Trade Show TalesBlog

Posts Tagged ‘Shared Success’

The Dirty Stinky Hippies Who Moo’d and Clucked at Me: Word on the Street — Nov.9th thru Nov. 13th

November 13th, 2015 COMMENTS
Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

The title is something only a recent graduate of Shared Knowledge University (SKU) can fully appreciate. 🙂  This week, we proudly graduated another remarkable class from SKU (Go “Fighting Hybrids!”).

Twice a year, we invite 30-40 distributors from around the country to learn about all things Classic Exhibits and several strategic partners.

This group, like those in past SKU sessions, was amazing. They arrived with a positive attitude, mixed with a perverse smidge of curiosity to see the REAL Portlandia. It was one of the most diverse groups we have seen to date and included companies ranging from two-to-three person operations to several hundred.


As in past sessions, the great takeaway was the opportunity to meet and/or reconnect with some smart people in our industry who clearly share our goals. So to the graduating Fall SKU 2015 Class– A warm and heartfelt congrats! And many, many thanks for spending time to learn more about the weirdos in the Pacific NW. Yes, that includes us.

To the Classic Exhibits Inc Team (Exhibits NW, Classic Manufacturing, Classic Rentals Solutions and ClassicMODUL), thanks again for all your hard work pulling the event together in flawless fashion. The Shared Success Formula came shining through because of YOU!

To our participating vendor partners — Optima Graphics, Cort Furnishings, Eco-Systems Sustainable, and  3 Dog Write — your attendance, participation, presentations, and partnerships are appreciated beyond words. [D. Brown  — We rechecked your scores. You are an official graduate. Please feel free to add this academic accomplishment to your LinkedIn profile.]

I am exhausted, much like the others on the team, so I plan to sleep all weekend. I hope you have a great and restful weekend with your families as well.

Spring 2016 SKU will be held May 15-16. Contact Jen or Reid to reserve a seat.

Be well.



Ghouls… Goblins… and CyberThieves!: Word on the Street — October 20th thru October 24th

October 25th, 2014 2 COMMENTS
Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

Fall is here. The leaves are turning in the Pacific NW, the rain has arrived, and the temperature has dropped. All signs that Halloween is just around the corner.

Recently, I went on a family vacation to Disneyland in California. We spent the entire first week of October there. Part of the reason we went was that Disneyland does a Halloween Party 2-3 times a week during October. It was fun. All the kids and all the adults got dressed up in costumes, all “Disney-Safe” and fairly wholesome for the most part. Pirates, Ninjas, and more Princesses than you could ever imagine. But not criminals…or thieves.

Intellectual Property

Which brings me to the real reason for this post.

In business, we all rely heavily on our Intellectual Property. It’s the fruit of our hard work and the root of what ”Shared Success” is all about at Classic Exhibits and our proud Distributor Network.

We take great pride in and go to great lengths to make our shared IP available to Authorized Classic Exhibits Distributors. That IP, in part, includes our designs and our Exhibit Design Search images, along with our patented products.

Recently, we were directed to a website for an online exhibit company based in Southern California. We were informed that the online company was using our images, along with Classic kit numbers.

large-2014-031314 SEG 10x10_a

VK-1118 Portable Hybrid Exhibit

When I went to the site, I honestly saw something that I never expected to see. Entire galleries, splash page images, detail pages, text, etc. that had been stolen from either the Classic Exhibits EDS or from one of our trusted Classic Distributor Branded EDS sites. It was more than shocking. Mainly because there was not so much as a tiny bit of effort to hide the fact that they stole the images… even the text that indicated they were an authorized Classic Distributor. We have seen this before from overseas websites, but they were smart enough to only choose a dozen or so designs. Just enough to give the website “exhibit design credibility.”

You might think that is the worst of it…but there is more.  We also found, after receiving a call from an end-user, that they were selling exhibits as “Classic Exhibits built displays,” but delivering cobbled together versions using various products on the market, none of which were from Classic Exhibits. In one case, a client was so shocked by the abysmal quality that they called us to complain. In response, we did two things:  1. We explained to them that their display was not manufactured by Classic, and 2. We replaced the exhibit at our expense.


While my wish would be to share the link with you, there is a legal progress that prevents me from doing so. But I did want you to know. Often this happens under the radar. But unethical people who lack creativity often become cyberthieves willing to take your hard work and use it to line their pockets.

We all know that websites can present a much different company than really exists at the street address on their contact pages. And in this case, what appears to be a real professional business was nothing more than a thief with a laptop, mouse, and PayPal account. Sadly, this business has been operating “legitimately” in our industry in various forms for over 20 years. Truly a “trick” experience for unsuspecting customers.

I hope you and your families have a great and safe Halloween this coming Friday.

May the fall business rush continue. Be well.



Does Your Mirror Lie?: Word on the Street — June 16th thru June 20th

June 20th, 2014 2 COMMENTS

We ALL Do It

Classic Exhibits_August_8Every morning we look in the mirror. If we are honest, we ask ourselves, “Does what I see in the mirror match what my colleagues, family, and friends see in me?”

Before you think I am going on some sort of Freudian rant, I am not. But, as business professionals, we face this question every day. Take Nordstrom for example. Nordstrom has always viewed itself as a leader in Customer Service. And as I write this, I would say that the public mostly agrees. But there was a point when the Nordstrom Family stepped away from the business, and, after a small period of time, they realized that their self-perception no longer matched their public perception. Once they owned it, they got back on track to being a company known for outstanding Customer Service.

