Doing Events Better – Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith of Koncept Events

Angie Nelson and Hillary S,mith, CMP, CSEP, Partners at Koncept Events

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP, the Partners at Koncept Events, grew their company’s revenue from from $6 million in 2014 to $11.4 million in 2017, an 89% increase increase, and to around $15.6 million in 2018.  

Koncept Events is a global destination services, site selection, meeting planning and brand marketing firm.  

In this interview with Eversprint‘s Malcolm Lui, Angie and Hillary share how they and their team accelerated their high value sales by:  

  • Penetrating corporate accounts for repeat business and developing hotel partners for referrals.  
  • Developing and marketing their “KE Experience” brand locally and nationwide.  
  • Building a team with diverse backgrounds to bring new ideas into their process.  

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Malcolm Lui: Welcome to the High Value Sales Show of I'm Malcolm Lui, the Managing Member of Everysprint, and today we're speaking with Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, the Partners at Koncept Events a global destination services, site selection, meeting planning and brand marketing firm. Welcome to the call Angie and Hilary

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Thank you for having us. Thank you.

Malcolm Lui: Both of you grew your company's revenue from $6 million dollars in 2014 to $11.4 million in 2017, 89% increase, and in 2018 you hit around $15.6 million. Before we talk about how you grew your company so fast, can you briefly share what your company does beyond my quick intro and how your company differs from the competition?

What they do

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Sure. I can feel that. So our company is a destination management company by trade. And so what that means is that we organize or help organize corporations execute sales incentives product launches national sales meetings and any corporate function. Most of our clients are Fortune 500 Fortune 100 and the services that we offer our airport transportation to and to and from the hotel. We do registration services hotel sourcing and contract negotiations. We also do event design and decor for any on property events. We contract to off site venues. We do yacht charters tours excursions activities and kind of anything in between our bread and butter is really the design in the experimental side

Malcolm Lui: Fantastic. And how would you differ from the other companies that might offer similar services

How they differ from the competition

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Well the level of creative with our what our company is is completely different. Also our process is more collaborative. We are thoroughly thinking company from the front end. And so I think it allows us to get deeper into each of our client's plans from the beginning. It's something that we keep near and dear to my heart plus a lot of companies that are like ours are kind of limited and and rooted in one specific area and our company has the ability to travel throughout the United States and the Caribbean which gives us a fresh perspective wherever we travel as well as the consistency to use the experience that we have with our client on the last program to invest that into this program which makes the planning process that much easier and our involvement that much more impactful

Malcolm Lui: Right now. You mentioned earlier that you know your company helps the Fortune 500 Fortune 100 companies. So sounds like you really work on fairly large events is that correct

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Yes. That's correct. They can be smaller events the board of directors but a lot of those smaller events are a high touch and very complex. But our average size group is around 400 to 500 people

Malcolm Lui: Right. And it does sound like a pretty big event and how long before these events typically last

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Anywhere from two nights to five nights

Malcolm Lui: Right. And and how long do you typically require to plan a five night event in advance in terms of advance notice

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: And gee we we would love to have as much leeway time as possible but unfortunately some of the timelines that that are given to us by our clients can be short in nature. So you know it's not really about how much time it takes us to do it. It's the same amount of work we have to get the same amount of work sometimes done within a week that maybe sometimes we have six months to do which is unfortunate but true in the industry that we're in. Some some players just don't have they aren't able to give enough leeway. And so our team sometimes has all along window planning and then sometimes we just you know we make it happen and and we scramble to get the job done and under the deadline

Malcolm Lui: Right now you agree a company from 6 million in 2014 and then four years later you hit around fifteen point six million in gross revenues. Can you share what were the three biggest drivers of your sales growth over these past four years.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: I can share one which would be account penetration as we like to call it which is basically you start with one event with a client and then the trust and familiarity grows and so it spreads within the organization to another planner to another event to several events. And so we work more with master service agreements with one organization or one brand and do multiple events with them in a year which has really impacted our bottom line. One of the other drivers has been our our focus on our brand and who we are as a company and getting that brand out into the marketplace in our name becoming much more recognizable not only within our local market but within the United States as well and specifically in our local market. A lot of the hotel partners that we do a lot of programs with that host these clients in their hotels have grown to know the consistency of our product the consistency of our process and what we're able to deliver. No that that they know that when they can recommend concept events to their fortune one hundred and five hundred clients that are coming into their hotels that they can trust that we're going to deliver to them the same experience that we've delivered to all the previous clients and they know that that our brand is solid our product is solid and they can trust us. And so that comes with more and more referrals over the years and so therefore that's been helped helped with our growth

Malcolm Lui: Now do you see that as a as a third driver or a part of the second one focusing on your brand.

