appropriate that when in 2004 this magazine began profiling industry leaders
on its cover that Cliff Wallace would be the first honoree. Few can match
Wallace when it comes to leadership. At the time he was profiled,
Facility Manager was celebrating its 20th year and Wallace’s connection
to that anniversary is noteworthy as he was the IAAM president in 1984–85
when the magazine was launched. It is safe to say that if it were not for
Cliff Wallace, maybe, just maybe, there would not be the magazine you are
These days Wallace is leading one of the world’s
foremost venues, the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre. It is an
expansive facility that greets guests from all corners of the globe. As its
leader, Wallace is called upon to speak on practically every continent about
global issues, expansion and more.
For every Cliff Wallace who has left his southern
United States roots to make a difference elsewhere, there are other
successful leadership stories of those who moved just down the road from
home to lead a venue and a downtrodden and blighted community back into full
renaissance. Such is Peggy Daidakis, another cover profile who didn’t stray
far from home to lead the Baltimore Convention Center in an area that
natives (and guests) had once avoided due to its crime and overall bad
There are leaders who have opened doors, as Joan LeMahieu did for women in
directing the efforts at Detroit’s Ford Field, better known
as home to the National Football League Detroit Lions and a sport that is
European leaders like Henk Markerink, Wilfrid Spronk
and Peter Gruber have also graced the magazine’s cover. These gentlemen and
many more like them are leading a charge in Europe to align more closely
with IAAM and to improve the standards and operations of facilities that
operate in that part of the world.
Many leaders have cut their teeth (and continue doing
so) by being a part of the Public Assembly Facility Management School at
Oglebay. This magazine has captured those success stories of individuals
like Brad Mayne, Frank Russo, Richard Andersen, Scott Williams and more.
Heck, Williams was even fortunate enough at Oglebay to lead a class in which
his son, Justin, sat.
The list goes on and on, and to this point where you
have read you might be thinking to yourself that maybe you are not a leader
because your name isn’t the biggest and the boldest in lights as some of the
above individuals. But before you want to dismiss any leadership mantle,
consider this: If you influence someone, you are a leader. Have we all
influenced someone, whether intentionally or by accident? I thought so. You
are a leader, and so am I.
Leading as IAAM President
During this busy time when the IAAM Annual Conference & Trade Show takes
place, the magazine is fortunate to profile the incoming IAAM president and
to tell his or her story of leadership. It is during this person’s year that
the leadership skills are called on more
than ever, for many reasons. First and foremost, the time spent conducting
the business of an IAAM president is voluminous. Then there is the matter of
taking care of the “home front” even at times when the demands of travel on
an IAAM president are great. It is as much juggling act as it is leading,
and there is no one formula to guarantee success for that person during this
one nonstop year.
But leaders are people who prepare for this moment and
know it is coming. Robyn Williams, CFE, executive director for the Portland
Center for the Performing Arts, knew it the day she was voted in as second
vice president. From that day leading up to the one in Anaheim when she
receives the presidential gavel from Steve Peters, CFE, she has been
leading, preparing and making the essential moves that will place her in the
best light to succeed and carry out her goals and ambitions during her
Williams says that shortly after her election as second
vice president, she started hearing the questions: Isn’t that an awful lot
of travel? How can you do your job at the same time? Why would you want to
be president anyway? Williams comes armed with answers, so let’s let her
address these questions.
“It is a lot of travel, but the opportunity to meet
colleagues all over the world far outweighs the pain of traveling. Imagine
how smart I’ll be benchmarking with the best and brightest worldwide! That
is awesomely cool.
“As far as doing my job at the same time, that is the
real crux of the matter, it seems. The assumption here is that I have to be
on-site to run the facility. I don’t believe this is necessary.
“There are some facility managers who get things
accomplished through micro-management. They have their fingers deeply into
the minutia of the entire facility’s operation. They tell every single staff
member what needs to be done, how it should be done and when it is to be
done. The micro-manager uses people instead of developing them. It is almost
as if this type of manager is reluctant to share what they know for fear the
staff will outpace him or her. That is not my preferred style of leadership.
