If you’re thinking about holding a meeting in Kohler, WI, I’d recommend having second thoughts.
I work with many of the largest trade shows in North America. Eleven years ago I formed a small club for the most forward thinking of them and we’ve met three times a year ever since. Besides being a great mastermind for sharing ideas, I also work at exposing them to "aliens" — people, organizations, and experiences unrelated to the event community. We’ve benchmarked Fedex, the Hayden Planetarium in NYC, American Girl Place (long before everybody else discovered it), the Seattle Central Library, and Teatro Zinzanni. We’ve heard from Nido Qubein, Mark Sanborn, Marsha Rhea, Dan Kennedy, and Doug Hall.
Wow, great idea, I thought! Study one of the world’s top brands, known for its innovative design! Stay at a 5-star resort! Play golf at Whistling Straits! That’s going to be quite an experience!
Yes, it was quite an experience. But as my wife, Kay, will tell you, the wrong kind. After eleven years of planning meetings across the US, this was the worst experience she ever had. From the moment we signed the agreement to bring the meeting, our perception of Kohler and The American Club (TAC) went steadily downhill.
We only blocked about a dozen rooms for the meeting, knowing several of our members would be driving in. Still, our group represents over 3 million hotel room nights a year. They not only have trade shows, but also plan smaller conferences and board meetings. (I’ve personally been to some of their meetings at The Broadmoor, The Mansion on Turtle Creek, several Ritz-Carltons, and Manele Bay, to name a few.) You’d think TAC wouldv’e wanted to put on a good impression.
Apparently not. We learned both TAC and Kohler’s favorite word was "No."
When we were told they didn’t have any doubles available during our nights, we asked if any came available could we have them? No.
If people reserved rooms to come in earlier for golf could those count against our room block? No.
Could Kohler could send somebody over to talk to the group about the Kohler design philosophy? No.
Could we get a customized tour of the Kohler factory and Design Center created for our group? No. (We found out later from one of our guides on the PUBLIC tour that they do, in fact, customize tours for a "certain clientele.")
Did our sales contact make time to come down and introduce herself to us during the two days we were there? No.
It pretty much didn’t matter what we asked for, the answer was NO. Oh wait, that’s not true. Could we give them lots of money? YES.
Obviously, both Kohler and TAC are off-the-chart successful. And equally obvious is the fact they have let that success go to their heads.
The experience reminded me of the famous Yours is a Very Bad Hotel PowerPoint presentation created way back in 2001. This was probably one of the first true, yet unintentional viral examples on the Internet. If you haven’t seen this, check it out.
Kohler and The American Club are arrogant. If that and the word NO don’t bother you, then by all means hold your next meeting there.