ORLANDO, FL – The show floor hasn't opened yet at RetailNOW 2011, but multiple people said to me that it feels like the show is already well underway. That could be because the excellent education sessions and multiple networking opportunities on Day 1 have already overwhelmed the record-setting crowd of nearly 1,500 at the annual RSPA event.
The highlight of Day 1 was the 90-minute Industry Vision Panel Discussion which I had the pleasure of moderating for the second consecutive year. The list of panelists looked like a retail IT channel all-star lineup:
Ray Carlin, VP for Retail Store Solutions Global Business Unit, HP
Ted Clark, Global Business Partner Channel Leader, IBM
Steve Cuntz, President, BlueStar
Justin Scopaz, General Manager and VP, Ingram Micro Data Capture/POS Division
David Wikinson, VP of Global Channel Sales, NCR
Jeff Yelton, President, ScanSource POS and Barcoding
The underlying theme of the panel discussion was that resellers need to prepare their organizations to embrace the blur of technology changes, especially cloud computing, SaaS (Software as a Service), and mobility. These technologies won't be simply added to a VAR's linecard – they could change the reseller's revenue model and business model. Perhaps the best advice from the panel was to seek the counsel of your partners (vendors, distributors, and fellow resellers) and to fully understand your customers so you are adopting technologies that meet their exact needs.
I thought another interesting point from the discussion was that nearly every one of the 400+ retail IT industry professionals in attendance owned a tablet or smart phone but only one VAR was an authorized reseller of these products. These products are viewed as a threat by many at the RetailNOW event, but not many have taken steps to convert these new techs from a threat into an opportunity.
Other highlights from Day 1 – there are plenty:
History was made when Mark Olson, President of RSPA vendor member APG Cash Drawer, was elected Chairman-Elect of the association. Olson will be the first-ever vendor executive to hold that office. Because there was a clear reseller vs. vendor atmosphere in the RSPA just six years ago, Olson's election is a significant event in the RSPA's continued transition from an exclusive dealer organization to an inclusive industry organization. Olson has unselfishly served the retail IT channel for several years, making him an overwhelmingly popular choice for the Chairman position.
Newly elected to the RSPA board were Christine Duffy, Senior Sales Director at Star Micronics, and Mike Seymour, VP of Operations and CFO, at Postec. Re-elected to the board were Scott Berkshire, VP at Tulsa Cash Register, and John Lohr of JCR Systems.
The RSPA anticipates nearly 1,500 attendees for the event, up more then 10% from last year's record-setting attendance. Many had worried that moving RetailNOW from its regular locale of Las Vegas to Orlando would hurt attendance, but that fear hasn't been realized.
One of the RSPA's unique offerings is that each year it offers scholarships to children of reseller members who qualify for the awards. This year the association awarded a record $113,500 to nearly 70 kids. Susannah Perkins earned the prestigious Stanley and Shirley Hayman Scholarship this year.
Here are my three favorite quotes from keynote speaker Garrison Wynn, who discussed differences in age and communication in the workplace.
o "The worst leadership strategy is wishing people were like you."
o "People want multiple solutions for a single problem -- not just one way, not just your way."
o "If you criticize others ideas too much, they'll never listen to yours."
And here's the best quote from RSPA President Joe Finizio: "(The RSPA's) main mission is education and certification. That's how you differentiate your business." Expect the RSPA and its vendor members to encourage more resellers to become RSPA Certified over the next 12 months.