The New Normal Cost of Trade Show Connections

In my 20-plus years in global logistics, I’ve come to learn that success in business is all about human connection. In fact, the Prime Group of Companies has pinned its entire approach to business on this core principal.

 

Consistent, timely, and direct interpersonal communication – it’s how we understand customer needs, and expertly match our services to satisfy those needs.

Every day, across our entire system, we use a broad spectrum of communications options to network and make connections that will attract new business, ensure the best in customer satisfaction, and maintain long-lasting relationships with clients.

But in recent months, one of the most impactful of those efforts has ceased to exist.

The Fallout

The COVID-19 pandemic has imposed sudden changes on our industry, to say the least. Most notably, in the form of an immediate interruption of the global trade-show circuit, a necessary step to ensure public safety and to help stop the spread of the virus.

But the fallout has been the loss of dozens of crucial once-yearly meetings we would be now be conducting with so many of our key customers, prospects, and peers – all under one roof.

Events like the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit and Bogota’s Proflora that attract top players in the fresh-food and floral industries. And huge exhibitions like Air Cargo Europe with 65,000 logistics professionals in Munich last year, where we made great strides in moving into untapped markets across Europe and beyond.

With attendance numbers like that, it’s no wonder mass gatherings are totally off the table for the remainder of 2020. Can’t argue with that!

The Show Must Go On

While no one can see into the future with certainty, when these major business conventions and exhibitions make a come back – and they most certainly will – they’ll need to be changed, forever.

Face it, we are social animals, and no advancements in video or telecommunications technology can ever match the effectiveness of direct human connection, and the business it generates.

Of course, there will have to be an entire revamping of the trade-show industry’s delivery of mass meetings. It is imperative that they make these gatherings safe and responsible from a public-health standpoint, so when the time is right, we will be able to immediately and confidently step back into the most impactful means of  human connection.

Necessary Enhancements

Beyond the introduction of lots of sanitizer dispensers on convention floors, major changes at trade-show venues will need to include wellness checkpoints, increased ventilation filtering capacity, greatly expanded presentation spaces and controlled traffic-flow lanes to ensure social distancing – and perhaps even extending the length of shows by an extra day or two, and/or limiting daily attendance.

Such measures will no doubt be pricey. Significantly higher participation fees will need to be imposed to offset the high cost of supplying enhanced safety and security measures. And at first, there will likely be fewer participants than we’re used to. But this will be the new normal price of doing business in the post-coronavirus period.

Communication is what brings people together in our business and paves the way for future success. That will never change – just the means by which we achieve it.

I look forward to connecting with you soon. Until then, please stay well.

HQ Move Signifies New Place on Global Stage

When the Prime Group moved to its new headquarters complex in 2019, we said goodbye to our former place in the landscape of shipping companies just west of MIA – to land a much more promising position on the map.

In making the move, we made a significant investment in what we want to convey about the vision, business strategy, values, customer service, and the environment where the Prime Group of companies operate.

Granted, our new home office and expanded warehouse component in Doral, Fla., is still within proximity to Miami International Airport – which is of key importance to the historic core of our operation as a worldwide air cargo logistics firm.

But as the Prime Group becomes more widely recognized as a sophisticated global player with diverse services and products, we needed a corporate base of operations that signals we are right-placed for continued growth and expansion of our worldwide brand.

Simply stated, we want our headquarters to represent what the company is going to achieve.

A Big Move

Choosing a new location is an extremely important decision for any business. The workspace needs to capture the essence of your brand personality and identity – the emotional connections that customers have with your business and how its competitors perceive you.

In the global logistics business, with customers scattered across the world, the reality is, the vast majority of our clients may never step foot in our Doral offices.

But for those who do, we want to present them with a space that not only represents us well, but affirms they made the right decision in working with the Prime Group. How they are greeted, what technology they see us using, and where we are located, are all strong indicators of what our business stands for and how successful it is.

Internally, the new office environment communicates to our employees the way we want our business to operate. By choosing this workplace, we have created comfortable and collaborative environment where productivity is key.


None of which is to suggest this shift was easy – it wasn’t. At times, the lengthy process of moving and settling in threatened to disrupt daily operations. Nonetheless, staff remained patient and focused on the task at hand – like the professionals they are. For that I am grateful and thank each and every one of them.

We took the time to do it the right way – after all, that’s what we. So please come by for a visit soon, to see what we mean when we say, “the difference is in the details.”

