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My EDPA Access 2017 Recap | Kevin Carty

December 9th, 2017 6 COMMENTS


Greetings from the Great Northwest

It’s December and almost Christmas, which means I am just as busy away from work as I am at work. I trust you had a great Thanksgiving and have amazing plans for Christmas and New Year’s.

Last week, I attended EDPA Access which was held in beautiful Carlsbad, California at the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort. Let me say, as someone who has been a member of EDPA for more than a decade, this was easily one of the Top 3 venues ever. Great layout, outstanding services, beautiful facilities, and much more.

From start to finish, the content was on point, applicable to every business in our industry, and well organized. Our industry is changing because of how our customers do business. And it will continue to change. The next generation of exhibit marketing professionals are calling on us to serve them in different ways than in the past. EDPA started to address this change by replacing the “E” in EDPA to “Experiential” (from “Exhibit”).


Exhibits and events, once thought to be separate things, are more and more the same. And the Exhibit/Experiential Marketing Professionals of today are largely driving this with “Emotion-Driving Experiences” being a leading theme. What does that mean? Regardless of what a person or company is buying, they expect an emotional connection with the product or the team presenting it to them.

We spend 90 percent of our day indoors. It’s imperative to design environments that create positive emotions, stimulates productivity, and inspires creativity. Not just for your employees, but also for your customers in their exhibit/event space. It needs to make them comfortable and allow them to understand who you are and how your collaborate.

Being an “Agile Organization” is increasingly important. Historically it has meant being everything to everyone. NOT ANYMORE. Today’s customers want companies that can help them with everything, but they appreciate collaboration. They expect you to work with partners to achieve the best outcome. It’s time to embrace a “Shared Purpose” in your products and solutions and celebrate it!

Classic Exhibits at ACCESS


If you were there, you saw the beautiful “Late Night” set we created. It was definitely a show stopper, not just because it looked great but because it showcased our custom wood fabrication capabilities. That was an eye opener for many who have not tapped into our custom design and wood fabrication. This segment has grown faster than any other division within manufacturing over the past two years. Yes, we still design and build modular, hybrid, and portable exhibits, but custom now represents a significant percentage of our sales.

Our Late Show theme with Kevin and Jen had a special guest — Alexa. She was everything you would expect from a star — personable, knowledgeable, and witty. Alexa provided some great laughs and many “inquisitive” looks with her questions. On a personal note, I now know Brennan Curtis’s from Mostre Design “smell preferences.” There’s no way to cleanse my brain of that information. Our congratulations to those who won an Echo Dot. We might just repeat the game at EXHIBITOR.

Once again, our thanks to those who spent time with Jen, Alexa, and me. We always appreciate seeing you. And special thanks to the entire team from EDPA HQ for putting together one of the best ACCESS events ever.

Have a great weekend ahead with your families.



Our 4th FABulous Year! | Event Marketer FAB 50

September 10th, 2016 2 COMMENTS

Event Marketer Fab 50 2016 Exhibit Fabricator

It’s September! And activity is CLEARLY on the upswing based on your design and quote requests last week. Talk about a green flag start to the fall season. Thanks as always for trusting us with your projects. It’s very much appreciated!

In addition to this week being busy, it’s also been FABULOUS! Why you ask? Because for the fourth straight year, Classic Exhibits Inc. was honored as an Event Marketer FAB 50. The FAB 50 names the Top 50 Exhibit Fabricators in North America. This is a judged listing, not a popularity contest, complete with a comprehensive application and background check.

We are proud and humbled by this honor, considering the other 49 honorees. All amazing companies in our industry. And 30 are also Classic Exhibits Distributors/Partners. Wow!

So a huge KUDOS to those named to the 2016 Fab 50. Very well deserved to one and all.

