How to reward and retain your top producers – Part 2

Michelle DeClerck, CMP

Michelle DeClerck, CMP

Last week we shared why you need an incentive program and this week we dive into proven strategies that drive motivation and build loyalty for your organization. Read on to find out which type of incentive is right for you.

Top Rewards used by Insurance & Financial Companies:

  • Full-blown incentive with a 12-month production cycle – company pays for most expenses and offers numerous networking opportunities – especially with senior management.
  • Luxury Incentive (6- to 12-month production cycle) – company pays for many expenses (not all) and gives agents more free time, while still offering networking opportunities. This incentive let’s attendees decide how they spend their time and saves the company money by not paying for all dinners and activities.
  • Limited incentive (12-month production cycle) – company typically pays to get attendees to the destination and for hotel accommodations. They’ll also include a welcome reception and a final night farewell. All other meals and activities are at the guests’ expense, therefore networking with host company staff is minimized.
  • Seminars and conventions – training sessions in which the company automatically pays for attendees’ air, makes qualifiers earn it, or attendees pay for air on their own. Land expenses are typically paid for with the same categories.
  • Gift cards – While gift cards do make great gifts, they don’t provide lasting memories like incentive trips. When you receive a gift card, it’s likely you spend a few seconds looking at it before you put it in your purse or wallet. When you go to spend it – it’s no longer a reminder of who gave it to you. Your recipients may tell you they’d rather have cash, but most don’t know how they would spend it and don’t appreciate it like a reward trip. This “Preference Reversal” is why putting stretch goals with aspirational rewards in front of your audience is important.
  • Travel My Way – Individual leisure reward certificates are best used when a company has a very limited budget for rewards but understands that rewards help increase sales by providing motivation and incentive to sell. Individual rewards are a nice, simple option, but fail to build the relationship that a true incentive trip offers. Without the connection of face-to-face interactions during a trip, an individual travel reward becomes simply a transaction with lesser after-trip appreciation tied back to the company offering the reward.

We have also been enhancing the reward trips with our new Gift Suite Experience. In the past, many incentive programs have included room gifts, void of customization, often with unappreciated gifts being left behind in hotel sleeping rooms.  Now, personalized gift selection is the rage when you give your attendees the opportunity to stop by our Gift Suite Experience to see, touch and select a gift of their choosing that meets their desires and unique style. Complete with a gift voucher to invite your guests to pick out their ideal gift in their preferred color and size, you can then relax knowing the gift will be shipped and waiting for them after they return home (on site gifts also available).

Kids or no kids? More and more clients want to spend quality time with their attendees and would prefer the kids were not in attendance. However, if they do attend, most clients are collecting a “buy-in” fee for all expenses and taking these extra attendees off the company master account so they can spend their money equally among the qualifier and their one guest. This is the most equitable option for all involved.

What’s the best reward for your group?  If you are just starting out – crawl, don’t jump.  Avoid putting your company in financial risk with an over eager sales cycle that doesn’t have the history to support it.  Our job is to help you navigate the waters as you reduce the amount of time you have to spend recruiting new talent and ultimately creating rewarding incentives to retain your top agents.

And if you are asking yourself, wouldn’t it be great to retain all your top talent without having to provide rewards, then you’d miss out on great networking opportunities and a chance to increase your sales.

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    How to reward and retain your top producers – Part 1

    Its top of the 9th inning and your team is down by 4. You’re convinced they’ve given up hope and can’t come back, despite the rally hats in place. If you’re operating your agency with a similar “this is impossible” attitude when it comes to recruiting the new, young talent you need to grow your company, you’re not alone. Talent acquisition doesn’t have to be impossible, nor does talent retention have to be difficult.

    Michelle DeClerck, CMP

    Michelle DeClerck, CMP

    While the days of teachers flocking to agencies has subsided, new talent is out there and may be coming from an unlikely source. I was recently reminded of this when my son shared with me his passion to be an advocate and get in front of people to provide them with solutions to their problems. This is what your agents are doing daily. As of today, my son who is also a high achiever, isn’t convinced he can see himself in a full time desk job and he’s not alone. Top millennial graduates want to work for companies that offer flexible schedules and meaningful work. They’re motivated by careers that have a higher purpose, and aren’t just a cog in a machine. They seek opportunities to make processes more efficient and enjoy collaborating with their peers. They thrive off regular feedback and want to do a good job while continuously improving.  Your challenge is to find ways to make your work culture supportive of the millennial generation to build sustainability for your company.

