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The Day Hell Froze Over

Stephen Yagielowicz
I'm writing this article from the America West terminal at the Las Vegas airport. Internext is over until the summer show rolls around to Florida; and there's a larger than normal number of travellers heading home right now, as several of the earlier flights had been cancelled. The reason why? It was snowing in 'Vegas...

No common occurrence, the earlier blizzard conditions that caused a 'white-out' of the 'Vegas strip left me looking out of the window of my suite at the Mandalay Bay hotel, shaking my head in disbelief, and commenting to my lovely wife Dawn that "Hell was freezing over." This made me consider the unique environment of the now-finished expo, and contemplating its individual 'personality.'

While past shows have been punctuated by never-ending wild parties (don't mistake me, there was still enough of them!) and lots of youthful exuberance, the realities of the current market – and the emotional, physical and spiritual toll that years of hell-bent work at a pace set by "Internet time" has taken – has left many folks, and companies, exhausted. Indeed, for this observer, many of the familiar exhibitors at this past Internext seemed to be 'going through the motions,' almost robotically performing the necessary chores required of presenters at any major trade event.

This is understandable, and is symptomatic of a larger problem: we need a break. With less newbies looking for a quick buck, and even fewer 'dinosaurs' roaming the corridors of this corner of the jungle, it might be time for us to heave a collective sigh of relief over the fact that we're still here, and still profiting – even if the numbers are not as astronomical, or consistent, as they once were.

One of the ways in which we can mitigate some of the stresses and situations that complicate our operations is by 'burying the hatchet' – forgiving, renewing and improving any 'tainted' relationships that we've developed over the years.

Consider that at this point in our industry's evolution, the playing field is pretty well set. We know who is who, what they're doing, and if they're trustworthy or not. Sadly, emotions and personal preferences may have driven wedges between otherwise mutually-beneficial operatives, often over issues long-since forgotten. While this is all part of any inter-personal relationship, it can also be a drain on our bottom lines that may be eliminated with an e-mail or a phone call.

Consolidation and increasing 'coopetition' is what is needed today. Some folks who have struggled for years to reach their greatest dreams in this industry have realized that they've made all of the 'easy' money that they're likely to, and are either contemplating a nice retirement – or moving on to greener pastures elsewhere. This will lead to mergers, acquisitions, and another shuffling of the deck which will create new opportunities for others. This whole process goes much smoother when we all get along.

How many times have you said, or heard someone else say "It'll be a cold day in Hell before I do business with him!" Well, that day is today, and yes, it looks as though it might indeed be freezing over. So to everyone that I've ever offended, pissed off, or fucked over, I offer a sincere, heartfelt and hearty "Sorry Squire, I can be a dick. Now, how can we help each other?"

It's a new year, in an industry that needs, and will endure, a shakeout; and the players that will survive and be around next year and the year after will be those who are better at building bridges than burning them. While I'm not certain that I articulated this thought as well as simply stating "We'll all do better if we can get along together," it all needed to be said. I've got a plane to catch, and a New Year to get started. I'll see you there.

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