Their two different business models

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: I think that it. Well it's two different things. Because as Hilary was saying not as what we were. We have two different models and in a way we have direct to the client which means we go direct to the to the to the corporate planner themselves who are you working in within their corporation and are looking for companies across the US and we go direct to them to get their business whereas another revenue stream press is a hotel referral. So that client might go to a hotel and say Hey who are the event partners within your region. And that hotel partner then recommends our services. So we have to be really good at both because it's two different sets of revenue streams.

Malcolm Lui: Ok. So for the drivers I have one account penetration to focusing on your brand getting the word out and the there a third driver. Or did you already mentioned a third driver. Among our conversation so far

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Now I would say that the third driver would be the team and the diversity that we've created within our organization. Another thing that separates us from competition is that we are very much a do it ourself company. So we have an eleven thousand square foot warehouse with floral production and we have an entire inventory of event furniture and decor that we are able to lean on in order to maximize what we are putting out. And so because that is created efficiencies within our organization we're able to take on more projects which has been able to expand our

Malcolm Lui: Okay cool. Fantastic. Now can we talk a little bit more about each of the three drivers shared on the three drivers. I have to admit you were on the same page one account penetration to focus on your brand and getting your brand out there and three your team in the diversity of your team. All right

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Yeah yeah

Malcolm Lui: Okay. Awesome. So in terms of account penetration you said that a huge driver of your growth is getting a lot more repeat business within a client. How proactive are you into getting More repeat business within a client and connecting yourself with the other planners within the organization so that you can help them

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Once we have a track record or have had a successful event from a sales perspective what we do is we use that in order to inspire them to do more volume volume with us. So right after the first event was successful our sales team is being persistent reaching out. We have an entire document that we set up different concession concessions and give backs to them value ads that are based on the volume of business that they that they book with us. We also then initiate for in-person presentations so that we can get a group of planners from your organization more exposed to our brand and then we follow up accordingly within within that in order to get that solidified. So we're looking at hard and kind of narrowing the scope of question mark and understanding what their have calendar entails and when we might get the

Malcolm Lui: Right now. How do you find out who the other event planners are within the organization.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: What we are. So I mean from a sales perspective it's the sales person's job to dissect that information to extract it to get their hands on their contact information and then to position it from almost like an internal referral. So we use are the planner who just had a great relationship with us and success and that successful event. We use that as the end or the third party validation in order to get that other information that we use that to basically make the intro

Malcolm Lui: Okay. So in so in your experience with working these big companies that have lots of planners within the firms there they're fairly open toward referring you to other planners who might be in an entirely different department or does it take a bit of google fu to research them and find out who they are

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Once it work with us there. There's a relationship that's developed there and there's a there's a comfort level. And so they're happy to share our information internally if it's a client that maybe we haven't worked with or they haven't seen us execute then they're less likely to refer this internally and they're more so like really ambiguous about who the other people are in their department. But we've had corporations that send us their entire roster after we've done that with them because they want to share something good with

Malcolm Lui: Yeah

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Their team as well.

Malcolm Lui: Definitely. Now the other event planners typically are for your clients are they still in the in the same city and no cow of them can you work with or might they be across the nation or maybe around the world.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: All of the above. It really depends. I mean there's so much of the commuting that's happening now people going into into offices working from home and so some of our clients are concentrated in the Northeast and in offices in New York and Boston and then other clients are scattered all over the country

Malcolm Lui: Right. Okay.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Within department

Malcolm Lui: Now how do you go about finding new accounts.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Well to Angie's point a lot of our hotel vendors are kind of the vehicle for that so we already know that these clients are bringing groups to areas that we do business and so we use the hotel to get us that soft intro and versus us just cold calling. But we do cold call we're also members of a lot of industry industry associations and and different groups where our clients would be. And so we have. Board positions within that. We are sponsors for the larger events in order to gain exposure.

Malcolm Lui: Right. OK. Now you're your target contact at these Fortune 100 Fortune 500 firms are typically the event planners. Or is there a or do you target their bosses their supervisors.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Now it's really the corporate event planners the marketing professionals anyone who is handling external communications for the company can sometimes get involved as well because of the conference messaging piece. So it's usually a collaboration between the event planner or the marketing department and communications

Malcolm Lui: Ok now I understand on occasion sometimes firms might not have a dedicated event planner. Maybe at the Fortune 100 500 they do but sometimes other people might get roped into it and they might not necessarily have the event planner title in them. How do you find those people

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: That is a little bit of a game of Google and we love LinkedIn and there's a like a like a tree of trying to find them and it's also about them being able to find us through our social media and Internet marketing techniques.