    Bottom line – more and more of the top graduates want to be recognized and rewarded for the contributions they make. What better way to reward your agents than with set conditions that set them up for success, while ensuring you reach your annual sales goals. We all know most agents want to be recognized among their peers. If they personally don’t feed off this recognition, having their significant other or family present for this recognition may be the next best thing. When family is involved in public recognition, studies show they provide greater support and encouragement for the agent to produce at the same or higher level the next reward period.

    Finding the perfect time to rewards agents is key. I’ve talked down BD presidents from giving away rewards – and there’s a reason why. To truly set up a motivating reward, you must announce it first, have an ample sales cycle, track and report progress, and create the reason for an agent to want to achieve the reward. When I learn of a company that doesn’t have a set reward system in place and they want to automatically offer the producer a reward at the end of the year, I strongly recommend against this. It sends the wrong message to an agent and lets them know they can just do “good” and they’ll get more than they signed on for. What is the motivation the next year to see incremental sales from the agent? There is none. They also become among your most demanding agents.

    Let’s face it – the reason you reward your agents is not simply to provide a solo reward for the production they gave you in the prior sales cycle. Instead, the reason is to ensure you create a path for talent retention and encourage them to help you achieve your goals year after year. You are never going to be satisfied with the same sales year after year, so you must create rewards that make it easier for you to hit your sales goals. Having great reward options also vastly improves your chances for agent acquisition. Your competitors are offering reward packages – you’re essentially penalized and lose the opportunity to recruit quality agents if you don’t. Let us help you identify the most effective reward structure to fit your goals that can help attract and retain talent. Look for ideas of proven reward strategies in part 2 of this series in next week’s blog post.

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      CEM President, Michele DeClerck, Honored as Clive Citizen of the Year

      The DeClerck Family to be honored as Clive Citizens of the Year (as featured in the Clive Online Newsletter 2-10-16)

      CCofY4

      The DeClerck Family accepted the Clive Citizen of the Year award on Tuesday, February 16 at the Clive Chamber Annual Dinner

      On Tuesday February 16, the Clive Lions along with the Clive Chamber of Commerce will be honoring The DeClerck Family as the Clive 2015 Citizens of the Year at the Clive Chamber’s Annual Celebration. The Annual Celebration will be held at NCMIC Group, 14001 University Avenue in Clive. The Celebration will start at 5:30pm, with dinner served at 6:45 pm. The program will follow dinner and will include the presentation of the Clive Citizen of the Year award to The DeClerck Family.

      The DeClerck Family has called Clive home since the late 80s. Immediately Jaime and Michelle became involved in the community, joining the Clive Jaycees and running Clive After Five. They participated in many wonderful charity projects in their numerous years as Clive Jaycees. In 2004 Michelle started her business, Conference Event Management in Clive. In 2011, she was named Iowa NAWBO woman business owner of the year.

      Growing up in a house of charity, the DeClerck children quickly learned to give back themselves and their son, Dylan designed and built the garden entry walls at their church in Clive through Dylan’s Eagle Scout project which the family still maintains to this day. At the age of 16, Dylan founded Opportunity on Deck, which provides low income students in the Des Moines area the opportunities to participate in organized sports. Since its creation it has served over 536 families. The entire DeClerck family is involved in the set up and facilitation of the sporting events. Leah, Dylan’s sister, spends most of her time playing ball with the girls and working the registration table. Jaime and Michelle serve on the Board of Directors. For all his hard work Dylan and Opportunity on Deck have won numerous awards, from top student at Drake University to most recently, Iowa’s Philanthropy Student of the Year. The quality of life in Clive is enhanced by the actions of people like The DeClerck Family and their actions represent the behaviors the Clive Lions Club seeks for this award.

      The Clive Citizen of the Year recognition was initiated in 1979 by the Clive Community Development Association. This year’s nomination process yielded several nominations and the selection committee consisted of representatives from the Clive Lions Club.

      Tickets to the Annual Celebration are $50/person and those interested can RSVP by February 12 online at www.clivechamber.org.  For more information on Clive Citizen of the Year please contact Clive Mayor and Clive Lion, Scott Cirksena at scirksena@cityofclive.com or 515-223-6220.

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        How to Handle Entitled Attendees

        Sometimes when you offer an incentive, attendees can start to push for more than they
        actually qualified for or that they are entitled to. This often Michelle DeClerck, CMPsignificantly increases your event budget. Read on for easy tips on how to deal with these situations and the benefits you’ll receive from standing your ground.

