It Takes a Great Team to Pull Off a Great Event
“As anyone knows when you are in a customer service-related industry, the customers’ needs always come first,” Kristie Barney with Hospitality Management Corporation said. “So even though I may have work piling up on my desk, if the phone rings, it could be a client in need or better yet, a prospective client looking to book an event.”
And so her first priority rests with her clients, an attribute that has made her very successful in her field.
Although born and raised in Hershey, Barney and her husband, Rick, currently live in York with their 7-year-old son. She began her career as an event planner more than 13 years ago.
“My job at that time was to plan events for my employer, and so I worked with many caterers and venues. I then had the opportunity to change career paths and work for a large caterer as an event planner,” Barney said. “I have always been passionate about the event-planning industry; it has always been a natural fit for me.”
Seven years ago, Barney joined the Hospitality Management Corporation team as the sales manager.
“When I came on board, in addition to myself, there were two part-time sales associates, four exclusive catering venues, and one ala carte restaurant,” she said. “We now have five full-time sales associates, nine exclusive venues, four ala carte restaurants, and one quick-service café. My position was elevated to director of sales and marketing, which includes leading and managing the sales force as well as developing and implementing the marketing plan for the company.”
Hospitality Management Corporation comprises two divisions: catering services and restaurant management.
“The catering division, Altland House Catering & Events, manages nine exclusive event venues in Central Pennsylvania, focusing on corporate clients as well as weddings. Our catering division also provides offsite catering services, which allows us to cater to locations outside of our exclusive venues,” Barney explained.
- The venues exclusive to Altland House Catering & Events include Liberty Forge Golf Course in Mechanicsburg; the Roundtop Mountain Resort in Lewisberry; the Valencia Ballroom in York; the Grandview Golf Course in York; the White Rose Event Center at the Holiday Inn in York; the Crossgates Golf Course in Millersville; the Altland House Inn & Suites in Abbottstown; the Majestic Theater in Gettysburg; and the Penn National Golf Course in Fayettesville.
The restaurant management division consists of five grills and pub restaurants: The Sandtrap Grill & Pub in Mechanicsburg; the Crossgates Grill & Pub in Millersville; Fenderz Grill and Pub in York; the Altland House Grill & Pub in Abbottstown; and Founders Grill & Pub in Fayettesville. Additionally, they also feature a quick-service café in Gettysburg called FLATS Original Flatbread Café.
In the hospitality industry, the phrase “that’s not my job” simply doesn’t exist.
“If there is a day where we have large events or multiple events, it’s ‘all hands on deck,’ so you could very easily find yourself plating up in the kitchen, serving, or refilling water,” Barney said. “The thing I love about my job is that there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ day.”
Unfortunately, things happen that can’t be controlled.
“Rain on your wedding day or a traffic jam causing the guest speaker to be late can basically throw the entire event timeline out the door,” Barney said. “If a server drops a whole tray of meals, it is not the situation itself that can ruin an event; it’s how the situation is handled. It’s turning a negative into a positive, worrying only about the things we can control and thinking on your feet. Most of the time, if handled properly, the guests will never know about what we in the back of the house may think is a big deal.”
Since often she spends months, and sometimes years, planning an event with a client, it’s a good thing Barney considers herself a people person.
“You get to know your clients on a professional and sometimes personal level,” she said. “And every client is different, so it’s very important to get to know them and adapt the planning process to their personality.”
Some clients prefer a phone conversation. Some prefer email. Some simply trust her to handle the situation and don’t need to be consulted at all.
“Brides are certainly more emotional, as this is a once-in-a-lifetime event and they want to be in the loop and up to date on all details,” Barney said. “On the other hand, a corporate-meeting planner who holds an annual event may trust you to handle all of the details and only touch base when necessary. So you really need to get to know your client and adapt your planning style to their personality.”
Because her sales team is widely spread throughout Central Pennsylvania, Barney doesn’t always get to touch base with them on a regular basis, but because she knows she has the right team members in place, she is able to trust that they’re handling things without a lot of supervision.
“It’s also important to keep the lines of communication open so you know what challenges they are facing so you can assist them in working through those challenges. It is equally important to recognize their accomplishments so you can celebrate with them,” she said.
As a professional woman and a working mom, Barney has, like many others in similar situations, had to face the challenge of successfully handling both her personal life and her career.
“I do think women who have children and decide to also have a career face more challenges in finding the work/home balance,” she said. “Being in the event industry means hours are not always 9 to 5, Monday through Friday. Technology has certainly helped by allowing moms to be more mobile.”
Because Hospitality Management Corporation itself is a local family-owned and operated business, and has been for more than 50 years, it has a strong presence and role in supporting the local community.
“I personally have been involved in many fundraisers and charitable events and find it rewarding to be able to participate in and support these events,” Barney said.
What has Barney discovered about herself over the past 13 years in this industry as she’s faced and overcome the daily challenges and last-minute surprises that come along with job?
“I have learned that it’s important to know who you are,” she said. “We all have strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes we feel our weaknesses can hold us back, but I have found by knowing and acknowledging my weaknesses, it has allowed me to have continual growth both personally and professionally. It’s not important to know all of the answers, but it is very important to be willing to find the answers and learn from them. Take every situation as a learning experience.” BW