Thursday, July 30 – Episode 17 brings Jon Beam & Randall Hackworth to discuss the SGA Natural Gas Connect Academy and how virtual events are playing out in the industry.
Announcer: [0:00] Ladies and gentlemen boys and girls of all ages welcome to the most amazing interview show on the information superhighway!
[0:09] Now zooming to you live and simultaneously from two secret studio bunkers and dual time zones located somewhere south of Alaska, east of Area 51, north of Guantanamo, and if I you give you one more clue we’ll all be in deep trouble. It’s the amazing twin namesakes separated at birth the two most famous guys, not in witness protection, it’s “Coffee with Jim and James!”
Jim: [0:37] Welcome everybody to this week’s episode of Coffee with Jim and James. I couldn’t be more excited to be here. We couldn’t be more excited to be here. When you think of Dream Team, what do you think of the 92 basketball Olympic team? The Chicago Bulls in the heyday?
[0:52] Or would you think of the SGA Natural Gas Connect Academy 2020 event dream team, do you start to think about the people on the screen making up that dream team? I don’t know about you, but I do. At this time my partner in crime, as always, Mr. James cross James. What do you think about this team we’ve assembled today?
James: [1:12] It’s the best we could do.
Jim: [1:18] Deeper.
James: [1:19] Absolute best we could do. No, they’re great group. You know, we’ve had Randall on before I have no clue who John is. I think we’re getting Zoom bombed right now. This is what they were talking about.
[1:33] No, we’ve had Randall on before, obviously John’s a good friend of yours, Jim, which means he’s a good friend of mine.
[1:42] We really pulled it together because this group is all active in the SGA Natural Gas Connect Academy that’s going on for this this entire month. And so we wanted to pull it in this is so for some of us, this our first exposure to a virtual conference and for some of us it is our first exposure is exhibitors as well.
[2:08] The same for SGA I would say. Really, we wanted to pull this all together and just have some open dialogue about what we feel is working, what we could do better at, and really what does this look like, you know in the future. So that’s really the intent today Jim. Do you want to do just a quick intro of John and Randall or pass it off to them and then we’ll jump into some questions, have some dialogue.
Jim: [2:33] I’ll do a quick intro on ask question because I got some things burning on the mind but Mr. John Beam with Equipment Controls Company, longtime friend of mine, joins us today as well as Mr. Randall. Yes. He is the man Hackworth, with Wade Trim joins us, too.
James: [2:50] That’s exactly what his business card says.
Jim: [2:56] But you know gentlemen we’ve known each other for a long time. We’ve been to countless events together and why don’t we talk about SGA and what you and your companies are doing at this year’s 2020 Natural Gas Connect Academy and just give us a little insight into that. That and why don’t I kick it over to John first.
Jon Beam: [3:15] Sure. Thanks Jim. I appreciate thanks for having me on here. It’s an honor and a privilege to be in your company.
Jim: [3:21] I owe you a $20 for that one.
Jon: [3:25] All right, so Equipment Controls Company, we have three booths. We’re a longtime member of the SGA. We’re a sponsor almost every event we attend and some that we don’t but we have three booths. So Equipment Controls Company is a distributor in the natural gas industry.
[3:43] We have 12 different product lines that we rep and so under the Equipment Controls Company Booth we have we represent Tensys, and Eagle Research, 3M, ust a host of products and then we have AY McDonald who we just started repping. So we have a booth for them just to kind of let people know that we now rep them, kind of spotlight them, if you will. Then we also have the Pietro Fiorentini booth and we’re the master distributor for Pietro in the United States. So we have a booth for them as well.
James: [4:21] That’s a lot…
Jon: [4:23] I’m sorry?
James: [4:23] That’s a lot to man. That’s a lot.
Jon: [4:25] That is, that is a lot to take on. It’s little bit easier virtually then it is in person. [laughs] I’m not lugging stuff in and out of a booth which is I guess you could chalk it up as a pro. But yeah, so we’re involved, you know, we’re doing a $50 gift card to get people, you know to our booth as you know, it can be hard to get people to come to your booth in person.
[4:47] So virtually is, virtually almost impossible. So we’re trying to do anything we can to get people to come by sending messages out during the conference. Just trying to stay in front of the customer as much as we can.
Jim: [4:59] Good. Randall?
Randall Trim: [5:01] Thank you, Jim, good to be here. Good to be here with you guys again. Of course, I’m with Wade Trim which Wade Trim is a civil, full‑service civil engineering firm, and they cover pretty much the eastern half of the United States, 22 offices plus and continue to grow. Specific to SGA.
