Avalon Events Center Has Fresh Faces And A Fresh Start

Written by: Jennifer Gades

Photo by J. Alan Paul Photography

Changing perception with new, youthful management

The Avalon Events Center serves as a beautiful setting for weddings, business meetings, corporate events and private parties. They are quickly gaining popularity in the competitive Fargo event scene. The road hasn’t been easy, however. After struggling through a few years of growing pains that even gained some media attention, they are starting over with some new faces.

“Honestly, it came from the top down. Lee Swanson was a huge part of it, he and some of his business partners realized that things weren’t going as they should be with such a beautiful place,” said Brett Colliton, COO of Avalon Events Center. “It hadn’t seen the kind of growth it should have. So they really focused on finding and isolating what the issues were, and they really found the issues of bad reputation and slow growth were due to poor management.”

It was time for Swanson to take a hard look at his staff and make some changes. Colliton says since doing so, things have really changed. We talked with Colliton and CMO Andy Richards for tips on how to bounce back from a bad reputation.

1. Get The Right People In The Right Places

Sometimes, even just one person can poison the well. Making necessary changes to your personnel can make a large impact on the entire staff.

“Morale has really gone up, and the staff is a lot of fun to be around,” Colliton said. “They’re great; they’re having a good time. Everyone is smiling. People are actually excited to be at work. That alone makes such a big difference in how our customers perceive us.”

2. Acknowledge Your Mistakes

We’ve all seen the “Under New Management” signs slapped across a restaurant or business. Simply placing a sign outside won’t make all the difference. You have to show that you’ve changed and be ready to apologize and take responsibility as well. For the consumer, giving a business another shot is not always easy, regardless of a management change. Colliton and Richards stressed the importance of not running from your past or trying to cover up what happened but approaching it head on.

“What I’ve been doing for the past few months is sitting down with people who have had less than pleasant experiences with previous management and apologizing for that,” explains Colliton.

3. Find What Drives You

What sets your business apart? What drives your employees each day? Identify these differentiating factors, and build upon them. As a team at the Avalon, they are working on creating their core values and really focusing on them.

“The biggest thing is that we’re all-inclusive,” Colliton said. “We don’t have hidden fees or hidden charges. When we tell you a price on something, that’s really what it’s going to cost. It’s not going to be extra. Being upfront and honest about our pricing is very important to us, and I think our customers appreciate it as well.”

4. Work Where And How You Do It Best

Everyone works differently, and adapting to how they work best can be beneficial for everyone.

“We have a very youthful approach on things, and that makes it fun,” Colliton said. “We understand that as long as you’re doing your work, it doesn’t matter where you’re doing it from.”

Colliton mentioned that before our interview, he had 200 emails to answer and knew there would be too many distractions at the office. Instead, he stayed home to answer them so he could focus and get them done.

5. Give Back

Focusing on networking, helping others out and making connections in the community all can have a strong impact on the public’s perception of your organization.

“We try to give back and we want to be seen that way,” Colliton said. “Growth is our ultimate goal, but really, in my mind, my real goal is just being a positive force in the community.”

6. Focus On Efficiency

Take a look at your processes. Are there things that are slowing down your productivity? Is there a CRM system that could help you get better organized? Are you spending money on unnecessary expenses? Saving time and money can make a large difference in your bottom line, as well as help your team be more efficient.

“We’re making sure we’re saving money where we need to so that money can go back into events, salaries and ultimately more employees,” Colliton said.

7. Be Customer Focused

Get your customers involved. Ask them what they need, and be there to help them when they need it. Do you make it easy rather than difficult for your customers to give you the information you need?

“The event planning software that we’re using allows the customer to be much more engaged in what they’re doing,” Richards said. “Before you had to sit down with us and do it (plan your event); now a copy can be emailed to you and you can work on it.”

“Someone, if they’re really excited, can plan their entire event [by themselves],” Colliton added. “We can send them the software, they can log in and they can do the whole design of their event. But we’re also here to guide them and help them through it at the same time.”

8. Work As A Team

Teamwork can make many things run more smoothly in an organization. Regardless of your role, Richards and Colliton both discussed the importance of depending on each other to do whatever needed to be done when necessary. When people work together, they can feel more appreciated and valuable. Sometimes this requires doing things outside of your job description that will help your team reach the end goal.

“I think one of the biggest things is knowing that you can rely on each other,” Richards said. “Because we are such a tight knit group, nobody is going to drop the ball and we all equally distribute work loads so that nobody is overworked.”

“Everyone is helping out,” Colliton added. “There isn’t set boundaries on whose task is what. Everyone is just here to help.”

9. Keep Open Communication

We have heard it time and time again, but communication is still an issue that’s often overlooked. Please listen to each other and communicate.

“We just want to make sure that people feel like they’re being heard,” Richards said. “If they have issues, they’re being talked to and just make sure that there’s constant contact all the way through. When people are telling you something, there is probably more than one person who is thinking it, so make sure to listen.”

10. Build Partnerships

Competition is healthy, but building partnerships within your industry can get you a lot further than knocking your competition. Find ways that you can work together and help each other so that in the end, everyone wins.

“That’s really what we would like to drive home is that we want to hold hands with everybody and make everyone successful,” explained Richards. “We are even creating partnerships with local hotels and event spaces because there may be a day that we are booked but they may not be, and we would much rather have a positive relationship and know that we can pass somebody off and they can do the same and have a great experience. That is what we want to synergistically create in the community.”

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Jennifer is a University of Minnesota journalism graduate. She has worked in publishing industry as well as in sales and management for over 10 years. Jennifer is currently the Associate Publisher of Fargo Inc!.