"Salone is Almost Over, Get Ready for ICFF! "
04/18/23 Edition Stephen Says Column

Dear Stephen,

I’m a sales rep for a major manufacturer. We’re based in the United States, but it’s a global company, with offices and showrooms throughout the world. With the pandemic over, for the first time a lot of my clients from major design firms as well as dealers went to #Salone this year, so my company wanted me to go as well.

The show has been great! It’s winding down on Sunday the 23rd. This is my first time there, I never realized how big it was, with so many different venues. #NeoCon is a cake walk compared to this.

Something about being in #Milan, between the food, the design, and the people, truly makes me feel the beauty of our industry.

I’m New York based and I got to spend some really good bonding time with my customers from companies like #Gensler. It also opened my eyes to the enormous amount of furniture companies that I didn’t even know were out there, that are yet to be distributed in the United States! It made me think of all the potential furniture jobs that haven’t been formed or created yet in the US.

So, now the next furniture fair coming up is #ICFF, on May 21st at the Javits Center! It’s right before NeoCon, and although it’s in New York, ICFF has turned out to be a national show. For those reps who weren’t lucky enough to go to Salone, I highly recommend they attend ICFF because, most certainly, their design customers will be there!

So here’s my question: Am I mistaken or don’t these furniture fairs, intended to show off manufacturer’s new products, make great job fairs for those of us that are sales reps and managers in the industry? I don’t mean to say we’re blatantly interviewing in anyone’s booth at Salone, ICFF or NeoCon, but any trade show does give you the opportunity to meet leadership from manufacturers, introduce yourself, and exchange cards for future follow up. Am I being sly? Naïve? Or smart? Do people do this?

Fairing Well At The Fair

Dear Fairing Well,

Salone was great this year! It’s so fabulous to see the industry back. It was amazing to me how many American sales reps from manufacturers and dealers, independent reps and designers from all over the country I saw there. It really was a great show. Salone, which is expensive to attend and once seemed to be for only a privileged few here in the United States, has turned into every man’s show this year. In a good way. Finally, a great new normal!

I’m excited for ICFF in my home city of New York in May and even more excited for NeoCon and #DesignDays in June in #Chicago! After all, trade shows are the hub of recruiting. Which reminds me, it’s not only other manufacturers you should be scouting, but every major recruiter attends virtually every major trade show. Call us or any recruiter beforehand and make a plan to introduce yourself in person. Salone was a bonanza for The Viscusi Group this year in terms of recruiting.

To answer your question: Yes – you’re onto the most obvious career trick in any industry. Trade shows, of any kind, are exceptional networking events for sales reps and managers, to explore the possibilities of their next job. Don’t kid yourself – half the reason why most salespeople beg their bosses to go to NeoCon and DesignDays in Chicago is because they want to explore the competition. And it goes beyond the product!

Remember what I always tell you: you are your own best brand, and you want to shop your brand, which means you, around these trade shows. However, it’s a fine dance you have to do, and here’s what I mean: because your company is paying you to attend, you’re supposed to be there to meet with your customers. That’s one half of the dance. But on the other hand, you need to move physically out of your company’s booth to visit other booths and network.

Networking is one those often-misunderstood terms, so here are my Viscusi-honed tips on how to explore a new job at a trade show:
  1. Be sure your name tag is readable and at the right height for somebody to read it. No one will be interested if they can’t see who you are. Nothing is worse, as a recruiter, than working a trade show and not being able to see someone’s nametag because it is upside down. I have a theory that manufacturers supplying company badges to their employees intentionally make the badges so small nobody can read them. It’s no coincidence that it’s often just their first name as well. 
  2. Introduce yourself with your full name. Don’t assume somebody knows you, and don’t say just your first name. Even a veteran like me will introduce myself to everyone with my first and last name. It’s just the polite thing to do. It helps me put the name to the face.
  3. Pick up business cards for people that you’re talking to because at a busy trade show you’re never going to be able to remember everyone you talked to. Write a note on the card about what you want to follow up with them about.
  4. Most of all, look your best, be your best, and have fun! If you’re enjoying yourself, it’s going to show. And everybody likes (and wants to hire) somebody who enjoys life and their job! But let me tell you – enjoying yourself DOES NOT include excessive drinking. Sloppy speech and bad behavior is a job killer.
  5. Lastly, and this is the important part, dance right back to your own showroom before your boss gets too suspicious! A good excuse for me was always “the restroom,” in one of my first jobs when I attended NeoCon at the beginning one of my old bosses said, “You must have a small bladder, Stephen!” 

Safe travels home and see you in May at Javitz!


Stephen Viscusi is the CEO of www.viscusigroup.com, an executive search firm that specializes in the interior furnishings industry. Hires made through The Viscusi Group are guaranteed a one year free replacement. Please share your story or comment on this article and send your workplace questions to stephen@viscusigroup.com. Or give us a call at (212) 979-5700 x 101.

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