“Leadership, to me, is creating the vision and
inspiration that gets people to do things on their own. I’d like to think
this is my management style. (Of course, I could just be lazy and expecting
everyone else to do all the work, but I suspect my somewhat type A
personality would prevent that.)
“Seriously, I can take on this volunteer leadership
role with IAAM because of my staff and the fact that they have the
knowledge, guidance and freedom they need to do their jobs at the highest
professional level. I want—and have—a staff that is trying to outpace me. It
keeps me on my toes and challenges me. I wouldn’t want it any other
way—traveling or not.
“Early on, my boss at the time suggested we sit down
and talk about what I’d need to make this commitment painless for all, a
sort of transition plan, if you will, so when I was president we’d be set
and ready to go. You know what we ended up doing? Not much.
“There was really little to do. The staff doesn’t need
me around on a day-to-day basis to see that the facility is running
smoothly. They know that is their responsibility and they do their jobs
well. They are well trained and well prepared. They understand the mission
of our venues and don’t need a boss present to make it happen. I love the
story of John F. Kennedy (I think it was) who was touring NASA and met a
custodian who was mopping the floor. When asked what he was doing, the
custodian said, ‘Putting a man on the moon.’ He understood that he was an
essential link to NASA’s mission, putting a man on the moon.
“Well, my event pros, staffing managers, coordinators,
administrative assistants, operations folk, booking people, box office
staff, custodians, engineers, stagehands, security positions, volunteers, PR
person, graphic artist, food and beverage gurus, stagedoor honchos plus the
hundreds of part- time event staff know that their job is managing the
facility. Is there some slack that will need to be taken up during my
absences? Sure. But I have folks that always step up and do whatever is
needed when the situation warrants. The theaters couldn’t be in better
Making Venues Work at
After a hectic year as IAAM president, Steve Peters will be spending more
time back at his home office in Ames, Iowa, directing his facility
management firm VenuWorks. Like Williams, Peters prepared in advance of his
time as IAAM president by conducting and leading meetings to make sure all
functions would run smoothly while he was away. This was perhaps never more
evident than during one of his final travel ventures that took him to Rome
for the IAAM Europe meeting at the same time devastating floods submerged
parts of Iowa, including some of his own venues. Peters returned home after
the meeting to deal with the flooding, but knew he could take comfort in
having a staff at home handling matters on his behalf.
With his title about to change to IAAM past president,
here is how Peters sums up what he calls “a year to remember.”
“I started my year as IAAM president by quoting an old
African adage: ‘If you would go fast, go alone; if you would go far, go
together.’ Thank goodness that I most certainly did not go alone. And I will
be forever grateful to the folks that made it possible for me to serve as a
senior officer of the IAAM for the past three years.
“When Joe Floreano called me three years ago to inform
me of my nomination, the first person I consulted was my wife, Randi. Having
been married to a venue manager for 34 years, she knew better than anyone
the nights and weekends consumed by the venue management business. My being
president of IAAM would mean even more time away from home. She gave me her
full support without a moment of hesitation. And she has been at my side
every step of the way since then.
“I had the same kind of support from our VenuWorks
executive team. Vice presidents Doug Kuhnel, Tammy Koolbeck and Carl St.
Clair created a plan to cover my day-to-day duties, with each of them
assuming more responsibility for overseeing our expanding list of locations
across the country.