In business, this can be extraordinarily challenging. We are here to grow our businesses — both top line sales and bottom line revenue. In order to do so, we need to market and evangelize our businesses. And admittedly, sometimes we find ourselves relying on smoke and mirrors. It’s human nature to want to be all things to all people. But it’s a slippery slope.

The Naked Truth

A few years ago, we made a very conscious decision at Classic Exhibits to do the unthinkable, the most uncomfortable thing in the world in many ways. Namely, pull back the veil in a very aggressive fashion. Become transparent and expose who we really are. Now I don’t pretend this was earth shattering, but I will say from the perspective of someone who has been at Classic longer than anyone else (20 years in July), it was a bit nerve racking in the beginning but cathartic and gratifying in the end.

Classic Exhibits Main Entrance

Classic Exhibits Main Entrance

Five years ago, Mel and I were the company Road Warriors, traveling 3-4 months of the year (not including industry shows) to spread the Classic word. And it was effective. And to this day, many of you can attest that Reid and Jen are equally, if not more successful. But for me and Mel, we took a step back from traveling and decided to encourage more customers to visit us in Portland. The approach included Shared Knowledge University twice a year as well as scheduling distributor visits every couple of weeks for individual training, client previews, or tours.

Again, nothing earth shattering on the surface, but by doing so, we knew all perceptions (good and bad) would be thrown out of the door the second someone walked into our facility. And a whole new perception would be created. What would that be? Would it line up with who we had been telling people we were in the past? What would people think when they saw the entrance really is just a small red door on the SW corner of the building that opens into the Production?

Well I am writing this because of one comment that I have heard from attendees at every SKU, ranging from customers who have been distributors for 17 years to only a few months. What do they say? “You are exactly who you said you were.” I even had one person say, “You were not kidding all these years that you are a manufacturer … and that’s it. I was sure that I was going to walk into the showroom you always claimed you didn’t have.” My answer, “Well, we do have a showroom. It’s the biggest showroom in the industry. It’s our 75,000 sq. ft. manufacturing space.” 🙂

By far, the highest compliment we receive is about the “Classic Family.”  For years, I have bragged about “The Team.” Bragged about how close we all are, how long we have all been together, and how much we care about the business and meeting our customer’s needs. But nothing compares to hearing customers and vendors comment on the “Shared Atmosphere” at Classic Exhibits. It’s who we are.

As I approach my official 20 year anniversary at Classic, few reflections are quite as sweet as our decision to “Bare It All.” Naked is good.


I hope you all have a great weekend with your families.

Be well.


What I’ve Learned (or The Tao of Jen)

October 10th, 2012 COMMENTS
What I’ve Learned (or The Tao of Jen)

Lessons Learn by Jen LaBruzza

Lesson #43:  Understand Your Customer’s World, then See How Your Product and Your Company Fits.

If Willie Nelson can have a Tao, well, then so can I.

I’ve been on the job as Classic’s Western Regional Manager for a few months. Let me just say — working four hours a day is exhausting. 😉 Over the past 60 plus days, I’ve learned a few things, made some mistakes, and grown not only as a professional, but also as a person. Here are a few personal “pearls of wisdom” I’d like to share about my experience as a newbie at Classic Exhibits.

1. “I know what I’m doing, I know what I’m doing, I know what I’m doing.”

I’ve had to come to terms with my own insecurities. This may sound a little odd, but to do a good job, I have to know I am doing a good job. While I don’t know everything – not by a long shot — I do know there is always someone on Classic’s team who will support me and who I can turn to if I need help. That alone lessens my anxiety.

Heading into my first trip to Seattle I was full of “What if’s”:  What if I don’t say the right thing? What if I don’t know the answer? We all have those insecurities and doubts on a new job, even when it’s an industry we think we know. I’ve learned that I work with brilliant people who care, who want me to succeed, and who will be there to back me up.

Repeat . . . “I am pretty good at my job, and I’m working on getting better.”

2. What I thought I’d be doing vs. What I do vs. What my friends/family think I do.

If you’re on Facebook or any of the other social media venues, you will probably smile or chuckle when you read the above statement. The “What I Think I Do” meme has become the latest fad with its interesting twist on self-reflection.

Having worked with distributors in the past, I felt I had a pretty good handle on what I’d be doing. But after my second trip, I realized that this is more than a job. Yes, I am a cheerleader, a problem solver, and a trainer, but I am also a friend.  Being a friend may be more important than the other three.

3. “Understand your customer’s world, then see how your product fits in. Get out of the office and visit them where they live and work.” – Rich Banfield

The whole reason for my job is this one premise. As distributors, you know your market and your customers. As manufacturers we strive to listen to you and apply your ideas and suggestions as often as we can. Where would Exhibit Design Search be without your willingness to share your ideas and insights? I have come to appreciate and believe in “Shared Knowledge, Shared Success.” It’s a breath of fresh air actually and goes hand in hand with Classic’s Can Do manufacturing attitude.

Classic talks about that “Shared” concept a lot. You may not hear it all the time, but trust me, I hear it ALL THE TIME. It’s important to the company. We see it as two-way communication where your contribution matters and is essential to how Classic functions. It’s not a top down approach. It’s not an “our way or the highway” attitude. If you’ve ever worked in those environments, you know exactly what I mean. We want to know what’s happening in your world and how we can better support and react to it.

These last few months have been fantastic, and I can’t wait to see what the future brings. Next time I see you, challenge me about what I’ve learned. As a former teacher, I’ll be ready for the pop quiz. Just remember to grade me on a very generous curve.

Jen LaBruzza, Western Regional Manager