Take heart, take care, and stay well

In an effort to be as transparent as possible during these most difficult of times, I’d like to share my thoughts on recent events, and the aftermath that is proving to be heartbreaking for so many, and filling us all with conflict.

It goes without saying that what we witnessed in Minneapolis on video has affected us all deeply.

Firstly, it’s incumbent upon me to say that the Prime Group family counts as a core value the condemnation of injustice and discrimination, and we are united in fighting inequality.

We acknowledge and are in solidarity with the peaceful protesters in the United States, and around the world. And we support local and national organizations that are standing up to social injustice.

In the face of senseless loss, it often seems impossible to find the words to express such deep pain, frustration, and sorrow – but these words I know I must share with you now: Please take heart, take care of each other, and stay well. We will overcome – together.

Out With The Old and In With The New

As we join together to celebrate the New Year and the launch of a new decade, allow me to wish you all the best in 2020, and thank you for helping to make 2019 a banner year for the companies of Prime Group Holdings.

Few holidays are celebrated the world over like New Years Day. It’s that one universal moment of bliss and hope where people all across the globe vow to toss aside the old and welcome the new.

It’s also a time when revelers partake in all sorts of traditions, like bolting down a dozen grapes right before midnight, symbolizing great promise in the 12 months ahead.

But mostly it’s about partying, dancing, drinking, and eating, which is also the case in my hometown of Quito. But there’s one big difference, something that no one else in the world does.

For as long as I remember, an essential part of our New Years holiday included celebrating with “Año Viejos effigies. Translated as “Old Years,” it consists of making and displaying artistic paper-Mache dolls – and then setting them on fire at the stroke of midnight!

These Año Viejo dolls typically represent all kinds of figures associated with the past year. Especially popular are cartoon characters, celebrated sports figures, and ridiculed politicians.

Growing up, everyone I knew did this. And it obviously isn’t just about burning brightly colored dolls. It remains a tradition because it signifies the human desire to continually improve, shed past behaviors and actions, and make way for new possibilities. It is essentially our way of joining the world in saying, “Out with the old and in with the new.”

And not to say old is bad. Because looking back and remembering is an important exercise that gives us space to reflect on all the good things that have brought us to this point. And from this point we get to grow, improve, and advance.

That’s precisely what we’re doing at Prime Group. As a company, we are at a point where smart growth and planning is bringing us great success. But I believe we can do even better – and that’s exactly what we plan to do in the year ahead.

Our overarching goal last year was to clear the way for what’s to come, by focusing on re-assessment and planning. Because as you start growing, it is imperative that you get better organized.

How we went about that was by initiating innovative business processes and technologies throughout 2019 to make way for greater efficiencies and new growth in 2020.

One example of this is the anticipated integration of a new system of software across our entire international network, provided through Microsoft Dynamics 365.

It had become nearly impossible – and totally inefficient – to manage with four different accounting systems. We were using one set of business-tracking and accounting software in Ecuador, a totally different set in New York, and another in Miami and in Amsterdam.

So for 2020, we are engaging in a companywide migration to Microsoft Dynamics 365, an all-in-one business management solution that will help us to connect financials, sales, service, and operations to streamline business processes, improve customer interactions, and make better decisions across all Prime Group divisions.

It’s powerful tool that will allow us to better manage our financials, accelerate financial close and reporting, and improve forecast accuracy.

And in the case of our product-focused divisions, it also promises to automate and secure our supply chain by optimizing inventory levels, reducing lost sales and shortages, and maximizing profitability.

Another goal – one that we actually roll out every year – is to continue growing the commercial side of our operation. We will focus on expanding our client base in all divisions: For PrimeAir, add more airlines and new territories; for Prime Logistics (formerly Prime Air & Ocean Cargo ), more importers and new suppliers; for Prime Fresh Products, more supermarket chains and new distributors; and for Prime Fresh Handling, more fish, more produce, and pursue all new lines.

Simply stated, our New Year’s resolution is “new, new, and more new” through constant innovation and adaptation. We will continue building upon our successes, and creating new possibilities and customers in all-new service areas – while maintaining our highest levels of service.

So again, from our Prime Group family to yours, we wish you a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.

Happy Holidays to all, from the Prime Group family

It has been said that feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. With 2019 coming to a close in just a few short weeks, all of us here at Prime Group hope that this holiday season, and the year ahead, hold great things for you and your entire family of friends and loved ones.

The holiday season is a time to spend with the most important people in your life. It is my wish that in the midst of your celebrations, you find a few moments of peace and embrace the spirit of what this time of year is truly about.

