Entrepreneur Spotlight – Michele DeClerck, Conference Event Management

Entrepreneur Spotlight – Michele DeClerck, Conference Event Management

This month’s Entrepreneur Spotlight is a must read for every entrepreneur that is considering taking the jump into starting their own business. Michelle DeClerck was working for ING (VOYA) as the director of meeting management in the early 2000’s and as her role began to get restructured, she knew two things.

  1. She wanted to continue providing value-oriented event solutions.

  2. She wanted to stay in Central Iowa.

So she immediately began consulting for many of ING’s independent channels and under her newly formed Conference Event Management. “Wherever in the world groups gather, Conference Event Management can help get them there,” says DeClerck.

Conference Event Management is an Iowa woman-owned business enterprise and leading provider of unique, world-class event, conference, incentive travel, meeting experiences, reward strategies, hotel & cruise site selection and contracting, individual Travel MyWay® travel bookings, and national speaker’s circuit bookings.

We’ll get to some good entrepreneur-focused questions later, but with this month’s IASourceLink focus on trade shows and conferences, I definitely wanted DeClerck’s insight on solving common issues she has seen with clients. “We find that internal staff try to be all things to their internal clients when they don’t have the time, the resources, or the expertise to achieve their event goals.  By reaching out to experts such as ourselves, we’re happy to share our best practices with them to help them design their events and put them in hero status,” she explains.

There is also financial risk to consider when handling events. She continues, “Companies often allow the wrong people to sign hotel / cruise contracts within their companies and while they may sign one to two contracts a year, they open themselves up to financial risk or they leave many opportunities on the table.” Working with experts to handle these situations can reduce a company’s risk. Not to mention that experts, like those at Conference Event Management, have a much better handle on important event planning aspects such as venue management. As DeClerck says, “Not all hotels are the same.”

She also says Conference Event Management also finds many clients don’t know why they are hosting an event, “We want to help them strategize on the objectives and what a homerun looks like before we’ll accept the business to ensure all stakeholders are pleased with the end results.”

Then we got into the entrepreneur-focused questions. As someone who tends to overanalyze and want to wait for the perfect moment, I love her answer for the last question!

Favorite part of owning your own company.

The ability to think outside the box and know that no red tape has to exist. We are able to react on a moment’s notice without worrying about a higher authority putting barriers in our way to helping our clients achieve their success stories.

Most challenging part of owning your own company.

Finding talent that has the skillset that we would find most desirable is always a challenge in any company, and especially in an industry that has so many demands like ours. We look for experts with international travel and foreign currencies, numerous destinations, dealing with risk management, and always being alert and reactive to today’s trending situations such as terrorist acts, the Zika Virus and more. We will never be able to have an event plan that goes without incident, we must be able to be nimble and appropriately react in any situation.

Most useful resource.

We build websites for our clients to help them educate and register their guests. Recalling that we didn’t use these in the early years and the inefficiencies that caused, makes me take for granted the role technology plays in our everyday planning processes and how truly efficient this access to various levels of data allows us to be.

Most useful Iowa resource.

As an active board member for National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO – Iowa), I lean on my fellow members to network with, to learn of new resources, and come up to solutions to our business challenges.

What advice would you give to an entrepreneur wanting to turn their idea into a business?

There will probably never be a perfect time to start your own business. If someone has an idea and the passion to get a business off the ground, then that’s the time to get started. Create your vision, solicit feedback from other business owners and then engage business consultants to create a plan to help you avoid costly mistakes.  A short-term plan, paired with an ultimate strategic vision, can be enough to get your business off the ground and on the road to success—sooner rather than later.

And last but certainly not least.

Where can people go to learn more about you and Conference Event Management?

Email [email protected] or visit www.myCEM.com.

Last month, Michelle DeClerck (front center) escorted a group of attendees for a morning canoe ride in Lake Louise, Canada.

Lea Hensel, UNI Business and Community Services

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