Here’s what our expenses for the Ohio trip look like:

FUEL $200
MEALS $160
MISC $90
BOOTH $625
TOTAL $1,675

 I had expected our costs to be closer to $1600, but a few miscellaneous expenses, including two new shelves and some new paper bags (for carryouts), pushed our total higher.

With that estimate and using my $50 a cover rule, I figured we’d have to sell 32 covers or so to pay for the show.  With a final total of $1675 for expenses, I think my goal of 35 covers was reasonable, from a monetary standpoint.  From a practicality standpoint, I was a bit more apprehensive.  See, we’ve been selling well this month, but the first coupla months of 2009 were off year-to-date.  In fact, I was so apprehensive about our outlook at the end of April that I made the decision to attend the Ohio show at the last minute.

It’s amazing how many good business decisions are precipitated by moments of horror and how much clarity comes with fear.  In 2007, I shared our two most difficult moments as a company in the posts Crippling Challenge + Determination = Business Reward/Failure (Part 1) and Crippling Challenge + Determination = Business Reward/Failure (Part 2).  While April 2009 doesn’t compare to either of those experiences, my feeling of dread was creeping up and I knew we had to do something to kickstart sales.

I saved money by driving the convention wagon I bought earlier this year.  The vehicle, which I showed off in the post, Final Embrace, LLC’s New Convention Wagon, was packed to the gills (OFDA 2009, Here We Come!) and fueled up with $2.25/gallon gas in Florida.  If I had planned our fuel better, we could have taken advantage of lower prices in Georgia and fueled twice at a lower rate.  As it is, during the trip up we fueled once in Florida, once in Georgia and once in Ohio.  Ohio was the highest price, with regular unleaded gas going for $2.459 a gallon!

On the way back, we stopped just as we entered Georgia and just before leaving, saving us almost ten cents a gallon.  On two fillups, that meant a savings of $4.  Might not seem like a lot, but we didn’t have to go out of our way to save that money, either.

We stayed in a very nice hotel in Columbus.  My strategy was to choose simple hotels for the two drive-all-days and pick a pampering hotel for the stay in Columbus.  The strategy paid off, as the Drury Inn on Nationwide Boulevard in Columbus was both comfortable and convenient.  Parking was reasonable ($12 a day) and the hotel is connected to the convention center.  Access is made through several air-conditioned walkways and convention spaces.

We ate at three good restaurants in Columbus:  Carrabba’s, The Cheesecake Factory and O’Charleys.  I also had dinner with an old friend at the FlatIron Grill, just down the block from the hotel.  As usual, we skipped the food service on the convention floor, although it looked very good and everyone praised the selection and freshness.

Want to know why I don’t eat on the floor of an expo?  Read the posts, Hey, Vendors. Stop Telling Me How Hungry You Are. and 2008 NFDA Convention: The Tired, The Hungry and The Bored, to better understand my philosophy.

So far, I haven’t decided to attend any conventions that aren’t already planned, meaning we’ll attend IFDF in early June, Kentucky in late June and the NFDA show in Boston in October.  Still, I continue to see the benefit of attending conventions and seeing our customers face-to-face, so next year’s convention schedule will be VERY ambitious.

Here’s what I’m planning so far:

February 1-3, 2010
South Carolina FDA Mid-Winter Conference/Expo
Columbia, South Carolina
Booth Fee:  $520

March 1 & 2, 2010
Georgia Expo
Atlanta, Georgia
Booth Fee:  $500

April 26-28, 2010
Ohio FDA Convention/Expo
Columbus, Ohio
Booth Fee:  $625

June 2010
IFDF Conference/Expo
Location TBA
Booth Fee:  $400

June 2010
Kentucky FDA Expo
Louisville, Kentucky
Booth Fee:  $600

August 3 & 4, 2010
National Funeral Director & Mortician Association
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Booth Fee:  $1200

October 2010
National Funeral Directors Association
New Orleans, Louisiana
Booth Fee:  $2400