With laser-like intensity, HelmsBriscoe President and CEO Roger Helms outlined his vision for the future at his company's Annual Business Conference late last year: "To create and communicate so much benefit and value to having HelmsBriscoe book an organization's group rooms that it will be the exception to find an organization that continues that function without us."

An ambitious statement--but the 700 people listening to him at The Venetian in Las Vegas and the incredible growth of third-party firms, particularly his own, bear out his claims. Helms and partner Bill Briscoe booked $25,000 in room nights in their first year of business, eight years ago. In 1999, some 200 HB associates booked $1 million a day at 4,300 hotels. And HB was the single largest producer of meetings for Las Vegas in 1999.

How it works: HB does site searches at no charge to the client, but collects a 10 percent commission from the hotels it books. Some hotels and hotel chains are "preferred partners," and pay 50 percent of the commission at the time of booking, and 50 percent at the time of the meeting. Some also pay an annual marketing fee. Hilton is a preferred partner, and Steve Armitage, vice president/managing director of sales, touting the recent merger of Hilton and Promus at the conference, said, "We consider HBers an extension of our sales team."

Fred Kleisner, president and CEO of preferred partner Wyndham International, said that as Wyndham automates hotel room booking in real time, giving access to one single inventory, "we will give a direct line to all of our booking organizations. HelmsBriscoe is where I would start."

"The culture is very intoxicating once you get into it," Helms said of his company. "It's almost cult-like. I'm not talking about cult as in spiked Kool-Aid, but cult as having a common purpose and values as we pursue our individual goals." More and more are becoming believers: At last count, some 209 associates had signed on across the country.

SITE HONORS BLOOM Ray Bloom received the Society of Incentive & Travel Executives Lifetime Achievement Award during the society's international conference in Las Vegas recently. Bloom is the incentive entrepreneur who launched the European Incentive & Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition, held annually in Geneva. EIBTM's hosted-buyer program makes it unique among incentive travel trade shows; in 1999, some 3,000 buyers from more than 40 countries attended. Bloom has been a member of SITE since 1989. In 1991, he was inducted into the Convention Liaison Council's Hall of Leaders.