Party Perfect: Making an investment in training

Developing your staff members will pay dividends

According to 2010 American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) statistics, U.S. businesses invested $125.9 billion in employee training, with an average expenditure per staff member of $1,228. In 2011, the total training and development spending in the United States increased 36 percent to $175 billion. Is this a wise investment or waste of money? Is it a smart move or questionable use of company resources?

At Premiere Party Central/Premiere Tents and Events in Austin, Texas, we’re committed to staff development. While we can’t necessarily quantify the return on investment (ROI) for our training, staff development and team building efforts, we’re convinced that the time, money, energy and effort devoted to our training and development activities have helped Premiere meet and exceed its revenue objectives for each of the past 12 years.

Life-long learning is an integral part of our culture. We believe that it’s our responsibility to introduce our staff members — particularly our event consultants and managers — to concepts, ideas, information and approaches that will help them succeed, and that will support Premiere’s growth and prosperity. To start each year off on the right foot, we hold an annual off-site team retreat. Each retreat features a team text that sets the tone for the year ahead.

This year, we studied Simon Bailey’s book, “The Vuja de Moment! Shift from Average to Brilliant.” In the foreword to Vuja de, Bailey describes the book as being directed to individuals, organizations and businesses “overwhelmed by the shifts in the market, stressed to meet the demands of the emerging economy or looking for the new breakthroughs. This book is for people who want to shift toward more positive thinking … for business managers and employees who know they need to step up and become agents of change and creativity in today’s challenging work environment and volatile marketplace.”

In our view, Bailey’s book is a “must read” for party and event professionals who live and work in a world where you’re only as good as your next event and where your customers demand and expect innovation, creativity and a passion for parties.

Our 2013 retreat also included a copy of “212°, The Extra Degree.” If haven’t explored this very short, easy-to-read work by Sam Parker, you’ll find it a great motivational tool. Our team enjoyed learning about the vast differences in results generated by an often miniscule amount of extra effort. Premiere is determined to be a 212° organization and to experience the rewards of 212° performance.

Each annual Premiere retreat allows time for goal setting and for establishing operational objectives for the coming year. While each year’s format and context are a bit different, the exercise of publicly articulating where we want to be in December, of reaching consensus on our team’s direction and of discussing each individuals contributions to Premier’s achievements is priceless.

For 2013, we’re also adding a new educational component to our monthly sales and customer service (SACS) team meetings. We’ve been holding off-site “sales meetings” for several years now, but this year, we’ve incorporated a training component into our usual round-robin reporting on and discussion of sales progress, challenges overcome and future sales plans. We’ve selected Russell Granger’s work, “The 7 Triggers to Yes: The New Science Behind Influencing Peoples Decisions,” as our textbook for this year’s
sales team meetings.

SACS team members receive an advance reading assignment from this book and a series of questions to help in understanding and incorporating the text into their daily work routines. In addition to the usual meeting activities, we review and discuss the “7 Triggers” lesson, then cite examples of how the training material can help us achieve greater success and more predictable results for our efforts. If you haven’t read Granger’s book or related works by Dr. Robert Cialdini (“Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”) and Dr. Dan Ariely (“Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions”), I highly recommend adding them to your library.

These company-specific training and development opportunities are costly, both in terms of actual dollars spent and time away from the workplace. While we believe that an investment in our staff’s knowledge and skill set pay off, the American Rental Association (ARA) also provides an abundance of economical alternatives to company-specific training and development.

Throughout each year, an array of helpful and affordable educational opportunities awaits the ARA-affiliated party and event company. Events & Tents, The Rental Show seminars, Town Hall meetings, ARA meetings on state, local and provincial levels and the ARA Lending Library — all of these opportunities are meaningful and pertinent to today’s party and event rental providers. Mining these training and development options, taking home “the message” to your team and communicating what you’ve learned during these sessions is invaluable.

Also, there’s ARA’s Certified Event Rental Professional (CERP) program. What a wonderful opportunity to propel your staff members to higher levels of achievement and accomplishment, to show them that you’re invested, not only in your success, but in theirs as well. For a relatively small investment — compared to developing and delivering your own in-house training program — you can help your staff members achieve a meaningful CERP designation.

Becoming a CERP helps solidify your staff members’ investment in and commitment to our industry, while enhancing their skills to better serve our customers and their abilities to become “order builders” rather than “order takers.” That’s part of this year’s focus at Premiere — to demonstrate our expertise and provide a valuable service to our customers by ensuring that they have everything they need to execute a fabulous event.

I urge you to make 2013 the “Year of Education, Training, Team Building and Staff Development” in your organization. I believe you’ll see tangible and meaningful results that will empower your staff members, enhance your team’s performance and excite your clients and customers.

If you are looking for educational and training assistance in the areas of safety, customer service, management, leadership and finance, then turn to the ARA Lending Library. It offers a wide array of CDs, DVDs and books to help you. As an American Rental Association (ARA) rental business or manufacturer/supplier member, the items in the Lending Library are yours to borrow for free for up to 30 days. For a complete description of what is available, go to