The Stimson Report April 2008 -

The Stimson Report April 2008

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This month I have been thinking a lot about labor and staffing. Coincidentally there has been a huge story developing with a management lockout of three labor unions responsible for AV at the St Louis Convention Center. All the best links are included, so please read on. Next, I want to share some web-based products where project managers (and we all manage projects, don't we?) can share information. Then while you are thinking about how stay ahead of your shows, let me present another AV Industry B2B with a brilliant strategy. Read on in this month's The Stimson Report.

News and Thoughts:
On Mar 24, the three audio-visual unions that supply services at America's Center were locked out from St. Louis' downtown convention center. The dispute was quickly resolved by April 4th, but the story has some interesting overtones for the AV R&S Industry. Three weeks ago, the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission (CVC) notified IATSE Local 6 (stagehands), IATSE Local 143 (projectionists) and IBEW Local 1 (electricians), that going forward only employees of America's Center would provide audio-visual services to contractors working in the facility. Union representatives call the move illegal, while the CVC maintains that the unions practices are driving convention business away from the city.

Post-convention surveys for the Americas Center and St. Louis Convention Center indicate that businesses are frequently subjected to work stoppages while the three locals navigate their own rules. Some jurisdictions are so complex that one union handles a plasma television if it arrives by a local truck, and another if it arrives by an over-the-road truck, but a third local delivers it to the booth. Other complaints cite two locals claiming jurisdiction over breakout rooms, requiring at least three techs on the clock for every ten breakout rooms regardless of complexity. Add on top of this are shadowing requirements that force contractors to hire union workers for jobs already being performed by the contractors employees. There is a lot more you can read about this at the two links below. The Riverfront Times lockout story includes several pdfs of customer surveys, correspondence between the parties, and letters written to the CVC from customers about the issues.

As stated above, this lockout has already been resolved and the news is good for everyone involved. The big winner is the Americas Center and its customers, but I am sure the unions are happy to get their people back to work. The new accord allows outside contractors (AV Companies) to bring in their own operators (for key positions), which is standard practice for the industry. It also eliminates the shadowing for those positions. The CVC also gains control of facility-owned stages up to 48 not a trivial matter when it took a four our minimum to drop a 6x8 stage. In addition, the projectionists and electricians that previously had overlapping (read: conflicting) video jurisdictions will now share the work and cross-train. This seems to be a very logical and convention-friendly resolution. The upside for the unions will eventually be an increase in convention business, and more work for them. The details of the new rules are covered in this link:

Information Sharing for Project Management
As any of my clients will tell you, I am pretty non-partisan about how you share information as long as you share it. Lately we have been exploring file sharing and project management systems. There are several completely web-based approaches to project management that companies of all size should take a look at. These are not replacements for inventory management or proposal systems. Instead they solve the challenge of sharing multiple files, monitoring approvals and versions, and controlling view and editing privileges. Basecamp offers very scalable solutions that work very well with the AV Stagers (and Integrators) project management timeline.

Nexprise is similar to Basecamp, but offers customization and programming.

If you want it all, then look at Its is a Customer Relationship Manager with hundreds of optional applications that can customize your experiences including a Basecamp-like module. Salesforce is worth looking at to understand what the possibilities are.

Show Staffing Consultants
I have a lot of friends in the event staffing business (I even had my own staffing company from 83-96), and I used all of them over the years. Because staffing has been a theme of late, I tried to find one company to feature that has a different angle than the rest. I didnt just find different, I found unique. Floyd Dillman started Event Engineering about seventeen years ago as a labor brokerage in Chicago. Event Engineerings specialty is consulting with clients about their labor budget, schedules, and crew mix. Floyd and his team have a three-pronged approach to helping customers. First, these guys know the rules and maintain the union relationships so you dont have to. Second, Event Engineering is the employer of record and hand picks its crews. Third, they know how to maximize a show schedule, stagger crews, and negotiate concessions when it makes sense for everyone. Bottom line, they are consultants.

Floyd says that many of their clients come to Event Engineering too late the first time. If anyone has done a show at Navy Pier, they know what a challenge the multiple union jurisdictions can be not to mention the hit to the show budget. If you give them the opportunity, Event Engineering will create a sensible budget for your event - that might help you win the business or at least make a profit if you do. Which brings me to the really unique thing about Event Engineering they do budgets fast and for free. Just send them the show spec and proposed schedule and they will make sure the correct number of the right people are included, give you a detailed price quote, provide a recommended schedule to maximize the crews, PLUS they will account for any and all of your staff you intend to bring along. To top it off, they cover most of the country. Check them out:


The Stimson Report for June 2008

It's June and time for InfoComm (June 14-20), but that's not all. The economy is at a tipping point; technology is having break through's all around us, and the need to stay informed is greater than ever. In this issue of The Stimson Report we highlight the InfoComm Show and point you to some important news and information. Read more and then join us at the show.

The Stimson Report Oct '08

Who is not thinking about the economy? Probably no one. Are you talking about it with your customers and employees? I hope so. With everything going on, I am sure lots of folks have questions, concerns, and outright fears for their jobs, livelihoods, or mortgages. I want to share some thoughts how to face the crisis both in terms of helping yourself, your employees, and your customers. Read more in this month's The Stimson Report.

The Stimson Report Mar '08

Networking, networking, networking...this was a big month for visiting with stagers from all across North America. Between the Orlando Roadshow and Barco's Annual Rental Partner Meeting - I have been privileged to attend two major networking events in as many weeks. There were lots of lively discussions on the economy, insights into where business is headed, and great times with old friends. Read about this and more in this month's Stimson Report.

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The Stimson Report Feb 2009

The business mood of AV companies across North America has drifted from cautiously optimistic towards tentative. There are pockets of dire circumstances and glimmers of hope all across the map. Regardless of their outlook, the majority of folks I chat with are starting to feel the crisis in tangible and discouraging ways. This month I want to share thoughts about two different battlefronts. First there is the media rant against business events precipitated by some insensitive financial sector executives. The second perspective shares the unexpected optimism generated by a very successful ISE show in Amsterdam Feb 3-5. What both views have in common is the innate understanding that what we do does matter, but it is our job to keep our industry relevant in tough times.

The Stimson Report May 08

No matter how well a company is doing, the conversation turns to the economy and the uncertainty of the future. The discussion isn't doomsday; no one seems concerned that the downturn will last. What they are interested in is more creative ways to survive and come out on top. This month I explore the industry buzz about the economy and some thoughts about what it all means in The Stimson Report.

The Stimson Report Feb '08

This month's Stimson Report brings you a mixed bag of news and revelations. There is a brief profile of a new AV company that I think you will admire. I present a new website for sharing corporate events war stories that should appeal to most of you old-timers. And I share some thoughts on online networking including my favorite business tool. In addition there's a selection of news items that have recently caught my eye.

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The Stimson Report July 08

Another successful InfoComm and for the first time I think the event was more important than the sum of its parts. There just seemed to be a different vibe on the floor. I found that the exhibit booths were better looking and communicated their purpose better than in years past. There was clearly some budget cutting in play, but I think the net result was less fluff and more products. There was also a LOT of new products - something I didn't expect to see. And folks in general were positive about the future (at least for the next quarter). Maybe all the hype about the economy is just so much noise? Read more about what was seen and heard at InfoComm in The Stimson Report.

The Stimson Report Sep 08

Summer may be over, but business seems to be heating up across North America. Judging by the mood at InfoComm and the July Rental & Staging Roadshow, life is still good in the AV Events world. In this issue we'll share the word on the street and introduce some cool finds that are worth some of your brain time. Read more in The Stimson Report.