Timing really is everything. Kathy Miller, founder of Schaumburg, Ill.-based Total Event Resources, at first didn't dream of working in the special event industry. But trading in her “boring” bank job for a position as sales and marketing secretary at the Hyatt Regency Chicago not only changed her life but filled her with a passion for working in the hospitality industry.
She climbed the career ladder, becoming director of travel industry sales and then director of sales and marketing, all within the Hyatt hotel chain. After following a friend's suggestion to try the event industry, Miller landed a job at a special event and entertainment company, and she has honed in on events ever since.
As a newbie at Hyatt, Miller took advantage of every opportunity that came her way; sometimes, she says, “The opportunities took advantage of me.” Miller soaked up every aspect of the hotel industry — from working her full-time job by day to moonlighting as a front-desk clerk at night. Although she also found time to take college courses, “My years with Hyatt were my industry training,” she says. “Those experiences are invaluable to me now as an event planner because I know how hotels work, and I know who to talk to do get things done.”
Total Event Resources was born 13 years ago from Miller's desire to spend more time at home with her two small children. Wanting to make her family her priority, Miller originally planned to produce just 12 events annually. But she ended up planning 30 events that first year alone. Once again, she credits her hotel background as part of her success. “There are more event planners that came into our industry from the creative side,” she says. “With my background, I can run a business — and a good salesperson never turns down business.”
With more business came more work, and Miller began adding to her event team. She says that she didn't plan on having her own company of 14 associates but is very grateful that she does. Now producing about 100 meetings and events a year, Miller and her team find themselves creating events for clients nationwide in exotic locales, from an aircraft carrier in San Francisco to the Circus Museum in Paris.
Miller has more than 30 industry awards to her credit. Still, she is “excited to get up in the morning and go to work,” she says. “We are the lucky ones.”
Total Event Resources
1920 N. Thoreau Drive, Schaumburg, IL 60173; 847/397-2200; www.total-event.com
SURVIVING AND THRIVING
“Certainly our industry is about celebrating, and there have been several times — especially after Sept. 11 — that corporations stopped spending money on those ‘celebrations.’ For my team, it was an opportunity to determine what was next for us in the industry and what would allow us to sustain our business through the tough economic times. We grew by taking on the meeting production and communications side of the business. Even if clients aren't celebrating, there will always be a need for them to educate people.”
“I've been a member of ISES for 16 years, and the organization has provided me with so many valuable and incredible professional and personal relationships. We have developed some wonderful strategic partnerships through ISES, and the organization has given me many wonderful personal growth opportunities — from serving as chair for the Eventworld conference to now serving on the International Board of Governors.”