A Perspective Relating to Industry Event Participation
Margins are very thin on the farm. For that reason, I presume there should be no argument that every dollar must be invested and accounted for very carefully for every business, whether associated with agriculture or not. One expense item that receives scrutiny at times like this relates to participation in industry events and conferences.
A question that is asked in this context might be: What is the ROI related to attendance at industry meetings and conferences? An answer to the question is relevant to me because I have just returned from a very interesting, thought-provoking and effective conference. The gathering I am referencing, and have attended for many years, was recently held in San Diego California and is called AAPEX (The Association of Ag Production Executives). This conference is a very high-quality conference, full of interesting speakers, time for networking and maybe most of all, a time to get away for a couple of days from the day-to-day challenges of the farm. It is at events such as this, which can serve as a sort of an enabling moment, a time to step back into a more reflective, thinking, personal development, and long-term planning mode.
The question as I see it: Is there a positive ROI associated with this expenditure of time and treasure? Although I admit to a bias, as I have attended this particular conference for years and hope to continue to attend in the future. But why?
- Having the pleasure of meeting new, like-minded industry leaders, as well as the renewing of strong, long-time friendships.
- Taking a big picture, world-wide look at agriculture as discussed through the lens of experts from many areas of expertise. I firmly believe that dedicating time and investment to our businesses from this global perspective is critical, in addition to local and regional ag farm groups and events – now, more than ever.
- Learning about our industry from experts, professionals and respected friends is sometimes that tonic that is needed to help kick-start the new year.
A few of the keynote presentations and their topics that were presented at AAPEX are as follows:
Anja Manuel, Co-Founder and Principal, RiceHadleyGates LLC - What the rise of Asia means for us
Peter Zeihan, President and Founder, Zeihan on Geopolitics: Global Energy, Demographics and World Security
Pete Hammett, Owner, Hammett Consulting : Organizational Culture
Pablo Sherwell, Head of Raboresearch, Food and Agribusiness in North America: A Food and Agribusiness Economic Outlook for North America
There were also some discussion groups as a part of the programming including a wonderful discussion relating to water issues impacting production agriculture from three different perspectives. Another interesting highlight of the conference was a series of panels featuring individual farm businesses and families, each with a different theme.
I believe getting out of our individual comfort zones might be important as well. As a matter of fact, at the recent AAPEX conference, during one of the panels, my son, my daughter and myself participated in a presentation that highlighted business transition and succession planning in our industry…. which did indeed place this semi-retired, ex-CEO in a somewhat exposed, uncomfortable position. But, that is what we must do from time to time, in the hopes that some of our personal experiences might give another attendee a reason to bring home a positive, or different thought, idea or suggestion.
Panel Discussion - Gregg, Eric & Leah Halverson
Bottom line, from a worldwide view of our industry, to a very personal panel discussion, I believe attendance at a meeting such as this one was very helpful to both our organization as well as to the other associates that spent time and cash to attend. Although it is hard to measure the ROI in terms of an immediate profit, I would say this AAPEX meeting was a winner. That old rule about the more you put into an event, the more you get out of it, really does apply in this case. Furthermore, I believe that investments in high quality, relevant industry meetings, if properly planned for, just might give birth to a nugget of information or a long-term idea for nearly any family business. Yes, I am already looking forward to next year’s meeting!!