Industry members discuss takeaways from recent ICFA Educational Conference

Leadership was a key focus of the ICFA Educational Conference this year, as retailers, manufacturers and sales reps met in Scottsdale, Arizona, to learn about the business, experience retail stores and network with other industry members over four days. 

Motivational speaker Betsy Allen-Manning was one of the keynote speakers, and she gave the attendees an assignment a few weeks before the conference: Take a personality test. 

They were to print these out and take them to the presentation, and Allen-Manning helped everyone decipher their personality tests as a way to show that improved communication comes through understanding each other’s varying personalities. 

She talked about how to build better relationships and deal with different people, and it was a wonderful seminar, says Harold Hudson, president of private label at Summer Classics. The personality test was spot on as far as I was concerned.

Back by popular demand, this was Allen-Mannings second time speaking at an ICFA conference. Ty Bennett, another keynoter at this years conference, also returned this year to talk about his new book, Partnership Is the New Leadership. 

This was something independent sales rep Ariel Biscan says was the most meaningful part of the conference for her. 

Partnership truly is the new leadership, and the conference honed in on what I believe about teamwork and partnership, she explains. I was taught that it was a three-way partnership, but its four ways sales reps should know what retailers are doing as much as manufacturers. All of the PFAS regulations have made that very clear.

She also adds that partnership is important to reps especially, because the job of a rep is to partner with everyone they work with and build community. And community is what the casual industry is built on.

Something that I’ve been kind of pushing within my territory is working closer together and finding new ideas, she says. It’s a shared experience with my community of partners, because nobody gets anywhere by themselves.

Eli Hymer, buyer for Gasper Home and Garden in Richboro, Pennsylvania, says he can listen to speakers all day, but the real connection he makes with other retailers through networking is his favorite part of the conference every year.

Whether theyre in Memphis, Tennessee, or Santa Barbara, California, we all share the same challenges, he explains. And its so interesting to me to see how other people in different parts of the country handle them. Everyone is so busy at the Casual Market that we dont have enough time to really relate and talk to each other.

This ties in well to the leadership-by-partnership theme. The casual industry truly is a community that lends a helping hand to anyone who needs it, and the conference was a great reminder of that as we head into the outdoor season.