"HelmsBriscoe can be the Starbucks of the meeting industry," said Roger Helms, president and CEO of HelmsBriscoe, in a speech to the company’s associates in early December. "Our long-term goal is to become a brand name with every person who has responsibility for booking meetings. Every person. I want them calling us," said Helms. "We want HelmsBriscoe to be the greatest company in the world at procuring group rooms, period."
Celebrating its tenth year of existence, HelmsBriscoe, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based site selection company, gathered its 350 associates and nearly 400 hoteliers to its Annual Business Conference at the Radisson Universal Orlando.
Will you see HB as prolific as Starbucks: an office in every town? Not an impossibility. HB has grown from 5 associates in 1991 to 350 today; 95 associates have joined since December of last year, the vast majority of them ex-hotel salespeople.
Helms created a new business model ten years ago to help meeting planners find dates, rates, and space for hotel-based meetings. HB associates set up offices in their homes, find and cater to meeting planning clients, book and negotiateat hotels, and collect a ten percent commission from the hotel, Meeting management and logistics are fee-based to the client. Those clients, mostly on the corporate side, but from associations and non-profits as well, are repeat bookers. And hotel chains, even the majors, have joined forces with HB to let them know they want—and appreciate—their business.
Marriott Hotels, for one, has ceased being "the Switzerland" of HB, said Steve Conklin, director, national accounts, Marriott, Rosemont, IL. He’s in charge of intermediary sales."In the site selection intermediary category, HB is definitely number one."
He explained that Marriott is now considered a "preferred partner," with HB, which means that meetings booked at participating properties pay half the commission at booking and half at the time of the meeting. He added that there are no additional financial incentives to HB associates who book Marriott properties, but that Marriott will stand out from some of the other hotel chains that are preferred partners.
Fairmont Hotels and Resorts has also announced a new program with HelmsBriscoe.
Among HelmsBriscoes’ other plans for the future, according to Helms: "We also plan to roll out a certification process for our associates and the industry to ensure that we will never again be thrown into a generic grouping where we do not belong. Through certification we will set the standard that the entire industry will expect every third party to follow."