other industry educators take part in the Roundtables as moderators, keeping the discussions on topic and adding their expertise wherever possible. As a moderator, Gustafson has a message for all Expo attendees considering taking part in the Roundtables in 2013: The more the merrier.

"Sometimes guys are worried they're not going to have anything to say. But everyone has a perspective. They've all been involved in the industry, so all of them have something to share with the group," Gustafson says. "All perspectives are helpful to come up with a good answer. I think sometimes the guys who don't think they have something to offer, we don't give them the credit they deserve. If you don't come, your reference is missed. We don't have your insights, experiences and understanding."



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