Malcolm Lui: Right.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Yeah

Malcolm Lui: Okay.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: I was I was going to say a lot of those times that people find us before we're able to find them and and a lot of times you know an executive assistant or someone within the sales department of the company will be the ones who are kind of tasked with go play in an event hey we want to incentivize all these salespeople can you go figure that out. And they don't really know where to turn. And so that's why we have to be diligent on our. SEO and marketing efforts and social media to make sure that those types of planners who don't necessarily have art don't live in our world and don't know the right resources or the organizations or some of the names of the types of companies that they don't know what to look for. And so they start googling and they hopefully will find us

Malcolm Lui: Right. Yeah I saw that you have a bit of a web presence from an ACL perspective to pay for my preliminary research. I see that you're ranked for one hundred twenty eight keywords which is nice.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: We have a pretty awesome director of marketing

Malcolm Lui: Yeah that's. Yeah. S fantastic is it always best to have people who are interested finding you and asking you for help. It's like the next best thing to a warmer referral

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Absolutely

Malcolm Lui: For your second driver focusing on your brand. I will talk a little bit about this already. Then there is the SEO and social media. Could you elaborate a bit more about how those two come into play for getting your brand out there.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Sure. We have coined what we call the Katie experience and what that means to us is that it's basically taking our product and what we're selling to our clients and wrapping it up into a lovely little lovely little package that they get delivered consistently time over time whenever they're working with us. The K experience is delivered first as the relationship grows between our salesperson and and the client and it's carried through the gathering of information the developing up proposal the fleshing out and brainstorming of ideas and everything that we're going to do for that client and we're able to produce for them through the pricing through the contracting phase. The turnover from sales to operations that smooth transition of the people that are actually going to execute the event and make all of these awesome plans come to life and to fruition. And then all the way through to actually onsite execution making it all beautiful and happen through the billing process. We've we consider that to be the key experience. We love to take stock in all of the various employees that we have working with our team and their particular piece of that experience making sure that it's enjoyable that it's fun that it's thorough and transparent and that our clients know what they're getting from start to finish and if we're able to really hone in and develop a process that is consistent every single time no matter how small or large the program no matter what what industry the client is coming from no matter what hotel or city they're gonna get the same key experience every time.

Consistency in process

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: And so we've taken a lot of pride in being consistent with that process and the consistency is something that we feel has been noticed over the years that the local hotel partners in our area see that no matter no matter what when concept events is in in their hotel producing and events they know it's going to be high quality high quality work and they can trust that we're going to be respectful and courteous and professional. We're going to be creative. We're gonna be we're gonna be out of the box thinkers we're going to do something cool and outrageous that people are gonna be wanting to write home about and they see that time and time and time again and because of that growing over the years we've developed an amazing relationship in our local marketplace to be the tried and true event partner that that you can go to and rely on for delivering these amazing experiences.

Malcolm Lui: Right now. How do you let other people know about your reputation. I know you do. You know they talk a bit more about the SEO work that you're doing and your social media work that you do have people can be aware made aware of your TV experience.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Hillary do you want to take that one yes. Although I'm not super duper versed in FCO it's kind of a little bit out of my league what I can tell you is that when we use our own words and we use our partnerships and we elevate those and we splatter them all over the Internet as much as we can we use a lot of keywords. We use a lot of those those ads that basically steal from other people. So if they're searching for any of our competitors we have those that are call conquest ads. And so they get a lot of that we get a lot of leads from that but a lot of the organizations we're part of. Give us a little bit of an advantage of pools of people that we can target.

Malcolm Lui: Right.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Yeah.

Malcolm Lui: Okay.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: We attend all those organizations that we mentioned that we're involved in a lot of initiative organizations. They all have a conference. They all have some sort of membership component where you know events and trade shows and things that we can attend and we we make sure that we have a nice presence in all of those and spend some sales and marketing dollars there for that in-person communication and connection.

Malcolm Lui: Right. How about advertising outside of the Internet. Do you do advertising in print and TV and radio.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: No it really is too it's too broad. Our client is so specialized that we haven't really found big value in that. We've done ads in industry publications and magazines and that's great. But we haven't seen any tangible results or leads generated from that. We do. We've done a lot of sponsorships at conferences and I would tell you that that's been a really big driver for us doing trade shows and sponsoring a beautiful welcome reception or gifting suite or something like that that's been really impactful. But additionally I think that we have a really unique social media platform as far as it relates to our competitors. And so I just think it's consistently putting out really creative fun content that speaks to our clients like the world that we live in.