        The Problem:  You’re Being TOO Generous! We know you don’t want to say no to your producers – they are the reason you have your job after all and why your company is so successful.

        Companies that try to be all things to all attendees start caving in on special requests and before too long, they create monstrous situations that are costly, sometimes embarrassing, and frankly, unnecessary.  Excited qualifiers can quickly turn into troublesome attendees and they often know immediately which of your staff they can push for more favors.  It’s not uncommon for them to persist until you cave and provide them with unwarranted upgrades on flights, extra activities, food and beverage credits, additional hotel nights, cash outs, and even paid vacations for extra guests. Sometimes, they forget that we are your partner, calling us and using the words “cave” and “give in” to describe their trophy win over your staff.

        When companies start giving in to get the complainers to be quiet, the opposite can happen and they go tell everyone else – including your other producers – what they scammed you for and now you’ve gone way over budget and your other producers are feeling left out.

        Having traveled worldwide with attendees from every state, unfortunately we have seen all types of poor behavior from attendees.

        The Solution:  Our best advice is to publish rules for the incentive in your very first year and then, as close as possible, stick to those guidelines in as many situations as you can. This will help you avoid showing favoritism, create an expectation for your future events so attendees know the extent of their reward package, and allow you to actively involve your meeting planning team to help you deliver the “no” message to the attendee.

        To tackle this from the start, provide clear communications to qualifiers throughout the invitation, registration, ticketing and rooming processes so they know what to expect, and what is and is not included with the program. Clarity rules in this situation.  (A great website can often address all these issues.) When attendees try to ask for additional perks or concessions, train your staff to remain steadfast. If an individual is determined to be worthy of additional care or expense, treat the situation discreetly so other attendees don’t feel treated unfairly, involving your meeting partner throughout the entire process. Deviations should only occur under unique circumstances and reviewed carefully on a case-by-case basis to keep your budget in check.

        Your Best Option: Outsource these conversations to a third party, like Conference Event Management, that has the experience and finesse to handle delicate situations and attendee communications. This prevents you from having to feel like the “Bad Guy” that won’t give your attendees what they want. We understand your goals and your event finances and want to help protect your investment and return.

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          2016 Meetings Today Trends Survey Planner Interview with Michelle DeClerck, CMP

          This post originally appeared as an article in the January 2016 Meetings Today magazine. 

          Michelle DeClerck, CMP, President, Conference Event Management, West Des Moines, Iowa

          Do you find that your booking window (the time between starting the process of researching and booking a meeting and the actual event) is increasing or shrinking? Are you finding it harder to book rooms/meeting space in a short timeframe at hotels and other meeting facilities?

          The booking window has diminished and one reason may be attributed to the reluctance of clients to fully commit to their event as quickly as is needed in this seller’s market. This short notice, coupled with a lack of space availability, has proved challenging due to the increase in business and the pending shortage due to supply and demand dynamics.

          Is the duration of your meetings either shrinking or expanding? Why?

          Most of our events have remained the same, with the destination determining the length of event more than any other factor. International and longer route destinations have once again garnered longer stays for attendees.

          Is the attendance at your meetings shrinking or expanding? Why?

          We’ve seen an incremental increase in event attendance, with more pre and post stays than in prior years.

          Did you have a smaller or larger budget to work than with last year? If so, how much do you estimate it was decreased or increased?

          Clients’ budgets have remained relatively the same, although we’ve been better educating our clients and they are reacting to the increased hotel and travel rates by working toward increasing their budgets.

          Are perception problems (meeting at luxurious properties, resort destinations, etc.) a great concern for your organization? Do you expect any perception problems in 2016?

          We find that our clients are well traveled and educated, and run programs based on integrity, and are not relatively affected by perception problems. When our clients aren’t choosing luxury properties, it’s typically due to the rates outpacing their budgets.

          Do you feel this is a buyer’s or seller’s market? Any observations on this to share?

          Within this seller’s market, properties have not been as generous in offering the same kind of concessions or reduced group rates. Hotels continually share with us that the reality is that if they don’t accept our business, they’ll have another piece of business come along tomorrow that will be equal to or greater than this business. It’s our job to continually educate our clients on the importance of making decisions quicker if they have a specific preference for their event or they’ll be limiting their options and negotiation power.

          Are you more optimistic, or less, about the meetings industry and the economy than a year ago? Why?

          We are considerably busier with referrals and prospects reaching out to us, driving more business than ever and providing a high level of optimism for events into 2018. There is no mistaking the importance of face-to-face meetings.