[5:19] We do have an energy pipeline group that focuses on design engineering of replacement programs linear project station work, etc., etc. What we have been pushing is a presentation for exposed pipe mitigation and kind of taking a natural approach to it. So we’ve had a good bit of interest with it and we’re not actually doing a part of the curriculum for the Academy, but I’m just kind of pushing every way I can via the website that they’ve given us virtually.
[5:57] So it’s been a challenge to do that. But I do miss being there in person because I miss the people ignoring me in person.
James: [6:07] So much easier when you can get rejected right to your face.
Randall: [6:12] Yes.
James: [6:13] Virtually it’s just not the same. I guess that it happened money you’re saving on you know, I’m not giving away pens to people those got to be astronomical. So that’s good that’s in charge of swag back in office.
[6:27] You know diving into these virtual events and what are they look like, how are they doing? So how many of us let’s just do a quick show of hands, Jim you’re including on it. How many of us is this the first virtual event that we’re attending or exhibiting on?
Randall: [7:01] I think this is my first yeah, I mean I’m done webinars and stuff like that but to actually attend and then secondly exhibit right? This is our EWM’s first time exhibiting. So it’s totally new experience. Didn’t know what to expect. In fact. It’s new for a lot of our sales people and also the people attending and so, you know, they’re scrambling around asking questions. Not really sure how to do it.
[7:28] Whereas, you know if we were in person you just kind of show up at a hotel and just look for somebody, you know, so yeah, that’s it different environment. For sure. I think we’re all navigating that what y’all have experience so far has just it being the first time you’re involved in a virtual conference? Randall?
Randall: [7:48] I’ll go I’ll get on this one. I have to admit I was lost but I’m going to throw a name out there Stephanie Carlosi. He has been super helpful to get me to get me to the finish line to make it a functional and useful venue. And so I really, really, really wanted to say thank you to her and I’ve written her a couple of times and made sure.
[8:14] Hopefully she understands what she’s done has been fantastic and and that’s not taking away from anybody else at SGA, but she’s the one who I’ve had the most interaction with. It’s definitely different because I think you guys were all for no better way to say creatures of habit. And I like talking to people. I like shaking hands. I like hugging people and I’d love to give her a hug. But unfortunately, I can’t.
[8:38] I’d love to give you all one, but we’re not there. We’re not in person and that’s a it’s a very, very different. It’s a different thing so I don’t want to get used to it. I’m hoping this is the only year and next year we get back into person.
Jim: [8:55] John, what do you think?
Jon: [8:57] I mean more a second all that it it’s new for everyone, obviously the SGA included, and they are doing the best that they can to, you know, get our money’s worth and get our, you know, our best foot forward and front of the customers if you will. Stephanie done a fantastic job, you know, you would know she’s juggling as many as much stuff as she is the attention that she does give us that’s been really good.
[9:21] We I think I think they’ve done the best that they can it was, you know, Rocky to start but you know, it all came together when it was supposed to come together and I think they’ve done a really, really good job. It’s just a matter of OK, now we got this platform. You know, how can we how can we improve upon it? And how can we you know drive that customer base to come to come see us and come visit us, but you know, it’s going
James: [9:45] Yeah, I’m gonna echo something else to and Randall you nailed it with Stephanie’s been amazing. I would say the whole staff that I’ve been involved with because we’ve been involved with several whether it be Cindy Mitchell who’s been a guest with us before.
[10:00] I have a direct line via text with her been going back and forth on various things and questions and ways that we can improve and get better, you know, as an industry in this in this new world the whole staff, you know, I’d been one thing if it would been rocky and then, you know, everybody wasn’t customer centered and good friends, all of us.
[10:24] We couldn’t if we wouldn’t have had that kind of support it would have been a totally different experience, but I They were very upfront about that. So I echoed the same things Randall, nothing but good experience, you know getting up and going or are moves as well.
Randall: [10:40] Yeah, you guys were helpful too because I know I can’t you guys and said hey, what are you doing here?
James: [10:47] And we said we have absolutely no clue what we’re doing.
Randall: [10:50] Yeah. It is trial by fire. You got to play with it. And that’s the things you have to get to work on it and adjust it. And that’s what we’ve done, we keep trying to do. Do that because we have four weeks.
James: [11:02] Yeah, right.
Jon: [11:03] Right, absolutely.
Randall: [11:04] I never leave my computer ever.
Jim: [11:07] You know, Randall you hit on a good point there about working together as a as a team or as that’s something that this industry, really, I would say embraces absolutely now, I’ve been doing virtual conferences this year back since March. I don’t know if anybody else out in the West, there is some Western Energy Institute conferences, and that was right at the beginning.
