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A Love Affair - With an Industry

By: Gloria Kermeen | Oct 8, 2018

My father was a car salesman with connections all over the city of Indianapolis. His connections helpedmy sister land a great job at Rolls Royce. He introduced me to Ray Skillman, just as Ray was opening his first automobile dealership, and I wrote and performed Ray’s first radio commercial. While that was fun, the best connection my dad made for me was with a local hotelier who arranged for a discounted hotel room for my 10th anniversary trip to Niagara Falls. That half-priced room at the Holiday Inn was the beginning of my love affair with the hospitality industry.

I was bitten by the travel bug long before that anniversary trip. At the time, I was a stay-at-home mother with three very young children. But, I decided during that trip that when the time came, I would find work at a hotel, just so I could take advantage of hotel room discounts. Who knew I’d spend the rest of my career in this crazy field we call hospitality? I spent 13 years in the hotel business. And, I have worked in the association management field for the last 21 years, where I finally landing my dream job, running the meetings department.

We’ve heard it a million times: “If I knew then what I know now…” Well, if I knew then what I know now, I would not change a thing. I would not give up one exhausting, late-night closing of the banquet department. I wouldn’t give up one night going home smelling like lobster bisque, or ginger-garlic chicken, or Jack Daniels. I wouldn’t give up one tight turn of a meeting room from banquet to classroom in 30 minutes. Every moment in the hotel business has prepared me for the job I do now.

And I love my job.

As a meeting planner, I now sit on the other side of the bar, so to speak. But, I understand what it takes behind the scenes to make an event run well. I know all about hot-boxes and queens and tray jacks. I know about managing a staff of servers that may or may not speak English. I know how to calculate tax and gratuity, and I learned the laws of food and beverage tax exemption in the state of Indiana. I learned about line-arrays and lumens and mixers and wireless lavalieres.

My biggest lesson, though, has been in human interaction. As a banquet manager, I learned that the people most important to my success are not the so-called “rock stars.” They’re not the people on the stage giving keynote addresses. They’re not the ones who sign the contracts. The people most important to my success were the dishwashers, and the set-up guys, and the housekeepers who laundered our linens. Without their support and dedication, we would never have been able to satisfy the ones who signed the contracts. I literally should have written Garth Brooks’ song, “I Got Friends in Low Places.”

And I never forget it.

I’m getting close to retirement, but I will never lose the travel bug. I will never lose my love for this industry. And, when I’m asked for my best bit of wisdom, I will always, without fail, and forever say, “Make friends in low places. Treat each person that works at your event as though they are a rock star. Never be disrespectful to the guy who sits at the sound board, or the girl who pours the coffee, or the assistant who creates the BEO. Be kind to them, and they will make you look like a rock star.”

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