“This NACS Show is near the end of the (calendar) year, but it’s really the start of 2013,” said NACS Chairman Tom Robinson, welcoming a packed house at the NACS Show Opening General Session.
“It is not an accident that my company’s strategic planning meeting is next week,” he said, which is when his team can discuss how to implement the ideas they harvest at the NACS Show.
“The possibilities for connections and knowledge are everywhere,” he said, citing the NACS Show’s impressive scope: More than 22,000 attendees from 61 countries, 1,220-plus exhibiting companies and 53 educational workshops in 11 industry-focused tracks.
“We, like many of you, have a number of people here looking for cool things, learning useful information and making key connections,” said Robinson, president of Santa Clara, Calif.-based Robinson Oil Corp.
Sharing his optimism, he noted that the convenience and fuel retailing industry is “a successful industry because we provide the consumer with a terrific offering and we make it convenient for them to shop with us.”
And of course, another reason for the industry’s success is the “huge value that NACS provides” through its knowledge, connections and advocacy.
“Connections, to me, are value. And connections are everywhere here at the NACS Show,” said Robinson. “These connections lead to opportunities,” whether at the NACS Show or other NACS events throughout the year.
NACS delivers value through knowledge as well, said Robinson. “Everyone at the NACS Show is here for a simple reason. They want to improve their business. So we come here to share ideas. If you don’t have a goal of returning home with five or 10 useful connections and/or good ideas, well you probably want to reconsider what you’d like to accomplish while you are here.”
Robinson said his year as chairman also gave him chance to experience up close all of the other touch points where NACS delivers value.
“The State of the Industry Summit is a perfect example. It is truly a comprehensive look at the numbers,” said Robinson, calling it more of an immersion. “For me, benchmarking to top performers is the best stuff because it helps clarify what our company needs to do to improve.”
The learnings from the NACS State of the Industry Summit also have made it clear that the top performers excel in foodservice. To improve in this area, Robinson has sent employees to training courses at NACS CAFÉ, the Center for Achieving Foodservice Excellence. NACS CAFÉ provides training and education in foodservice — everything from menu management to marketing to food safety systems.
“There’s a difference in magnitude between the execution skills necessary to sell a candy bar and to sell a quality cup of hot, fresh coffee or prepared foods. NACS shows you how to do it right,” said Robinson. “That, is NACS delivering value.”
Then there is the annual technology conference, which has been rebranded as The Tech Event for 2013. “This year was my first. I was blown away” by the value of the workshops and connections, said Robinson. “We are currently working four different deals involving loyalty programs, data security and payment solutions. Plus, we hired one of the speakers as a consultant to expand our social media marketing efforts. I think I got my money’s worth from that trip.”
For leadership training, Robinson has annually sent staff to the NACS Leadership Executive Program at Cornell, a one-week MBA-level program designed for senior leaders within the company. “It was a great opportunity to develop knowledge and connections. And that’s important to us.”
Then, there is advocacy. “This is a place where NACS excels in providing value,” he said.
NACS continues leading efforts to fix the broken credit and debit card systems, and NACS Show attendees can visit The NACS Booth to learn how they can make their voices heard as the battle continues.
But there is much more that NACS is working on, said Robinson. “The list of legislative and regulatory issues is long. FDA tobacco regulations, menu labeling, fuels regulations, healthy and nutritional food issues, online lottery, PCI compliance — just to name a few.”
“That knowledge, those connections and advocacy are all part of the NACS value proposition. It is all out there for you and your companies to take advantage of,” he said.
The NACS Show, which runs through Oct. 10 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, is ranked as the 47th largest trade show in the U.S. and is ranked the top show in the country for attracting attendees responsible for buying plans.