[11:30] Even at this and at that point when somebody said to me we’re going to do a virtual conference. I’m like Randall, and John, James. I want to hug people and shake their hands and talk to him and you know go do this and that, you know, having had some virtual conferences or at least this one under our belt.
[11:49] What’s your thoughts about some of the good bad and the indifferent about virtual conferences? Well, you know, what’s your take on? I’ll give you again my take one. I miss everybody we all know that We’re all in the same boat. We all want to get together, but I will say this though by seeing you all, you know at the conference or talking and just reconnecting.
[12:10] It definitely keeps that excitement and me. So any thoughts from you generally John, Randall want to kick in there.
Jon: [12:17] I’ll kick in here first on this one. I think the good. Is it am I not have this totally right? But I want to say that if your company was already registered to go you could basically bring anyone to the show, right? You could anyone’s allowed to come to the come to the session and sit in and obviously visit the vendor. So I think we might have a lot more traffic in that way.
[12:39] Maybe some people who are clicking on your website who are looking at your bulletins or whatever you got posted on your website that are might be introduced to your company that maybe normally wouldn’t be able to go to a conference like this one. Had the opportunity or so I think there is that opportunity to see people that normally would not be able to see you or see your company, what y’all you know.
Randall: [13:01] Or they may have been intimidated to coming to your booth.
Jon: [13:04] So yeah, they just walked by or you know, I mean, you know with Randall standing there. It’s hard not to be intimidated by that gloriousness.
Randall: [13:14] I think that is the right term.
Jon: [13:24] Go ahead, Randall, what have you got?
Randall: [13:25] I’m going to say it’s not the same, it’s not as good. It’s not as good. I will say that. you know at the in‑person we’re able to you know, go to dinner where you able to get a lunch with folks, etc. And you know, it’s a little bit different, little bit more personal when you’re there and in this case, it’s unfortunate. It’s the scenario and we have to make the best of it.
[13:57] So that’s what we’re doing. So like I said a minute ago, I’m just hopeful this is the only year that we have to do the virtual conferences. I think it will become a thing for the future. But you know people want to be in front of their prospects people want to be with their clients, etc., etc. And I just don’t think It’s that’s going to be replaced.
Jon: [14:21] Yeah, and I agree, excuse me Randall, from my company’s perspective is we have stuff that you need to touch and feel and get your hands on to really get an idea. So yeah, this is this regulator this meter. I’ve been talking about or you know, whatever the case may be and that it’s really hard to do that virtually.
[14:39] We do training webinars and stuff for customers as needed. But you know, they really want to get their hands on this stuff and you know, pull it apart put it back together and stuff like that. So that’s the biggest miss. The bad and it’s nobody’s fault. It just is what it is and just try to work through it. But that’s the biggest, I guess bad if you will, is that they can’t get their hands on this stuff.
James: [15:00] Yeah. It’s definitely different. Jim, I’m going to go I’m in from an EWN standpoint. I’ll tell you some of the good that we’ve pulled out of it is, you know, sometimes it’s booth rats or whatever you want to call us, you know, we get complacent to a degree. I mean you go you set up your booth with the same way you wait for the people.
[15:21] You see the same people, you know, there’s a there’s definitely that habitual nature to it there. Randall hit on it, and for a lot of us, the real business happens at the bar after or at dinner, those sidebar type situations. But I will say from a good standpoint, this has tested us, you know, as a company of getting out of our comfort zone, right and what ways I mean, here we are. On a video call right and recording it and going to share again for exposure to the event to our own booth things like that.
[16:00] I mean there’s a motive behind it at times, you know, very quickly we realized that OK, we got to do some work to make this work, right and may sometimes other shows. I’m not saying we don’t work, believe me. I know the days are long just like you guys but if there is a routine there and this was not routine this time.
[16:20] We’re more creative last week in trying to figure out how to maximize this event that I’ve ever seen our group be when it comes to a shelf, right and I think that’s fascinating right? There’s an angle to that that that intrigues me. Like why don’t we treat every event this way whether it’s a person or not, right, you know as far as the bad I mean not to beat a dead horse, but obviously we all want to be there.
[16:53] John, you bring up a fantastic point of there’s some wears out there that you just got to get your hands on right and I’ve got to do it. There’s no replacement. We don’t live necessarily in that world, you know ours can be definitely done virtually. However, there’s a personal element there that you know who you’re dealing with, you know that mindset and things like that.
