Sheri Monello Davies has more than 20 years of experience in the hospitality profession. Seven years ago, a friend reached out to Sheri and encouraged her to leave her place of employment and become an independent meeting planner. Sheri started her career with ConferenceDirect shortly after that conversation, and has never looked back.
Before joining ConferenceDirect, Sheri worked nearly 20 years in the hospitality industry. Beginning her career in 1987 with Marriott International, she handled meetings for the Senior Vice President of the Education Services Division of Marriott. While handling meetings, she had extensive dealings with many clients within the region. When Marriott merged with Sodexho in 1999, Sheri continued working for Sodexho in the Campus Services Division.
It was at this point that her good friend, Laura Kuechenberg suggested that she join ConferenceDirect. Sheri says, “My friend, Laura, was one of the first seven people to join ConferenceDirect when it began. She is the one who reached out to me and was doing very well and was very happy.”
Even though Sheri trusted Laura’s recommendation and judgment, she also wanted to learn more about the company before making the switch. “When I learned about ConferenceDirect, I felt positive and passionate about the model. When referring to her clients, she says “we offer them a great way to save time and money.” She goes on to add, “I felt I could make a difference and a lot of companies would really benefit.”
One of the big benefits of working with ConferenceDirect is their technology. Sheri says, “We have excellent technology that allows us to search one city or multiple cities.” This technology makes it more efficient for Sheri to give her clients all of the details they need to make better decisions when planning meetings. “My clients do not have to search the internet. We have the tools to give them the best knowledge of these hotels including food costs, how far they are from the airport, and diagrams of the space. Our technology is very user friendly and provides a great benefit to our clients. We are saving them considerable amounts of time, which equates to more effective time management for the company and planner.”
But it’s not just the technology that Sheri feels is a benefit. “I love, love, love to work in my jammies,” says Sheri. “I feel so blessed to be able to work from home. I’m a single mom of three boys. I can put food in the crock pot and then get on a conference call. I just can’t say enough about how blessed I feel.”
Some of the great success Sheri has earned she attributes to the help she receives from her team. When arriving at ConferenceDirect, Sheri was on a team with the friend who had referred her. But her friend lived far away, so ConferenceDirect assigned her to Doug Baarman’s team. Sheri says, “I liked him right away. He is just awesome. We do well every year as a team. We’ve won team of the year the last few years with our revenues.”
The assistance Sheri receives from Doug, her team leader, includes training and general support. “He does regular conference calls. You can always get hold of him. He will go on a sales call with you. He will be your cheerleader. He makes sure we are privy to things going on in the company and in the industry,” says Sheri.
When asked if she had advice for a new independent meeting professional, Sheri says, “If you get recruited and start and don’t have any accounts, I think you need to give yourself maybe a year. But you hear all kinds of success stories. There’s no definitive cookie cutter on how it turns out. I think if you go at it how you’re trained, how CD trains you, you can be successful. You have to know as much as you can about the company. You have to be able to talk about it with confidence, understand the benefits, and then you have to reach out to as many people as you can and talk about it with confidence.”
Sheri knows that this blessing comes with responsibility. “You have to be disciplined as this model can be risky. My first few years, I made a couple thousand dollars. You’ve got to go into it knowing that it’s not all glory. You’ve got to work to get those accounts. But once you get them, the rewards are through the roof.”
Sheri works with a focused purpose, and keeps her eyes on her goal. “I remember watching all these people that were successful and I thought, if I could produce a million in revenue…and then last year I achieved $4 million. It gets better and better.”
Sheri is passionate about saving her clients money. “For one of my national accounts, when I handled one of their smaller meetings of 600 people, I did the cost savings in front of the executive board and one board member stood up and clapped because I had saved them $96,000.”
With rewarding moments such as this one, Sheri is confident about her future as an independent meeting planner with ConferenceDirect. “I one-hundred-percent believe there is no other way to go. I believe ConferenceDirect provides a value you just can’t match. I know there are many meeting planners or other companies that feel they can do all of this. I’m sure they are very experienced and great at what they do. But to have the technology that we have, the contracts that we have, the brand name that we have, I feel that it’s of benefit to our clients and we are an extension of their team. I think it’s a win for everybody.”