“Students today want to be exposed to more than the textbooks,” says Jim LaBadie, account executive for the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau. As a member of the Student Membership Committee, Jim actively works with students. He also was an adjunct professor at Grand Valley State University in Michigan teaching Hospitality Marketing and Sales at the senior level from 2001-2004. “Bringing current real-world experience to the classroom was critical for them not only to learn, but to better understand the diverse career opportunities available to them as they approach graduation.”
Initially interested in a broadcasting career, limited opportunities in that field led him to his first position working in operations at a northern Michigan resort. Jim spent the first 19 years of his career in the hotel and resort side of our industry, moving from operations to sales and marketing within the first three years. Next, he moved off property to a position as Vice President of The Hyland Group and a move to Chicago. This opportunity gave him his first taste of destination marketing.
For the last 12 years, Jim has run regional sales offices for Fort Worth, Los Angeles and Honolulu from his home in western Michigan. In 2011 he re-opened the Midwest office for Houston.
For his move into sales, he credits his “awesome” mentor, Glenn Cowles, who was general manager at a small hotel outside of Cincinnati where Jim worked in operations. Cowles’ background was in sales and he gave Jim his first opportunity as a sales manager for his hotel. “Since then I have been involved in sales and marketing at every level of the industry.”
As a PCMA member since 2000, Jim says that “Getting to know and building relationships with the meeting professionals from that market was key to my success and there is no better organization with which to network in that ‘world’ than PCMA.”
Jim provides thoughtful guidance for other hospitality professionals. “Successful salespeople today must know their customers more than ever. One must have the ability to develop strong relationships that go beyond the professional level in order to earn the trust and respect from potential customers that may lead to doing business. In addition to knowing the person and their needs, it is incumbent on us to know their organization and their needs. From my perspective I would offer that membership means nothing. It is participation and involvement in an organization that will help you grow and build the relationships you need to succeed. Building relationships with people comes easily to me, but I worked hard to learn the association industry.”
In his spare time, Jim, his wife and family enjoy boating “up North.” This activity “has provided us with great memories and experiences while cruising the Great Lakes and bringing us back to center,” he concludes.