Recap: 2018 CenterBuild Conference

As ICSC’s only event that is specifically focused on the architectural, engineering and construction community, my colleagues and I look forward to CenterBuild every year. With more than 1,600 attendees from the A/E/C disciplines, it provides opportunity to network with new prospects, reconnect with old friends and find common ground with our competitors.

This year’s theme was “Innovation: The New Competitive Advantage,” and the show featured great content from powerful speakers. I took away three core points that all of us working in retail design and construction should consider as we approach 2019.

Humanizing digital communication matters

In his keynote presentation, “The perfect Place Where the Digital Meets the Analog,” global futurist and innovation strategist, Anders Sorman-Nilsson presented a story with a relevant personal background. Anders grew up in family-run retail store in Sweden that sells fine men’s clothing. While he educates and enlightens people around the world about the power behind digital technology and communication, he has also watched his own mother struggle with all the disruptions precipitating from the ongoing shift towards digital technology. He struck a chord with me when he made the statement, “We can build loyalty by crafting our digital journeys in a human-centric way.”

It’s worth noting that Ander’s type of approach resurrected his withering family business and allowed his family to regain relevance in this ever-changing world.

Look beyond just ‘making the deal’

Sports agent, author and speaker, Molly Fletcher also stirred inspiration through one of her personal stories of failure. She had been working on a major contract with one of her clients who was seeking to leave his role as a college basketball coach to take on a head coaching position in the NBA.  After signing contracts and having national press cover the event, her client abruptly cancelled his contract and walked away from the opportunity. In her reflection on the failed opportunity, she realized that she had been “transactional versus relational.” She was so focused on the deal that she never asked her client if he was truly ready to make the move.

We all get so engrossed in this fast-paced business world, that it becomes easy to lose sight of the things that matter most, like relationships. Her story reminded us that we need to take time to get to know our clients and partners, and to try to understand things from others’ perspectives.

Remove the friction from the journey

Lastly, both keynote speakers alluded to our duty to identify ways that we can be of value.  Anders indicated that we all have a duty to “remove the friction” in our client/customer journeys.  Molly Fletcher similarly encouraged the audience to “identify gaps in their lives that they don’t see.”  Whether you are a retailer seeking to attract and retail new customers, or a consultant looking to provide value to your client’s brand, we must continually ask questions of ourselves and those who we serve in order to provide our best solutions.

Did you attend CenterBuild this year? If so, I’d love to hear what your takeaways were. Email me at