With 30 percent of its $450 million in annual revenues derived from meetings, incentives, and individual travel awards, BI Worldwide is certainly a big player in the world of corporate meetings and incentives. But that doesn’t mean it likes to make a splash in the marketplace. Quite the contrary.
“We keep a low profile in the industry. Our method is to have our business directors around the country and the world call on our targeted customers. That’s how we go to market,“ says Steve Aasgaard, vice president, Travel Division, of BI Worldwide, whose headquarters is just outside of Minneapolis in Edina, Minn. “We build one-to-one relationships with customers to improve business performance. It’s a philosophy and strategy that has proven to be very successful.”
BI got its start 60 years ago when founder Guy Schoenecker opened a business selling jewelry and merchandise to serve the promotional needs of Minneapolis retailers. Today, BI has offices in dozens of U.S. locations and seven international ones. It offers an array of solutions for improving business performance—from incentive travel and merchandise rewards, to employee-satisfaction and training programs, to name a few.
BI is big but is still a family-run enterprise, with Guy Schoenecker currently serving as chairman and CEO and Larry Schoenecker as president and COO. “We’re very fortunate to be privately held and to not have to report to investors,” Aasgaard says.
He says that the company’s tight focus on how to improve business performance means being flexible and creative with solutions to keep up with the changing needs of clients. “It might be a virtual meeting, it might be a sales incentive. Whatever works for the client.”
A popular alternative lately with some clients is a “run through the warehouse” program, where winners are flown into BI’s headquarters for a recognition dinner and a chance to dash through the company’s on-site warehouse to grab as much merchandise as they can during an allotted timeframe. BI fulfills more than 90 percent of its merchandise needs from its own warehouse, Aasgaard notes. “It’s one of the things that sets us apart.”
Another thing that distinguishes BI from its competitors: “We are so focused on delivering measurable results,” he says. “The metrics [for measuring success] are always integrated into our performance-improvement platform.” And that’s more important than ever, Aasgaard contends, as businesses “are looking as never before for measurable results for every dollar spent.”