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WHEN it came to work, my father was old school. While other teenagers hungry for part-time jobs always seemed to land comfortable posts at their father's office, my dad never would give me a job. “You'll learn more if you find a job yourself,” he told me.

As a result, my teenage working career included stints cashiering at a movie theater, sewing dresses for a boutique, gift-wrapping for department stores, managing accounts payable for a small business, and babysitting, babysitting and babysitting. And I did learn: How to make change (invaluable!), that customers are demanding, and that making money takes work. Lots of work.

I learned a very important thing one day while counting inventory at a bookstore. It was a Sunday morning with no customers in sight, and the handful of us at work took turns answering the few phone calls that came in using our best imitations of actor Boris Karloff. (Well, it seemed funny at the time.) I couldn't wait till the phone rang again and it was my turn to make everyone laugh, but the joke was on me when the caller identified herself — as one of the bookstore's owners. I hung onto my job — barely — but only after weathering a lecture about business telephone etiquette.

That's the day I learned a very valuable lesson in business: You just never, never know who is on the other end of a phone call. And because of that, it's wise to treat all calls like gold.

Hospitality management consultant Charles Dorn makes this point beautifully in this month's “Guest Room.” He advises club management to start looking at everyone who walks into an event in same way that hotel food and beverage management does — not as a one-time visitor, but as a potential source of future business. Turn to page 20 to read more.

Look for them, and you'll find that life is full of chances to learn and grow, both professionally and personally. At The Special Event, Texas party rental pro Will Holditch met Chinese DMC operator Hersey Cao. Their small talk led to a big plan: The pair agreed to swap employees last year, with Will heading to China to work with Hersey's firm Across China for two months, followed by an Across China staffer coming to Texas for two months. Will was kind enough to share excerpts from his diary with us; turn to page 23 to see how some aspects of the burgeoning event business in China are unique and others are instantly recognizable to event pros everywhere.

If clients — whether internal or external — have called on you to create great work that you want to show off, be our guest. Our Gala Awards entry form appears on pages 34-35, and editorial assistant Alexandra Gudmundsson has tips on what judges are looking for on page 21. Don't miss this chance!

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