[17:20] It’s different for me. I come from a technology background, so this virtual world is very I don’t want to say that it’s easy or it’s convenient or like it’s not perfect for what we’re doing but there’s a there’s a little piece of it that seems natural to me. So it’s not as hard.
Jim: [17:42] Comfortable?
James: [17:43] Yeah, I’m because I and I’m a creative right? That’s my background. So for me, it’s a problem I get to solve come Monday morning of OK, how are we going to get people in? Yeah, get them back. They were right. We’re doing things. We turned our vendor showcase into a webinar.
[18:00] We’re out there promoting, promoting it like crazy and we wouldn’t have done that. We would have sat there waiting for people to show up for 15 minutes spiel at the conference and went about our business. So that part is exciting for me.
Randall: [18:12] You’ve got to embrace it. Got to embrace it.
James: [18:15] Like you said Randall. I hope it’s only this year. I pray it’s only this year.
Randall: [18:19] Hey James. I had a question for you. Yeah, because you are technologically gifted. Technology guy, do you ever play video games?
James: [18:30] No, I hate them.
James: [18:40] Me and my son built that project. It’s an awesome project that he and I got to do. It’s got tons of games on super fun super fun project. Now. It’s just a prop. So it looks cool. It makes me seem a lot cooler than I really am.
Randall: [19:02] This backdrop makes me seem a lot cooler than I am.
James: [19:06] things, not all of us can be in San Francisco. So the last Jim did you have anything to add to that?
Jim: [19:14] I just quickly before I didn’t mean to interrupt you, but I was thinking, you know, we think about we are All are in a time of oh, woe is me at times and we get down but then we always look at the bright spot. One of the bright spots is all of our comfort level with virtual conferences and then going forward. We’re all ingredients.
[19:31] We want to be there live together hugging if there is a whole generation of people out there, especially our younger generation is very comfortable with electronics that like to go and maybe pop into a conference or a session but not actually go to it not actually take the time.
[19:45] I think if we do hybrid conferences in the future where again we have our normal conference but maybe the sessions are broadcast where some an engineer a project manager can hop on he or she for a few minutes and you know, watch a session or two and, again, attend part of the conference and gain something from that where they might not have gone in the past because it was a live conference. I think that could be the future.
James: [20:11] Yeah, Jim, I think you nailed it. We live in a hybrid world moving forward. Yeah. I’ll tell you from my own experience. And I’ve not been in this industry, as long as you guys, I assume, I don’t know. I’ve only been in here four years, but I can tell you the first couple of years. I was scratching my head. I have no clue what I was doing.
[20:30] When I was able to get out there and be at these events and sitting sessions and talk to people and understand how it was all connected that that was huge for me. You hit it on the fact that there’s so many people sitting behind the desk that work for us and with us that never get that chance and they never would but in this hybrid environment.
[20:53] I think that’s going to allow us to create better products to you know, see all the way down the line of where we can make impact and that’s something we wouldn’t have got if we would have stayed 100 percent in person.
[21:09] That brings up what I think probably is the last question and that’s really, moving forward, what does this thing look like in a perfect world, Randall, that you live in you know with that backdrop in a perfect world? What does this look like movement forward for you guys?
Randall: [21:33] You know, I can throw out some Buzz words by so it must be more needs to be more intuitive and this and that but I don’t really know what that means. So I’m not going to go there.
[21:42] Oh, I’m not sure exactly what we do because it’s just one of those scenarios where it’s in my case, and I said I can’t remember who I was talking to but I was like wait a second. I think it was Jim. I was talking to him go, you know with these virtual conferences you ever think oh wait a minute, there’s a bunch of people over in this room way over here in Texas or somewhere having a meeting, but I have to do at my computer and I don’t know it.
[22:19] I just kind of want to see, and maybe seeing something live going on would be helpful, but I don’t know what the next steps are. It just there may be a way to do this simpler, but I’m not sure exactly how to answer that question to be honest with you, James. Sorry.
James: [22:36] You just wanted it in person.
Randall: [22:38] Yeah.
James: [22:38] That’s, yeah, OK to say I think I think we all feel that way. It’s a hot one. It feels somewhat and John I swear I’m not trying to steal your thunder if I do it. Is meant to be, because I know you’re itching to answer that question. But you know, it feels kind of like a stop‑gap. I mean, it feels like we’re in this Purgatory of who you spend a ton of time trying to figure it out or do you just wait it out, you know, yeah now John’s lot but yeah.
Jon: [23:10] That’s really pretty much, that’s thanks a lot. Jerk. I’m James Tim. Sorry. No, that’s pretty much that’s pretty much it. It’s Embrace what we have in front of us right now and do the best we can with it and hope like crazy that we’re in person.