Malcolm Lui: Sure he give an example of the social media content you have out there in which channel it's being being published

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Sure. So I think you know Instagram is a lot of fun. We for a long time we would because we travel all over and that's unique to our company versus a lot of our competitors. We used our Katie aqua blue bag and we would take that Katie aqua bag with us all over the world and we would take photographs up that kind of like the Travelocity gnome and we would take photos of it in all different locations so that we could tell our clients where we were going and all the different things that we were doing. It was also an opportunity for us for the clients to then look for where we were where we are. So we would do raffles and contests of people who could name that place. And so we tried to get a little bit more interactive engagement with that. We also do a lot of team pictures and so a lot of engagement we about the culture and department and a whole a whole team that leads that here. And so behind the scenes pictures you know internal things there's a there's a lot of that that's on there. We do a lot of event videos. How tos like what how to put together a centerpiece or or getting into the sustainability world and so there's a lot of feel good get back to what we're seeing playing out as well. I think that that's generated a jump in our audience.

Malcolm Lui: Right now are you able to share any snippets of the fantastic times that your clients employees are having at the event you're putting together

Why their clients often prefer a low profile event.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Now now that's that's actually one of our challenges and why why we aren't like you know 20 award winning company is because most of our clients have clauses within our contracts that say that we can't use their name use their logo or take any photos of any live events. So it's actually really tough thing for event companies to get those events and to get that permission in order to be able to put it out there on social media. And you know with you know I hate to dig all the way back to the financial crisis but there is a big perception thing out there and a lot of people don't want to know what these corporations are spending because it can be spun in such a negative light.

Malcolm Lui: Right. Yeah I can tell you I can understand that

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: But there

Malcolm Lui: The

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Are certainly you know we love you know we love drone marriage and we love to hire a nice videographer photographer. And when we have a client that allows us to use those images we absolutely jump on the chance because it's always fun to be able to put out some photos that don't have any brand recognition of the client that paid for it. That might just be a really lovely shot on the beach or a lovely shot on that one on the whatever ballroom it is or whatever location is the event. And we'll when we're able to use those we absolutely take advantage of that so that we can we can put some of the amazing amazing venues that we work in and some of the design work that our team creates

Malcolm Lui: Yeah. I imagine some of the events that you guys have done are pretty amazing for the hotel partners. How do you build your brand among them especially those who haven't worked with you yet.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: You know it's grassroots. I mean that is like boots on the ground. Fortunately or unfortunately I would tell you that the hotels are the toughest clients and it's because everyone is bombarded with the same people who are bringing you doughnuts and bringing you pizza and organizing happy hours and all that. And so with each individual person with the conference service teams and even the hotel sales teams and the local local sales offices it's all about relationships and it's all about proven track record and operations consistency of event execution. And then you know how how are we showing up and enhancing our site visits and how are we helping them sell their product. I think it's really important for them to know that we're invested and getting these clients to have an amazing full circle opportunity. Our experience at the hotel but then also come back and repeat and they know that by choosing the right partners you know we're all in it together and we're all going to get them to come back. So we do. We visit hotels all the time our sales people are constantly in their faces trying to drum up leads. We participate in extra sales missions into different markets. We collaborate in an industry conventions to do sponsorships that would highlight the destination. And there's just there's a lot of fan trips which is a familiarization trip when there is 80 clients. We're always the first to jump jump in and help out and help represent our brand. And whenever our hotel partner wants us to do

