For using downtime to drive professional development across his firm’s staff, and building a tighter team
While some of our departments (sourcing, billing, and purchasing) are still in full swing and managing our clients’ needs during the pandemic, our operations team is basically at a standstill since we aren’t planning any programs at this point. In order to keep our team motivated and to enhance their development as meeting professionals, my partner Michael Franks and I implemented a mandatory webinar-analysis program. We ask people to view webinars, TedTalks, industry-certification programming, and other learning and online training content—but most importantly, we have them provide their findings and feedback about the content to the entire group. It has been a pleasure to watch the spirited dialog that comes from each associate’s findings. The team is learning what the future might look like across every part of our business, and this program has become an outstanding teambuilding opportunity because we’re staying in constant contact.
As a third-party meeting-management firm, we need to work directly with hotels and other vendors to create a more standardized contract for our clients. I feel the cancellation and force-majeure language must evolve to include pandemics and any other situations where people’s health might be in danger. We must form a partnership with hotels and vendors to ensure that cancellation language is uniform for everyone.
Be positive and confident in front of your associates. In times of uncertainty, people look for leadership and guidance and it is my responsibility to convey a positive message. Communication is equally important; Michael and I send weekly updates to the team to reinforce that we are all in this together. Change in our industry is inevitably coming, and we need to ensure that we’re communicating how we’ll manage these changes as a company. We must be clear and concise with changes to company policies and how they will affect the team and our clients—without allowing our service levels to be affected.
Best Business Advice Received
Create a mission statement for your business and find the right people to carry it out. Ours is a service business, which requires client-centric people and processes. We opened Meeting Alliance more than 20 years ago and have never swayed from the concept. We have adapted to changes in the industry, to the new uses of technology, to the ever-changing global environment, but have never lost sight of the concept of “client first.”
My father, in business and in life. Watching him conduct himself when I was young taught me two things that stuck with me: Work harder than anyone and treat people correctly. No matter the aspect of your life, hard work is the core element needed for success. I also firmly believe in treating everyone the same no matter who they are. I watched my father always make people feel comfortable when engaging with them. As a result, they were motivated by his contagious positive attitude, and I saw them always go the extra mile.