When Terry Onustack started at SBI, he never could have guessed how quickly the earth would begin to move under his feet. 28 clients and 25 major events later, it’s safe to say that his hands and his Outlook calendars are full. Like 11,000 emails coming through his inbox kind of full.
The Event Team is busier than ever before – literally, and business shows no signs of slowing down. By the end of 2014, SBI was managing 27 clients and more than 150 events of all shapes and sizes. This year, the team will be managing 25 of our clients’ largest conferences and events, several of which are taking them across the country, and four of which are taking place on the same day (whose idea was that, anyway?). As if that’s not enough to make your palms sweat – Terry is doing all of this with a team of four, and he’s one of the few people in Seattle who doesn’t drink coffee. So if you’re like some of us, you might be wondering, “How does he do it, if not with lots of caffeine?” I decided I needed to hear it from the man himself. His answer was simple and true: “I work a lot,” he says with a smirk. But there’s more to it than Terry lets on at first.
As our portfolio of clients keep growing, so does our team and the scope of services we provide. To keep up with the growth, we have developed high-touch services and centers of expertise to best serve clients. SBI brought on Terry, a Certified Meeting Professional, to help grow the events department from a two-person team managing 12 events to four members that now manage 25. He began at SBI as an Association Executive, providing operational and strategic leadership for several of our nonprofit clients. But soon, we were able to position Terry as Director of Events which placed him perfectly in his comfort zone.
Events are not about the parties, they are about the people.
Upon learning about all of the duties to be delegated, logistics to be leveraged, contracts to be conferred, registration forms to be written, venues to be visited, and correspondence to communicate, many people would run away screaming. Not Terry. He has a passion for promoting culture and values within the organizations he serves, and views the workplace as his second home. He truly thrives in his position. He understands that events are not about the parties, they are about the people. His focus is to work closely with the clients to make their events a seamless opportunity for them to promote their brand and reach out and touch their members and non-members alike, and he does this by obtaining a deep understanding of the clients and their specific needs and goals.
SBI’s company structure naturally lends itself to a system in which best practices from one client are applied to another. For example, each of our nonprofit clients have similar end goals when it comes to conferences – solid educational content; seamlessly delivered attendee experience and impactful networking; and good value for sponsors and exhibitors – hopefully all resulting in a healthy revenue stream to support the association’s initiatives. We have created systems and procedures to deliver on these goals – whether it’s a meeting of academics, fundraisers, or doctors. However, Terry argues, not everything is a carbon copy.
“We make sure to recognize what things are unique and specific to our clients…We have to find out what things are successful and then adapt practices as appropriate from client to client.” Though he makes it sound easy, the truth is it takes time – just about a year, in fact – to really know a client. “Going through a full year cycle with a client helps you to see the dependencies and how one event affects another and the organization as a whole so we can avoid complications in the next year.” The culture Terry has worked to establish within his department focuses strongly on these values, and it’s evident in their work.
The Events Team is dividing and conquering, and taking on more work as word is spreading about the quality of service and level of support and expertise they provide. “I’ll be out in the community and tell people that I work for SBI, and I always get a very positive reaction. People know who SBI is and what we do and the clients we serve. It’s always very refreshing to see that there is a lot of value in the name SBI.”
Terry attributes SBI’s success managing events to the team he works beside day in and day out. “It’s a team effort. We don’t put one team’s needs above the others, or any of the people in the office. What each of our departments does is important. In many instances, if these organizations were out hiring an independent association executive or meeting planner, they wouldn’t be getting that expertise that they’re able to get with us at SBI.”
11,000 emails…no sweat. Terry is doing what he loves for a company that shares his values and supports his objectives. The earth might be moving under his feet, but he’s dancing on top of it with a team of experts, and they don’t miss a beat.
Get to know the SBI Events Team:
Reta Waldrop, CMP, Meeting Planner
Reta is the newest addition to the Events Team. She earned her CMP certification in 2004, and since then has enjoyed enriching her skills and expertise serving the nonprofit sector through planning top-notch meetings and events. She loves escaping to Hawaii, and has had the pleasure of experiencing all of the islands except for Molokai (she’ll get there someday!).
Alicia Flint, Event Services Coordinator
Alicia is the longest running member of the Events Team, with three years and dozens of events under her belt. Alicia is leading seven major events this year, all while working towards earning her CMP certification. She is also leader of the SBI biker gang, peddling over 20 miles round trip to get to the office.
Becky Shaddox, Event Services Administrator
Becky likes to start her day with a strong cup of black coffee. She came to SBI from the Meeting Professionals International Headquarters in Dallas, Texas, and while she misses the sunshine, she admits she loves the Pacific Northwest outdoors. She is one of the busiest bees at the SBI office: on top of supporting multiple client events, she is also working towards completing her Associate Degree in Business. Her favorite part of her job is that there is never a dull moment.