Posts Tagged ‘Tom Langlais’

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REST IN PEACE, Tom Langlais

April 27, 2012

Forty years ago, I met a hotel man that  inspired me to become who I am today.  This morning, I am saddened to learn of his passing. I am flooded with memories of what I learned from him-not only about hotel operations- but more importantly, he taught me to follow my instincts, deviate from expectations, and most of all, have fun!

We shared some great success stories at the Radisson South, beginning in the early 1970s with Winnebago Dealer Days and continuing well into the 1980s when I returned to Minneapolis and was employed at Carlson Marketing Group. The Radisson South was still the flagship hotel at Carlson Hospitality in those days, so our paths crossed frequently from company and departmental  holiday parties to internal meetings, and of course, the South was the preferred site to house and entertain visiting clients.

One ocassion in particular stands out.  We had just been awarded the Control Data 100% Club – a long-time client of another local incentive house (and my first travel coordination project as I began my journey in the world of incentives and performance improvement when employed by that same competitor).

So I knew the client personalities well, had hosted them in that favored suite overlooking the pool, and was not looking forward to more of same to celebrate not only the holiday season, but also the signing of a three – year agreement with them. I instinctively knew the client would not be looking forward to yet another cocktail hour mingling on best behavior with their new vendor any more than I was going to enjoy it.

So off I went to meet with Tom, having explained I was on a mission to find someplace NEW and EXCITING to hold this celebration.  We started at the top of the hotel, in what was once Mr. C’s, and looked at every empty space, every restaurant and bar, every ballroom and meeting room from the main building to the newly opened annex and “new” lobby area. Since chef’s tables in facility kitchens were an emerging trend at the time, we even wandered through the kitchen.  Nothing was clicking.

We finally sat down for coffee, to discuss how we might be able to make the new lobby area work, and yet still have some privacy…and in the course of the conversation, I mumbled something about I wanted this to not be the same old, same old – that  I wanted the evening to demonstrate that CMG was different, good things were ahead, and I wanted to demonstrate we were starting with a clean slate.

That triggered an “epiphany”…I believe it was Tom who mentioned the hotel laundry room and as they say, the rest is history!

We were off to tour the space and within minutes “The Clean Slate” Laundry Room party was born…we quickly had a plan and both of us had some work to do – to sell the idea at the hotel, and at CMG. On my end, this was no easy task…the account executive agreed, but the CMG president, although he followed my logic, was not totally convinced.  So permission came wrapped in a threat – if this was not a success, I would no longer be a CMG employee!  Undeterred by the doubts, and with Langlais encouraging me, we went forward.

Invitations went out for holiday cocktails at the Radisson, and as expected, we got the RSVPs- most with caveats that the person would “stop” but had another commitment that evening.  This fed into my original  instincts and encouraged both Tom and me to do all possible to make this surprise location become the background for an experience all attending would long remember.

And yes, considering it was the 1980s, it was a little too “themed” but it communicated our message – CMG was not going to be content with the same old, same old  and we would be a great partner for CDC.

Did it work?  I can only say that at midnight, Tom had to ask me to shut down the 6 PM gathering so that the hotel could get the laundry done and be ready for business the next day!  Who knows what happened to all those commitments our guests had for later in the evening.

Was it memorable?  Many of the 30-40 guests assembled that night in the laundry room at the Radisson still are in town, many still in the business, and whenever we cross paths, once the greetings are over, the first topic of conversation continues to be the Clean Slate holiday party!

And yes, the event’s success ensured we both kept our jobs at Carlson Companies!

Thank you Tom Langlais for the memories.

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