When he talks about working with Jim Getscher, director of incentives and conventions at Mutual of Omaha, for three decades, all Ron Officer can say is, “Wow.” Wow, as in, where did all that time go?
Officer, CEO of Appleton, Wis.–based Creative Group Inc., has plenty of stories to share as he reflects on those 30 years. Some of the most amusing are about the crises they have faced together, like the time a blizzard closed O’Hare International Airport when many of their incentive winners were connecting through O’Hare on a trip to France. “This was back in the day of no cell phones,” he recalls, “and people were calling us from phone booths.” He remembers phoning an account manager who lived near Chicago to ask him to shop for workout outfits and toiletries for all the stranded guests, and then holing up in a hotel room with Getscher until 4 a.m. rebooking attendees.
Getscher jokes when asked about his relationship with Officer: “We can’t stand each other!” Seriously, he says, it’s special to have grown old together. Maybe not old, but certainly they have gained a few gray hairs together, like the year all three of MOO’s incentive trips were planned for Europe—until the Iraq war broke out. Or when all of their qualifiers heading to Vietnam had to be re-ticketed just two days out because of the tsunami in Japan. Oh, and then there was the trip to Madrid when Iceland’s volcanic ash cloud threatened the closure of the airports in Spain.
It comes with the turf, Getscher says casually. “You run into those kinds of things every couple of years.”
In fact, his willingness to try new things has kept Officer on his toes—and it’s been good for business. “[Getscher] was probably the first to use Vietnam for an incentive trip. He has brought us into areas of the world that we have then become expert in and used with our other clients. He has been a fantastic reference for us and in turn we have helped him.”
Officer’s colleague on the travel side, Lynn Green, has also worked on the MOO account for 30 years, “so Jim and his people have had the same contacts all these years,” Officer says. “Our group reservations people know the group so well they will say, ‘Congratulations, Harry, you won again! Do you still want an aisle seat?’”
MOO’s staff also has had low turnover, and their incentive programs remain very attractive to agents. “We’ve raised our qualifications,” says Getscher, “but in the insurance world you need to stay competitive.” His senior management insures there are checks and balances in place in order to support this long-term relationship and that they receive value in return.
“It has been a pleasure to work with Ron,” he concludes, “and I would be saying that even if this wasn’t going into a magazine.”