Many companies had a tough time in 2009 and USMotivation was one of them. Corporate meetings managed by the Atlanta–based company plummeted from 626 in 2008 to just 2 in 2009.

USMotivation saw an upturn in this sector in 2010, racking up 116 corporate meetings and ending the year with net revenues of $73,335,983.

What’s the story behind the turnaround? Caren Bigelow, director of travel, points to several contributing factors. The first is that a major client put a moratorium on all meetings in 2009 and then lifted it in 2010. Another is that clients who had decided to consolidate all meetings into one in 2009 found it “more beneficial” to return to separate, divisional meetings last year.

The company also picked up some association meetings business, she says. “It’s a different pricing structure and booking cycle, but we were happy to help with this when they came to us.”

USMotivation, which was launched in 1962 and bought by the Marquette Group in 2004, has also undergone leadership changes. Tina Weede, who joined USMotivation more than 20 years ago, was appointed president last June, and Laverda Godfrey was promoted to vice president, finance and operations, among other leadership promotions within the organization.

The dip in corporate meetings business no doubt hurt—but wasn’t devastating. More than 70 percent of the company’s revenues come from merchandising sales and other avenues not related to events. In October, USMotivation launched a new online awards catalog anchored by Best Buy Co. (Previously, the catalog was a partnership with Amazon.)

“Merchandising is staying strong. It offers more instant gratification, and setting up and delivering a merchandising program is faster than a travel program,” Bigelow explains.

But she says travel is definitely making a comeback from the dire days. “There’s still some hesitation in the marketplace, but 2013 is shaping up across the industry to be the year when travel really returns.”

View the USMotivation profile in the 2011 CMI 25