In 1973, 17-year-old Rondi Mack made a couple of life-altering decisions. She married rock-and-roll guitarist Aaron Doyle, and she went to work for Royal Neighbors of America.
Twenty-six years later, Rondi Doyle is still married to the guitarist (now a registered nurse), and is still with RNA, a fraternal life insurance society in Rock Island, Ill. For the past two years she has managed the two-person department that plans all of RNA's meetings.
"Who knew back then how things were going to turn out?" she says. "I was just glad to have a job." But Doyle, who once dreamed of seeing the world as a flight attendant, found a good professional and philosophical fit with Royal Neighbors and never looked back. She moved up the ranks in the secretarial division, and by the time she was promoted to coordinator, meetings and conventions, she notes, "I understood the company front to back."
Knowing the business helped, considering that Doyle's recent promotion had landed her in a newly created position. It became her task to consolidate the meeting planning that had been scattered across different areas of the company. Now Doyle and her assistant, Sharon Bragg, manage about 50 events a year, including an annual sales meeting, training meetings, and a quadrennial national convention.
Family First There's more than a business connection between Doyle and Royal Neighbors. A not-for-profit membership organization, RNA not only sells life insurance and annuities but also participates in charitable programs such as Habitat for Humanity--for which Doyle has swung a few hammers. Similar to fraternal organizations like the Masons, RNA has a lodge system and often grants matching funds to "camps" when they raise money for community causes. RNA was chartered in 1895 by women who wanted to protect women and their families, and the company remains family-oriented. (The board of directors is still 100 percent female, although RNA membership is open to all.)
"Royal Neighbors has been good to my family," says Doyle. Daughters Brooke (16) and Brittany (10) participate in junior social camp activities and also join their parents and other relatives for an annual employee picnic.
Recently, Brittany spent a day in her mom's office for "take your daughter to work day" and also traveled with her to Milwaukee for the Insurance Conference Planners Association Great Lakes Chapter meeting in August. "It was a great experience for Brittany, who loved the social interaction," Doyle says.
Social interaction was also on Doyle's mind when she joined ICPA in June 1998 with the intention of getting to know her peers and building industry relationships. She credits ICPA with "opening the door to a different way of working. One of the biggest benefits is being able to call fellow members for site and speaker suggestions."
Balancing Act Growing up as the middle child with one sister and three brothers, Doyle learned to balance different points of view. That ability has proved to be valuable in her work. "I know how to be flexible," she says. "Understanding both sides of the picture comes in handy for a planner."
When Doyle rakes leaves in the fall, her family teases her because she insists on getting every leaf off of the ground. In her work, this attention to detail translates into making sure thatare ironclad and that every attendee is on the bus. Her favorite part of the job is working on banquet event orders about three months out from the meeting, "because all that detail is where I start to see the fruition of our plans and ideas."
Doyle has gone back to school to get her bachelor's degree in Business Management from Western Illinois University. But she has no desire to move on from Royal Neighbors. Her role as full-time meeting planner has "picked up the pace, picked up the travel, picked up relationship-building. We're planning for a new generation of attendees that likes to be active and interactive. It's challenging, but I love it."