In the past few weeks, we have had a number of clients come through our doors with a variety of needs. Busy times like that are always interesting as we navigate through change overs, dietary needs, menus and set-ups. Our staff strives to personally meet the needs of our guests on a level that not only shows we heard their needs but that we care too.
To give you an example of what a busy week looks like for us, just a week ago we had a full calendar:
- Monday & Tuesday: Aurora Cooperative CDL Training complete with 2 testing rooms, beverages, as well as semis and equipment in the parking lot for identification.
- Tuesday& Wednesday: NPPD Lineman Training with a classroom, hospitality room, lodge rooms, meals and refreshments.
- Wednesday: A family meal after a funeral along with lodging.
- Thursday: NACO Conference with exclusive facility use a main meeting space, 13 break out rooms, refreshments, a meal and linen service.
- Thursday-Friday: Leadership Kearney with meeting room, hospitality room, bonfire and recreation, lodging and three meals.
- Friday: Special Ed Swimming
- Saturday-Sunday: University of Nebraska- Kearney Multicultural Studies Retreat and Nebraska Children’s Home Retreat. Both groups had multiple meeting spaces, lodge rooms, dorms, meals and recreation…not to mention a Husker game to view!
- From Monday to Friday we also have seven water aerobics classes, two Splashdance classes and guests who use our fitness room too.
As you can see, there are a lot of moving parts on that schedule that involve our entire team and all our departments. It’s challenging but also quite a lot of fun too. Our team really enjoys getting to serve our guests and meet their needs
Weeks like this are the norm for us. We are often asked how we get it all done? Honestly, for me as the executive director, I am fortunate to have an amazing team that rock at their jobs. But to break it down beyond that, we really want to make our guests happy so here is how we do it:
Meet Micheala. She is our Admin and Events Coordinator. If you have called into our office on Tuesday through Saturday, you’ve probably talked to her. She is often the first point of contact for our clients. She works with our clients to secure dates, gets all the meeting details rom set-ups, meals and refreshments, lodging needs and such. She also makes sure that the dates and times you need are available and when you officially book, she makes sure you are on the calendar and all your event information is properly documented so that contracts can be done, information can be handed out to the managers and conveyed to our team. I have to preface; she is way more than a secretary! While she does manage the calendar and make sure information is disseminated to the departments correctly, she also gives tours, issues quotes and works very closely with all our groups to ensure their events go just as they expect. Events are her passion and there really isn’t one that takes place here, that Micheala doesn’t have a hand in.
Once events are booked, the information comes to me. As many of you know, I am Maile Ilac Boeder, the executive director. I have many duties but in regards events, handling all the contracting and billing are two of my most important tasks. I also work with Micheala to show the property, ensure details are correct and handle any issues that may arise. I lead our weekly management meetings to share the details of the week’s events, the history’s with our clients and any special things that need to be noted. We also discuss areas that may need trouble shooting, whether or not any departments need extra assistance to meet our guests needs, etc.
Should your event require a special meeting with our Chef to determine menus, refreshments and such, Micheala sets up a meeting with you, Chef Ryan along with the two of us. We all sit down and hear your ideas and wants and discuss what we can do to meet those needs. Once desired menus are set, Chef Ryan goes to our vendors to see what he can do about pricing. He gets all the information back to me and I get all the details put in to your contract and get it sent out. In this day and age, we are so grateful for email, as that is how most of our contracts are sent out.
As the event nears, we share with our management team and our staff who our guests will be and what needs they have while they are here. We discuss room set-ups, lodging needs, recreational needs, food and dietary, etc….and then the magic really starts to take place!
Meet Dario. He is our Maintenance Manager. While he is responsible for every square inch of this property, the facilities and equipment, he and his crew also make sure your meeting rooms are set up exactly the way you want them. Dario is amazing. He has super powers when it comes to making intricate set-ups fit so that guests can get the most out of their time here. He can set up a straight line of chairs anywhere and as an eye for the littlest detail. The care he and his crew take with set-ups is impressive. They take time to see the set-up from a number of vantage points to ensure presenters have what they need as well as guests. Everything from space of chairs, angles of tables and lighting. The level of care put into set-ups is one of the things that sets The Leadership Center apart from other venues. When changes occur or something comes up, you’ll find Dario is happy to help and he’ll do so with a smile. Dario trains his crew to do as he does. If you meet any of them: Dan, Carlos, Ben, Andrew, Brandon, Grant, or Hunter, you’ll see he trained them to take care with set-ups and guests and to do so graciously.
