I’m neither an old man, nor a young man . . . unless you ask Kevin who referred to me as a geezer at EXHIBITOR. Nor can I claim to have a long history in the exhibit business. My experience is limited to about 10 years with three exhibit manufacturers. Many of you know my background (and my former employers), so I won’t go into details. The details are not important, except to say that I’ve worked for two companies that were competent, resourceful, creative, aggressive, and second-tier players in the portable/modular market. There is nothing wrong with being a second-tier player, especially if the company is filling a niche, is profitable, and is clearly a first-tier player within that niche. And in both cases, my former employers were good companies with great products.
What about the third company? Classic Exhibits is the third, and if I was honest, I’d admit (reluctantly) that about five years ago Classic was perceived as a second-tier player. Was that perception fair and accurate? Probably not, but perception carries a lot of weight in our industry, especially in the portable, modular, and hybrid segment. In fact, we hadn’t been a second-tier player for many years, but Classic took a very low-key approach about marketing the Classic Exhibits’ brand. If you didn’t know us, and didn’t work with our designers, our project managers, and our production team, it was easy to image us as “Five Guys in a Garage.” Five VERY TALENTED guys in a garage who could do just about anything, but, sigh, . . . still just five guys.
Much has changed over the past five years. Classic Exhibits has gotten a little more street cred. Our hybrid designs like Perfect 10, Magellan, and Visionary Designs are considered some of the most innovative and imaginative displays in the trade show industry. Our nimble approach to design, customer service, and manufacturing means that we routinely build anything from $400 table tops to a $140,000 islands. And, since we are by our very nature flexible and accommodating, we are hard-wired to find solutions even under very tight timeframes. Yes, we have policies, like any company, but you rarely hear us utter the phrase, “That’s not our policy.”
What’s the difference from five years ago? We targeted our marketing like a laser beam on the customers who mattered the most. Our distributors. While our competitors were chasing leads, we were developing tools so our distributors could better represent our designs to their clients, both in person and on their websites. Design Search, Design Monday, and P5D are just a few examples. Secondly, we made it clear to everyone — distributors, suppliers, and Classic employees — that our mission statement was simple: Shared Success. Our future and our success depended on mutual success. That attitude, that leveling of the playing field, meant that everyone had to participate and everyone had to listen. But let’s not kid ourselves, we experienced growing pains and stubbed our toe(s) occasionally, despite our best intention to always do our best. I’d like to think we learned from those mistakes, and I think we did. We’ve become a great company, with excellent products, and remarkable employees, suppliers, and distributors.
So, are we still second-tier players? Frankly, I hope so. Your competitors don’t take you serious. They are too busy watching the companies they have always watched, and we could use another year or two of invisibility. Plus, I don’t mind the “second-tier” designation. Being the underdog has its benefits. But our distributors and their customers know better. When it comes to design, quality, and value, Classic Exhibits is a first-tier player. Be kind and give us our moment to brag. In the next hour someone will call and need a Euro LT | Hybrid in less than six days, and we’ll forget all about our invincibility and street cred and scramble to get it done.