          How do you think 2016 will shape up for the meetings industry? Where do you see costs (hotel, restaurant, venue prices, etc.) going? Do you think your budget and/or attendance will increase or decrease? Why?

          Being an election year in 2016, there is a lot that could change, but for the time being, I see costs continuing to increase at properties. Attendance of the events could vary–if budgets do not increase I see less people attending, but if budgets increase attendance could increase.

          What other trends are you seeing in the meetings world, such as changing attendee demographics (i.e., Millennials), or any other trends that are impacting your programs?

          We’re seeing an aging audience for many of our client’s incentives, many who have traveled extensively. They appreciate their free time, they want to have an experience they might not have on their own, all while having access to senior management to share their perspective. We’re challenging our vendors to provide more creative options for this age group and all attendees.

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            How to Get the Advantage with Cruise Sourcing Services

            Is it time to reconsider a cruise? Where do you start? While you can spend a weekend in any destination and visit half a dozen properties – it takes serious effort to visit even one ship in port. And since ships are mobile, you have to be able to catch one in a location that changes daily. Add to that the fact that ships have tight security and you need special clearance if you are “just visiting.”

            So where does a cruise sourcing partner come in? Cruise Sourcing Specialists are unbiased industry experts who have seen and sailed on all of the ships in the market. They will tell you the difference between river, luxury, sailing, boutique, premium, mass market and mega liner categories. Additionally, they can enlighten you on the features and benefits of the various brands. Once they have your group specs, your Cruise Sourcing Specialist will walk you through the products that will best suit your program and its demographics. They help you decide whether to book a block of cabins or charter an entire ship. They are savvy on negotiating rates, and contracting protection terms and amenities that are in YOUR best interest. You thought working with a hotel was challenging at times – it’s nothing compared to working with a cruiseline – you need a Cruise Sourcing Specialist on your side to get the cruiseline’s attention

            A Cruise Sourcing Specialist can also help you manage the operations of your program or provide consultation on how you can do it yourself. Meeting planners who work directly with a cruise line can find the process challenging, therefore having a reputable cruise sourcing company to guide you as you build your onboard and shore side events will ensure that what is contracted is properly executed. They act as the planner’s personal representative and deal with the cruiseline on your behalf, saving time and avoiding aggravation.

            Choosing a cruise for your next incentive program should not be scary. Just arm yourself with an expert Cruise Sourcing Specialist like CEM who can help you make the right choice. CEM’s Cruise President sails over 21 weeks a year ensuring our recommendations are perfect for your group. We are proud to say that our Cruise President is a winner of the coveted Norwegian Cruise Line Incentive Partner of the year award, and two-time winner of Celebrity Cruise Lines Partner of the year – given to only one company annually. With CEM, you know you are in good hands and your needs will be met, while your expectations are exceeded.

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              The power of saying ‘Yes’ – Part 7 of 7

              This article originally appeared in the Business Record Lift IOWA 11.30.15 newsletter.

              Editor’s Note: This is the final installment in a seven-part series by DeClerck focusing on the importance of community involvement and volunteering for women to grow both professionally and personally. Parts one, two, three, four, five and six are all available online.  

              I’ve met some of Central Iowa’s most influential women and gained numerous benefits by volunteering to join them in women’s leadership causes. Sure, I questioned whether I should come up with an excuse for why I couldn’t get involved. I really am that busy, aren’t you?Michelle DeClerck

              Perhaps you too have gone home and slid your new volunteer activities into a conversation over dinner like I have:

              “Oh by the way, I’m on the Iowa Women Lead Change steering committee, but it won’t require much time at all,” I say.

              To which the typical response is, “I thought you were going to start saying ‘No.’ ”

              How could I say no? First of all, if you know Diane Ramsey with IWLC, you know the magical spell is cast. “No” doesn’t seem to be an option. Looking deeper, why would I pass on the opportunity to make new professional contacts and friendships that will elevate not onlymy business, but also my personal well-being?

              Through volunteerism, you too can benefit from the kind of advice and opportunities I have, including tips on business growth, human resources issues, technology, leadership, coaching and resumes of great job candidates, as well as advice on candidates to pass up.

              You can build your leadership skills by attending women’s leadership events, speaking to other women’s groups and sharing your expertise in your field or wherever your passion lies.

