I recall it like it was yesterday – but it was actually 20 years ago. The NSCA board of directors had decided it simply had to do a better job of educating members on key issues that could pose threats to business: cash flow, HR issues, organizational structure, sales strategies, etc.
The day we made that decision was the start of a transformation for our industry – and for NSCA. That’s the day the Business & Leadership Conference (BLC) was launched. BLC was our answer to how we could deliver messages about heightened self-awareness and leadership skills to members.
One small problem, though: We had no budget for this event. And no idea how to fund a start-up event. So I decided to call my long-time friend, Loyd Ivey, to see if he had any ideas on how to creatively fund a leadership-focused event in our industry. He agreed with the industry’s need for an event like this – and wanted to provide seed money to get us started. AtlasIED became the BLC Host Sponsor, helping us get this event started 20 years ago. (Very similar to 1982, when Atlas was the first to sign up to support the NSCA Expo.)
Fast forward to today: BLC has become the most important industry event out there. The challenges of leading a systems integration company have continued to grow, making this event even more needed – but the industry challenges we see today are different. We see mergers and acquisitions, bonding larger projects, diversity in the workplace, career pathways, eroding margins, and increased labor costs.
Throughout this change, AtlasIED has remained the BLC Host Sponsor. John Ivey, Loyd’s son, is now at the helm, and sponsor fees have quadrupled in the last 20 years. But the company’s commitment to NSCA and its members has remained rock solid. I asked John why AtlasIED has remained so committed to this annual event – and here’s what he said …
Q:What brings you back to BLC every year?
A: Leadership is crucial to every business. Now more than ever, our customers (NSCA members) are being tested at every turn. They see delayed payments and employee training and retention challenges – they see things happening so rapidly all around them. The BLC offers a time for us to all get together and talk through what it takes to work on the business, not just in it.
Q: How has industry transformation impacted AtlasIED?
A: We are now a technology company. Just like integrators have had to do, we, too, had to transform our business. We went from a loudspeaker and electronic hardware company to becoming a technology provider. DSP, IP platforms, operating systems, licensing, interoperability, networking, and myriad complex solutions and configurations have driven us to reinvent ourselves just as integrator members are doing. It hasn’t been easy or inexpensive for us, either. We can relate to what today’s integrators have to do.
Q: What do you enjoy most about attending BLC every year?
A: The BLC environment is what I enjoy most. Our top customers are all at BLC, and we have a chance to learn side by side from leading experts on topics that we all can benefit from immediately. Following each session, I can walk 20 steps to speak with a CEO of a Top 10 customer, ask them what they took away from that session, and see if anything we do or offer can create an opportunity for them. That level of interaction and unfiltered input from the integration community has driven our new product development. The interaction and information sharing at BLC has allowed us to be more in tune with our customers.
The Business & Leadership Conference is effective thanks to supporters like AtlasIED (you can see the entire list of 2018 sponsors here). Just like NSCA and AtlasIED have successfully worked together for 20 years (longer, actually), our goal with BLC is to help integrator members build success stories of their own that can be told for many years to come. –Chuck Wilson, NSCA Executive Director