Now double the panic. In addition to this article, I’ve been finalizing my second book, and I had worked on it feverishly (no pun intended), for the past couple weeks. Did I mention that this is my sole work computer, and I hadn’t backed up my files in a long time? Shame on me, but I digress.
I tried to give my new hero – Chad – a tip, but he declined twice, saying simply, “Thank you ma’am, but it’s my job.” Wow.
We all work in the hospitality industry, but how many times are we wowed by true hospitality these days, especially from each other?
It got me thinking about all the research I’ve been doing for my books these past few years, and some of the unfortunate results I’ve uncovered about how planners and suppliers interact with each other. For people in an industry all about hospitality, we often aren’t that hospitable with each other. How can this be?
My first book, Planner Pet Peeves, was two years in the making. I spent a lot of time listening to my planner peers gripe and complain about suppliers, and all the things they seemingly conspire to do to us, to make our jobs unpleasant.
My second book is Supplier Pet Peeves (the one that almost got lost forever on a plane). It’s the counter-perspective, as suppliers gripe and complain about planners, and all the things we seemingly conspire to do, to make their jobs unpleasant. Sound familiar?
It’s been like listening to two warring siblings. They’re both really good-natured kids, but they can’t see how alike they really are, and sometimes they just drive each other nuts.
To understand these two siblings, let’s generalize a bit. What do most planners have in common? We’re people-pleasers and problem-solvers. We thrive under pressure. We aim to build strong, reliable business relationships, and our end goal is always the best possible experience for our attendees.
What do most suppliers have in common? Exactly the same things as planners! They’re relationship and service driven, and their end goal is the best possible experience for their clients, the planners.
We like to distinguish ourselves as being from two distinct camps, but we’re really pretty similar, and everything we do, whether planner or supplier, is about making the client happy in the end, so they’ll come back again and again.
My faith in this industry leads me to believe that most of us are not deliberately trying to make anyone else’s job harder. I believe, with few exceptions, that we all have the best intentions and just want to produce solid, successful meetings and events. If that’s not our goal, then we shouldn’t be in the industry at all.
But back to my research and findings…
Despite being a planner for more than 20 years, I’ve done my best to play neutral like Switzerland in all my research. In doing so, I’ve been fairly able to keep a 30,000 ft. view of the situation (an airline pun, this one intended).
In a nutshell, what bothers planners the most about suppliers? Cold calling, perceived (or real) deceptive sales practices and the whole RFP/contracting process.
What bothers suppliers the most about planners? In a separate nutshell: planners ignoring them, perceived (or real) withholding of key information, and the whole RFP/contracting process.
If it sounds like we all pretty much share the same frustrations, that’s because it’s true. Suppliers cold call planners, planners ignore them. Planners believe suppliers are sometimes being deceptive, suppliers think planners sometimes don’t disclose key information. Everyone collectively is frustrated by the RFP process.
Why, then, do we all find it so hard to communicate, connect and collaborate with each other as planners and suppliers if we are so alike? Well, for starters, I think it’s been a rough few years with everyone just fighting to keep their jobs and get their work done. When you’re in survival mode, sometimes it’s hard to have common courtesy.
Secondly, given the economic ups and downs of the past decade, the pendulum of power has swung back and forth from planner camp to supplier camp several times, often leaving a bad taste with the party lacking power at the time. That power will always shift; it’s up to all of us to remember that the way we treat others when we have all the power, is the way they will treat us when they have it back.
Our industry is really tight-knit. I always say that we are not six degrees of separation apart; in meetings and events, it’s more like two degrees of separation. If I don’t know you personally, I bet I know someone who does. That means that actions have huge, lasting repercussions and reputations matter more than in other industries. If you treat a colleague poorly today, it not only will follow you for years to come, it will leave a pock mark on the path for others who come later.
Now that we’re emerging from the recession, we can all breathe a little easier, have a little more common courtesy, and bring back unexpected kindnesses. When in doubt, just think like my new best friend Chad from Southwest Airlines, and do something unexpected, just for kindness’ sake.