From the Desk of Doug Daniel: ECE’s CEO Dishes on Doing Business in Different Cities

My favorite part of this gig that I have is that I get to visit each one of our offices on a regular basis. Period. By far. Hands down, favorite part. With fifteen now, it gets a little tougher every year, but even more rewarding. I know each one of our employees. I know something about each one of their families. I know what the inside of each office looks like. I know the best restaurants and local spots near each one. I know where the best local beer is and the signature eats that can’t be missed. I know where to go see the best bands (ours, of course!).

Along the way, I have most enjoyed embracing the differences. I have felt for quite some time that all cities in America are slowly starting to look the same. The same malls that have the same national chain stores that have the same parking lots with the same chain restaurants out there. I get it. People want familiarity and these brands bring it. But I feel like one of the biggest mistakes people make when they travel is that they expect everything to be the same as home. Ladies and gentlemen, that defeats the purpose of traveling. Getting out there and getting to the bottom of what makes a place and people different is the point. And I LOVE getting to know what makes each one of our people tick, what makes them unique and great, what they like to do outside of the office… and pulling us back around to work, what makes their and our ECE business unique and different in each market.

One of the biggest questions I constantly hear from outsiders and friends is, “Who are your biggest competitors?” It’s a loaded question and the answer is different for each of our fifteen locations. Some are new markets with lots of competitors, some are mature markets with little competitors, some have unique ways of packaging entertainment, some are more music-centric, and some are all about the production. I could keep writing for the next hour. All. SO. Different. And I get to see every one of them up close.

Learning about each market, each office, and each one of our staff is a tremendous pleasure. Confidence given to offer guidance and being trusted with the things going on in our employees’ lives is a huge honor.

Last month, a colleague called me and asked me to be part of a panel discussion in my hometown of Charlotte, NC. The colleague that called me is honestly more of a friend. A friend I have actually known since we attended third grade together. These are the kind of friends you have that when they call you for just about anything, you say yes. And, then you figure out what the hell you just agreed to. I am very fortunate to have this type of friends and it’s just a bonus that they sometimes happen to be in our same industry. So when he called, it was a big “yes.”

He tells me that a few local event professionals are going to lead a panel of industry people that have worked in Charlotte for many years. The idea would be that new and seasoned event professionals would want to come and hear about past and current business in Charlotte and, also, hear thoughts on where the area is heading. We had a few meetings and that just became more fun because we roped in so many other friends that had to say yes when we called. During these meetings it was fun to share stories back and forth, learn how everyone’s current business is doing, and (truthfully) just laugh a lot.

As we had fun and forged a solid agenda, we all had a few ideas of where we would land in conversation. I could tell you that I certainly knew I could talk about the events industry in Charlotte back a few years ago. I could also tell you that I have some pretty good ideas for trends and where we are heading. But the surprising place I landed and where I was completely blindsided is that I think I was the only one sitting up there in front of all those people who could talk about how business is done in Charlotte compared to other cities. I could speak to the fine nuances and subtleties and the things that make Charlotte unique.

I could speak of the things that not only make Charlotte unique but also how business is uniquely conducted in Philadelphia, South Florida, NYC, Atlanta, etc. It’s all different. And I love it. Big job satisfaction moment for me that brings us back to where I started this rant. How lucky I am to have the opportunity to experience business in so many ways, to get to know all of our wonderful people, and to find those hole-in-the-wall places that make each place special. But I’m also lucky to have that friend from third grade. Until next time, take the time to be a good friend and go make some new ones in new places. You’ll feel as rich as me.

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