Malcolm Lui: Right. All right. Now how about for number three team in diversity and team can you share a little bit about how the diversity of your team has been a driver of your sales growth.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: We Hillary and we take that one please. Yeah. So over the you know when we first started as a DMC back when it was just Hillary and I out of Our living room we really didn't dream. It was hard for us to dream what or how many different types of people we were going to need to be at the level that we are now. And over the years we've developed different departments. We've segmented sections of that key experience that we were discussing into different departments. And so you know we have sales we have what we call gurus and which is more you know entry level. Those are the people that are just you know fresh out of college have minimal experience and they want to get their feet wet in the event industry. Well we have a place for them and we hope that they learn our business from the ground up so that they can grow with us in their in their careers. And then we identify that really because we've become so focused on our creative product our event designs and the events that we produce that we really needed people that that aren't just knowledgeable in events that knowledgeable in design and interior design in knowing what kind of fabrics and colors and textures go together knowing the floral product that's out there in the Wide World of of that that exists that that you have to have an eye for. You have to have an app for not everyone can just design a beautiful event because everyone has different tastes but we identified a few years ago that we should really be focusing not just hiring event professionals but hiring design professionals that that we can teach them the event side so that we can take advantage of their skill set that might not exist in the typical event world but exist and maybe home interior design and they're really keen and making beautiful faces come to life.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: And so that's been one of the key changes in our business model over the last few years that has really set our selves apart because the designs that we're able to produce because of these these professionals are just outrageous and over the top and amazing and and just knock everybody socks off because of how beautiful they are. We of course are looking for very dynamic professionals to execute these events people that that have been doing it for a long time that are cool and calm under pressure that. Have the right mentality to just carry on through the face of adversity or challenges that might arise and and then everywhere in between. And so we have a very diverse team that everybody has their own niche in the marketplace. You know we have some people that come from the festival world and know a lot about festivals. We have we have a lot of people that that have only worked in a hotel so they know hotel operations inside and out. Other people that I've worked at with a vendor solutions maybe they only ever rented linens. And so we have a wide variety of people within our within our business that really help us create these amazing event experiences for our clients.

Malcolm Lui: Now you mentioned word festival which as a time these an 80s actually watched the fire documentary

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: How

Malcolm Lui: On Netflix

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Are you doing.

Malcolm Lui: Last night. Yeah

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: We do. I watched it last night too and I was horrified.

Malcolm Lui: Yeah. Now

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Yeah

Malcolm Lui: I thought the concept that they're putting together is fantastic but in my mind the problem that they faced was a day. Yes. Should've brought in professionals to execute

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Little

Malcolm Lui: It and it should have given themselves a lot more lead time like say someone say they had so someone that sort of event like they did that that kind of theme vision that they had. How much lead time would you guys have needed to put it together

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: That

Malcolm Lui: And

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Particular

Malcolm Lui: Would

Their take on the FYRE festival that never happened

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Event two years I was happy. And the reason the reason is because of the infrastructure needed for that island and more so the bohemian channels of government and just making sure that what was being what was being proposed was actually feasible. I think that the timeline for decision making and really understanding of having a country like the Bahamas adopt anything like that concept which I agree with a meeting minimum you know two years minimum

Malcolm Lui: Yeah if I watch a documentary I think it's a shame that they didn't pull it off because it would have been in an amazing event so now hop up for 2019. What are your plans for 2019

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: I mean growth growth growth growth. I mean ah ah I think that you know on a on a service level the the last couple of years we've been working on perfecting the sauce so to speak. We've been really looking under the hood and making sure to Angie's point that our experience is perfected. I think this year is we're ready for a little bit more of explosive growth. But at the same time healthy growth. And so we're growing organically through our Mac service agreement arrangements with the corporations. And then we've hired a couple of new sales individuals who are going to go after sort of a second tier of business and a little bit more of our needs period because as an event company you know it ebbs and flows and while our year is pretty consistent there are months where we need to fill some gaps. And so I think we're focusing on a little bit of a more holistic approach in that regard. Anything to add. Yeah. There you know there are lots of there are lots of markets that we that we dabble in and you know we obviously we have an office in South Florida and we do a lot of events in South Florida but there are other markets. For example Orlando that we really want to tackle in and kind of get in there and more so and become more of a more competitive edge within other marketplaces. We feel that we can take our business anywhere. And so there are some some growth opportunities there as well. Not in not just in numbers but in geography.

Malcolm Lui: So when you look to grow your business are you looking to expand it from a geographic perspective city by city and targeting the companies and hotels that are there. Or do you look at it from. OK we've done these companies on the Fortune 100. We're not working things that's go to focus on these companies now

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: It's a mix about now

Malcolm Lui: And then further. Just now you mentioned looking at second tier opportunities. What do you mean by second tier

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: So you know in the beginning of the conversation we mentioned our meeting planning department. And so the meeting planning department has evolved over the last few years and really started producing some very exciting event of that opportunity for us. And so taking those clients that as you mentioned maybe the executive assistant is the event planner and looking at it a little bit more of those opportunities and growing them is what we would maybe consider to be second tier because there is more meat on the bone for those specific events because they're not just looking for DMC services they're looking for a full service solution and so those full service solutions aren't usually the Fortune 500 Fortune 100 there may maybe you know the top window producer or manufacturer in the world but they're not necessarily you know on the Nasdaq. And so those companies are are in it. There's a very big need for those companies to elevate their experiences into line with corporations like ours that can help them kind of out a soup to nuts turnkey solution and so those are really exciting things for us to focus on for 2019.

