Azione Unlimited‘s most recent event just wrapped up in Nashville, and, given the times, it was a much-needed escape. Don’t get me wrong, dealers and manufacturers were still taking care of business between plenty of 1-on-1’s and workshops, but with a name like Nutritive Nexus, there was also a hefty amount of self-care being delivered as one part a wellness tool, and another part a business supplement.
“We believe there is an opportunity to look at [the business] besides buying a product at ‘x,’ marking it up, and selling it for a little more profit,” said Richard Gilkes, founder of Azione Unlimited while speaking at the event.
“How would you feel, if all of the people who worked for you were self-actualized, if they wanted to come into work every day because they felt you were not only building their business acumen, but making them a better person?”
If I had to pick a message for Azione’s Nutritive Nexus, I would say: “If you [the dealer] are happy and healthy, then your business is happy and healthy.” And given the current climate (the sudden conflict between Israel and Hamas, the looming recession possibility in America, unending inflation, and the upcoming election in 2024 that is sure to shake up the economy) I think it’s important business owners to take care of themselves as well as they take care of their business.
Resiliency is often talked about as being a vital quality for businesses to have to weather the toughest storms, but there’s a stubbornness to that term. To a lot of people, I’m sure resiliency evokes the image of a rock in a storm standing against the crashing waves. But in times of turmoil, the capacity for fluidity, for change, can be just as valuable, especially for the employees of a business.
It’s that desire to promote change, starting on a personal level and then growing to the organizational that I believe sat at the core of Azione’s messaging this week in Nashville.
Azione’s Nutritive Nexus: Learning to Be Vulnerable and Open to Change
On Day 1 of the event, Richard Gilkes opened first by addressing the crowd with the reality of given situation. Times are tough, they’re getting tougher, and it’s unlikely it’s going to get better by the end of the year. “You want my prediction?” he asked the crowd. “Business isn’t going to start to look any better until the second half of 2024.”
But that wasn’t meant to be simple doom and gloom prophecies. In fact, there was almost a bit of excitement to it, like a challenge that he new everyone in the room could accomplish, especially with the tools he had set up to be handed out to attendees over the next few days.
Following Gilkes, Tiffany Saunder, CEO of Element Three, a full-service marketing consultancy, took to the stage to address the value of change the three factors that often influence change: vulnerability, knowing when to make decisions and knowing when to choose discipline.
“Of these three [vulnerability, decision-making, discipline], one of them will always be harder for you,” she said. “Some people may be like ‘Ah! I’m really good at decision-making and I’m really disciplined, but that vulnerability aspect may be a little hard to crack.’”
“It’s all going to be hard,” she said later during the talk. “So you need to embrace the hard that is going to align best with your goals.”
After that Ron Callis, CEO of One Firefly, took to the stage to give one of the most practical talks on AI I’ve had the chance to experience seen so far, breaking down the different AI tools available, how important prompt engineering is as a skill to get the best results. He also talked at length about the importance of keeping A.Eye (sorry) on it’s development, as we’re only going to see more AI disruption, especially in marketing, as time goes on.
“We’re at the dawn of the biggest technological shift in human history,” Callis exclaimed. “It’s exciting! But it can also be terrifying.”
And lastly, closing out the day Kris Kuester, Director of People, Learning and Development at Nationwide Marketing Group, came on stage to talk about managing work-life balance, not just for the dealer, but for their employees as well, calling back to prior messages in the keynote about starting conversations with an openness and empathy directed towards employees regarding their unique situations.
Entering into Day 2, dealers were treated to even more 1-on-1s and workshops being headed by a cadre business growth professionals. But before that, dealers and manufacturers alike got to listen to Brad Dempsey, CEO and founder of Solutions360, switch the discussion of wellness from the personal and professional over to financial and how a better understanding of finances can impact other areas.
This also gave manufacturers a little bit more insight into the inner workings of a dealer’s business.
Azione Unlimited Announces New Education Ecosystem During Conference
Azione Unlimited also gave dealers a firsthand look at what it’s calling its new Education Ecosystem while at the conference. First and foremost, the group will be getting a new education commitee that will be acting in a consultative and advisory capacity on Azione’s education moving forward. The team itself consists of members from integration teams who are commonly working alongside technicians and will be ensuring that all Azione education moving forward is well-rounded and valuable for said technicians.
The buying group has also announced its interest in developing a technician rating system meant to help dealers better train and pay their technicians, while providing more tangible and readily attainable career goals for the technician.
The Education Ecosystem itself will be built upon four separate pillars: Connected Coaching, Skills Seminars, World-Class Webinars, and CEDIA Partnerships.
The Connected Coaching offering will help put members within an integration firm in direct contact with Azione coaches to learn a new skill specific to the individual’s role within the company. This can include lighting, operations, sales, etc. These members will also be matched with other members in the same discipline during the coaching so that individuals within the group can learn from each out as well.
These groups will be comprised of roughly eight to 10 people, according to Azione and meet for two hours each month. They’ll also have access to a private slack channel with their group for follow-up.
The next pillar of the Education Ecosystem, the Skills Seminars, in contrast, will be slightly larger, comprised of 10-25 dealers, and meet during 90 minute sessions over the course of six weeks with the intent of providing certification for a specific skill. Currently, the skills seminars are being led by lighting designer Bruce Clark for lighting, Stacey McKibbin for sales and Jason Sayen for business operations.
The group has also stated it will be honing its webinars into 30 to 40 minutes of insightful discussion from industry experts for members, as well as providing members full free access to CEDIA’s online educational library.
Azione Members Break Loose on the Field for Fun and Charity
From there attendees took to the fields at the home of the Tennessee Titans for a night of tours, athletics and charity.
Just from my conversations with dealers and reps throughout the day, it sounded as though Azione Unlimited scored a field goal with its Nutritive Nexus event. I know that may sound a little clunky for a sports analogy, but that’s only because we got to watch some serious natural talent in the activities portion of the evening. Someone call up the Titans! We got someone you might be interested in.
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