In a stubborn global economy, how does a meeting management company grow? We asked Minneapolis-based MotivAction, the company on the CMI 25 list with the largest percentage growth in number of events managed. The company reported 92 meetings and incentives in 2007 versus 70 in 2006, a 31 percent jump.

According to Brad Williams, MotivAction's vice president of business development for travel and event services, helping clients to institute strategic meetings management programs is key. “We help set policies, and it's a great way to strengthen our relations with the customer and uncover new opportunities. You can identify which meetings can be managed internally, and which should be outsourced.”

He also says that more global customers are asking MotivAction to run meetings for their international divisions, making for organic growth. In one case, the incentive qualifiers were from Asia, but the trip was to Dubai — and the company is based in the U.S. In another case, a U.S. company's Russian division hosted incentive winners on a cruise to Miami. “It just seems like we're getting more and more international opportunities,” he says.

Another trick MotivAction has learned: It pays to develop strong relationships with client procurement departments. As the company gets better at showing them the value it brings, procurement executives share that information, which results in new opportunities within those companies. “We're getting better at tooting our own horn: ‘This is the amount we were able to save you by having us service your meetings.’ It's almost always well over what we charge for running the meeting,” says Williams. “So we're able to say, ‘We work for free.’ It quantifies our value.”

But growth in 2007 was not without its hiccups, as the company also reported total room nights for 2007 that were down 6 percent over 2006, from 60,000 to 56,000.

“There are more meetings that are smaller,” Williams says. “Some of the programs we do don't operate on an annual basis; they're every other year, which could also account for some of that.”

MotivAction is putting a greater emphasis on marketing in 2009. “We're fine-tuning our strategy,” Williams says. “We've got new e-marketing we're excited about, and we're always on the lookout for good salespeople. We're continuing to work on relationships with procurement departments. We're trying to stay focused on our target markets and not trying to be everything to everybody.”