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Industry visionary uses all her resources

lana-callowayLana Calloway founded Exhibit Resources in 1991, and during the last 19 years, she has guided her Raleigh, N.C. agency through the industry’s ups and downs. From the abrupt downturn just after September 11, through the steady growth over the last decade and now as the world economy recovers from the most recent recession, Lana and her company have adjusted and adapted to emerge more efficient than ever.

As the company celebrated its first decade in business, the events of September 11 shook the country’s core and the economy retracted.

“I felt like I was whacked in the knee caps with that one,” said Calloway. “After you’ve been through such a hardship, you learn not to get fat and happy again. You have to be on top of every aspect of the business every minute.”

In 2001, to ensure the survival of the company, Exhibit Resources reluctantly went to a four-day work week, reduced expenses and implemented the necessary measures to stabilize the business and prepare for recovery and growth.

“We’ve tried to grow slow and smart,” said Calloway. “My business model has always been to keep our expenses and overhead very tight. It’s all about watching your numbers and profitability. I had to learn the hard way, but I think those are typical business rules that every organization must follow. Your revenue has to match your expenses and there has to be a profit on the bottom line to stay in business and prosper.”

Today, she has over 20 employees, fewer than in 2001, but she is enjoying a thriving business. In 2007, Exhibit Resources designed and built a new 60,000-square-foot facility built specifically for her current client base, but with room to grow.

One way Calloway has managed to keep Exhibit Resources steadily moving forward through tough times is to spot opportunities and take measured risks. Calloway made certain that her company could provide her clients with full service; from custom design and fabrication to flawless event planning and program management.

When designing the new facility, the exhibit showroom was made the focal point.

“The space showcases what we do very well,” said Calloway, “As our tagline suggests, ‘We’ll Show You’ how to look your best at your face-to-face marketing event or tradeshow.”

The space has now become more than just a show piece.

Recently, Exhibit Resources hosted Next for Women, an organization that accelerates the development of young, career-driven women. The space has also been home to events by the American Advertising Federation, American Marketing Association and local chambers of commerce.

“It’s a strategy for us,” said Calloway. “It’s a way for us to network and connect with the broader business community at our facility. While having a chance to view displays and marketing options in a non-threatening environment, the visitors are exposed to our capabilities and our new state of the art facility.”

With a small marketing budget, Calloway said she gets the most of her dollar by using her facility for more than just offices and a showroom.

“We had to think of other ways to use that space to make it productive for us,” said Calloway. “And it’s working. Working well.”

When she first entered the industry, it was a male dominated one with custom exhibit houses geared toward large scale production. In her opinion, the industry has become more relationship-centered with one-on-one meetings, social networks and face-to-face marketing. While women were once relegated to the administrative side, Calloway said today, women are involved in the creative, design and production sides of the industry as well.

Being involved in every aspect of the industry makes her job her passion, she said.

“There’s still such an enjoyment and sense of satisfaction to hear a client rave while previewing a completed design project for the first time,” said Calloway. “When a client says ‘great job,’ and I know they are pleased; that’s what still does it for me after all these years.”



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