              When you start saying “yes,” you’ll find it’s nearly impossible not to keep giving back, which leads to a richer sense of accomplishment and purpose. Over the past year, my new board and volunteer efforts mainly focused on women’s initiatives, and those experiences ultimately inspired me to launch Mentor Tank™ to further advance young women’s careers.

              One of my recent opportunities involves working on the Iowa Executive Committee of Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds’ Million Women Mentors to help engage 5,000 mentors to increase the number of females in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers. These are our children, our co-workers, our colleagues and our future hires. Joining a group that advocates for the advancement of women in the workplace changes the women-owned business landscape, addresses pay equality and promotes public policy where women can easily make a difference for this and the next generation.

              I’ve come a long way from saying “yes” to chairing Clive After Five 25 years ago, and I can’t imagine how my ability to run a business would have suffered had it not been for saying “yes.”

              To those of you who asked me to serve, thank you for helping me develop my leadership skills.

              Michelle DeClerck is involved with both Iowa Women Lead Change and the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) Iowa. She is working to involve college students with Iowa Women Lead Change, and NAWBO has recognized her as one of its Woman Business Owners of the Year. She enjoys speaking on female leadership, business ownership and mentoring, and is addicted to business books. DeClerck can be reached at Michelle@myCEM.com.

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                Iowa Hospitality Donation Network: How a simple idea to help others turned into a statewide initiative

                By: Rio Maxwell, Marketing & Events Intern, Conference Event Management

                “Growing up during a time when food issues and paying the bills were a challenge for my family, I was bothered by the fact that we did not have a local, collective effort to address the growing need among those who could use these products that would otherwise be thrown out. I knew there had to be a way to repurpose, recycle, or reuse these products and where better to start the effort than in Iowa where we rank seventh in the nation for volunteerism,” – Michelle DeClerck, President, CEM

                In March 2015, CEM president, Michelle DeClerck, approached me with an idea. To my surprise, it had nothing to do with marketing, nor events, it was focused solely on helping others in our community.  As a college student, I was not only intrigued, but also inspired. Not many interns get assigned a project that has the potential to make a hotel visitssignificant impact on the lives of others.  Michelle told me she was interested in starting an initiative for donating leftover items from hotels and event venues around West Des Moines to non-profits around Central Iowa.

                As a frequent traveler, from years in the hospitality industry, Michelle noticed unused toiletries going to waste, leftover banquet food being tossed, and other goods and furniture being discarded in hotels and event venues. After a meeting with an area hospitality leader, who operates five hotels in West Des Moines, she decided that the CEM Outreach Team should do something about all of these leftover items.  Over the period of seven months, with other hospitality leaders in Iowa, we took this idea and turned it into the Iowa Hospitality Donation Network, and in the first week of donating, over 100 gallons of toiletries along with over 10 boxes of sheets, pillows, and towels were delivered to the homeless. Specifically, the IHDN has partnered with the Central Iowa Shelter and Services, the homeless shelter in downtown Des Moines that supports over 2,000 homeless men and women in Iowa annually.

                Why, you might ask, would all of these items be thrown away instead of being donated?  The main reason is logistics. After meeting with about 20 hotel general managers around Des Moines, we learned that most hotels discard certain items because it’s costly and time consuming for hotels to donate those items. To our surprise, several hotels had an extensive amount of donation items in inventory, and they were excited to hear about the opportunity to donate those items at little effort and no cost to them.

                Hotel employees simply do not have time to drive to a non-profit and drop off goods; it is much easier for them to just throw away items. The goal of IHDN, therefore, is to connect non-profits with hotels and other event venues to allow for a simple donation process.  To accomplish this, I created a welcome kit to distribute to hotels to gain their participation. I provided them steps for housekeepers and hotel management, a chart to track donations, labels for donation boxes, and a list of organizations in Central Iowa that offer free pick-up service as well as places where hotel items, such as toiletries, linens, pillows, towels, etc. could be donated.  If you are interested in an in-depth process of how we started the IHDN, please view our most recent blog, How to: Start Your Own Hospitality Donation Network.

                Currently, the Iowa Hospitality Donation Network has over 10 hotel members and is growing. CEM Marketing Coordinator, Mandy McWherter, and I presented the IHDN to the Iowa Lodging Association in September. Just days after our presentation to board members, the Iowa Hospitality Donation Network was endorsed by the Iowa Lodging Association (ILA) with over 100 hotel members. The ILA board members learned this win-win scenario allows hotels and event venues to not only help the community, but to decrease trash hauling expenses. From a simple idea to a statewide initiative, the Iowa Hospitality Donation Network now has the potential to help hundreds or even thousands of Iowans in need. One of IHDN’s leaders, Abid Talic, Vice President of the Iowa Lodging Association, said during a meeting, “If you have an opportunity to help others, you should,” and that is exactly what CEM and other IHDN members are doing.

