"The Winds of Change" . . . . . . was the theme at SCMP's fall conference four years ago. At that time, corporate downsizing and outsourcing were more rumor than reality. Today I'm hard pressed to think of one friend or associate who hasn't been affected by the changes in corporate America over the past four years (including yours truly).

I have always looked at change as an opportunity for improvement and new beginnings. Still, change is stressful. It causes you to shift your thought processes and to evaluate what's important to you. There's no getting around that.

SCMP itself has undergone radical changes--and is continuing to do so in response to our industry's fluid environment. On almost every level, each of us--individually and organizationally--is being forced to constantly reevaluate our environments and test our beliefs.

The change process can be exciting and beneficial. But you can't manage it unless you have a grounding point and a support network in place. SCMP has been a key player in supporting me through my transitions.

SCMP has also provided me with information to manage in the "new economy." Our sessions these days deal more with taking an entrepreneurial approach to our destiny, and give us the tools and resources to do that.

By the time you have read this, our Spring Conference in Marina del Rey will have left everyone energized and renewed--and ready to tackle the changes that lie ahead.

John Greene's position planning meetings evolved over time--32 years with his company, to be exact. "Each position I have had incorporated some aspect that I've been able to use in meeting planning," says Greene, director, executive meetings and events for Ashland, Inc., a Russell, KY-based manufacturer and distributor of energy and chemical products. "For example, as a buyer in the corporate purchasing department, I learned how to negotiate contracts, and as director of personnel for Ashland Chemical Division, I dealt with personnel and corporate issues."

His positions on the boards of several trade association boards led to his interest in planning meetings. "As a volunteer officer, I got involved with planning meetings and setting parameters and then seeing it all unfold," he says. He moved into his current job in 1989 when the person who preceded him retired. "The company was looking for someone with good general corporate experience who knew the company and the people there," says Greene, "and those skills and experience took priority over finding someone who just had experience planning meetings."

Greene also brought with him another asset: his wife, Jo, who assists the department on a contract basis in handling spouse programs and other events. "The spouse of the person in my position has always been involved with planning activities for spouses," says Greene. "It takes the burden away from the chairman's spouse and other meeting planners."

The arrangement has another benefit: "People who travel and their spouses have to make a lot of personal sacrifices," he adds. "This is one way I can be on the road doing my job but not have to be separated from my wife." ."