President & CEO,
Exhibit Edge Inc.
“Just be your best self, but be prepared. Be sure to have your opening greeting statement memorized. Make it about them, not you.”
About Exhibit Edge Inc.
Exhibit Edge designs, builds, and manages trade show exhibits and experiential marketing systems that increase sales leads and company visibility. We combine marketing experience and artistry to accurately deliver your brand and message to engage, educate, and inspire. Our goal is to create an attendee experience that leads to your desired results. We accomplish this thanks to our talented, in-house industry professionals providing expertise in multi-dimensional, high technology displays and graphic elements. This combination has positioned us as a premier exhibit company.
Headquartered: Chantilly, VA
Company Website: www.exhibitedge.com
When and how was your business started?
On September 1, 1992, after attaining 15 years of knowledge and expertise in the exhibit and trade show industry, Bev Gray, President and CEO, and Mike Gray, Vice President, formed ETC Exhibit Services at the request of their first client, the Federal Aviation Administration. After working in several trade show exhibit companies, the Grays knew they could provide a higher level of customer service. Bev, as an expert in systems and processes, could use her talents to set up a company that runs efficiently with infrequent errors. Exhibit Edge continues to perform at a high level with excellent ratings from customers.
How has being a WBENC-Certified WBE helped your business?
A few of our largest customers are a result of WBENC Certification. It opens doors to additional opportunities that we would typically not have access to, either directly working with Supplier Diversity Departments, direct access to the end user within the company, or the creation of relationships that lead to contracts. Because of the WBENC relationships, business and comradery has also been obtained from other women business owners. Certification, through programs such as Tuck, has also provided necessary education to enhance my company.
What is your business philosophy and how has it impacted your success as a business?
Create a business model that is moldable and flexible with your employees, your clients and the economic environment. You can do this and still retain your systems and processes that are effective, accountable, and efficient. This will show your employees that you are willing to change. They don’t want an owner that is unwilling to try new things and grow. They will even respect you more, even if you fail. Everyone will appreciate your efforts of change, which makes happier employees and clients.
What advice do you have for new entrepreneurs?
Don’t think you can do it all. In the long run, doing it all will affect your revenue. I believe I lost ten years of increasing revenue because I wanted to “save” money. In retrospect, I should have received help in the areas that were new to me or didn’t come naturally, so I could focus on new revenue. In the long run, I lost lots of potential income.
What advice would you share with a newly certified WBE looking to make the most out of her certification?
Go to all of the events. The more you are seen and converse, the more you will be remembered. The more you are remembered, they will call when they are ready to buy. Don’t hesitate making connections. Everyone is there for the same reason. Follow up within 14 days after you meet with someone. Don’t be a pest; respect their time. Business won’t come overnight. Be patient and consistent. Keep repeating until business is won.
Have you partnered with other WBENC-Certified WBEs on contracts or utilized other WBEs as suppliers? If so, what has been the benefit? Why do you feel it is important to work with other WBEs in the WBENC network
Exhibit Edge has partnered with other WBE exhibit company “competitors.” We have utilized these companies in other states for exhibit installation labor and production when the job is closer to them and it helps both companies financially. They have returned the favor. Not only does it help the companies involved, the corporations love to see “competitors” working together for the good of all. Collaboration is a win-win.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
When you figure out what you LOVE to do and make a career of it, you will be the happiest and will make the most income. For example, I knew at a young age I loved to organize. A place for everything makes everything easier. In my business this natural ability transfers into creating company forms, systems and processes, which has led to an efficiently run company.
What do you do to prepare for the National Conference & Business Fair?
The first thing I do is print the exhibitor list, then compare it to the companies I have talked to in the past because I definitely want to visit them in their booth. Repeat contact is critical. Then, I look for new exhibiting corporations or WBEs that are local to my company because people prefer to work with a local exhibit company. I plan all these visits based on their location on the show floor. I will visit all these companies first, then go to a secondary list of companies I want to meet for a variety of reasons.
What is your strategy for how you approach the Business Fair?
I approach the Business Fair relaxed. Everyone is there for the same reason. I have found over the years that you can try your hardest and not get business. You can try a little and get business. Therefore, I retain a very open attitude. No one knows the future. Just be your best self, but be prepared. Be sure to have your opening greeting statement memorized. Make it about them, not you.
What tips do you have for WBEs to get the most out of their time at the National Conference & Business Fair?
Bring lots of business cards. I’m surprised how many run out. Know the corporations you want to talk with before the conference. Do your homework about who they are. They will ask you to submit your company information in their supplier portals. Do that before the conference so you can ask what the next step is. Don’t forget to follow up repeatedly.
What should a every first-time attendee know about the conference before they arrive?
The Business Fair is overwhelming with the number of high-quality exhibitors. During the first time I attended, I got through two aisles for the first four hours, then was overwhelmed wondering how to get through it all for the rest of the time. Look over the exhibitor list first. You can find this on the conference web page. Devise a plan to visit the most important