Select Page

Twenty-one days from now, it will be our privilege and pleasure to host and convene some of the brightest minds and most generous hearts in the hospitality industry. No surprise I woke up this morning with my own mind racing and my own heart beating a little faster. So much to do, in what now seems like such a short time.

It’s hard to believe how many times our team has produced a conference, symposium, or for the past five years our nearly famous Summer Camps. The first events were small, a dozen people around a conference table. Sometimes we would work until late the night before to create the presentations and handouts, and to clean up the office so we could host a potluck cocktail party afterwards. Gradually we outgrew the office building, and moved to the top floor of Maggiano’s; much improved food and beverage!

In 2001, it was obvious we had to move again to a still larger venue, and we booked our first hotel, the newly opened Park Cities Hilton for a date in early October. Then the horrible and unfathomable events of September 11th turned the whole world upside down, and the possibility or likelihood of people flying to Dallas for a conference seemed trivial and bleak. Turns out that those last two weeks in September were when we learned why we do this work.

The hotel wouldn’t let us out of our contract when our first response was to consider canceling – which turned out to be a gift we would recognize slowly at first, and then in emotional waves by the time we kicked off a conference none of us will ever forget. We didn’t know what to call it then – but in hindsight that was the real beginning of this powerful People Report & now Black Box Intelligence community. No one was at that event to learn how much compensation was increasing, or what were the best practices in retention & engagement, or the hottest new recruiting strategies in the war for talent; even though those were topics on the agenda. We were there because we needed to be with one another; to connect in a way that was not possible on a phone call or through email or reading Nation’s Restaurant News.

We stood and recited the pledge of allegiance, someone sang the Star Spangled Banner; we cried, prayed, and held one another’s hands. Then we spent a day sharing, learning and luxuriating in the warmth of a community that cared about being together. Our keynote Edna Morris, then president of Red Lobster taught lessons from Jim Collin’s newly released book – Good to Great. There were about 100 people there that day. I think I could name most of them. A big majority is still part of the tribe.

Last week we were lucky enough to spend a couple days at the Conscious Capitalist Summit, hosted by a group of leaders like Kip Tindell of Container Store, John Mackey of Whole Foods, the Motley Fools, Danny Meyer, Tony Hsieh of Zappos fame and dozens of other trailblazers and business leaders. The biggest question posed to attendees was “What is your purpose?” Because as the Reverend Roy Spence told our community a couple years ago, “It’s not what you sell, it’s what you stand for”. We also heard over and over, that serving all of our stakeholders, starting with our employees is foundational to being successful in business today. We can’t wait to explore those topics at our own conference next month – and fulfilling the purpose we discovered in September 2001 – bringing this community of leaders together.