Malcolm Lui: Right. I could imagine when an executive assistant gets thrown into the frying pan to arrange our Our our year end holiday holiday bash there can be really keen on finding someone who can help them do all right. I suppose maybe a bigger company that might already have their vendor list and might want to slice it up a little bit

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Yes. Yeah true Very true.

Malcolm Lui: Now. How will you go about finding these executive assistant second tier opportunities

How they find their executive assistant clients

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: I think one of the main funnels for us for those is is the hotel partners because these executive assistants are going into the hotels and they're there conducting site visits and planning visits and some tell years get a sense for seniority or the experience level at these planners. And so when they sense that maybe they need a little bit more help than some of their other corporate planners that's when they will they will share information to basically say hey listen we've got a company that can help you you know these areas in these areas. And usually that relationship starts there.

Malcolm Lui: So when a hotel refers someone like that to you their interest is getting an event at their hotel. Or do you have a formal revenue share or fee arrangement to compensate them for the referral.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Now those referrals are more because they want a sound event executed at their hotel. They know just as well as we know that it's gonna be an uphill battle and that potentially it could be a disaster if this executive assistant isn't provided with the right resource to help guide them along. So I think we're not typically compensated on that level from from the hotel for those types of referrals but I think it's more just than advocating for wanting to have really well executed events within their hotel to potentially repeat the business for themselves.

Malcolm Lui: Right. Exactly. Now in terms of your revenue targets for 2013 can you share those share what your target is for growth on a revenue perspective.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Well our target for twenty eighteen was around twelve million and we did almost 16. And so for us we are we really only want to really grow it. What we are kind of being conservative I guess because I think 18 just exploded for us which was a nice surprise but I don't think we were any of us really expecting it. We have only set our revenue target for this year for seventeen point five million which is a lot of it is a lot. And so for us if we were to grow to seventeen point five we'd be we would be from

Malcolm Lui: Right now of the 16 million dollar business he did last year roughly speaking how much of that will come back to you right away. In 2019

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Repeat. I mean it depends. Because it would be really nice to say oh you know if we did a great job on all those programs and we shouldn't feasibly be able to rely on that revenue the following year. Unfortunately some of those those meetings go East Coast West Coast and the clients or they're buying you know they're there every 18 months or their every two years are those events. So I think it just it's particularly hard to just guarantee any of that because of just kind of outside factors that would that would just affect our ability to just like slam dunk at year after year.

Malcolm Lui: Right

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: But I would say if you were gonna put a percentage on it it's probably 15 to 20 percent is is that we can count on that that event is always at that hotel or has been for the last several years that we know we're going to you know we did a great job and we're gonna get that back. And so

Malcolm Lui: Right

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: There is a little bit of that that we can count on. It's just not it's not a large majority unfortunately.

Malcolm Lui: Right. Okay so the other 80 percent will come from your team just working your existing clients and find other event planners

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Well

Malcolm Lui: There who can do work with working your contacts at the hotels and trying to be top of mind with them when they have an event that you can

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Yep

Malcolm Lui: Help them with. Right.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Yeah

Malcolm Lui: Okay.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Exactly

Malcolm Lui: So how much of your business is this entirely new as opposed to new events within a four different business unit of an existing client

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: You think and you maybe try. No not entirely new

Malcolm Lui: Yet never did business with them ever before

New vs repeat business

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: I'd say it's a little bit more than that. Well I would say it's more maybe like 30 percent is probably all new. Never done anything with them before and then the rest of it we may have not worked with them in the previous year but maybe two years ago when they were here we work with them you know that East Coast West Coast thing maybe maybe they were in California last year but two years ago they were here and now they're coming back. And so we might get them back but totally entirely new I'd say maybe 20 to 30 percent.

Malcolm Lui: Right. So when when a company has like an East Coast West Coast type arrangement for their events and then they come back to the east coast and here you know did a oftentimes call you guys first to do it or does it it's more of a maybe or you might be called back but then there are others that they've also called back

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Well hopefully they had an amazing sorry help. Hopefully they had an amazing experience with ASM and cat salivating at the chance to work with us again.

Malcolm Lui: Right

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: You know that that's the goal. What were you gonna say Hillary. That is the goal. The fortunate reality is that a lot of corporations have regulations and requirements that force them to take three beds and so regardless of how amazing we have relations or how deep the roots of our relationship go they're required to do a three bed process and in that regard you know we have we always want to be competitive because we're like us people and we want them to give them we want to give him value but at the same time you know we have all of the experience having lived that program maybe once or twice three four five times but then they're still beating it out. And so those are the clients that we maybe don't have those MSA agreements with because that's just not the direction that they go with their bad planning. But it's it's definitely a mix of point to just definitely work with us. It's not a betting situation. We're locked and loaded and the clients who unfortunately have to get it out like like yeah.