There are no hard and fast rules in holiday reflection. The end of one year and the start of another, along with the holiday time off and gatherings, just seems to naturally inspire us to reflect and express gratitude at every turn!

From a business standpoint, the same rings true. ‘This also the season to reflect, be thankful, and eagerly anticipate. Joined by my business partner Omar Zambrano and the entire Prime Group management team, that’s exactly what we’re doing right now. As the year comes to an end, we’re thinking about what was and what will be.

First and foremost, we thank our employees who are the finest group of professionals ever found at one company. They work hard and long – and strive to be better every day. They understand and live our values at work and most likely at home, by espousing “Honesty; Responsibility; Commitment and Integrity.”

We also wish to thank our customers, without whom, everything is irrelevant. We thank them for their loyalty, appreciation, and their receptiveness to our ideas and solutions.

Prime Group had a very good 2019. We grew the business at an astounding rate compared with our peers. And we made tremendous new staff additions and adjustments – all positive moves geared to support our 2019 goal of realigning the business on the commercial side.

In addition, we increased the scope of products and services for our customers, which also allowed us to work with others we previously had not served. In particular, we focused on growing customers in Los Angeles, New York, and Amsterdam, and succeeded in doing so.

We dedicated much of 2019 to the reinforcement of our corporate values, which is what will guide us into the New Year. We know adherence to our values makes us better. They define what we want to be, how we want to act, and how we want to be perceived.

Therefore, for 2020, we pledge to continue to be an organization that provides quality services, that is recognized for its honesty and professionalism, and that has a keen eye on constant innovation and adaptation.

Having just finished our budgeting and forecasts for 2020, I am confident I’ll have more good news to share in the months ahead. The plan is to continue building upon our successes, create new possibilities and customers in all-new service areas, all the while maintaining our historic high levels of service.

So, whatever your plans are for the New Year, Prime Group wishes you the best in reaching your goals, and striving for a brighter future.

Prime Group is off the bench and on top of its game

Last month while attending the big flower show in Bogota, Proflora, I got to spend quality time with some industry friends and customers who have worked with Prime Group over the years – people I have known since my business partner Omar Zambrano and I starting this company 20 years ago.

So naturally there was a lot of talk of “back in the day,” mixed in with a bunch of “I remember when” stories.

Reminiscing like this gives us a greater appreciation of just how far we’ve come in the shipping business in the past two decades. It also opens our eyes to the new realities of global logistics — changes that are happening at break-neck speed.

And I truly believe they are changes for the better. I mean, of course, there has since been major consolidation among air carriers and freight forwarders, and a lot of small farms across Ecuador and Colombia have been bought up by big-farm interests.

But I’m mostly referring to the way emerging technologies are now allowing us to build in such significant operational efficiencies, processes that we could never have imagined back in the day.

Ok, before I go any further, I’ve got to just share just one I-remember-when story, about how freight forwarders would come by to see what you’ve got to ship, with a typewriter under one arm and calculator in the other hand. They’d count up all our boxes and kilos, work some numbers, and then hand over an airway bill. I would then pull out my own handy calculator to double check whether they did it all correctly. Sometimes it was right, sometimes it was way wrong. You really had to be on your game.

That part certainly hasn’t changed. We still have to be on top of our game in logistics, but nowadays, we’ve got some amazingly sophisticated new tools that not only boost efficiencies but our competitiveness, too.

Today, it’s all about technology and automation.

Business Intelligence
Take for instance a major new tool that the Prime Group companies just launched. It’s called Power BI, a business analytics service – with the BI standing for Business Intelligence – and it really is a smart way to go.

It’s a platform that provides nontechnical business users with tools for aggregating, analyzing, visualizing and sharing data. The Power BI user interface is really quite intuitive for anyone familiar with Excel, and because it integrates with other Microsoft products, it’s a very versatile self-service tool that requires little upfront training.

With it we are finding insights within our organization’s data, by helping connect a wide range of data sets and then transforming them into easy-to-understand charts and graphs that provide a real-time “story” about what’s going on system wide. Best part is, all of this is being shared with other Power BI users within the organization.
No longer do we spend long hours at month’s end, gathering up our sales, shipping, and performance data, in order to package it in a report that presents stale data on key performance indicators.

Today, we pop out a cell phone, open the Power BI app, and get a real-time snapshot that allows us to answer questions in real-time and help with forecasting to make sure the different departments and division are meeting business metrics. The charts and data visualizations can even examine “what if” scenarios.

