It wasn't as though Randi Lesnick didn't already have an exciting career to be proud of.
Lesnick left Hilton Hotels Corp. after 16 years as a high-powered executive to follow her husband to Nashville, Tenn., after he was transferred there for a new job opportunity. And she had her future nicely planned: "I thought I would be a stay-at-home mom with my 2½-year old and my newborn," she says.
But fate intervened, in the form of a guest at a birthday party she attended with her son. "I was told in confidence that the birthday boy's father was going to work for a new label—DreamWorks Records—and that he was going to have a huge grand opening party."
This was all that Lesnick needed to get her event mojo going. "After being a stay-at-home mom, I was ready to re-enter a professional environment," she says. That re-entry started out small: "I was in a house with my husband and two babies without a computer or any type of office equipment," she recalls. "I bought my first desktop computer, put a shelf in my guestroom closet, and I was off to the start of my new venture as an event planner."
It was a great start. She produced that grand opening of DreamWorks Records in 1996, and her company has grown since then from a "one-man show," as she says, to a full-time staff of 10 operating out of two offices. Lesnick's firm, Hospitality Consultants, has two divisions: Randi Events and Nashville Event Space, which manages some of downtown Nashville's hottest event venues. "Our business continues to grow every year," she says with pride. Today, Lesnick oversees an average of 145 events a year, offering a wide range of services ranging from event design and layout to themed parties to destination management.
Lesnick says the biggest game-changer in the event world since she started 16 years ago is—not surprisingly—the emergence of technology. Today, "It's all about technology," she says. "Technology has allowed opportunities to create special effects within the event industry that we did not have available to us years ago. Technical imaging allows you to be in another time and place at any time or in any space." The rapid changes in technological capabilities put pressure on event pros to keep pace. As Lesnick puts it, "The advances are so rapid that I continually need to be in the learning mode to take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities technology allows."
But one thing that hasn't changed in 16 years is the power that economic swings have on the event business. When clients are feeling flush, event designers can let their imaginations—and budgets—run wild. But when the economy swoons and budgets dip with it, "We have to work hard to make a vision come true," Lesnick says. "We have to be more creative in our recommendations to clients to assist them is finding ways to accomplish their goal. For example, they may want roses, but their budget will allow for daisies, and it is our job to make that look just as special!"
Another thing that hasn't changed for Lesnick in her event career: her loyalty to her very first client. She points to Scott Borchetta, now CEO of Big Machine Label Group of Nashville, as one of the biggest influences on her career. The label is home to such country superstars as Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts and Tim McGraw.
"Scott was my first client at DreamWorks Records," Lesnick recalls. "He has worked with some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry, which has allowed me some unbelievable opportunities in the realm of event production. Through the years I have admired Scott for his creativity, loyalty and ethics. Through this loyalty, Scott and I have developed a mutual trust that is rare in business world today!"
Randi Events 615/689-5532; www.randievents.com; Nashville Event Space, 615/497-6802; www.nashvilleeventspace.com
A TYPICAL DAY IS …
"Chaos! Every time I think I can slow down, our business just keeps growing. I have never forgotten how I got started so I continually demand from my staff the same service to our customers that I gave when it all began. Our mission statement is 'We make the impossible possible—'no' is not an option.' Therefore, we are all continually busy selling, planning, designing or executing an event!"
I'M MOST PROUD OF …
"The launch of Taylor Swift’s album 'Speak Now.' We were launching her album with a live stream around the world, and three days before the event, we lost the venue. We had to scramble, stress levels were at the ultimate peak, and we had no choice but to find a place to make this happen. We did!”
INTERNET PROS AND CONS
"The Internet can be a double edged sword. Clients can get carried away with a vision and not necessarily have the budget to make it come to fruition."
A WORD TO THE WOULD-BE EVENT PRO
"Intern with an event planning company to make sure this is the field you desire. The perception is that this is a glamorous industry, but the truth is that it is long hours, a lot of travelling, and dealing with many different personalities and emotions. The flip side is that if this is really what you desire, the gratification of a successful event is overwhelming!"