Conferon, Reinvented: New Structure to Ease Customer Interactions

Conferon Global Services, the big planning and attendee management company, in recent months has revamped its operating structure and created some new management posts — changes the company says make it easier to work with and better able to recruit business.

Conferon hosted a media conference here recently to promote its efforts and announced it is now mulling a rebranding and gunning for more corporate business.

Until earlier this year, each of the three main business units of CGS — a company formed by Conferon's 2003 acquisition of ExpoExchange and ITS, which provide event registration, lead retrieval and housing management services — operated as a "fairly autonomous business unit," said Ed Shartar, president and CEO of the Twinsburg, Ohio-based firm.

Now, the company is organized around functions that exist across the three divisions, an approach that eliminates redundant efforts, according to Shartar.

"Before, if a customer needed the services of all three units, it would not have been unusual to get calls from a separate account manager from each one," Shartar said. "Today that customer will get one call from our account management department."

Under the new structure, in addition to the sales and account management group there's also an operations group; both are further divided into specialties.

The sales group is spread among four different markets: association, corporate, government and trade shows. The salespeople, who are overseen by a separate vice president for each of those niches, work only on prospective customers. Existing clients are supported by a separate account management side of the group, which is sectioned according to geography.

Both of those areas are headed by Conferon veteran Brad Weaber, who holds the newly created title of chief customer officer. Weaber, formerly senior vice president, now also holds the title executive vice president.

Under the new structure, "We can better help clients accomplish their strategic objectives because the account manager has the entire toolbox of all the services we deliver," Shartar said.

On the operations side, CGS has been reorganized into six teams: attendee management, customer service, research and contracts, technology implementation, operation services and quality assurance. Recently hired senior vice president and COO David Erich, who came to CGS from British Airways, will lead these groups.

The company also has promoted Rick Binford to chief marketing officer.

Binford, who had been vice president of field sales at Conferon, has extensive marketing experience. He joined CGS in 1999 after convention and visitors bureau stints in New York and Detroit.

He is leading the evaluation of the potential rebranding, now being considered because the firm's current name "is a mouthful," Shartar said. A decision will be made later this year.

Meanwhile, the company plans to go after more corporate business immediately. "We're known more for association work, but roughly one-third of our business in North America is corporate," said Shartar. "There's tremendous opportunity to grow in that area."

The company's new sales structure will be the driver of this growth.

"Now, we have highly skilled and experienced market heads, for each specific industry area, charged with developing strategies for gaining business," Shartar said.

Salespeople previously were responsible for recruiting business from multiple industry segments, while perhaps, say, failing to understand that government meetings and trade shows might require differing approaches. "We had the seeds of greatness, but we didn't have the structure to really leverage our talent," Shartar said.