Malcolm Lui: Right.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: And sometimes that bidding situation is even more difficult because it goes through procurement and the term it doesn't have that know they don't have a good read on creativity and they're just looking at dollar for dollar the comparison of widgets per say. And so how much is this and how much is that. And it's really hard when you work in a creative industry like that we do to compare us to another company. Just dollar to dollar because it's not always apples to apples in that regard. And so when we know that we're in a situation in which the meeting planner loves us and really wants to work with us but we know that her hands are tied and she's going to send this to the procurement system because that's her company mandates we always kind of bite our nails because it's it's we might not always be the the cheapest and but we always give a lot of value and that's not always transferrable in a procurement process.

Malcolm Lui: Right. Yeah I'm. They're focusing on the quantifiable things right. More than anything else.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Yeah.

Malcolm Lui: Now when you when you do work on these events for the Fortune 100 Fortune 500 company how many different touch points within a company. Do you have to work with and involved to get a deal and event signed in one is more than just the one meeting planner it sounds like

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Sometimes go ahead hold hands. Yeah I mean sometimes really I would say more often than not is that one person because they're there managing the steering committee or the stakeholders and you know all the different regional directors and what not we're not necessarily in communication with any of them. And then there are other situations where there we have a different point of contact for each service that we are providing. So there is one contact dedicated from their team to transportation. One contact dedicated towards excursion one contact for the welcome reception. One contact for registration. And so it varies vastly based on the resources the size and scope of the conference and really just what they mean.

Malcolm Lui: Right. So when you work I mean these projects these events that you described to me. I mean some pretty expensive right. Six or seven maybe even eight digits on occasion. Right. For the cost of the event.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Well

Malcolm Lui: And correct me if I'm wrong if my number my range is wrong but no the planners that you work with they have the authority to say yeah sounds good and need to sign it right on the spot or do they have to take it back to yet another committee for approval.

The internal stakeholders of events

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: A lot of times they'll have what's called an internal stakeholder. So a lot of corporations are set up as such maybe they have a regional sales team and that regional team has a a some sort of education component a sales kickoff of the year and they want to bring all their sales people together and they have you know programming and whatnot that they need to do education component to the trip itself. And then they go to their their companies marketing department or meetings and events department and then they are assigned to a contact within that department which then ends up being our contact. So a lot of times when our client will say well I have to take this back to the internal stakeholder or the decision maker the decision maker might not be the CEO of the company it maybe it's the representative for that division or that piece of the company that's holding this particular meeting or incentive so they almost act like the middleman. So you don't ever really need those the end client per say even though they all work for the same company. Our client is only really that meeting planner but then they're taking the information back to whoever their internal client is. And that's to variance

Malcolm Lui: Right. And you do you. So do you also sell to them. Do you market to them. Do you engage them to help them with the decision of what. Nothing with a header. That's totally separate and you rarely ever get a chance to speak with that individual

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: I'd say it's rare that we ever get to speak with that individual. That's not someone that really we get introduced to in most situations.

Malcolm Lui: Okay. Now

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: I would say

Malcolm Lui: Yep.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: That the meeting planning side it's different. That would be the only time that I would say that I have experience with different level of inclusive inclusiveness to where I want really an extension of their brand and their team. And in that regard we usually get direct communication with them at the small conference roundtable whatever. Because we are adding a lot of value as it relates to the experience as a whole. And so the messaging and the vision we we get to hear directly from the people who are who are creating it.

Malcolm Lui: Right is it beyond just an event planner that has a project right that's when you're actually you are the event planner for a company.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Yes.

Malcolm Lui: Right. Okay got it. So what do you foresee are your biggest specific marketing and sales challenges that you have in mind that you need to overcome to hit your your target of 2019.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Well I mean I'll I'll share one Angie. And then you can take over me. So I think from from where I sit most of our competition is a franchise model based company. And so they have global sales reps all over the country wrapping their brands. They have other offices all over the country promoting their brands and so they cross policy so to speak and so if you if you worked with ABC and California then they would automatically refer you to ABC in Florida. That would be our competition. And so comes out of concept events just doesn't really adopt that same mentality or that same business model. So for us it makes us kind of a quiet voice and a loud room because we don't have all those external resources that are driving business to us. So I I do think that that sets us up a little bit for a harder sales process because we just don't have all of that visibility and a lot of our competition does now. The one thing I will say is it doesn't mean that they have a consistent product and what our experience are. Katie experience is consistent here and what we deliver anywhere is consistent but at the time that these planners are sending these are piece out or I'm looking for companies in other cities that's not what they're just thinking that it's the same brand. And so like McDonald's you know they're going to get the same experience but unfortunately that's just not the case.

