West Coast Art & Frame Show 2009 – A Moral Example of Success

There is a moral in viewing how two competitive operations charged with the same tasks putting on an industry tradeshow and serving the exact same art and framing exhibitors and attendees could have such different outcomes.


If you are looking to either attend or exhibit at an art tradeshow in the Western U.S., the West Coast Art & Frame Show is your ticket. Sponsored by Picture Framing Magazine, the show and conference will once again be held on January 26-28 in Las Vegas where it has reigned for more than a decade. It is interesting to observe The WCAF Show has continued to prosper in direct contrast to competitive shows such as Decor Expo.

Decor Expo Shows in Decline

The past few years have not been kind to the Decor Expo shows. They have either seen a steady decline in attendance and exhibitors, or just ceased to exist. Certainly, investment company ownership more focused on a bottom line driven management-by-spreadsheet mentality with a buy and flip strategy has proved to not be beneficial for those shows. You can draw a direct correlation to story to the larger economic one playing out now.

There Is a Moral to the Story

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There is a moral in viewing how two competitive operations charged with the same tasks of putting on an industry tradeshow and serving the exact same art and framing exhibitors and attendees could have such different outcomes. What it amounts to is how you treat your customers. If you put profit at any cost before doing the right thing by them, you are likely to have some short term success followed by a loss of prestige and market share in the longer term. The nearly laughable desperate deals that were proffered to try and bribe exhibitors to show at the now failed Decor Expo Baltimore show are an example of how earlier decisions can turn into a nightmare.

There Is No Shame in Making a Profit, But at What Cost?

I’m not saying you shouldn’t strive to make your products as profitable as possible. I’m all for that; it’s why you are in business and not philantrophy. But, if you are in your market for the long haul, you have to be sensitive to your customers’ needs. If the only master you serve is your investors, you will end up losing. The incredible financial meltdown that has affected every American is due in part to those making short term decisions that were not in the long term good for the customer.

Had such a quaint, but powerful notion of doing what is right by the customer been applied to decisions to grossly overpay executives, to create products that were in effect financial neutron time bombs and now in hindsight all the other stupid greedy decisions whose repercussions will wash over generations to come with the dread of unnecessary debt, the world would be a better place.

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Can You Believe Some Companies Thrived in 2008?

I work days in marketing at a thriving high-tech firm, (I choose not to name it to avoid having to worry about making proper disclaimers with every post.) It grew revenue by 40% in 2008. Not too shabby in this economy. It is on target for greater growth in 2009. It has done this by having great products and exceptional service. For example, our customers can call for free tech help 24/7.

Follow These Simple Rules for Success

My company makes its own products. It doesn’t rely on suppliers or worry whether they will deliver or stay in business. Mostly though, I think its success has to do with corporate culture. Day One new hires learn these three things. They are expected to memorize them:

  1. Do what is right.
  2. Treat others the way you want to be treated.
  3. Do your best.

Now, had the brains bozos who peddled derivatives or ran Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG and on and on truly followed these three simple precepts, we would not be furiously trying to plug holes in the dike with trillion dollar bailouts.

The WCAF Owners Also Are Its Managers – It Pays Them to Pay Attention to Their Customers

I believe the members of the Gherman family who own and run the West Coast Art and Frame show saw they needed to grow their show at a pace that allowed its exhibitors to get a decent ROI (Return on Investment). They have shown restraint from letting demand for booth space overwhelm the buyer-to-exhibitor ratio that when out of whack will cause a show to decline.

In the tradeshow business, your exhibitors foot the bill for the show, if they are not happy, you eventually will not be happy either. The Ghermans resisted making moves that would have generated greater income in the early going to help the show thrive in the long run. In retrospect, that was enlightened thinking with corresponding actions then that pay dividends to them today.

Tradeshows run on word-of-mouth. If the news and buzz is favorable, the show will shine and grow. If the news and buzz is bad, shows suffer, decline and in some cases cease to exist. So then treating your customers right results in taking actions that cause a company to have less revenue is not purely altruistic. It can be very smart marketing. Whether you are running a large publishing or one-person artist operation, you will serve your business and yourself best by abiding by the three simple rules above.

The WCAF Is a Good Show To Exhibit or To Attend for Art Marketers

The WCAF has always been more of a framing show than art show, but in the void of effective competition it has grown to be much more important as an art show with many more art companies exhibiting in the past few years. So don’t discount the show if you are an art company. Besides, it is a good idea to up your framing knowledge. If you work with galleries, most expect work to be framed as part of the deal. If you sell direct, having the right framing can make your work sell faster and for greater dollars.

If you haven’t been before and you are considering exhibiting, try walking the show this year with an eye for exhibiting next year. If you are an artist seeking a publishing deal, or just getting started in the business, it’s a good place to get a feel for shows and you’ll see some really good art and how it is exhibited as well. Let’s not forget that in late January, Las Vegas is much warmer than most of the country. So whatever your motivation, get it on your schedule and come to learn and enjoy!

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