One of my favorite moments in the original Rocky movie is when the lead character provides his answer for dating his lady love, Adrian. “I have gaps, she has gaps,” says Rocky. “Together, we fill gaps.”
Strangely, I was reminded of this bit of life wisdom when remembering two old industry friends recently lost to illness — Jack Eberspacher and Mike Turner. For both men, filling the gaps that existed within their respective trade associations was their passion. And both excelled at this task, almost up until the day they left this life.
In Jack’s case, the gap he helped fill was at the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA). At the time, ARA was mainly a Midwest-centric association with its headquarters in St. Louis. When Jack first came to this group in 2001, he quickly realized the gap between the members and the decision-makers in Washington was too great. In short order, ARA relocated its operations to the nation’s capital.
“It’s important to have a predominant spokesperson here on the legislative issues to be the eyes and ears and feed information back to the states,” Jack told me in a mid-2001 interview.
In that same one-on-one, Jack also mentioned that he thought a gap existed between ARA and some of its members. He spent the next few years hard at work to bridge this divide, reinvigorating old members while finding new ones to join.
Mike Turner was a similar individual when it came to filling gaps. I first met Mike in 2005, when I was visiting an ag retailer in Wisconsin. He had recently joined the Wisconsin Crop Production Association (WCPA) and was trying desperately to fill the gap of the group’s narrow industry footprint, which was then primarily limited to the Badger State.
With Mike’s guidance, WCPA began filling in some of these gaps by using its annual trade show and meeting as the bridge, increasing the show’s national profile through articles in our magazine and better promotion within the industry. Quickly, companies outside of Wisconsin started exhibiting at the show and attendance began to climb — all the more impressive when you consider this show takes place in Madison, WI, in mid-January!
Put together, Jack/ARA and Mike/WCPA filled gaps for each other. There are probably very few observers who would argue that both associations have a much higher industry presence today than they did before each of these visionaries came abroad.
On a personal level, Jack and Mike both helped fill gaps in my market knowledge. They were also great industry friends. It will be awfully hard to fill some gaps without them.
Godspeed, my friends.