THINK BIG and in New Directions

By Penny Wing, Founder and President, Incentive Travel Inc.

Penny Wing

This recession is bringing everything back to basics.  My clients are driven by the means to improve their return on investment (ROI) and are retooling for future events as a result.  Prices in our industry become more competitive and offer new opportunities.  Now is the time to experiment with new ideas with reasonable costs. 

And now is the time for you to shine with a new mindset to better service your customers. You know our industry and you know it’s time for new and creative changes.  When was the last time you pulled out the flip chart and jotted down some thoughts related to the following questions?
• How could I change our industry to make it better? 
• How can I use the causes of this recession to help my customers? 
• What doesn’t work any more? 
• What are my new goals both personally and professionally?

Well, that is exactly what I did and I have to tell you how excited I am about my future. 

One of the projects I use to love to do with my staff was to put up the flip charts (they were always up in my office) and challenge my team to come up with new ideas for our customers.  We certainly knew our customers very well.  We had traveled with the executives and their customers.  We understood their goals for each of the programs we were creating.  We knew the concerns of the companies from their annual reports and listening on site. 
When the last recession hit (1999) we came up with a new idea for one of our major clients and sent them a letter presenting it.  It took some time to get a response but when they did…we were asked to elaborate on the concept.  That new idea created a major new event with annual spending in the range of $15 million.  The process and approach works!  And I can also tell you that your customer appreciates the fact you are thinking outside the box and thinking BIG for them. 

It gets back to basics including your success goals.  Success is an intentional choice and decision, and it comes with commitment to helping your customers.  Unless you have a goal of what you want…you accept the scraps by default.   Clearly defined goals allow you to travel towards another horizon that represents the end of one objective and the transformation to a new and better existence. 

The world is full of opportunity. 

My parents did an excellent job of instilling goal-setting as a part of my life.  It is more of a philosophy in that the nature and direction of your life changes the instant you create the goals you want to pursue.  Once you decide to make a commitment, you start down a path to a new destination.  It may seem slow but every step you make brings you closer towards that destination.

For example, the new goals I have set have are starting to come into fruition.  I have created a new concept for our industry, for my existing customers and many new customers. I made myself think outside the box and have created goals that solve problems- from the needs of my customers to the needs of our industry.  It puts the emphasis back into travel so it will incentivize their employees and partners to achieve their goals. 

To test my concept, I went to San Diego State University to present and further refine it based on their input.  As a result, I am in the process of hiring students who live in the world of Facebook and Tweeter as I continue refining the idea into a working model.

My target audience is already identified.  I’ve invited my customers to allow me to present the concept to them as well and by gathering feedback from all sides, now have shared my idea with a major Fortune 500 company.   They are interested in a full blown presentation to possibly partner with me on this new venture.  Now that is pretty exciting in this time of recession. Each tiny step is bringing me closer to my dream. 

Think about it – your decisions and goals represent and express your individuality.   You define yourself by your decisions.   These are your dreams you are creating and no matter how small or big they are…they are possible.  Don’t give up. 

Everyone has an official wish list of things they think are “reasonable” or “normal”.  What about the unofficial wish list, the one that “common sense” tells you to ignore?  The list that exists deep in your mind, the list that keeps you up at night, that makes your toes wiggle when you think of it?  Why not choose that list for a change? 

I have been very successful over the past 25 years and the more I think outside the box and follow those toe wiggling ideas…the more successful I have become.  This new project is “thinking BIG” in action!  And it makes sense.  I encourage you to get back to basics and start creating your dreams and new ideas.  You will be amazed how much your customers will love to listen to them and appreciate you for it. 

Believe me, the difference between success and failure in this business depends on your abilities and the creative vision you develop.  I’ll keep you posted on my new project in the months ahead. 

Penny is the founder and president of Incentive Travel Inc, a full service incentive, event and meeting company that specializes in consulting on strategic event design, as well as in designing, producing and orchestrating special events worldwide. 

Since 1988, Penny has created special events and incentive programs in over thirty countries for up to 19,000 guests at a time. Her clients include customers such as IBM, CBS Television, Viacom, Sprint and Bank of America. She’s handled such diverse activities as a special White House event for 50,000 attendees to a corporate group of 80,000 for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

She graduated from Georgetown and American University in Washington, DC with degrees in business and mathematics and continued her graduate work at Sophia University in Tokyo.  Born in Germany and schooled in England, Penny moved 36 times throughout the world before settling in San Diego. 
She has started and sold three companies in the incentive travel industry and has won seven Site Crystal Awards.  Today, Penny sits on the International Site Board in our industry.

The company is a certified Woman Owned Business through WBENC as well as the Department of Transportation on a Federal level.  The company is LEED certified and is committed to making every event and program at least 20% environmentally sustainable.


Vicki PritchardMarch 15th, 2010 at 7:58 am

I have known Penny for many years and I’m gratified that she is still as energetic and enthusiastic as when I first met her.
This article illustrates her thoughtful approach to the event/meeting/incentive industry. I am gratified to see there are people like her carrying the business forward. You go girl!

Michael FreelandMarch 19th, 2010 at 6:27 am

Great article. I first met Penny Wing 20 years ago and even then was immediately impressed with her ‘out of the box’ thinking! Her attention to every conceivable program detail is phenomenal and I had the good fortune to work with her on some of her ‘BIG thinking’ events.
I introduced Monday morning brainstorming sessions into my company’s weekly agenda. Basically these entailed between 6-8 people looking at the same problem but from different angles. Amazing just how many great, creative and hitherto unforeseen ideas emerged. I ended up by cutting time limits from 10 to 5 and then to 1 minute. With the mind now in overdrive, the results were staggering!
I believe that today’s DMC structures should be ‘SMALL but BIG’. Small with a very sound financial structure but BIG with creativity, knowledge, experience, conviction and a ceaseless quest for the extraordinary. I firmly believe that the ‘wow’ factor is still absolutely essential for any incentive program to succeed and it doesn’t necessarily have to be excessively expensive. I vividly remember Penny calling me at midnight my time ( 3pm PST) because her toes were starting to wiggle!!
Mine did when I created such activities as the video challenge and The Harley Davidson* experience (*since copied by almost everyone). So next time one of my clients’ toes start to wiggle I hope they will call me and we can wiggle together and produce some well formed feet that walk the paths of unsurpassed success!

Karen MyersMarch 23rd, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Penny, you never stop to amaze me. Always full of energy. Always full of new ideas. One of the nicest people I have ever met. You have been my favorite vendor for 18 years and you continue to WOW us. Thank you for all you have created for us. We love you.

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