Businesspeople are always on the hunt for ways to have fun at work to spice up their dreary office jobs, repetitive assignments, and projects that score high on the boredom scale. However, there are businesspeople whose job it is to provide fun for others. Those in the hospitality industry cannot survive on the business generated by the one or two night hotel room guest. Rather, they are constantly on the hunt for ways of selling services that include party planning, catering services, meeting facilities and more.
One of the best in the business works for the nearby Holiday Inn, in North Haven, convenient to Route 91 and Route 15.
Jillian N. Nurmi, Sales & Catering Manager recognizes the importance of differentiating her property and her staff from the abundance of competitive options. She very succinctly identifies her competition as, “anyone else that has meeting space to sell. Whether it is a restaurant, banquet hall, or another hotel – if they have space to rent our or provide catering, then they are a competitor.” Her focus is so laser sharp about this point, that she shares, “if they are booking a wedding, corporate event or a baby shower at their venue – that is one less piece of business that we received.”
With the competitive marketplace being so crowded, Nurmi prides her efforts and those of her staff as being differentiated from other competitors in the following ways:
- Providing “one stop” shop capabilities (meeting space, catering, overnight rooms, and a restaurant all on site without having to coordinate with multiple suppliers and vendors)
- Collaborative relationships with local service providers to supplement her property’s offerings (florists, DJs, photographers, videographers, linen rental companies, and providers of the unusual touches from balloons to cotton candy machines and entertainers)
- A sales department that has broad experience across multiple client needs. Nurmi herself grew up celebrating Christmas and Hannukah and can easily transition and speak knowledgeably about parties for a communion or baptism with one guest and then speak about a Bar Mitzvah with another. The traditions and customs of the various parties are second nature to her. Others in the sales department are focused on corporate or weddings and can put prospective customers at ease with their comprehensive understanding of those needs.
Sustaining the Enthusiasm
To the outsider’s eye, it would seem that it would be easy to become jaded about being in the business of staging and conducting parties. Afterall, for the guest of honor it is a once in a lifetime event, but for the staff of the facility, it is just another day of work. Jillian Nurmi is quick to dispute that. She admits to getting excited every time she meets someone new and begins to visualize how to best handle their event needs. She shared, “when people see me excited about their event, it makes them begin to see an even greater potential than they initially had envisioned. I suggest ideas based on my experience that the client may not have considered. Many people don’t have a clear vision of what they want and that is what I am here for. People’s lives are very busy and it is our job to take this one evengt and make it worry-free.”
In terms of her staff, Ms. Nurmi proudly confided that her property is family-friendly and that the staff has been trained and is held accountable for integrating the fun aspects with the business necessitites. As proof, she escorted me through the lobby and pointed out the staff joking with guests, animals being petted, even holding babies and inquiring about family members. Nurmi further challenged that it would be unlikely to see that level of engagement at the Four Seasons Hotel!
Making It Happen
While a job dedicated to having fun and sharing smiles may seem like an ideal way to make a living, Ms. Nurmi does share that there are aspects to the business that require a more formal and process driven component. Among those things are:
- Meeting several times prior to the event to check and double check that all needs are surfaced, wants and dislikes are identified, staff that will participate in the event are introduced to the clients, etc.
- Not being a clock watcher – the job is not a 9-5 position. Ms. Nurmi even wonders, “given that hotels are open 365 days a year no matter what the weather, traffic conditions, or economy, why even put locks on the front doors?”
- Having the patience to slow down and make the connection with people. As she explains it, “we live in a microwave world of emails and virtual contact where everything has to be done immediately. While we are very responsive to our clients and prospects, it is incumbent upon us to slow ourselves down and remember that this is a one-time event for the customer and ensure that they get the best ‘bang for the buck’ and present the customer with the options to make their party a unique and memorable one and not merely a carbon copy of any other event.”
While her business is the delivery of fun to customers and can be measured in smiles and laughs; Ms. Nurmi is also very aware that she only gets one chance to make each event the best it can be. Her future and the property’s future business depends on how well she can translate the good times into a serious business success.