Okay, I’ll admit it. I have referred to NAPBS conferences as “Band Camp” for years, a snarky reference to the movie American Pie where one of the main characters talks constantly about what happened at their annual rite of passage. And while I affectionately mocked it, I found that I really missed it when I didn’t attend for a couple years. I regretted losing touch with what was going on with others in the industry, what innovations were taking place, what new products and services were being offered by the supplier community. But most of all, I missed the close friends I had made over the years– competitors, old colleagues, vendors, etc.

So, last year as I was contemplating what I wanted to do with the rest of my professional life (I’ll let you know when I actually figure it out), Jason Morris convinced me to return to the Mid-Year NAPBS Conference. I was only able to be there for about 24 hours but connecting with all of my Band Camp friends was all I needed to know that I wanted to find a way to stay in the industry. I immediately committed to the Annual Conference, where Jason and I led a presentation on how background screeners can build, scale and grow their practices.

Needless to say, I now consider myself a Band Camp aficionado and I wanted to offer some advice to attendees on how to make the most of your experience at the 2019 Mid-Year Legislative and Regulatory Conference beyond the obvious of attending sessions.

  1. Attend After-Hours Events- My good friend Vince Brodt from SJV said it best when he told me that the best parts of NAPBS were the informal networking and after-hours events. In addition to being fun, this is where true relationships are built. You don’t need to have forced conversations about work or feel like you are being sold at. Just be yourself. Trust me, you’ll walk away with a least one good idea to pursue after the conference. For my money, the Innovative, Sales-Free Zone Party has always been a great time to have fun, meet new people and network with colleagues. Maybe, loud parties aren’t for you? Vu Do, from PreCheck has become my personal trainer (and lifelong friend) at the gym during these conferences. Pam Devata, from Seyfarth Shaw is my sommelier and philosophical guide on pretty much everything. Still can’t figure out how she and I live in the same city and only see each other at NAPBS. But I digress. It is good to have friends in this industry.
  2. Talk to your competitors- To this day, some of my best professional friends are competitors that I’ve met at NAPBS. I think early on I was apprehensive about these relationships- we all lied about how big we were and what our plans were, etc. But over time, I dropped my guard and realized that we had much in common and plenty to learn from one another.  Les Rosen from ESR practically drew up the roadmap for how we built our business and couldn’t have been more helpful when we first started EmployeeScreenIQ in 1999.  There were countless times where we helped our competitors think through significant problems or obstacles they were experiencing (that we had already experienced or could have at any given moment). And they did the same for us. Of course, we weren’t sharing important trade secrets or offering a roadmap for how to compete with one another. These were business issues that were inconsequential to competition. It’s good to have friends in this industry.
  3. Spend time with exhibitors- I promise, they don’t bite. Yes, they want to sell you their products and services, but guess what, they are the true innovators in the space. I am so impressed with how many of the providers such as court research, criminal data providers and platforms in this space have evolved from just vendors to real partners. They are leveling the playing field for CRA’s, offering you the tools that only the largest competitors in the industry had access to only a couple years ago. For instance, the larger criminal research companies don’t just want to sell you court research. They’ve found a way to provide court data in the most efficient way possible while improving accuracy and quality. Many allow you to customize the data you receive, even on a client level basis, so that you get what you want when you want it. Beyond the innovation, they know what your competitors are doing. And while competitive intelligence is great, I was thinking of something less sinister. Perhaps you could benefit by learning how someone else is using the service to become more efficient, streamline their process, improve turnaround time or profitability. It’s good to have friends in this industry.

Noticing a theme here? I’ve been in industries where competition was cut throat and distrust of one another was table stakes. Yes, there is healthy competition among us, but we have a lot to learn from each other and can all benefit from helping the industry (and ourselves) succeed. So, make it one of your goals to meet one new friend. I can’t see how you’ll ever regret it.

In the meantime, I’ll be the one playing my trumpet. Vive le Band Camp!

BTW, in my next post, I’ll tell you why participating in Advocacy Day could be one of the most rewarding experiences of your career.