Awesome support is one of the core promises Steelhead makes to every one of its customers. When it comes down to the nuts and bolts of setup, teardown that support comes in the form of Steelhead’s Will Bonwell.
Will travels around the country all year, making sure that client booths arrive on time, working with labor teams to set booths up and tear them down, and ensuring that clients have absolutely everything they need during the show. Think of Will as your personal trade show fixer.
Recently, we sat down with Will to find out what it takes to survive trade show season. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: You’re on the ground at trade shows with Steelhead clients all the time, describe what you do at each show?
Will: I make sure the booth has arrived safely and check that all the electrical and internet cords are ready before carpet goes down. From there, I manage labor. It’s important that you don’t go over your labor budget, so I work with those teams, answer any questions they might have, and basically supervise the build from beginning to end.
I was a teamster on the floor for about six or seven years. Since we often use union labor to build our booths, that experience has led me to understand exactly what those teams need.
Q: How does Steelhead’s brand promise of awesome support play out when you’re at a trade show with clients?
Will: First and foremost, I’m always honest with them and treat them with respect. I try to do everything I can for the client and to go above and beyond so that they’re not stressed. If they’re stressed, it’s a problem. Everything about their booth should be turnkey, so I’m there to make sure it is.
A client might bring a pop-up or an extra cord that they need to put down. I handle all those last-minute requests and adjustments, as well as give them support during the show. Whether it’s managing their inventory or helping them ship their products, I do whatever I can for them.
Q: What motivates you most about your job? What makes you excited about going to work every day?
Will: I get to do something new every day. I’m not building the same booth every time. It’s always new designs, new builds, a new opportunity to show our brand. Having the ability to show we what we can do is awesome.
Q: What tricks have you learned to survive and thrive while you’re on the road so much? Do you have any routines that you’ve found helpful?
Will: The key is to carry everything you need with you. We have a book that we call “the bible” that has electrical layouts, booth plans, client information, and shipping info. It never leaves my side. Once, all of my luggage was lost, but because I had that binder with me, I was still able to get to the show and do my job. That’s why I carry it everywhere.
As for routines, I just try to be a real people person. You deal with a lot of different people and moods in this industry. I do what I can to cater to them and appreciate them.
When managing labor, you’re juggling a lot of different people and attitudes. I try to take a step back, look at the whole situation, and find the solution that works best for everyone so that the client gets what they need done.
Q: How do you maintain a balance between work and your personal life when you’re moving from city to city and living out of hotels?
Will: I have two kids, a nine-year-old boy and and an eleven-year-old girl. I try to get online and see them every night or help them with their homework over the phone. I’m also a black belt in jiu jitsu, so I love training when I’m on the road.
Q: What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the trade show business about how to make sure they don’t burn out?
Will: It’s a marathon, not a race. Learn as much as you can and don’t act like you know it all. Just do the best you can. There are no small jobs. Do every job to the fullest, no matter what.
Will's dedication is just one of the reasons why renting a custom booth with Steelhead results in great shows. Learn more about what you should look for in an exhibit design partner. Download our free guide: How To Evaluate And Choose An Exhibit House.