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WAMO Embodies Best of Coin-Op
I've been attending the annual Wisconsin Amusement and Music Operators annual conference and show for virtually all of the past 14 years and I always look forward to my northbound drive each June.
Why? What makes WAMO's summer gathering different or unique from other industry events and state meetings? How is WAMO special?
From my perspective, here's 10 things about the WAMO meeting that, woven together, add up to a winning formula.
I'm quick to point out the current climate for Wisconsin operators is quite favorable compared to other states, which leads me to number one on my list:
- WAMO members are engaged politically. While ops in many states only bond together and raise funds to support their legislative agendas when reacting to a crisis, WAMO is proactive, constantly adding to its Conduit (PAC) fund and supporting legislators and candidates around the state on a year-round basis.
- Strong leadership. Historically, WAMO has a "deep bench" when it comes to dedicated, talented volunteers and current President Bruce Dentice is no exception. Supporting the leadership and membership, and serving as a point of continuity and professionalism are Executive Director Maxine O'Brien and long-time Legislative Counsel/Lobbyist Tony Driessen.
- United We Stand mentality. As is the case in many state associations, many WAMO members compete with one another every day in their businesses, but there is a spirit of détente and collaboration when it comes to WAMO business. They put aside — if only temporarily — the rivalries to work towards the common, and greater, good of the industry.
- Leagues and Tournaments. WAMO is diligent in nurturing and preserving its league system and tournaments. The individual volunteers within WAMO who manage the association's annual pool and dart leagues are highly-regarded within the organization, and they run these large, detail-filled events with military-style precision, yielding impressive results year after year.
- Communications. Whether directly, through the association's offices just outside Madison or at the annual summer meeting, members are constantly in touch with one another. They plan programs, they share ideas, they discuss concerns and problems and they participate. No, not everybody, but a sizeable share of the membership are actively engaged in and through WAMO.
- Manufacturer/Distributor Link. WAMO is one of the few state gatherings where equipment is still displayed by manufacturers and distributors. Whether it's participating in the educational programs during the annual conference or working together on tournaments, the relationship between WAMO and its factory/distributor members is solid.
- Camaraderie. For the past four years, the annual meeting, conducted in Milwaukee, has featured a group outing to Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team. Even those who are not baseball fans can't help but enjoy the food, fun and fellowship this activity produces. There is also a spouses/guest program for meeting attendees. And for the past several years, a core group of WAMO members has embarked on an annual wintertime cruise, further strengthening the business and personal relationships fostered by the WAMO connection.
- The WAMO Family. As a long-time guest of the WAMO meeting, I've come to know many members and their families. I've watched several youngsters, who once struggled to carry home the plush toys their parents won for them at the annual WAMO dinner and silent auction, now working in the business. The summer meeting is a family event, and many kids have grown up — including my own — and still talk about the fun they had attending the WAMO meeting. For many, the summer meeting is like an annual reunion of sorts, providing spouses, guests, children and even grandchildren a forum to get together and catch up on a year's worth of family history.
- Ongoing Education. It seems some state groups have shed continuing education for members. And understandably so. It takes resources to plan and implement such programs. And, for busy members, they require a commitment of time. WAMO has been successful in fitting informational sessions into its full meeting schedule, and has recently been taking aim at developing technical training tracks. This provides a value-added reason to be part of WAMO.
- Individual Traits and Critical Mass. I've said, and written, it many times ... that AMOA members are hardworking, passionate entrepreneurs. With the possible exception of the Amusement Expo or the annual Council meeting, rarely are so many individuals possessing these qualities assembled together as they are each year in Wisconsin.
Selfishly, I relish the fact that it's one of the few annual events I attend where I don't have to get frisked at airport security and fly point-to-point. It's a relaxing road trip. Plus, the WAMO meeting is not a marathon. They cram a lot of educational sessions, a trade show, annual meeting and elections, an awards banquet and silent auction, a baseball game outing, pre-event golf and fishing activities, spouse/guest tours, technician training and meals/receptions into two days.
There are many industry associations that are doing an excellent job on behalf of their members, but in several areas, WAMO continues to set the standard and raise the bar for others, including AMOA, to emulate. While the legislative status quo works to the benefit of Wisconsin ops, there is nothing coincidental about this situation.
written by: Jack Kelleher