Business Flag News

Flag-Makers Have Conventions, Too | Takeaways from NIFDA

Each fall, after flag season (which is April, May and June), the flag manufacturers and dealers of this cottage industry get together and compare notes. We are friendly competitors. Like restaurants clustering together in proximity for increased market share, flag companies are stronger together, too.

NIFDA (National Independent Flag Dealers Association) is the brainchild of a few dealers who met in 1988 at a covert meeting in Dallas, Texas. Their intention was to form a coalition that would give a voice to the retailers of the flag industry. Flag manufacturers lead the industry, but the flag dealers have their finger on the pulse of patriotism.

This year’s NIFDA convention was in Cincinnati. The first day we went to a Reds game, followed by a meet and greet that evening. It’s like a reunion. We hug, reminisce, and meet each other’s grown children who have come along for their indoctrination. The flag business is inherently a family business. Many of the companies are generational, having been started by a grandfather or parent. During this convention, we toured a fifth generation flag manufacturing plant, founded in 1861.

Along with being family oriented, the industry is a little incestuous, too. It’s not unusual to find a sales rep from one company change their allegiance and, at the next convention, be working the tradeshow booth for their previous competitor. Because the industry is so small, everyone is weirdly okay with it.

Some Flag Convention Take Aways

This year, I learned that all of us are having a good year. Industry-wide sales are up.

On the first official day we had a speaker, Susan Frew, who wrote a book called The Pufferfish Effect (i.e. act bigger than you are).

The second day’s presenter, Steve McClatchy, was funny, with mannerisms that reminded me of Jack from the sitcom Will and Grace. As with most self-help seminars, you recognize the information, but its nice to be reminded again.

The gist of Steve’s presentation was relationship building and defining Leadership vs Management. I liked his definitions. Leaders are constantly improving things; processes, products, bottom line, facility, etc. Management is not a title, but an action word for ‘maintenance.’ He calls these maintenance actions the “have to’s” because eventually you are going to have to pay your taxes, have to count your inventory, have to raise your prices or fail. Good managers don’t wait till they have to.

My favorite part of his presentation was the group exercise he led to move our relationship skills from focusing on the negative to leading through positivity. He pointed out how we label personality traits when we like a person verses when we don’t. It went like this:

For 3 hours, he told funny anecdotes. Together we laughed at our humanness and were uplifted.

At the end of the seminar, I suggested to the group that we hold next year’s NIFDA convention in Little Rock and have the meeting dates coincide with the 11th Annual Dancing Into Dreamland, in 2020. They liked the idea. And when I mentioned the River Market’s recent “open container” ruling, they were sold! We are a fun group.

Oh yeah…for all those fellow flag dealers who read my blog, who I told I’d mention in my next post (and for those who feared I would, too) … Hello and see you next year!