Meet Four Buyers Who Became Suppliers
Published in Corporate Meetings & Incentives
October 4, 2010
(view original article)
What happens when a corporate meeting pro jumps ship and joins the ranks of meetings industry suppliers?
Buyer Side: Travel and Meetings Project Specialist, Abbott Laboratories, Abbott Park, Ill.
Supplier Side: Director, Solutions Consulting, OnVantage; Director of Professional Services, Cvent, McLean, Va.
The Story: When Lisa Palmeri says she’s a freak of nature, she means it in a good way: She is a meeting planner with a high-tech streak. "I learned to love technology back in my days with Abbott. My core job was to manage third-party suppliers and the global business travel hotel program. At the time, the hotel program was managed manually, with 325 properties"—which grew to more than 650 by the time Palmeri left the company. "I needed a technology solution, so I implemented an e-RFP, and that was my entry into technology. It was also my introduction to strategic meetings management (then called meeting consolidation)."
As the business leader for that project, Palmeri gained the experience she uses today as director of professional services at Cvent, leading the team that helps new clients implement SMMPs. "I act as adviser when they have questions about the process or the big picture. If it has an impact on their use of technology, I support them."
Her corporate experience is key. "I can empathize. I understand large corporations. I’ll usually tell them a few war stories. Recently a client was struggling with how to roll out a new meeting policy. I understand the constituencies involved—procurement, finance, administrative services, ethics and compliance, creative services, travel, meeting planners—so I was able to help with their messages to those stakeholders."
Palmeri’s other role at Cvent is to take her customer interaction and share it with the SMM product team working on future releases. "I am the liaison, the customer’s voice to the technical team." Speaking the language of both planner and techie makes her uniquely qualified for the task. As does her desire to have an impact on the meetings industry. "Abbott is a pharmaceutical company. They cure cancer. I couldn’t make big strides in improving the meeting and travel industry there. I wasn’t going to be a major pioneer," she says. Now, however, "pioneering describes my day every day. Every day I am pushing the limit. We are developing what comes next."
Challenges: Palmeri’s first leap into the supplier world was with tech company OnVantage, where she was hired as director of solutions—a position created for her. "At OnVantage, I knew I would be starting a new division and would have to recruit resources and build infrastructure. I started from scratch. I had to write a full-scale business plan, including all my competitors and their pricing models. … I had never done that before. But it was great. I am an entrepreneurial spirit. I thrive on making my own destiny." When OnVantage merged with StarCite two years later, Palmeri’s department was disbanded and she moved on.
Advice on Switching Sides: "Be aware that in a supplier role you might be wearing a lot of hats, and those hats might not be so well-defined. I went from a structured role in a structured company to a more free-spirited company. Know yourself and the best fit for you."
Supply-Side View: "The biggest current trend and biggest challenge are one and the same: companies’ enthusiasm for strategic meetings management. Last year, the National Business Travel Association annual meeting was all about sourcing. This year, [attendees] were lined up three thick to talk about SMM. The challenge for companies is that it isn’t like other projects where you go through a process and check off milestones. It doesn’t have a finite end. It is an ongoing initiative. Also, a lot of corporations underestimate the resources needs for an SMMP. You have to invest in people and technology."