One of Kim O’Connor’s first jobs was as a banquet server at the Embassy Suites in Kansas City during college breaks. “I learned firsthand the importance of detail on a BEO! It gave me an appreciation for all those who make it happen on site.”
She took a job in communications with United Telecom and says she was “almost offended” when asked to plan some meetings for the company. “I was a serious communications professional,” she now jokes.
EVOLUTION With United Telecom’s launch of Sprint, the 1,500-person company grew to 60,000 employees. She gained experience with bigger and more varied meetings, in addition to major sponsorships, such as Sprint’s involvement with the PGA and the Super Bowl, before moving to pharma company Marion in 1997. When that company merged with Rhône-Poulenc in 1999, the new company, Aventis, moved its headquarters to New Jersey. O’Connor went, too, with an empty org chart and an assignment to build a meetings department. “This was a huge career milestone,” she says. The org chart had 17 openings and only one of them was filled—by O’Connor. In 2004, Sanofi-Synthélabo acquired Aventis, forming Sanofi-Aventis, but in December 2010, the company laid off 65 percent of the Sanofi home office, including everyone in the meeting department except O’Connor. This meant that she would move from a completely “insourced” model to a completely outsourced model. After an extensive RFP process, ITA came on board in January 2011.
Volume has tripled since. “We’ve been sought out because we’re showing a proven model,” she says. “And we are showing that efficiencies and don’t mean the people side gets lost. It’s not an either/or proposition.”
LOOKING AHEAD O’Connor is now focused on offering her internal clients data. “Their decisions are so much more informed than ever before because I have the data that can give them insight. That translates to a level of credibility for me.” - Alison Hall