“We really don’t feel
the difference day to day,”
says Louise Paul, CMP, CMM.
“There’s no demarcation line,
and that’s what I love.”
Every weekday morning,
Louise D. Paul drives her new silver BMW Z4 Roadster to tech giant
Cisco Systems’ campus in Research Triangle Park, N.C. She walks
through the doors and scans her ID, which she refers to as a “red
badge.” The color defines her as one of many vendors working
on-site, while “blue badges” signify direct Cisco employees.
But that’s the only visible difference
that Paul, who gets her paycheck from Twinsburg, Ohio-based
Experient Inc., notices working as a meetings and events manager on
the Cisco account. Experient recently began providing meeting
planners and services to Cisco, taking over the contract from
StarCite of Philadelphia.
“My direct manager is an Experient
employee in San Jose [Calif., Cisco’s headquarters], but here I sit
outside the office of Cisco’s manager for meeting services, U.S.
and Canada,” says Paul, who has both her CMP and CMM
certifications. She has been working for Cisco for three years,
previously as a StarCite employee. When Experient took over the
account at the beginning of this year, Paul was hired by the
company to continue with Cisco. “We really don’t feel the
difference day to day,” she says. “There is no demarcation line,
and that’s what I really love.”
It’s an interesting position to be in,
juggling two corporate cultures and keeping an eye on two goals:
producing great meetings for the client, and helping to keep the
client satisfied for the third-party company.
Filling in the
Experient is not the only third party
supplying planners to high-powered corporations. Maritz Travel of
Fenton, Mo., and New York City-based American Express also embed
their own employees at client locations.
“We go in to the customer, find out
what their objectives are and figure out what the best third-party
model would be for them,” says Rhonda Brewer, vice president of
strategy, communication and administration for Maritz. “We can set
up employees within their offices or we can fully support them from
our offices. There’s not a one-size-fits-all.”
At the beginning of the relationship,
Maritz conducts a full assessment to evaluate what will work best.
“Right now, we have put someone on-site for one of our clients
because they are trying to grow their overall strategy,” says
Brewer. “Our person is there to work with the owners to build a
motivation program and a loyalty program. We are trying to help
them out from a strategic standpoint.” For another client, Maritz
has two people on-site buying all the hotel and function space;
they sign all contracts and capture the data to help manage the
company’s meetings spend.
Experient has planners “implanted” --
as Jerry Murphy, vice president of the strategic meetings
management program, puts it -- in six major companies, including
Cisco and Coca-Cola. “Any employee on-site is an employee of
Experient,” he says. “Legally, the client companies can’t direct
these people. I look at it as you are working with a client, but
you happen to be in their building. You have a closer relationship
with them, obviously, but it is still a client relationship.”
This lesson has been embraced by Laura
Cella, a meetings sourcing manager implanted by Experient into a
large communications company. She has been an Experient employee
since 2001; before that she was working for the same communications
corporation for two years as an independent contractor.
“Ultimately, my company is Experient, and I am there to make sure I
am meeting the needs of my client,” Cella says. “The scope of
services my client is looking for is all put into writing in the
contract, and that is what Experient expects me to do.”