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How to leverage corporate hospitality

|Jul 7|magazine12 min read

Staff and clients of a Brisbane-based company are being lured and retained by a corporate hospitality program which has delivered thousands of dollars in incentives during the past three years, including new electronics, vintage wine and tickets to sporting events.

The program was developed by MEX, Australia’s leading computerised maintenance management software firm.

MEX CEO Steve Ninnes developed the program in 2007 when Australia’s economy was booming and aimed the company as an employer of choice to attract skilled workers.

When the global financial crisis hit in 2008, not only did Ninnes decide to keep the program running, but also included a schedule of activities for retaining and attracting new business.

CONTAGIOUS PASSION

The team at MEX is rewarded with gifts for exceeding KPIs and providing outstanding service each year. At the same time, Ninnes also ensures his team is on board by sharing the company vision at team building workshop weekends in luxury resorts.

“Passion, passion, passion. If you do not have passion for what you do, it will ultimately fail. More importantly, as a leader you need to make sure your passion is felt by staff and customers. And it absorbs them into what you believe because of that passion,” Ninnes said.

“It can be difficult to find good workers, but when you do the key is to do everything you can to keep them. I have always been a strong believer in rewarding outstanding staff and offering incentives for people to reach their targets. It may seem extravagant, but it’s money well spent on people who really deserve to be rewarded.”

As part of the program Steve Ninnes has initiated a “fun time” at MEX’s headquarters. The program includes playing pinball, a game of pool or relaxing while getting a massage. The purpose of “fun time” is for people to get away from their desks, clear their heads and think differently about the work they do and the life they have.

“Work does not have to be about drudgery all the time. It can be about having some fun, and you will always find a group of staff gathered around the pool table on Friday afternoon with a drink in hand,” said Ninnes.

“It is these little things that often make the biggest difference in the day to day running of a company. Even customers love coming in and playing a few games while they are there for training or business.”

DOWNTURN AS OPPORTUNITY

When Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008 sending the corporate world into a destructive spin, Ninnes recognized the need to create a more structured corporate hospitality programme to retain current clients and win new business in a volatile market.

“I’ve been in business for almost two decades, and if there is one thing I have learned it’s that the key to running a business is forging strong relationships with current and prospective clients,” he said.

“From our growing headquarters in Brisbane, MEX exports its innovative computerized maintenance management software solutions to over 4,500 of the world’s largest corporations in Australia, Asia, the United States, Europe and South America. MEX software is available in seven different languages.

“As you can imagine, we have developed a number of different relationship building tactics for all different cultures. For example, in Japan we do quite a bit of wining and dining at expensive restaurants, whereas in Australia we tend to get to know our key clients in a corporate box at the cricket or rugby events.”

The MEX marketing department plays a key role in managing client relationships and identifying new business development opportunities for the company

“We intentionally don’t have a budget for corporate hospitality, and instead the sales and marketing team identify opportunities as they arise,” said Ninnes.

“Compared to legal and accounting fees, asset maintenance software solutions and service is a much smaller, but just as important, investment. As a result, many of our customers don’t expect us to produce a lavish schedule of wining and dining. In this respect, our client relationship program is quite effective.”

NO CHRISTMAS GIFTS PLEASE!

MEX has employed a range of standard corporate hospitality initiatives, including box seats at sports games, dinner at nice restaurants and nights at the casino. But Ninnes said the least effective was always Christmas gifts.

“Of all of these gifts and outings, the worst performer would have to be our Christmas wine and gourmet food hampers. Most businesses see Christmas gifts as being something they should get, but the all-year-round initiatives are seen as being something extra that we do,” he said.

“On the other end of the scale, I once travelled for two days to meet a customer in China. They were more than impressed we had gone to all that effort, and it certainly helped us prove our desire to work with them.”

MEX is Australia’s leading computerised maintenance management software (CMMS) provider that exports its innovative solutions worldwide from its growing headquarters in Brisbane. The largest 100% Australian owned and operated maintenance software provider, MEX services is one of 4,500 of the world’s largest corporations in Australia, Asia, the United States, Europe and South America.