Founder and Executive Director
Meeting Planners Unite
CMP Meeting Services
For launching a new association dedicated to independent meeting planners
Independent meeting planning companies were stunned at the announcements earlier this year that Marriott International and Hilton would drop hotel commissions for most group business from 10 percent to 7 percent. Many needed to rethink their business models, others wondered if they could survive. David Bruce was alarmed by the coming change, but also motivated. Almost immediately after Marriott’s announcement, he created LinkedIn and Facebook groups to give independents a place to focus their conversations. Hundreds of planners quickly joined, and another idea was born: an association just for independent meeting planners, Meeting Planners Unite.
Three months ago, I wouldn’t have believed I was going to do this. But having an association that deals with only independent planners is a change we’ve needed for quite some time. Meeting Planners Unite is the first time in history that independents have gotten together as an organization with the same goals, a place to share their concerns and their fears. Right now, we have 100 members, but we will be promoting it more heavily now that the website has launched.
Change is inevitable. Problems are inevitable. We get very locked into how things have always been. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always work out. I’ve been an independent for 32 years. If you think about where we were 32 years ago (we didn’t use fax machines!), we’ve had to institute a lot of change through the years. Back then, even becoming an independent was about making a change—when we asked people to pay us a commission, they said, “But, you’re not a travel agency.” And we’ve had to handle many, many difficult periods—consider the challenges after Black Monday in 1987, or 9/11, or the downturn in 2008. We’ve always had to come up with the next good idea, and now with independents dealing with the revenue changes as Marriott and Hilton cut their commissions from 10 percent to 7 percent, Meeting Planners Unite is aimed at helping planners find creative solutions to making up that lost revenue and keeping their businesses strong.
My role model has always been J.W. Marriott. Mr. Marriott and his wife Allie were two of the finest people ever to be in the hotel business. They believed that if you take care of the customer, the customer will take care of you. And if you take care of the employee, the employee will take care of the organization. That’s how I learned this business, as part of the Marriott family. I started as a telephone operator and ended up a front office manager, and I dealt with Mr. and Mrs. Marriott quite often. They were amazing people. Their ability to understand the customer was unequaled.
It’s ironic that Marriott’s commission change is what motivated me to launch this new association. I imagine Mr. Marriott is turning over in his grave seeing what’s happening today with commissions. Marriott International is not valuing its clients. It’s doing everything that he would never have allowed, in my opinion.
In my free time, my wife and I breed and show Coton de Tuléar. It’s a dog breed we’ve been involved with for about 10 years now. That’s our world outside of meetings. I also guest lecture on hospitality issues at Stephen F. Austin State University here in Texas once or twice a semester.
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