Event Marketer Fab 50 Exhibit Fabricators

We’re the highlight one with the arrow. 😉

Like you, we take our responsibilities very seriously and even personally. This is a testament to our employees — the Designers, Project Managers, Detailers, Accounting, Purchasing, and our talented Production team. This recognition speaks to their commitment to Shared Success which serves as the foundation of our company. Thank you.

Finally, a BIG THANKS to Event Marketer and to the judges. We’re not a traditional custom house, although we build custom exhibits. In some ways, it would be easy to overlook us. And yet… you haven’t. You recognized the qualities that make us different from every other exhibit builder. For that, we are very, very grateful.

Finally, for all the parents reading this, school is back in session. For those with young kids (K thru 12) can I get an AMEN?! I don’t know about you, but I love my kiddos dearly, but I am so happy to be back on a normal schedule. Summer is supposed to be a time for rest and relaxation. Not in my house. It’s all about chasing kids. 🙂

Looking forward to seeing and talking to you during the busy fall season.

Have a great weekend with you and yours.



College Scholarship Deadline — EDPA Foundation

June 28th, 2016 COMMENTS

EDPA Foundation

Classic Exhibits Distributors and Vendors,

As many of you know, I am on the EDPA Scholarship Foundation Committee. The Exhibit and Designers Association Foundation offers college scholarships to member families who apply and qualify. It’s a great opportunity for the Association to give back to its members and a benefit to you.

For eight years, I’ve seen the impact on those families, and it has been nothing short of amazing.

The application deadline is coming fast — July 25th. If your kids are either in college or headed to college this fall, we invite you to apply. Again, it’s free money for books or classes or however they decide to apply it to their education. But they need to apply to be considered.

Basic details can be seen on the image below.

EDPA Scholarship poster 2016_final3

Go to Applications are confidential and are reviewed by the EDPA Scholarship Foundation Committee, a small group.

As we know, college is expensive so every little bit helps. Please don’t miss out on this great opportunity to offset some of the expense.

Have a great 4th of July holiday weekend ahead.



Kevin, Why Have You Worked at Classic So Long? “C”ing is Believing!

May 19th, 2016 5 COMMENTS
Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

After Nearly 22 Years

July will mark my 22nd year at Classic. I often hear, “Wow, that is a long time by today’s standards to be with the same company.” Or I am asked, “What is it that keeps you there for so long?” The answer is easy.

This past weekend I was on a getaway with my daughter — a Daddy/Daughter Camp Weekend with a group of dads and their daughters. While there, a couple of the Dad’s asked me about my tenure at Classic. Then on Monday in a meeting with Mel, he put the exact words to my feelings. It involves the 4 C’s — Culture, Continuity, Capabilities, and Customers. Those four words encapsulate not only my feelings about our organization, but also what we hear from our wonderful distributors.

SharedMessageHandoutCulture is king. Each year, at Shared Knowledge University (SKU), we devote 30-45 minutes to a post-training Q&A. Everyone gathers in a circle on the Production floor and talks about their experience, what they learned, any surprises, constructive criticism, etc. Each time, we are humbled by their comments regarding Classic Exhibits.

In a nutshell, they tell us that Classic is exactly who we say we are. No artifice. No pretense. No corporate b.s. What they see in person is exactly who we say we are in visits, in our blog, and at industry events.

Culture defines our family of employees and our great family of distributors. It’s “Who Classic is” in the exhibit industry and each day inside of this building. Yes, we summarize our values into a handy formula:  Shared Innovation + Shared Knowledge + Shared Responsibility = Shared Success. However, a values statement is useless unless it permeates your culture. Don’t get me wrong. We’re not perfect, and we stumble. But the “Shared” philosophy serves as a touchstone. It reminds us of what we strive to be as a company.

Continuity is the 2016 version of “predictability.” No one gets an “atta boy” for continuity, but creating consistency in your production, sales, marketing, and human resource processes wins hearts and minds over time. At the end of the day, neither a customer nor an employee should ever be surprised by your answers or your actions.

