Members of the Specialty Tools & Fasteners Distributors Association sailed to a spectacular finish for the Association’s 46th Annual Convention & Trade Show Oct. 30-Nov. 1 in San Diego. Nearly 2,800 attendees came aboard in the San Diego Convention Center to get the absolute most out of the three-day event, featuring live demos, a buying show, networking, a student hiring event and more. After years of pandemic travel restrictions, STAFDA was pleased to welcome the return of members from outside the U.S. STAFDA’s two-day Trade Show was bustling with 438 booths, including four islands.

Educational Workshops Sunday provided a curriculum easily customized by attendees who could pick two topics to meet their interests. Subjects included “Building High Performance Remote & Hybrid Teams” (David Burkus), “The Bold Gold Standard” (Dr. Kevin Elko), “What was your Pandemic Pivot” (Ken Rutkowski) and “Ditch the Pitch: Influence Through Improvisation” (Steve Yastrow). That afternoon, STAFDA’s Online Marketing Consultant, Bob DeStefano, conducted a Targeted Workshop focused on “Online Marketing Moves in a Post-COVID World.”

Welcoming newcomers to the industry, the NextGen Networking Luncheon featured a buffet lunch and discussion for attendees under 35 years old. The six-member panel – featuring two distributors, two manufacturers and two rep members – generated conversation on a variety of inter-generational and industry-wide topics. Audience members included college students studying industrial distribution, supply chain management or related majors. The students also participated in all Convention activities, including a Speed Interviewing session with STAFDA members seeking new employees and interns. They also competed in the first STAFDA Supply Chain Competition, where college teams competed to turn around a fictional struggling manufacturer by creating different solutions for purchasing, operational and sales challenges. Congratulations to the University of Nebraska – Lincoln on their win!

There were stilt-walking lions, a Skeleton Band, dozing koalas and STAFDA members in their most wicked costumes during the Boo at the Zoo Opening Party at the San Diego Zoo. Attendees had the whole grounds to themselves to enjoy foods from around the world, visit with the animals and try to figure out who was dressed as Jay and Silent Bob, Jeffrey Dahmer and Wednesday Adams. And who was that Hippie Chick?! Winners of the Halloween Costume Contest included Matthew Cox and Elizabeth Knight of Humboldt Fasteners & Tools as the Clerks duo, Don Haselwood of Cordova Safety Products as the infamous serial killer and Megan Bradley of Bradley Tools as the Addams Family’s goth girl. The flower-powered charmer was Diamond Products’ Deborah Nelson.

Monday morning, STAFDA President Allan Guthrie of DXP Enterprises in Omaha, Nebraska, was suited up and ready to get the General Session rolling as he focused on the state of the distribution industry and the unique career paths people take to reach the STAFDA markets. Associate speaker Jude Nosek of Keson LLC in Aurora, Illinois, discussed the different suits people wear as they tackle running their companies – from marketing to sales to human resources. As you might expect, Bear Grylls’ keynote speech was riveting. The extreme British adventurer discussed the elements he considers essential for resilience and overcoming obstacles: failure, fear, fire and faith. His presentation was humble, witty and inspiring.

Trade Show exhibitors kicked out all the stops, bringing new products to demo, offering special STAFDA-only pricing and meeting one-on-one with decision makers from distribution companies of all sizes. The Trade Show footprint was 10 percent larger than STAFDA’s 2021 Orlando Show, so attendees had more to see and experience. Within the exhibit hall, attendees could also visit the Tech & Consultants Pavilions to test business-building software, receive advice on company issues, uncover discounted services and enjoy face-to-face conversations with the industry’s best service providers and business experts. Nearly 50 percent of this year’s Tech Pavilion vendors were participating in their first STAFDA Convention.

Tuesday’s Economic Workshop featuring Alan Beaulieu tackled hot areas of concern, including inflation, supply chain issues and the possibility of an impending recession. To keep the STAFDA economy booming, the Trade Show then reopened for four and a half hours, giving exhibitors and distributors more time to work together to bolster business in the construction world.

Two day tours for spouses/companions of attendees took them for a cruise around the San Diego Bay or a private cooking class at the San Diego Wine & Culinary Center. The Some Like It Yacht Closing Party brought attendees together one more time to enjoy a beautiful San Diego sunset on the harbor next to the beautiful boats while enjoying a delicious meal.

STAFDA’s 47th Annual Convention & Trade Show will be Nov. 5-7, 2023, in San Antonio. Registration opens June 26 at 8 a.m. Central. You must be a member to attend.