Trade Show Leader: The Expo Group’s Ray Pekowski
Ray Pekowski, CEO and chairman of family-owned The Expo Group, has been in the trade show industry for 41 years and said the key to success is creating strong relationships.
Besides TEG, he also worked at Greyhound Exposition Services Co. and then United Exposition Service Co. Pekowski’s experience and unique vision of customer service led to the development of the Single Source Solution® for exhibitors and show managers.
TEG, with its patented customer service model, is celebrating its 25th year in business in 2016. He is very active in the industry and community charities alongside his wife, Linda. He holds a bachelor of science degree from Northern Illinois University.
Pekowski graciously answered a few questions about his time as a trade show leader.
TSNN: How did you get started in the industry?
Pekowski: I dated a girl in high school whose dad owned a carpet and furniture company that supplied trade shows. I started working for him in between semester breaks in college, then went to work for his company full time six years after graduating.
TSNN: How different was the industry when you started, compared with today?
Pekoswki: It is very much a different industry from when I started. The pure enormity of it -- from number and complexity of shows, size of shows, number and size of facilities to name just a few – is what has changed. McCormick’s East Building was the largest in the country when I started; it’s where CES was held in 1977. The number of jobs this industry has created through that growth is also enormous.
TSNN: What are some of the lessons you have learned being a part of this industry?
Pekowski: In 41 years, there are plenty of lessons. Perhaps the one with the most impact on me is the lesson on relationships in general. All are built on Trust and Forgiveness. Having both with employees, partners, suppliers and clients is key to long-term success.
TSNN: What is your favorite part of being in the industry?
Pekowski: I still love seeing a show come together onsite after months of planning. It’s still exciting that we literally create business environments that change from one show to the next depending on the industry.
TSNN: Anything you miss that you wish was still around?
Pekowski: In many ways, I miss the old-fashioned telephone. Over the years I cannot count the number of hours I spent on the telephone talking to people and building relationships with them. Today most of my speaking is done with my fingers!
TSNN: Anything you are thrilled went away?
Pekowski: Moving past sign print presses has been a great advancement. Every sign used to be done with block letters that had to be mounted on a rod, placed on the press and then rolled with ink and set on a rack to dry. It was a slow and laborious process.
TSNN: What do you hope your personal impact on the industry is?
Pekowski: My prayer is that I had a positive impact on the people I worked with, as well as the people I served over the years. I hope that I taught people to look at things with an open mind, to be creative and to see that you can make a difference and impact an industry.
TSNN: Any wise words about what this industry means to you overall?
Pekowski: I think this industry has a bright future. I believe trade shows are the last venue for human interaction and community building for common causes…doing business to improve a marketplace.