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Transformation Creates Opportunities for Growth – as featured in TSB Bullseye Newsletter

Transformation Creates Opportunities for Growth

Michelle DeClerck, Certified Meeting Planner (CMP), founded Conference Event Management, a premier provider of unique, world-class event, conference, gifting, incentive travel and meeting experiences in 2003 after accepting a severance package from the company she was working at, ING (now known as Voya). DeClerck had planned to work on her own business a couple days per week while her children were growing up, but quickly became overwhelmed with incoming referral-based business and had to hire her first employees. Conference Event Management grew up on a business model of integrity, personal service, and complete transparency, allowing clients to hire the company for as little as one to two service areas, or full event management.

In addition to providing stellar customer service, the Conference Event Management team has always been dedicated to giving back to its community. Staff members participate in volunteer projects to support charities such as Meals from the Heartland, Family Promise, The Salvation Army, Dress for Success, and more. In 2015, the company launched the Iowa Hospitality Donation Network (IHDN), a charitable initiative that assists Iowa hotels and event venues in donating extra food, housewares and personal care items to hungry and homeless people in Central Iowa.

Due to her successful leadership, DeClerck received the Iowa SBA Women in Business Champion of the Year Award, Top Influential Woman – Innovator of the Year Award from Smart Meetings, and the Inspiring Women of Iowa Character Award in 2017. In 2016, she was named a Top 20 Change Maker in the Event Industry by MeetingsNet, and Clive Citizen of the Year. The National Association of Women Business Owners – Iowa named her Woman Business Owner of the Year in 2011. This past spring, Conference Event Management was selected by Goldman Sachs as the only company in Iowa to participate in its elite 10,000 Small Businesses growth program.

Following that experience, DeClerck led her team through a company-wide transformation process. The goals of Conference Event Management’s transformation were to provide greater value to clients in all service areas, while driving the company towards growth and enhanced opportunity.

The intense transformation process involved numerous discussions on topics of culture, leadership, dedication, delegation, process mapping, profit centers, personal and financial accountability, work styles and diversity, celebrations and gratitude, new hires, and revamping service areas. Based on the discussions, DeClerck created an eight-step process for growth and expansion, which can be applied to any business.

1 Focus on Culture

If leadership is focused on your company’s health and culture, by fostering strong teamwork and offering rewarding experiences for hard working staff, your clients will be treated with the same focus. Hire team members that represent your company’s values and are passionate about the roles you assign them to. The key to great client relationships is building up a team of individuals that work seamlessly together for the good of those clients. Motivate staff to work toward monthly, quarterly, and yearly goals and reward them for meeting those goals with celebrations. Leaders often find themselves thinking they are too busy to stop and recognize accomplishments by showing sincere gratitude, but when this happens, they risk disengaging their employees. Instead, take time for company outings and rewarding discussions with team members to encourage continued hard work.

2 Set Meetings with Yourself

As a leader for your business, it’s extremely important to take time out of each day or week to review the overall operations, successes, failures, financial reports, and future visions for the business. This meeting allows you to center your goals towards working ON your business versus IN your business. Decide what your success metrics will be. At Conference Event Management, one of those success metrics is the number of new clients and average contracted client revenue we gain in any year. Success metrics can come from client surveys, tracking client decision and spending patterns, and financial forecasting. This daily or weekly meeting is critical to evaluating the future success of the business, and can lead to goal setting and stronger leadership skills.

3 Conduct an Operational Audit

An operational audit is a process map that defines tasks within a specific business area and determines employee roles in each task. The processes can be recorded on paper, in excel sheets, in Google sheets for ease of sharing, or in other organizational programs. Operational Audits result in clearer job roles, better delegation, clarity in training, improved efficiency, ensuring nothing falls through the cracks, and overall improvement in your company’s operations. An example of a process map would be onboarding a new hire.

4 Prepare to Spend Immense Amounts of Time

Though there is never enough time to get everything you want to accomplish done, transforming your business takes an immense time commitment. If a transformation is right for you, make the time commitment (90 days is the perfect timing to stay focused on a goal) and stick to it.

5 Create a Live Plan

Re-evaluate your business and marketing plans and transform them into a live plan—an ever-changing document designed to focus business efforts and help onboard new employees. This plan helps all involved to understand your values, clients, risks, potential risks and areas of profitability. Evaluate your market scope and size, and segment customers by their different markets. Create competitive differentiation for marketing and selling purposes. Find your company’s differences from competitors and strive to demonstrate your individuality.

6 Do Your Financial Forecasting

Constantly evaluate your company’s financials in order to set goals, and plan for future growth. If your forecasts are not headed upwards, evaluate the situation, and determine a new path for growth. This could include new profit centers, letting go of unprofitable product or service areas, prospecting to new business, and more.

7 Practice Your Pitch

Always be ready to share your success story. Whether it is during a backyard conversation, or to someone you meet in a professional situation, be prepared to present ways your company provides solutions. Refine your pitch, be authentic, and focus on how you can be a resource for your listener.

8 Seek Assistance

You’re never alone. There are thousands of other small businesses, and plenty of organizations focused on helping them, including the Certified TSB program. Consider what resources you need and reach out to learn more on how you can grow and improve your business.

For more information on having DeClerck speak on her eight step transformation approach, or how to enhance and grow an already successful business, contact her, at or 515-254-0298 ext. 9.

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