Malcolm Lui: Right now learn the hard way. It's not the case.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Yeah.

Malcolm Lui: Okay. Now Angie did you have an idea of the marketing and sales challenges that you need to overcome.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: No I mean I think it's the same every year it's not necessarily different this year than it ever has been in years past it's it's you know economic. You know what's going on in the world around us the political climate of the world that we're in you know is there the economic downturn. Unfortunately our industry is really sceptical if we were to have another economic downturn. You know a lot of times companies the first thing they're gonna cut out of their budget is their meetings or incentive trips things like that that are kind of expendable and they're in their view. And so we're susceptible to that. And so that's always a risk that we have to that we have to take away. We Hilary and I started our company in the end of 2007 the beginning of 2008 when when the mark crashed when all of that happened. And so we kind of took advantage of the crash at that time because we were the two of us. We had no overhead. We have you had no you know nothing to lose so to speak. And so we took advantage of it. That's where we were our company. But now we're a little bit more established. You know our client tells a little bit more established we have a lot more to lose in this day and age than we did you know 11 12 years ago. So you know that's always a risk and that's something that we always grapple with if we don't have a lot of control over but we need to be able to roll with the punches. We have to make sure that our client tells diversified that we're not just you know all of our clients are in one industry in particular we need to have clients in banking and finance but we need to have clients in retail and I.T. and in lots of other industries so that if there's one industry that might be hit more than another that we're still diversified and not susceptible to you know putting all our eggs in one basket. We need to make sure we're covered in that regard.

Malcolm Lui: Right exactly. So how many different initiatives are you doing working now and how many different ones would you like to be working in

Events they'd like to do in the future

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Now that's a hard question. I mean I think it's incredibly diversified. Yeah I think one of the areas that we glamorize a lot is like the tech industry and consumer products. I think a lot of a lot of our roots from the beginning of this company were based around brand marketing and so I'm and I really enjoy doing more consumer focused and based events. So I think that if we could dream up an opportunity to do more of those that would be a lot of fun and would be a welcome change for us. We used to do a lot of road shows and that was actually a challenge that was spot on it was different. And it was it was just a great fit for skill set something for those things that would be that would be great to focus a little bit more on the brand brand marketing side

Malcolm Lui: Right. Okay. Now a few final questions for you. So imagine a freeway in the Florida area that's moving well nothing rush hour and you have in you've hired and you decide to go put a billboard up on the longer freeway freeways moving along quite fast. Typically people only have six seconds to see and read and and digest the message on the billboard. What is your six second billboard message.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: We do events way better than everyone else.

Malcolm Lui: Okay.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Benji I could have guessed you were going to say something like that. Gosh I don't know. Something to the effect of you know let us you know let us bring your your brand to. Well no that's I'm not good at this. I'm not in sales for a reason. Something more about you know something like Yeah eye catching in the fact of we're really good at this. You should let us be your partner and not

Malcolm Lui: Right. OK. Awesome. To ask questions Who are your ideal clients and what's the best way for them to reach you and your team.

Their ideal clients

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Our ideal clients. Our corporate event planners at Fortune 500 Fortune 100 companies. So it's the planner who has plan planning the incentives the highest highest level presidents Club's chairman's councils those types of planners typically align best with our corporation. A lot of financial a lot of insurance. There is some in the tech world but we do cross any brand so any client looking to use destination management services in the United States that would be a client they can reach us at. W w w dot concept events dot com they can follow us on Instagram at concept events or on Facebook. K O N C E P T e v e n t s dot com and we would absolutely love to participate in the R P bidding process as we learn more about what their vision for their meetings and events is

Malcolm Lui: Thanks so much for joining us today. In Shanghai you both accelerate your company's high value sales.

Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP: Thank you so much it's been really fun to talk about it and share our successes with you. Thank you so much for the opportunity. Thank you for your interest. Thank you. Absolutely.

Malcolm Lui: You're welcome and I've enjoyed our conversation as well.

Malcolm Lui: We've been speaking with Angie Nelson and Hillary Smith, the Partners at Koncept Events about their company's rapid growth. For interviews with other fast growing high value sales companies or to learn how we can accelerate your firm's high value sales through automation, visit

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