Tom  McNall

Floor Restoration Consultant (mouse over photos for more info)

Attendance numbers were increased from last year – hopefully, an indication of an improving economyEvery year the same old question is asked, “Should I go to StonExpo?”  Now pardon my nostalgic ways, but I still have a hard time telling anyone that I’m attending a trade show known as “S2”.

Steve Anneker of Steve’s Polishing Pro holds a scratch removal demo for an interested crowd at the Braxton-Bragg 2013 show booth.  In case you’ve missed it, Hanley-Wood (who organizes the show), merged the Surfaces show with StonExpo and labeled it “S squared”. 

Regardless, the question remains the same.

Braxton-Bragg CEO Rich Hassert outlines the many uses of the new WerkMaster Scarab, one of the many new items on display at the showOne of the main reasons that I think that every business owner involved in the stone business should be at S2 is just to get away. 

Think about it, 5 days a week minimum, you are out there making phone calls, dealing with employees, bankers, customers and even suppliers.  

Yes, heading to Vegas is still considered business, so you can ease your guilt by telling your employees that it is needed. Yes, you will meet suppliers still, but with great show prices usually is how you get to build relationships that could turn into savings when you next need a big purchase – especially considering that you have all your suppliers in one room competing for your business. That right there is some good leverage when it comes to negotiations.  

So in essence, you get a business vacation that you are able to write off (pay less taxes) and you’ve removed 80% of your headaches for the week (out of sight – out of mind).

Going back to a good reason about seeing all of your suppliers at once, there is an added benefit. At the show, you get to see how certain items that may have confused you or seemed too expensive in the flyer, actually work.  

You can sometimes even try out the new tool or product to see how easy it is to use or apply.  And for anyone, regardless of how high they sit on the totem pole of life, there is one more added benefit – free beer!  

Yes, a staple of a good show is when suppliers offer free beer. Now, I don’t even have the need for a quarter of a million dollar CNC machine, but if someone I know is looking for one, I’ll tell them to at least talk to the guys who bought me 3 or 40 beers.  

One of the first booths attendees headed toward the stone pavilion will see is the Braxton-Bragg exhibit. There you will find Rich Hassert (the head cheese at BB) overlooking his booth with all the enjoyment and wonderment of a child Christmas morning. 

He is always excited about showing off new innovations they have on display and in getting to know his customers’ needs and how he can help. How can you go wrong with that type of positive vibe emanating from this and most other booths?

 It’s great to walk around a big show and see all the new and fascinating equipment, but there’s nothing like a live demo. Bob Kalb of Edgemate Systems changes pads for an edge polishing demo of the updated Edgemate 100If your secretary is complaining about how tight company funds are, reward her diligence with the dozens of free pens that are handed out every year at the show. If you can’t bring the wife (or husband) with you, take her (or him) back one of the several coffee cups that are available to potential clients at the 5-7 booths that offer them.

What about networking? If you’ve never discovered the power of networking, then StonExpo (sorry - S squared) is the place for you. Not only are there row after row of suppliers, but there are thousands of people who you can meet who could either be potential allies in the business or even lead generators. That means dollars in your pocket. But you cannot be shy or timid! Fortune favors the bold, my friends.

Merging the two shows together saves Hanley-Wood some money, but it also provides the consumers with added benefits as well.  Considering that it can be very expensive for suppliers to ship, set-up and man these booths for every show, the consolidation of the two into one big show allows suppliers to reach a larger audience, save money and therefore pass those savings (and increased sales) on to the people who make an effort to build the relationships at these shows.  

It can also open up the attendees to business opportunities that they may not have known existed because the vendors would not normally have a booth at the two separate shows.

And while the official numbers have not yet been released, you know that the economy is on a rebound and the numbers were good this year for the show’s organizers.  

Tuesday morning, the line-ups to get in stretched down the hall leading to the convention center, backed up almost to the food court. And if you’ve been to any convention at Mandalay Bay, you know that has to be about 200+ yards.

As a writer, I always know how good the show is by the provisions set out for the press in the Press Room. If it’s just water and sandwiches, it’s going to be a slow year. But when we have a classy catered lunch with a variety of drinks and desserts, we know they expect us to write great things – because it was a great show. ;)

Until next month, keep your stick on the ice! …and plan to be at S2 in 2014!

Tom McNall is founder and owner of Great Northern Stone, an Ontario-based stone cleaning and restoration company servicing Ontario and Chicago, IL. Tom also offers corporate and private consultations as well as speaking at conventions. He can be reached at