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assistant vice president, meeting management, John Hancock
Financial Services, Boston

Bill Brownson is in it for the long haul. He’ll put in the time with a goal in mind, whether that’s planting the seeds of strategic meetings management or training to run a marathon. Which he did in April. Brownson finished the Boston Marathon in just over four hours—and also raised $9,000 for Alzheimer’s research in tribute to his father, who passed away last November.

John Hancock has been the principal sponsor of the Boston Marathon for 25 years, which means Brownson could take advantage of a company-sponsored training program. In the end, though, running the 26.2 miles was an individual effort.

Not so with meeting planning, he is quick to point out. “It’s the team that makes us successful,” he says of the four planners and two production specialists in the department. “They are true professionals. I couldn’t do this if it weren’t for them.”

Hancock has other meeting professionals as well. “We are very decentralized,” Brownson explains. “Each business unit runs its own meeting department.” There are similarities among some large programs—a fact that Brownson is using to make meetings and travel more efficient, increase negotiating leverage, and reduce costs. “We work with the other event planners to leverage the purchasing power for some of our bigger meetings and incentives,” he explains. “In 2010, we have three programs operating at the same hotel, and as a result, we saved more than a quarter of a million dollars.” That’s the kind of success story he wants to keep telling. He’s now working on three sales meetings that are traditionally planned by three businesses and held in three locations. “If we book them back to back, we could save on executive travel, negotiation, and maybe even share production.” —Alison Hall