As I think back a year to the beginning of 2023, my first thought is that 2023 started more “normal” than the prior two years. I have had the opportunity to go to CES in early January for several years. After we squeaked by in 2020 pre-COVID, the 2021 edition was fully virtual, while 2022 required masks and proof of vaccination and had some notable empty spaces on the convention floor. So it was nice to have moved past that to a back-to-normal CES, which now makes use of the new-ish West Hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Speaking of Las Vegas, I remember where I was when the world started shutting down due to COVID: on a plane to Las Vegas for CONEXPO 2020, which ended up being shortened by a day. Well, since CONEXPO is only hosted every 3 years, that means we were back to CONEXPO and Las Vegas in March of 2023. This time there was no early closing of the show, and it had huge participation both from exhibitors and visitors. DISTek had a booth where we met a lot of new folks, and we wandered the vast convention center to visit with a lot of our other clients. And that was just the beginning of our trade show presence in 2023; we had booths once again at both the iVT Expo in August and SAE COMVEC in September, both in the Chicago area. One of our senior engineers, Nishantha Randunu, was a panelist for one of the sessions at COMVEC. We attended many other industry events throughout the year, so feel free to look us up – we might just be at an event you are attending.
Our leadership team started something new in late 2022 in which we hold our quarterly off-site planning meetings at each of our primary locations. That gives us an opportunity to meet with our local team leads, as well as the local employees. So after visiting Dubuque in December 2022, in 2023 we visited Des Moines in March, Fargo in June, Milwaukee in September, and Cedar Falls in November. Getting an opportunity for some in-person time in our increasingly remote and distributed company is an opportunity that we find quite valuable. We plan to continue that approach as we move into 2024.
DISTek became partially employee-owned via an ESOP in 2014, and in 2018 we became 100% employee-owned. Individual employee-owners continue to be engaged with the ESOP in different ways throughout the year. The EOC (Employee Ownership Committee) put together a very clever video for our share price reveal in July (look it up if you are a DISTek employee or, if not, ask your favorite DISTek employee to describe it), and we held our inaugural sessions of our newest DISTek U course focused on ESOP basics. Several people attended chapter and regional ESOP Association events to share and learn best practices among our ESOP peers in the upper Midwest. All these efforts and more continue to reinforce one of our core values of an Employee Ownership Mindset.
In sad news, 2023 brought the loss of our longtime former colleague and friend, Jace Hicok. Jace brought value to DISTek for over 20 years, not only through his exceptional contributions to our organization, but also through his kind heart and the care he regularly shared with his team, his clients, and those around him. We will fondly remember him and honor his memory through approaching our work and lives with the same unwavering determination, resilience, and grace that he did.
Our approach to business in 2023 remained the same as prior years and continues into 2024: to provide great service and support to the technology initiatives of our clients in the commercial vehicle and off-highway equipment industries, while at the same time providing a great place to be an employee.
For sure we have challenges, stumbles, and successes like any company, but I think we are doing pretty well in following that approach. 2023 has continued a good run of success for DISTek, and we approach 2024 with high hopes for the future.