Members of Lynette Owens & Associates Insurance Advisory board — top-level insurance and financial services executives — spent 10 days in July experiencing some of Hawaii's choicest resorts and trying out the huge variety of activities available to visitors. They also discussed the decision-making process for choosing incentive destinations and learned how to develop stronger client relationships (see box, opposite).

Shenandoah Life's Jim Henson and his fiancé made the most of the romantic Hawaiian setting and tied the knot during the meeting. Henson, senior vice president of marketing and chief marketing officer for the Roanoake, Va., company, married Diane St. John on the spectacular 3rd hole overlooking the Pacific Ocean at the Big Island's Mauna Kea Golf Course.

Lynette Owens, president of the host firm, knew Henson was an avid golfer. When he mentioned his recent engagement, she suggested the site, and the couple quickly agreed it would be the perfect setting.

Picking Their Spots

“We want a property/location that will provide some ‘wow’ for our qualifiers,” said Ed Ledford, executive vice president, Marketshare Financial, Indianapolis. “Meeting space, room, and catering quality should be above the level qualifiers expect, and that may vary significantly by group.”

Bobby Morrow, executive vice president/chief marketing officer for State Mutual Life in Rome, Ga., agreed that “a lot of sizzle for the attendees” is key. He looks for a variety of activities to satisfy varied interests, and says beaches and warm climates are a big draw.

For some financial services executives, price may be less of a concern than value. “We want to go where we get the best value,” said Mike Roy, GenAmerica Financial, St. Louis. Another important factor for his firm: “I like to use self-contained resorts because it encourages qualifiers to mix and mingle after the meetings and throughout the convention.”

And no one relishes a long bus ride following a day of flying, so they tend to choose destinations with convenient airport and airline connections.

First-Hand Island Experience

Rather than just talk about the ideal incentive destination, the group personally explored how Hawaii matches up. The adventure started with a pre-trip to Honolulu's Halekulani Hotel and the main program launched at the famed Mauna Kea Resort. During two days there, board members visited the nearby Mauna Lani Bay Hotel for golf, snorkeling, and spa treatments.

Next stop was the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, where Ed Ledford and Bill Hess led the field in a golf tournmant. Hapuna Beach General Manager Paul Yakota added a personal touch, singing for the group at dinner one evening.

No trip to the Big Island is complete without a helicopter trip to view the dramatic landscape. The Board flew by helicopter to the Kahana Ranch, where they rode horses and all-terrain vehicles, went skeet shooting, ate barbecue, and enjoyed a traditional Hawaiian hula show.

After a final evening of wedding festivities, part of the group departed for a post-event program at the Westin Maui.

“The value for five-star hotels in Hawaii is exceptional,” said Owens. The biggest problem today is figuring out how to get a group there with limited airline service, but she thinks the lift problem will ease in the next several years. Her advice is to negotiate hotel rates now for programs down the road.

Hawaiian Airlines

Program partner Hawaiian Airlines begins nonstop service between Phoenix and Honolulu in October. For more information, go to www.hawaiianair.com.

Clients, Not Customers, Key to Success

“Most people believe that they have clients, and they don't; they have customers,” says Doug Carter, president of Carter International Training and Development Co., based in Mount Shasta, Calif., and keynote speaker at the recent Lynette Owens Insurance Advisory Board. What's the distinction? According to Carter, customers will buy a firm's products or services. A client, by contrast, “will make you a line item in their budget. They can't go through life without you as a part of it,” he said during his presentation, “Clients Forever.”

Carter, whose firm provides interactive training for a number of financial services companies, stresses that converting customers to clients is all about building relationships. These skills are especially crucial today. “When the stock market was booming and life insurance was doing well, a lot of salespeople could go out there and do all this business, but they weren't developing relationships,” says Carter. “With the downturn, those people who have great relationships with clients have not suffered the way a lot of other people have.”

LOA Member Properties

Current members in the Lynette Owens Advisory Board portfolio: Big Sky Resort, Big Sky, Mont.; The Breakers, Palm Beach, Fla.; Halekulani Hotel, Honolulu; Waikiki Parc, Honolulu; Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, Big Island, Hawaii; Hilton Oceanfront Resort, Hilton Head Island, S.C.; Inn at Bay Harbor, Bay Harbor, Mich.; Mauna Lani Bay Hotel, Big Island; Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Big Island; Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, Ojai, Calif; Ponte Vedra Beach Resorts, Fla.; Radisson Resorts Aruba, Myrtle Beach, and San Antonio; Resort at Squaw Creek, Lake Tahoe, Calif; Saddlebrook Resort, Wesley Chapel; Fla.; Sonesta Beach Resort, Key Biscayne, Fla.; Sonesta Hotel & Suites, Coconut Grove, Fla.; Trump International Sonesta Resort, Sunny Isles, Fla.; Walt Disney World Resorts, Orlando; and Continental Airlines.