Tools like Power BI – and all the advances to come with artificial intelligence are clearly revolutionizing our industry. Only those companies that are able to use the new tech to their advantage will survive, grow, and thrive.

I am happy to report that Prime Group is off the bench and already on the playing field, stepping up our game. With a winning combination of best-in-industry customer service and advanced technology, we’ve got what it takes to win.

I’m glad you’re along with us for this exciting ride into the future.

Trade Shows are Excellent Forums for Learning, Networking, and Promoting

Being part of the never-ending trade show circuit comes with flying around the globe multiple times a year, racking up millions of miles, jet lag.

Moscow, Berlin, Singapore … It might sound glamorous, but it’s a lot of hard work. Yet important work, because we understand the value of networking at these shows and conferences. They are a powerful and necessary part of doing business in international logistics.

Face-to-face exposure is essential to ensuring that the key decision makers in our industry continue to have a firm grasp of our products, services, and expertise in “carrying the weight of the world,” if you will.

And sometimes we mean that quite literally, as in our recent success in shipping bodybuilding weights all the way to a Pakistani gym. Now there’s an interesting story to share.

But it goes well beyond just show-and-tell. There’s relationship building, brand exposure, and great leads to be had at these events. So allow me to share with you the nine boxes we like to check in claiming success at an industry trade show or conference:

First and foremost, trade shows provide you with an organized stage to advertise your brand to thousands of vendors, prospective customers, and industry leaders.

Keep an eye on your competitors. Prospering in this increasingly competitive environment requires you to know your competitors’ business practices and sales tactics so that you can stay one step ahead of them.

Display your latest products and services. By showcasing your best selling items, such as our new and improved Tostones, you can grow your base of purchasers and give prospective customers the chance to touch and feel your best sellers.

Meet new and existing clients face to face. Trade shows and conferences provide a welcome forum for you to put faces with the names of the customers who you normally only deal with over the phone or via email.

Generate high quality leads. Because many attendees participate in trade shows for the sole purpose of purchasing products or services, you can enjoy a robust collection of high-quality leads.

Evaluate new products. Trade shows are full of companies exhibiting their latest and most innovative products. So, don’t be afraid to take it all in – and learn from what you see and experience from your competitors on the trade show floor.

Close sales. Key decision makers comprise a sizable portion of trade show attendees. With nearly half of these decision makers placing orders during a trade show, you should come prepared to close sales and process payments.

Discover the latest industry trends. Trade shows provide the perfect forum for mingling with industry leaders, pioneers, and business big and small that are experimenting with new ways to make logistics products and services better.

Learn about changes in industry regulations. Many trade shows and conferences include seminars and training opportunities that are designed to educate participants about key changes in related laws and regulations.

Clearly, trade shows, and conferences are excellent forums for learning, networking, and promoting the Prime Group companies – and perhaps yours, too. Ramping up your trade show participation is one of the most effective means of expanding your business.

I’m glad we had this opportunity to connect!

Employing the Rules of Weight and Balance in the Workplace

In our line of work, providing ground operations services for our air cargo partners, it is essential to understanding the principles of weight and balance. Without question, we comply with the recommended limits of a particular cargo aircraft – after all, knowing these rules is critical to its structural integrity and flight safety.

What if we had such stringent rules around managing our own “work-life balance.” Well, some of us do. Problem is, many of us don’t. As a result, people in the workplace often find themselves compromising their well-being and performance on the job – without even knowing it.

The idea behind this concept of work-life balance is to achieve an ideal balance between your working life and private life. It is a concept whereby the maximum happiness of an employee acts as the fuel for productive and fulfilling work.

And although there is no rulebook, summer time often presents a prime opportunity to do just that – by unplugging from work. In fact, now that kids are going back to school, we are just coming out of a key period during which we were able to step back and spend quality time with the family, go on a summer vacation, or engage in some form of personal development.

In summers past, because it is a little slower in our industry, I was able to take time out of my busy schedule to spend it with my family. We would alternate between taking the kids to Ecuador to reconnect with their family in Quito; and then over the next summer, we would head north to see their grandparents at a lovely cottage up on Lake Michigan.

One year we drove all the way back from Michigan to Miami, taking offshoots all along the way. We got to see and experience Memphis and New Orleans, and cities people don’t typically visit, like Springfield, Il., Baton Rouge, La., and Tallahassee, Fla. Together, we got a totally new perspective of the American scene.

And in the process, I got to re-energize. Though it wasn’t always easy pulling away from work, it was so important on so many levels.

