YP’s Class of ’22 converged at the University of Texas’s AT&T Hotel in Austin.

It was back to school for BrandSource’s next-gen leaders

By Brian Lawrence, BrandSource Region Manager

BrandSource’s next generation of leaders returned to class at the University of Texas’s AT&T Hotel in sunny Austin earlier this month for the first Young Professionals University (YPU) since the 2019 session in New Orleans.

It was clear from the beginning that everyone was excited to be together again post pandemic. About half the Young Professionals were first time YPU attendees, and the kick-off ice breaker allowed AVB’s 20- to 40-something members, vendors and industry associates to get to know each other better. As one attendee noted, “I am not really a fan of ice breakers but this one was different. I came to the conference alone and nervous to meet people, but this really did break the ice with everyone!”

The author, YPU Ambassador Brian Lawrence, welcomes attendees to the first day of class.

Class began with a presentation by AVB Marketing’s Grant Hancock and Michael Cox, who spoke of solutions and opportunities at BrandSource that they wish they’d taken better advantage of during their days as members. Luke Larsen, vendor relations furniture lead, followed up with a conversation on how to compensate sales staff and retain talent, while AVB’s online analytics expert William Glade ended class with a session on the importance of networking and getting your name out in the community.

That evening we headed out to Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que for cold drinks, Texas eats, networking opportunities and raffles courtesy of our event sponsors. Prizes were awarded every 10 minutes by a different BrandSource partner, ranging from gift cards to the winner’s choice of new mattress. It was great spending time with and expressing our appreciation for our friends at American First Finance, GE, Guardsman, LG, New Leaf, Serta, Samsung and Whirlpool, as they help make these YP events possible. 

Day Two began with a BrandSource Boot Camp for those interested in breaking a pre-breakfast sweat, and then class resumed with AVB HR staffer Alyssa Turner moderating a best practice how-to on hiring and onboarding new staff. Inspirational speaker Brian Biro, “America’s Breakthrough Coach,” was up next with a keynote that pressed everyone to break through whatever is holding them back and take the next step in their lives, careers or anything else they wanted to improve. He showed us that you don’t need a black belt to break a board with your fist, as first demonstrated by Famous Tate’s Chelsey Sweet (see video, below). Everyone was then given the opportunity to follow suit and symbolically “break through” what’s holding them back.

As one attendee commented, “Wow! Brian was incredible; he was extremely inspirational and made me excited to face my barriers and break through. I would definitely go to another one of his speeches and I might even buy one of his books!”

After the keynote we dove into a digital marketing session with AVB Marketing’s Caleb Ferguson, followed by a review of e-commerce best practices with Hancock. Cox was up next to break down the latest tools and products from AVB Marketing and show how they all tie together. Each session could easily have continued long past the bell given all the member interaction.

Attendees were then treated to vendor presentations by platinum sponsors GE Appliances and TD Bank. GE traced the consumer’s appliance shopping journey and underscored opportunities for independents, while TD Bank described their consumers finance offerings and the technology advantages that go with them. Many of the Young Professionals said they were enthused by the presentations and look forward to partnering with these companies.

Classes ended with member-to-member, best-practice roundtables covering a variety of topics, including planning ahead for the next YPU in 2024.

Day Two wrapped up offsite with plenty of food, drinks, games and camaraderie at Punch Bowl Social. Even though many of us met for the first time just 24 hours earlier, it felt like we had known each other for years.

The curriculum included after-class activities at Austin nightspots.

We capped off YPU on Day Three with a duck boat tour through Austin. We learned a lot about the city while driving and floating through town, and learned even more about our businesses, our buying group and ourselves by attending YPU. As one attendee summed it up, “Everything from the speakers to the duck boat ride was amazing! The event flowed perfectly, I felt safe and very well taken care of.”

We look forward to seeing everyone again in March at the Young Professionals event at Summit 2023.

 YPU Ambassador Brian Lawrence is a Region Manager at AVB BrandSource, the nation’s largest merchandising and marketing co-op for independent home goods dealers and publisher of YSN.