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The 6 Questions with Reid Sherwood


Reid and I met when he took a sales position at Optima, what seems like maybe 15 years ago. He has since joined the team at Classic but remains a popular dude within the walls at 1540 Fencorp, St. Louis.

For a guy that is a national traveler he calls Newaygo, Michigan home. Newaygo a 21st Century Mayberry, as I have heard it described, is a place you don’t want to leave. Reid carries a personality that is a hybrid of the big city CEO and the Mayor of a two-horse town. You might see him at a Jimmy Buffet Concert, guiding a grouse hunt or dining at a 5 star restaurant, but where ever he is, friends surround Reid. In the decade plus I have known him, I have never heard a cross word about anyone come out of his mouth and everyone is always glad to see him, that’s pretty impressive on it’s own.

This week I asked Reid Sherwood, Classic Exhibits The 6 Questions

1. Tradeshow industry lore is that we all just fell into tradeshow and once you’re in you never leave. For many people that is certainly true. For others, they leave but a part of them remains.  How did you get into the business?

RS – I moved home from college with no real idea or direction in my life and literally fell backwards into a production/sales job at Armstrong Display Concepts – which treated me well for 13 years. I had a lot of people/customers who helped and inspired me over the years. Many of us are my age (mid 50’s) and have grown up in the industry.

And who inspired you to grow into your Tradeshow career?

RS – I guess if I had to pick one person who had an impact on me in the industry it would be Jim Hoffmann. He has become both a mentor and 2nd father (to many – not just me).

2. What would you be if you were not in Tradeshow?
RS – If i were not in the tradeshow world, I would probably be doing something in a sales role, interacting with people. For fun I have guided hunts and have a ton of hobbies that I could have turned into a career. I have always thought that Cheer’s was a great TV show. I would be happy being a Sam Malone type bartender (or Norm Peterson).

3. Without considering the customers you visit, focusing only on the location, what is your favorite city to hang out in for business travel and why?
AuthorRS – That is a bit of a loaded question since living in Michigan, it changes with the seasons.

I have always had a great time in San Antonio. One of our customers has been kind enough to take me to a couple of Final Four weekends and some NBA Finals games there. The city knows how to throw a huge party, yet keep the crowd from turning to rioting.

As much as I hate country music, Nashville has been a blast. There is a ton of classic rock in the area and I love that.

Anyone that has spent any time with me knows that Key West is where i want to be…. always and forever. The lifestyle fits me. Like a glove.

4. What experience do you recall as a nightmare when it happened but can sit back and laugh about it now?

RS – The nightmares are all very similar and no specific one stands out, tho they mostly, in one way or another are a direct result of air travel and not being on time. I have thought a zillion times how much easier this would be if i could fly my own jet… and I am not sure I can sit back and laugh… but I have learned to simply go with the flow. There is one particular sales call that sticks out. Maybe a nightmare isn’t the correct word. Maybe incident is the appropriate word.

I was making sales calls in the 2001 or 2002 era. Still very much coat and tie. In an exhibit house that was pretty prim and proper. I knew a few of the people, but the design director gathered a really nice crowd to look at some of our products and services. Things were going along just fine, They asked good questions. I gave good answers. This was at a time when retractable banner stands were the hottest thing since sliced bread. There were several that were being demoed that day. One of the AE’s asked if the larger banner stand could be used as a tabletop. Of course it is an option. I grab the thing and set it on the table and stand directly behind it. I quickly take the banner down and proceed to suck my necktie in with the graphic. Well, they never taught me how to handle that in sales training, so I casually try to unroll it off my tie, only to realize that my tie is longer than my arms and it won’t unroll all the way. The look of embarrassment couldn’t have been any more obvious. Well, I had no choice but to ask for help with my new Mr T 7lb. tie-tack necklace. When the customer grabbed ahold and pulled it off, my neck smacked backwards, my tie was shredded like the cat sharpened it’s claws on it and the customer was trying not to laugh. I calmly said, “this tie is truly one of a kind”

5. Do you have any hobbies? How does your hobby influence your industry work and vice versa?

RS – I think the only way you can do this travel life and not go crazy is to
A) Be a little crazy before you start.
B) Make your customers your family so you are just visiting family.
C) Make your hobbies an A-level priority and incorporate that into business as much as possible.

That makes your work life your hobbies. I have managed to twist golf, concerts, sporting events and hunting and fishing into my work life. How can you possibly dread that? It is just an extension of your weekend if you do it right. I think the primary influence the business has had on me would be that every area has cool things and you need to experience what the locals do. i.e. – do not eat at Applebees or Outback – you can go there any time you want. Go somewhere local and authentic… something you can’t have elsewhere.

6. If you could send a message to yourself day one of your tradeshow career what advice would you give yourself?

RS – If I knew then what I know now, the message would be twofold – Don’t take yourself too serious and you always need plan B, C, D and E. Just hope you don’t have to use them every day.

Thanks Reid!
Next week we hear from Optima’s own David Brown,
you don’t wanna miss this – really.

Have someone that you would like me to ask “The 6 Questions” ?
Send me an email at gcamarato@optimagfx.com

What is The 6 Questions?

A clever friend of mine, we’ll call him Harold Mintz, just to use a name, once hipped me to a trick. Harold explained that whenever he is at a party and the conversation is slow he loosens things up with a question. “What did you go to school for and what are you doing now.” Everybody has a story – Brilliant!

Piggybacking on big H’s idea, I’m running a new blog series titled The 6 Questions. I have some of the icons of our industry, folks you all know, lined up and ready to reveal the how, why and whatever. Our tradeshow industry is packed full of some of the most interesting people. They each have a unique story to share. Thanks for reading!   ~ g

About our Author
Gary Camarato is the Vice President of Marketing & Creative Development at Optima™ and has been in the Trade Show industry since 1992.

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