Each month, RVCF hosts two open forum conference calls – one for retailers and one for suppliers. Each call lasts about one hour and 15 minutes and focuses on questions that have been submitted in advance. If there is time remaining after these questions have been discussed, participants can ask additional questions and receive feedback from the group. Minutes from every open forum conference call are available to members and searchable through the RVCF website.
The objective of each open forum conference call is to enable merchandise suppliers or retailers, depending on the call, to interact with their peers. By exchanging information, ideas and solutions, call participants can help each other improve supply chain compliance and efficiency while developing more collaborative and profitable trading partner relationships.
That's the objective. But that's not always what happens.
In recent months, we've noticed that participants in our open forum conference calls, especially the supplier only calls, aren't taking full advantage of this opportunity to collaborate and solve problems. Long story short, there has been a lot of listening and not enough participating. Singing crickets are outnumbering human voices. This doesn't make for an incredibly productive call.
The primary reason is a lack of preparation for the call. We won't begin to presume why many participants aren't preparing. Instead, we'd like to explain what exactly should be done before, during and after the call to make this exercise as valuable as possible for all involved.
First, participants in each open forum conference call should submit questions in advance. Again, the idea is to tap into the expertise and experience of your peers so you can implement best practices, try an approach you haven't considered, or get a better idea of where you stand compared to others in the industry.
RVCF distributes the agenda, call-in information, and the antitrust caution to all registered participants the night before the call. For the supplier call, the agenda is also posted on the Monday prior to the call on the RVCF website in the Supplier Only group.
The agenda is shared prior to the call because the expectation is that participants will review the agenda and attempt to answer at least some of the questions. If there are questions the call participant cannot answer directly, they should get in touch with other departments in their organization to obtain more detailed information.
For example, someone may show up to the call empty-handed because a question falls outside of their area of expertise or their department's responsibilities. Instead, call participants should talk to those people who deal with those issues, get their feedback, and come to the call prepared to engage.
To be clear, listening is an important and often underused component of the collaborative process. There's nothing wrong with participating in a call and listening for answers to your questions. There's nothing wrong with first-time participants who want to get a feel for the call before actively engaging. But collaboration isn't an "all take and no give" proposition.
If a question involves capabilities that your organization has, a task you perform, a service you provide, or a solution you've implemented successfully or unsuccessfully, you should come to the table with information to benefit the group. Even if you don't have an answer but are dealing with the same issues, speak up and let people know you're in the same boat. You may find that a lot of your peers are experiencing similar problems and can work together to come up with a viable solution.
Finally, the conversation should not end when you hang up the phone. Bring your ideas and concerns to the online forum boards on the RVCF website, where your peers can respond in real time. This allows you to make progress over the course of the month instead of waiting until the next call to pick up where you left off.
The bottom line is this. If you expect to benefit from someone else's expertise during monthly open forum conference calls, you must be willing to contribute to the call and help others. Nobody likes a one-sided conversation. The more you contribute, the more you establish yourself as a thought leader in the industry and a go-to resource of information. It can be a great way to advance your career.
Prepare. Participate. Follow up. Repeat.
To find out about and register for retailer only and supplier only open forum conference calls, visit the Calendar of Events on the RVCF website.
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