Meet Devin. She is our Housekeeping Manager. As many of you know, we have 60 lodge rooms and 3 dorms. While the dorm duties are split between the Maintenance and Housekeeping Departments, lodge rooms are one the big things that fall to our Housekeeping Department. Much like many businesses, departments have a huge number of tasks, housekeeping is no different. Devin and her staff take care of all the uniforms, linens, and laundry The Leadership Center produces daily. She also takes care of our lodge rooms. It’s her special touch and keen eye for details that has transformed our rooms and how things are done in our housekeeping department. When our guests stay with us, it’s Devin who makes sure the accommodations are what our guests need. She makes sure rooms are cleaned, lights work, linens are stocked, etc. If we have a guest who has special lodging needs such as a fragrance allergy or severe gluten intolerance, or if we have a new mom who is breastfeeding or a guest with insulin needs, she makes sure the special accommodations are made to meet their specified needs. Devin and her team are often hidden in the background and go virtually unnoticed as they try to do towel changes and such when guests are occupied with meetings or activities so that no one is hindered and much of their work is done out of sight. Whether you see them or not, their work is incredibly important! They are the folks in charge of making sure our guests get a good night sleep and are comfortable in their rooms during their stay. Devin has taken great care to train her staff to again, take great care with our guests. I assure you if you meet any of her team, Zach, Gilbert, Jane, or Cameron will be happy to assist.
Housekeeping and Maintenance share a number of duties including cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming our thousands of square feet of carpet, mopping floors, dusting and cleaning all the glass. It doesn’t matter what the task is, these two teams take great pride in our facilities and caring for our guests.
Meet Ryan. Ryan is our Chef and helps take care of business in the kitchen. It is his team who makes sure the meals and refreshments our guests order and expect are amazing and delectable. While Chef Ryan’s potatoes, pizza and bread are staff favorites, our guests love them too! Along with his pasta, pork tenderloin and well, nearly everything he and his team prepares. Ryan and his team craft menus to feed each of our groups, taking into consideration the various attendees, dietary needs, ages and of course, food requests. A lot of time goes in to planning and preparation so that when it’s time to cook and serve, his team knocks it out of the park. Often times, people think our kitchen just cooks meals. While they do make breakfast, lunch and dinner, they also prepare all of our refreshments and take care of our beverage services. The kitchen team often is the team our guests interact with the most beyond Micheala and me. Part of that is because they are the people with the delicious foods and part of it is because of the hours they are present in the building. Ryan and his team including Julie, Barb, Jade, Roxann, Nellie, Elisha, Donnie, Jacob, Mackie and Shae love chatting and spending time with our guests. Much like any of TLC team members, they are happy to help and if they can’t, they will find the person that can.
When event wraps up, it’s up to the managers to make sure I have all the right numbers and such so that I can issue the invoice and check with our clients that they were happy with everything. These two details end up being more technicalities than anything as my team and I try to be present and interact with our guests as much as possible. It’s important to us that we check in periodically throughout events to ensure our guests are happy and that we can assist wherever needed. We think it is far better to be present and proactive versus absent and apologetic.
After the event is done and invoices are sent and/or settled, our team sets to cleaning up and resetting for the next group, where as I am sure you could guess, we take the same kind of personal care we took with the guests who just left. It’s worth noting that we often have events going on simultaneously and on varying schedules, but I assure we take great care with each of our clients, no matter what.
I have mentioned nearly everyone on our team as they all work so hard to make sure our guests needs are met and their expectations exceeded, there were a few that weren’t mentioned but do need to be recognized.
First, there is Grace. Grace is our intern through the Opportunities Exchange program with Aurora High School and the Aurora Area Chamber & Development. Grace works on thank you notes, filing and a number of office duties. She chips in housekeeping, the kitchen and maintenance whenever needed. Since she is only here during a couple of school days, many people don’t see her but she is important part of our team and serving guests.
Then there is Shelby. Shelby is here at odd hours and behind closed doors, but she takes care of our books. Her importance goes without saying. If you don’t have someone who make sure the numbers add up, you get into trouble! While she is with Offsite Office Solutions and is the contracted part of our team, she never hesitates to help guests if they knock on the door and have questions.
We also have a couple of volunteers that are always ready to jump in when we need a hand, whether it is serving guests, helping with a set-up, lighting a bonfire or making beds and helping with laundry, John and Pat are our heroes.
Lastly, there is the Nebraska Vocational Agricultural Foundation Board of Directors. They are my bosses. These individuals help set policy and allow me to manage their property. However, if we ever need help in a department, setting up or tearing down or fixing something, these folks prove that they are more than a name on a roster. They love their business and their property and more importantly want to make sure the guests that use their property are happy.
My intent in writing this blog was for you all to know that when you book an event with us, you’re getting a team. A dedicated team of people who do all they can to ensure you and your meeting, reunion, retreat, conference, wedding or banquet is set up for success. Our work here is more than a paycheck or clocking time, we’re passionate about the people we serve, the property we call come home and the work we do. We aren’t just The Leadership Center team, we are the people who put the tender, love and care into hospitality and we look forward to having you as our guest.
Maile Ilac Boeder, IOM
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