Words of Wisdom from Anne Wold-Graham, First Site President

Anne Wold-Graham

Experienced and multi-faceted: Those two words best describe Anne Wold-Graham’s career. After seven years as Director of Incentive and Conference Travel for the Irish Tourist Board, 22 years of fostering and growing her own full-service incentive company (Gallagher/Wold, Inc.) and eight years serving as Senior Vice President of EGR International after the two companies merged, she returned to where she began and, before recently retiring, was a Director/Owner of TG&A International, an award-winning Destination Management Company in Ireland.

With more than 40 years of experience in business and many industry firsts, including being a founding member and the first President of Site, as well as receiving the honor of being the first recipient of the society’s Lifetime Achievement Award, her perspective is unique. A committed advocate of the importance of realizing a viable Return on Investment, she has designed and implemented incentive and meeting programs for leading U.S. Corporations throughout the world, maintaining long-standing client and supplier relationships. She brings to the table the distinctive outlook and understanding of both the buyer and supplier.

In celebration of Site's 40 Years Forward, Anne shared with us this retrospective and some timeless words of wisdom:

Before I retired, an indignant leader in our industry accosted me with the following statement: “You simply don’t get it. Business today has changed. You are a dinosaur. You are out of touch with reality.”

Checking to make sure I wasn’t suffering from cardiac arrest, this dinosaur replied:

“I am fully aware that the way you do business today has changed but the basic principles by which one does business… adherence to a strict code of ethics, honesty, mutual respect, and professional courtesy remain unaltered. I sincerely hope these principles are part and parcel of your own company’s mission statement.”

His reaction: dead silence!

If from this exchange of words you get a smattering of a hint that I am not hesitant to speak my piece and tell it how it is, you may be on the right track. Although I am retired and no longer active, my belief in the value and importance of the incentive travel and motivational experiences industry has never diminished.

How many of you are cognizant of how travel incentives began and have become the multi-billion dollar/Euro global business that they are today?

My first encounter with the world of incentive travel dates back to the late 1960’s when I was asked by the Irish Tourist Board to investigate this new concept as a means to increase travel to Ireland. My investigation soon revealed that incentive travel evolved out of the premium merchandise, stamp and jewelry recognition business as a solution to more attractive rewards to stimulate and motivate dealer and distributors in the automotive and white goods industry. Come the late 60’s to early 70’s, 75% of the incentive travel was controlled and booked by seven major companies – S&H Green Stamps, E.F. MacDonald Plaid Stamps, Carlson Gold Bond Stamps, Maritz, Business Incentives and Top Value.

Believe it or not, back then DMC’s were few and far between, long haul air transportation was limited to charters on 707’s and back–to-back programs were the “in thing” for large group movements. I remember only too well having had two groups in Ireland in the early 70’s - one of 2,750 from the automotive industry and one of 5,000 from the white goods industry.

ITME was the major motivation show in the USA with travel booths scattered among the merchandise booths. It was at ITME in the fall of 1972 that a few foresighted, highly colorful and dedicated individuals, whose commitment to our industry was undeniable, realized the need to establish an organization that would form the foundation of recognition and incentive travel that we are all reaping the benefits of today. Nine months later their vision was realized and The Society of Incentive Travel Executives became a reality. Since that time 40 years ago, the initial goals to educate and nurture the growth of the industry have not changed.

Yes, “business today has changed” but this old dinosaur asks each and every one, no matter where you are located throughout the globe, to take a minute to recommit yourself to the basic tenets of the industry:

  • To rekindle your passion and commitment to achieve your goal of measured ROI while putting smiles on all your participants’ faces.
  • To stimulate you to think out of the box…and illustrate how creative solutions can maximize your budgets and overall success of your programs.
  • To refocus your direction on your audience and design a program that specifically addresses their needs and desires; select a destination that will motivate them and deliver a program that will stimulate them to future achievement.

Improved Performance = Measurable Return on Investment

Never lose sight of the reason why the incentive program was established in the first place to motivate and/or recognize participants for increased levels of performance in support of organizational goals. An exceptional incentive travel experience is a management tool used to achieve these goals.

Too often we get caught up in planning the logistics and forget that our ultimate task is to motivate people to improve their performance. Maximizing your budget and avoiding pitfalls in the design and implementation of the program supports the very essence of the program and can net increased return on investment, not only in quantifiable monetary terms, but also in the measurable performance objectives which are the backbone of a well-designed incentive program.

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