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Be True To Yourself, But Be Flexible Too: Advice From CEO Bev Gray

08/01/17 by EE Team

 

When Bev Gray decided to start her own company 25 years ago it was virtually impossible to predict the dramatic changes the business landscape in the United States would soon undergo. At that time, a small home-office popped up with help from her husband, Mike Gray, called ETC Exhibit Service. After several years of continued growth, the company was rebranded to Exhibit Edge, with a new dedication to always innovating and improving on the company’s practices. She has consistently guided the exhibit house to new heights, but as one goal is accomplished, Bev quickly replaces it with another milestone to achieve. Through this dedication and innovation, Exhibit Edge is now considered a leader in the trade show industry, never losing sight of the core values and principles that got them there.

 

Headquartered near Washington, D.C., Exhibit Edge is able to use the dynamic, booming D.C. business environment to their advantage. In the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area (DMV), there is a wide array of companies, ranging from small to big, non-profit, private, and government, just ready to do business with fast-growing service providers like Exhibit Edge. Combined with seemingly endless networking opportunities and events, there are a variety of ways to get a company known and established. Along with a strong online presence, consistency is key for these events. Just showing up to one and expecting to find your ‘dream client’ isn’t a reality, it’s a pipedream! Companies have to keep at it and follow-up. This way, they can help plan for the future and set themselves up for success. Remember, products and services can be replicated, brands and customer service is what grows and sustains a business.

 

Like many industries, the trade show industry is always evolving and innovating. Bev recalled that in the years following 2000, everyone said that all trade show would go virtual, meaning limited graphics and displays, but more technology and video. However, she understood the value of in person meetings and knew that many buyers still want to meet the companies that they are going to be working with. They’ll want to see the products in person. Bev Gray’s foresight was impeccable as several years later in 2006, Exhibitor Magazine stated that 91% of trade show attendees believed their purchasing decisions were greatly impacted by trade shows as all the competitor products are located in one place. Bev’s intuitive nature allowed Exhibit Edge to bypass a fade and focus on the reality of the situation. That’s the thought process behind Exhibit Edge, do what’s best to market the client, and has continued to be so since day one.

She says that, “This is an important time for businesses to be flexible and nimble. Be open minded about how you present your company. Be willing to change.” Although all trade shows did not go virtual as predicted, companies need to integrate technology because new advances and ideas are always in the works. Clients are counting on companies, like Exhibit Edge, to be the expert and to give them advice and direction to facilitate their vision. For example, Exhibit Edge uses a software to manage all trade show exhibit properties, collateral, and promotional items online, and keeps track of all of it in real time. It was a big investment, but they offer the software to clients at no additional cost. Even if they don’t use the EdgeLink software, Exhibit Edge is using it to manage all warehouse inventory. The goal for any modern company should be reciprocity, you have to give in order to receive.

 

Bev has always been a proud, female entrepreneur. In October 2004, her company received a Woman-Owned Certification from the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council recognizing them as being 100% woman-owned. This certification has directly helped her company grow and thrive. The impact of declaring your business as woman owned is staggering as many companies seek out businesses that are specifically woman-owned, minority-owned, LGBT-owned, or Veteran-owned. Recently, she’s engaged in new efforts to grow her business through this angle including networking inside of fellow woman-owned business circles. This certification allowed Exhibit Edge to become one of the founding members of the Titanium Worldwide Collective; 17 Best-in-Class Diverse Suppliers from multiple industries and services. They’ve joined together as one company to provide service to those who may otherwise not be reachable without the group. This new business model of the collective, has provided unfettered access to clients and prospects Exhibit Edge has never had an opportunity with before.

 

Finally, Bev has always made a point to keep an eye on overhead costs at Exhibit Edge. Due to shifting business and political climates, hard times will hit every sector at some point or another. After 9/11, she said that trade shows were often being cancelled because not many people were traveling. But, she was able to shift their focus a bit in the products they provided and worked on improving the workings of the company to lower the overhead. She was also always open with employees about what is going on and felt that it was important to be straightforward because employees will often want to help or have suggestions on how to lower costs so no jobs are lost. Developing these contingency strategies and fallbacks are vastly important to a small company as they keep the lights on when the cashflow gets tighter..

 

By sticking to her core values, while still adapting to changes in business and technology, Bev Gray has guided her company from humble beginnings to a multi-million dollar empire. She takes pride in running a business and being a successful female entrepreneur. By leveraging that certification the business is constantly improving . Overall though, she is open with her employees and always tries to prepare Exhibit Edge for anything that may come their way.