“Betty Beisker, our vice president for administration
and human resources, stepped up to the challenge of overseeing ongoing
financial, budgetary, banking and contractual work, with the assistance of
our controller, Andy Harris. Andy Long moved out of our consulting division
to take the lead in new business development, a responsibility that up to
that point had been mine. Sharon Cummins moved from location management in
Cedar Rapids into our consulting division, bringing along husband Ron, fresh
from 30 years in law enforcement, to help direct our safety and security
“And across the board, from Phil Potter in event
booking, to Dave Olson in communications, John Lamkin in food and beverage,
and Lindsay Peters in training, everyone took on more duties and
responsibilities to cover for my absence. At the center of all this frenzied
activity, Ronda Biery took on the huge task of being my personal liaison to
the IAAM office, planning all of the extra travel, and coordinating all the
And get this: In the past three years while Peters was
ascending through the IAAM chairs, his staff successfully maneuvered the
company through a period of unprecedented growth, a name change, the
development of a new marketing initiative and most recently the relocation
of the corporate offices to new quarters in Ames. This just does not get
done with effective leadership from the top, the kind that Peters provides.
Leading an Association
Dexter King, CFE, was a longtime venue manager before settling in as IAAM’s
executive director. Having worked on both sides of the fence, King knows
first-hand the importance and value of equipping a staff to handle
responsibilities while he is away on many of his association-related travel
ventures. Here is how he sees examples of leadership:
“Behind every great organization is a faithful team of
professionals that believe in the mission and their ability to make a
difference in the outcome. The old adage is true; we are only as good as the
people (team) we have working with us. Teamwork is the essential ingredient
of every successful organization and nature provides a perfect example of
this principle in geese.
“Each year, as the weather begins to turn cooler, I see
flocks of migrating geese drop out of the sky to land in the fields that
surround my farm in Idaho. For several weeks during the fall I can observe
the birds flying overhead in uniform waves resembling a V-formation, making
their way south. Finally, as winter begins to set in, they disappear
“I am told that geese fly at speeds 40 to 50 miles per
hour. Knowing the distances these birds must travel, it is difficult to
understand how they can maintain that kind of speed until you realize that
they can fly 70 percent farther when they fly together in formation. The
updraft created by the wings of each bird ahead increases the lift of the
bird behind, extending the speed and distance of the group.
“Interestingly enough, it is believed that geese honk
at one another in flight for encouragement. Those in the rear sound off to
exhort those up front to stay on course and maintain their speed, not as
critics, but as encouragers to the leader.
“At least two messages emerge through this simple
illustration provided by the geese. First, individuals can go farther in
company with someone than they can alone. Second, encouragement is an
important part of achievement. Apply this analogy to the workplace and it
quickly becomes apparent how important people are to the organization when
working together to accomplish a goal.
“Professionals don’t get to be by accident. Somewhere
along the way there was someone who believed in them enough to give them the
right tools to succeed.
“As leaders, we must take an inventory of the people
assets about us and invest in them. It will pay great
dividends. Using an ancient analogy, to become a successful leader, one must
borrow as many empty vessels (people) as possible and then pour into them.
If you sow into something bigger than you, the draft effect will pull you
along. Everything great starts small.
“Likewise, as leaders and administrators, we also have
the chance to impact and empower those about us; the subordinates that help
us achieve our corporate and organizational goals. Empowerment means
releasing them to do the job without fear of being micro-managed. Creating
opportunity for success and advancement of our colleagues is a key component
to successful leadership.
“What do great organizations have? They have culture.
have leadership models. They have a reason or a purpose that attracts people
beyond the financial rewards.”
You have read the mantras of one public assembly facility executive
director, one management firm president and one association executive
director, but three stories of leadership. The styles of leadership are
different as are the stories told. But read closely and you will discover
that any great and effective leader knows he or she cannot do it alone. It
takes a dedicated effort from many on the team to ensure success, and
leaders are aware of that.
As she prepares for the adventure as IAAM president,
Williams looks forward to developing her leadership skills even more.
“Serving on an IAAM board, committee, task force or
council is a lesson in leadership itself,” she says. “It is an unparalleled
opportunity to sharpen one’s skills in consensus building, orchestrating
change, strategic thinking, and implementing new programs and ideas for the
betterment of our association.”
And if you really want to know just how strong a leader
Williams is, just know that she is the answer to a trivia question in that
she just became the first person whose face has now twice graced the cover
of the magazine since we started doing leadership profiles. Now that’s a
is editor of Facility Manager.