by Sarah J.F. Braley, Loren G. Edelstein, Michael C. Lowe | April 01, 2014
When Phillip Jones came on board to run the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau 10 years ago, he brought an athlete's vision of persistence and hard work to the problems at hand. "When I arrived, the organization was in some turmoil, and it took me about two years to get us on a solid path," says the seasoned triathlete. "We have tripled citywide bookings since then and hired terrific people. That's why I think we have been ranked in the Dallas Morning News' Top 100 Places to Work for the past five years."

Fitness and other perks
In keeping with Jones' training mindset, one of the fun benefits of working for the CVB is a free gym membership; coupling that with a very flexible approach to the workday has produced an increase in productivity and a decrease in sick days. "We try to provide workplace flexibility, allowing people to manage their home lives," says Jones. For instance, employees who are on goal can work from home one day a week, although being in the office isn't such a chore, since it is in the Republic Center in the heart of the city and was reconfigured last year to add more collaborative work spaces.

Another fun aspect of being part of the CVB is testing the product that visitors to the city will use. "We take our team on all-staff outings to experience new venues, giving them firsthand experience of the product we're selling," says Jones. They are also encouraged to volunteer for events coming to town, which can have some unexpected benefits. This month, the NCAA Division 1 Men's Basketball Championship Final Four is being held at nearby Arlington's AT&T Stadium; the person who signs up for the most volunteer hours will win tickets to the final game.

Both individual and staffwide training is important to the organization, which employs 65 people. Hands-on and all-staff classes cover topics like technology and new trends, and speakers are brought in regularly. Examples of staff events from this year and last include a talk by Andy Rittler from the LBJ TEXpress Express Project (about Texas highways); a visit from Beverly Davis with Spark! Playground for the Mind, a facility being built to encourage creativity in children 7-17; a talk and tour with Erin Murphy of Trinity Groves, a 15-acre restaurant, retail and entertainment destination that is aiming to be incubator space for restaurants; "Women Working Together" with Heidi Murray, COO of Leadership Women; and a tour of the Federal Reserve Bank's museum.

"We cover trends in the industry and beyond, to get our employees engaged and knowledgeable about what is happening in our world today," says Jones.

Each month, birthdays are celebrated in one big party; quarterly staff meetings feature recognition given in front of peers.

They heart Dallas
Paying back the community they work for also defines the CVB. Book drives collect for local organizations. Employees are encouraged to join the boards of charitable groups throughout Dallas. One event the bureau participated in last year was a huge success for the North Texas Food Bank. Playing on the CVB's marketing program called "Dallas: Big Things Happen Here," using huge Bs and Gs (a person standing in between the letters becomes the "I"), the letters were painted orange and set up at food bank drop-offs throughout the city; bureau employees prepared meals, packed boxes and manned collection points.

A common love of Dallas defines the bureau's culture, says Jones. "We have a core group of very enthusiastic employees who are passionate about the city. We are innovative, energetic, always striving to be the best -- and proud." - S.B.