[23:27] But you got to be able to take this experience today and if we’re going to be virtual tomorrow. OK, we’re going to be virtual tomorrow. What does that look like? How can we improve upon what we did today and just make the best out of not a ideal situation by any means, so yeah.
James: [23:45] Continuous improvement.
Jon: [23:47] Yeah, absolutely.
Randall: [23:48] Yeah, as I was laughing, I actually felt like I was at a real conference with the four of us hanging around a booth area or out in the lobby. Just the way we’re kind of bad for it and John’s very witty quick humor. It’s absolutely beautiful.
James: [24:05] Those are the things you’d miss in a virtual setting. I mean, we’re blessed right here to be four people on a video. But what I mean is that that conference that stuff would happen all day long. You would make connections, but sitting on a web page waiting for somebody that to slide in.
Jon: [24:24] Yeah, there could be 500 people and you would have no idea. I’m even if they click on something. I don’t know that unless I go into some log somewhere and that’s kind of the frustrating part, too, is unless they actually are interactive with it. It’s knowing if someone’s there, and what do they click on it?
James: [25:04] I think this has been enlightening. I mean when we started doing Coffee with Jim and James, we kind of joked that it was almost therapy for us. It was therapeutic. That was really the intent when it started there had to be other people feel. And the way we did but we’re sure the platform to share it. Right? And so we’ve had people on and the thing that’s continuing. I think this is episode 17.
Jim: [25:28] 17.
James: [25:32] Or will be when it comes out if it doesn’t get cancelled before them, but, this has been therapeutic for us and we hope you know the SGA other associations that we’re all involved in can take a little nugget from this and know that you know, we support it. We understand there’s a need for it. We want to be a part of making it better and in hopes that that in the very near future we can get this thing back in person.
Randall: [26:05] Yeah, absolutely. Hey, I just want to say Quick. Thank you, guys for being there for me. I want to thank my company for the same support during all this pandemic scenario to the SGA and the other associations that are dealing with this the way. They’ve taken the time to deal with it to support their members as well as associates. Thank you, guys. Great job, keep it up and we can support you. We definitely you know, I guess I’m speaking on behalf of myself.
James: [26:37] All of us. If Randall can’t support you. He’ll call me for tech support.
Randall: [26:42] Yeah, I’ll call James to help you.
James: [26:46] You all have any final thoughts?
Jon: [26:49] I really appreciate the opportunity to be able to come in and speak with you all in speak to who’s ever listening to this the millions of people everywhere.
James: [26:56] The three people. Three. There’s three.
Jon: [27:00] To echo what Randall said, you know the support that my company has given me during this time and the flexibility of life, you know has been has been tremendous. So, you know before to seeing everyone here real soon. And again, thanks for the opportunity. Would love to be a part of something like this again.
Jim: [27:15] John good. Lay it out, looks like you’re tearing up a little bit.
Jon: [27:20] Can we cut to commercial please?
James: [27:22] He cried in the first take and we had to start over.
Jon: [27:25] [laughs] That’s…
Jim: [27:28] I’m going to wrap it up, any final thoughts from you, James?
James: [27:33] I think we’re going down the path of continuous improvement. That’s not a new term in our industry. We put together what we could put together in the time allotted and as we move forward, we hope we can make it better and I think conversations like this honest and open and passionate conversations is what we have to continue.
Jim: [28:06] I could have said it born better myself and I couldn’t have said it any more than that. So thank you for that. Again.
James: [28:13] This is hard. This is the new handshake by the way.
Jim: [28:21] It is.
James: [28:20] God bless you guys.
Jim: [28:22] Anyways…
Randall: [28:22] You know what movie did that?
Jim: [28:23] No, what movie?
Randall: [28:24] The Wolf of Wall Street.
Jon: [28:26] That was a good movie.
James: [28:30] [laughs]
Jim: [28:31] With that we are going to wrap this up bring hurry. This is just going to keep going on. We would like to thank our special guest John and Randall great guys. If you do know them shout out to them give them a hard time about being on this episode.
Jon: [28:47] Please do.
Jim: [28:48] If you’re not, click on and connect with them through LinkedIn, they are great guys and they can definitely help you in the industry and people you would want to know as well. If you don’t know James and I, connect with us. We have a few connections, so we look for having a few more until then everybody.
[29:06] Please have a great day. Enjoy the SGA conference. Let’s all be safe out there. God bless you and God bless our industry until next time. Have a great day. Thank you.