Trade Show TalesBlog

A Groovy First Year Retrospective

July 9th, 2013 COMMENTS
First Year Retrospective

Lessons Learned by Jen LaBruzza

Lesson #56 – Problems Can be Opportunities in (a really bad) Disguise

Some might say “astounding.” Others may choose “astonishing.” I choose “G-R-O-O-V-Y”!

The past year has been, well, groovy. I’m imagining a few LOL moments from those who have spent time with me. This month marks my one-year anniversary with Classic Exhibits as the Western Regional Manager.

As a former teacher, I would be remiss if I didn’t pause for a little self-reflection on my first year. To those who have allowed me into your businesses and into your lives — “Thank You!” I am grateful for every conversation and every meeting. I realize that it’s not always easy meeting with a newbie.

Which brings me to the sometimes challenging part of my job:  problem solving and wheel greasing. You may recall Reid Sherwood’s timely blog post last year, What You Should Expect From a Manufacturer’s Rep. It was published just as I was heading out on my first trip and hearing a lot of, “Now what is your role with Classic Exhibits?” It was a great insight into the expectations for Regional Managers at Classic Exhibits and ClassicMODUL.

Did you lose my manuscripts?

It also brought to light a part of our job that we sometimes dread — Problem Solver. Having worn many hats over the years in this industry, this is still the one hat that drives me the most crazy. It eats up everyone’s margin on that “oh so easy” job. But without something breaking, without trouble that shakes up the normal course of things, there is no opportunity to introduce new and better solutions.

Ernest and Ezra

In the 1920’s, when Ernest Hemingway was working hard to perfect his craft, he lost a suitcase containing all his manuscripts. The devastated Hemingway couldn’t conceive of redoing his work. He could only think of the months he’d devoted to his arduous writing . . . all for nothing, he was now convinced.  But when he lamented his loss to his friend and poet, Ezra Pound, Pound called it a stroke of luck. Pound assured Hemingway that when he rewrote the stories, he would forget the weak parts and only the best material would reappear. Instead of framing the event in disappointment, Pound cast it in the light of opportunity. Hemingway did rewrite those stories, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Last year, there have been problems, ranging from “I need an extra length of cord cover for our customer’s extrusion” to the generic “This job has problems and I need you to fix them.” Recently, one of the latter took me to the show site.

The “opportunity” involved Classic stepping up to the plate and correcting some mistakes. They weren’t huge, but measuring mistakes depends on who has the ruler. The distributor requested that we send someone to the show site to assist their client. All was well until the final phase, when things were being plugged in and tested. The last SEG graphic was not going to work, not because of size but because the client was unhappy with the standard rear projection fabric. Did I mention this was on a Sunday?

I was able to call in the cavalry, a.k.a. Dave Brown from Optima Graphics who suggested an alternative fabric. He rallied his troops and got the new graphic printed and on a flight. Did I mention that the show opened on Monday at 9:30 am? For me, it meant waking up at 4:15 am to arrive at the airport at 4:30 to ensure that the graphic was installed by 7:30. This was clearly an opportunity waiting to happen and thanks to Optima, the new rear projection fabric worked perfectly.

A sure sign of a successful person or a company is how they tackle problems. Are they creative and innovative? Do they turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones. It’s often those hidden opportunities that can cement your relationship with your client and serve to make it stronger because you have weathered it together. As the saying goes, “Problems happen. It’s how you handle them that is important.”

Now go out there and focus on turning challenges into opportunities rather than into disappointments and problems. And most importantly, let me know how I can help.

Jen LaBruzza, Western Regional Manager
Classic Exhibits/ClassicMODUL


Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions and engineered aluminum extrusions (ClassicMODUL). Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100.


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