Continuity also speaks to the great group of people I get to work with. Folks don’t believe me when I share with them that most of our employees have been with Classic for 5-15 years — aside from new hires as we grow. Same can be said about our loyal distributors who have been with the Classic Family for years and years.


Capabilities make what I do every day fun. I told one of the dads this weekend, “I love walking into a different business each day.” On my way to my office, I pass by our Setup Area, which is like a walking by a candy store to me. Our Production, Design, and Customer Service staffs work together to create the next great exhibit or design or process. It’s almost embarrassing at times when I find myself saying “I did not know we could do that.” Frankly, I would shrivel up into a ball after a week of doing the same thing 8-10 hours a day. That’s not a job I’d want.

Customers. Sounds like a cliché, but Reid, Jen, Mel, and I have said for years that “When given the choice, we would rather work with friends than with a customer on the other end of the phone.” And in large part, we have succeeded. We made a decision about ten years ago not add a distributor for sales volume alone. Don’t get me wrong, we all need that. We are a business… BUT, in order for our culture to thrive internally and externally, we realize that, once again, Culture is King. We would much rather work with friends. So when choosing distributors we ask ourselves, “Are these folks who share our business values?” And, we have been extraordinarily blessed in this regard. I think we have the best network in the business! Which is easy for me to say because so many of them are my friends.


Each year, as we roll through spring, head towards summer and my work anniversary, I find myself reflecting more and more on my job. For some people, that reflection is geared towards “How much longer do I have to do this before I retire?” But for me I find myself saying, “How much longer to I GET to do this before I am forced to retire.” A long time. The reason is simple: the 4 C’s — Culture, Continuity, Capabilities, and Customers. That’s what makes Classic Exhibits my home away from home.

Oh… Two more “C’s”…Costco Cookies! Someone keeps us in full supply around here.

Hope you all have a great weekend ahead.



Email Apocalypse — The Joys of Technology

April 15th, 2016 COMMENTS
Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

Bunnies and Bounce Houses

As a Classic Distributor, you know — or can probably guess — that the past two weeks have been nothing close to Bunnies and Bounce Houses around here. Why? Because our entire computer server/network came to a loud crash around April Fools Day.

But the joke was not a joke. It really happened. Our systems puked. And while we were able to recover our Accounting and CRM systems quickly, our email system struggled. Actually, our email flat-out died. And as you can all relate, there is never enough adult diapers in the room to prepare you for a total loss of information and connectivity.

Gross I know. Sorry.

ServerDownREVSREVSWell, the good news is that we have a solid disaster back-up plan that enabled us to recover all but three days of email and communications. And along the way, through the implementation of various hotspot, working from home, and good old-fashioned handwriting solutions, we were able to press through the mess and complete orders and quotes. And through this painful email apocalypse, we implemented a significantly better solution for our network setup.

But man oh man. This couldn’t have happened at a worse time! It’s freaking April in the trade show industry! One of the three busiest months of the year for us historically. This year is no exception. But again, we are looking to the future now, and I’m not going to dwell on the evenings that I set my alarm to go off once every 90 minutes to check in with the IT folks to see how the recovery was going and answer questions that they had along the way. NOPE, not going to focus on that at all.


Happy Happy Clouds

We are officially a cloud-based communications business as of last Monday. Our Accounting, Purchasing, and Order Entry software will stay on local servers at Classic. But all our emails are now cloud-based, and we have implemented a better protocol for email, storage, etc.

So, our apologies and our thanks to you, our wonderful customers, for your patience over the past two plus weeks. I honestly did not get one complaint. Which was appreciated. And if you had complained, I would have probably left you a burning bag of poo on your doorstep. What can I say. I was a little moody. 🙂

And thanks to our staff for their patience. Once again, I am proud and impressed by your professionalism and perseverance.

So, back to work on our fancy and now very speedy and reliable network.

Hope you have a great weekend with your families. I know I will… finally!