July 23, 2024 8:21 AM
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Lessons learned

During our journey through the exposition industry, we each have met a person or two who influenced our careers by sharing a lesson from their playbooks.

During the past few months, four exhibit industry veterans and friends, have passed away. Each have influenced me in my career, whether they knew it or not. I want to recognize each of them for what they did and how they shined some light in my direction.

Al Bonk-
I served as a project manager for Al and his major account, Miller Brewing Company. Al came to Exhibitgroup from Kitzing Exhibits where the Kitzing philosophy was that the “booth activity” came first, then the exhibit. Al often ventured to provide services for Miller that were well beyond the boundaries of normal services provided by the average exhibit company at that time. In 1975, he brought outdoor events, private sales meetings, and POP displays for EG to produce. These services were not normal offerings at the time, and have now become a standard offering in the industry. This opened my eyes to believing that “we could do this” in the tradeshow industry.

Leo McDonald-
Leo hired me at Exhibitgroup as a designer with little experience. He then encouraged me to be a project manager, an account executive and then president of EG-Chicago after he retired. Leo was the first exhibit company owner to create a network of locations in the U.S. and the first to provide exhibit rentals nationally as well. He connected with the Greyhound Corporation to create the first exhibit company owned outside of the industry, with stockholders and funding beyond normal. He was also instrumental in creating GES in which he was president of Exhibitgroup and GES at the same time. Leo believed that good people were your greatest asset and rewarded them generously. He was very active with EDPA in the early days and supported the association for what it represented- exhibit service companies.

Leo was also not afraid to do work internationally and influenced me big time here.

Peter Bestmann-
Peter Bestmann owned an exhibit company in Ramagen, Germany called Bestmann Messebau International. In the 80s, Peter would travel to Exhibitgroup twice a year to help create a connection with Europe and the U.S. Peter served on the board of OSPI (Octanorm Service Partners Int’l) and influenced me to join and serve on the board with him. This encouragement was just what I needed to see the benefits of international marketing services and supplier networking at its best. His vision of world connections through tradeshow marketing was well before its time.

These three passed away in the last month, and there are so many others to acknowledge. Others who have left us also worth noting include Fred Kitzing, Dan Vander Sanden, Clay Wilkening, Mo Bell, Tony DeTorrice and Bud Pernicone.

Over the years, I am sure we each have a story or two about a person who helped us along on our journeys to create our world of tradeshow marketing as we know it today. It will continue to evolve and be influenced by others.

May their legacies live on.

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