Because the ability to turn off distractions and enjoy uninterrupted quality time is a great way to relax, rejuvenate, and regenerate. It allows us to get away from the pressures of everyday work life, and come back to the job with a new perspective – and actually be happier and more productive on the job.

That’s important stuff. Having a healthy life-work balance makes us better to work with, better able to serve our customers, and better people in general.

I hope you give some weight to this idea of finding balance in your life.

Celebrating 18 Years of Prime Group Success

While flipping through some old photo albums in preparation for our company’s 18th anniversary this month, a great rush of nostalgia came over me. It was just so satisfying to look back at the myriad milestones we achieved over the years and the amazing growth we’ve experienced.

There we were in dozens of pictures with bright smiling faces accepting corporate awards, rolling out new services in new markets, working major trade shows… Some things never change.

But then again, some things change a lot – and I’m not just referring to how young I looked! As I sat there looking down memory lane, it suddenly hit me that all those faces looking back at me were on glossy color-photo paper pasted into a faux leather-bound book. That’s how we use to do it! Using a “technology” that is now considered totally out of date in today’s digital world.

Who could have foreseen the avalanche of impending advancements that would not only revolutionize how we capture and share images, but in the process, deal a deathblow to major corporate giants like Kodak and Polaroid. I am sure they wish they were better prepared for what was coming.

Lessons Learned
So, lessons learned. But also lessons applied – which is why I can say with great confidence that as we celebrate 18 years in business, I firmly believe Prime Group is extremely well positioned to survive the unknown unknowns. Because we have a strategy in place that keeps our companies open to all possibilities. We are not only nimble, but entirely deliberate in the way we are diversifying our business lines.

Who would have thought 18 years ago we would be here today using cutting-edge communications technology to track and monitor the status of thousands of pounds of fresh fish arriving at LAX and JFK, real-time, for a whole new base of customers. That’s what’s happening right now at Prime Fresh Products.

Who would have thought we’d have created a line of snack-foods, Tostones harvested and packaged in Ecuador for distribution among major retail supermarkets all across the U.S. That’s what is happening now at Prime Fresh Products.

Well Positioned
And all this upon a backdrop of aggressive sales and marketing efforts geared toward boosting awareness of the Prime Group brand in a way that will position us for long-term growth in new and emerging markets around the globe.

They say the only constant in business is change. With that in mind, we are continually monitoring our alignment with defined organizational challenges and objectives. We are also keenly aware that our business can be influenced by:

• Increased diversity and globalization in the workforce, customers, suppliers, and competitors;
• New technologies that have resulted in faster pace and larger scale;
• A more complex communications environment with more channels; and
• Changes in business situations and strategy.

So in 18 years, when I look back at our bright smiling faces, the moments, and milestones – stored on an antiquated USB drive – I will know that right there in the background, there were smart and strategic efforts taking place to ensure the long-term success of our company.

Thank you for being with us on this journey.

More than just another success story

Few things are as important as giving your mother the undivided love and attention she deserves.

That’s why I am so thankful that by the time Mother’s Day actually arrives each year, those of us in the flower industry have pretty much accomplished everything we need to do in advance of this important day, whereby allowing us to be truly present to honor the amazing women in our lives.

As the busiest time of year for PrimeAir and Prime Fresh Handling, the work we do starts well over a month prior to Mother’s Day – and I must say, the frenetic pace by which our people perform is nothing short of astounding. Night and day, right up to about a week before, they work tirelessly to ensure that your Mother’s Day bouquet makes the journey from farm to florist, fast and fresh, and into mom’s arms by that second Sunday in May.

No complaints though, because we love what we do – and it shows. From a revenue and reliability standpoint, the 2019 season may very well have been our healthiest season ever. Adding up the all the flights from Bogota and Quito we operated on behalf of our air-cargo clients, and the number of kilos we moved across our network, it was a banner year.

What’s more, not surprisingly, the level of satisfaction among our customers is also at an all-time high, as a result of zero problems with shipments, zero reported claims, and zero delays.

What’s it called when news keeps getting better, year after year? It’s called a successful business!

But this year, it’s more than just another good news story. That’s because even as our corporate footprint has significantly expanded over the past year, we were able to exceed expectations in service delivery and reliability even at our newly expanded facilities in Los Angeles, New York, and Amsterdam.

All across the board, we were well prepared for the high season, fully staffed with experts, and more than ready to manage the shipment of fresh flowers in a smooth, professional, and efficient fashion.

At Prime Group, everything keeps coming up roses!