                If you are interested in finding out more about the Iowa Hospitality Donation Network or would like to be involved, please contact Rio Maxwell at Events@mycem.com or visit us on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/IowaHospitalityDonationNetwork.

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                  New Meeting Industry Findings

                  After my recent trip last week to the world’s largest destination showcase, I reflected on these industry aspects that benefit our clients:Michelle DeClerck

                  • There haven’t been so many destinations offering such a great advantage for the US dollar in recent years – if you’re considering a country you might not be able to afford later, 2017 & 2018 may be your years of new opportunity for international destinations.
                  • Our vendors truly want to partner with us to help create a value statement so you get a deal. Even though it’s a seller’s market, our hotel sales reps care about us and want to help you. They’re listening to your requests so go ahead, share your hot buttons with us.
                  • The International “P’s” are hot! Panama, Peru, Portugal and Punta Cana. You may not have considered them before – we are researching new options to consider if we can present one of these destinations to solve your next incentive challenge.
                  • Sheila, our Director of Strategic Sourcing, has an awesome reputation in the industry market place. Vendors reported they go to bat to help fulfill your requests due to her efforts on your behalf.
                  • The cruise lines admire our cruise President (Karen) thus the reason she recently received the award for “Cruise Partner of the Year” three times. This award is only given to one company worldwide annually.
                  • There is no shortage of luxury product and luxury is definitely back. You can also use an independent hotel with as much success as the main luxury chains to offer up another new experience for your attendees.
                  • Sporting experiences are at an all-time high. We can custom create a 3-day option for two people to the US Open, or a group to the Masters or the Kentucky Derby, or even a trip to the World Series. Ask about our new catalog of hundreds of travel, adventure, or sporting experiences.
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                    Volunteerism results in lifelong friendships – Part 6 of 7

                    This article originally appeared in the Business Record Lift IOWA 10.12.15 newsletter.

                    Editor’s Note: This piece by Michelle DeClerck is the sixth in a seven-part series focusing on the importance of community involvement and volunteering for women to grow both professionally and personally. Parts one, two, three, four and five are all available online. 

                    How many times have you avoided picking up a call, returning a voice mail or put off replying to an email because you fear someone will request your expertise in the form of a time commitment? Or if you do return the call, you do so after hours have passed to minimize the chance of getting into a live conversation when you give your “You’re right, that is such  great cause, I’m just so busy right now” speech?Michelle DeClerck

                    About five years ago I hired a national speaker for one of my clients’ incentive trips. As I peeked in on the general session, one of his opening lines stuck with me. He commented on how lucky we are to be thought of in a positive light that someone would consider us for a volunteer opportunity.

                    The issue comes down to who has time to volunteer.

                    I came up with my own perspective on volunteerism: What if we never got asked to volunteer? How detrimental would that be for each of us on a personal level? How many of your closest friends would you not know if you never put down the TV remote or stepped outside your comfort zone by saying yes to a volunteer opportunity?

                    Two years ago, when we outgrew our office space at CEM, I oversaw building out a new office. As this was a new experience, I reached out for some expertise (and volunteers). My lease expert was a Valley High School show choir volunteer I became friends with the year before. The moving team I entrusted to hand-carry my personal items were volunteers from Opportunity on Deck. Our building’s open house was planned by an intern I met volunteering with our church’s children’s youth programming.

                    These are just a few examples of how relationships gained from personal volunteer efforts have helped me in business.

                    I don’t recommend you volunteer under the sole premise of how it benefits you or your business. Think, rather, of the interesting people you will meet. Through volunteer efforts and your leadership on those committees, you’ll intrinsically benefit and end up with lifelong friends, which ultimately enhances your well-being.

                    Michelle DeClerck, a certified meeting planner, founded Conference Event Management and Financial Speakers Bureau, a woman-owned business enterprise and provider of event, conference, incentive travel and meeting experiences.

                    DeClerck is involved with both Iowa Women Lead Change and the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) Iowa. She is working to involve college students with the Iowa Women Lead Change, and NAWBO Iowa has recognized her as one of its Woman Business Owners of the Year. She enjoys speaking on female leadership, business ownership and mentoring, and is addicted to self-help business books. DeClerck can be reached at Michelle@myCEM.com.

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