By Steve Michaels
Dan L’Heureux, the man behind the scenes, is usually traveling. He is busy attending to the details of the conferences and meetings held throughout the country for many of the telemessaging industry’s various user groups and regional meetings. Dan, who is the executive director for eight such groups, finds his job not only rewarding but also fun.
In 1977, Dan started a telephone answering service in Minneapolis with a cordboard and high hopes for business success, which he achieved twenty years later when he sold his business of over 1000 accounts. He decided to retire; he got into sports car racing, where he won the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) central division champion in 1996.
Taking on the role of event coordinator happened by chance, says Dan. He was racing in Phoenix the same weekend that SNUG (Startel Network Users Group) was having their annual meeting. He stopped by the event to visit old friends and was approached by a couple of board members to help facilitate their conference – and the rest is history.
Dan started with SNUG in 1999 and along the way other groups approached him. Dan now represents eight industry groups: four regional associations and four user groups. The regional associations are WSTA (Western States Telemessaging Association), STA (Southern Telemessaging Association), ASTAA (Atlantic States Telephone Answering Association), and GLTSA (Great Lakes Telemessaging Services Association, Inc.); the user groups are SNUG, TUNe (Telescan Users Network), PIN Users Group, and OEO (Onvisource Equipment Owners).
Dan’s responsibilities vary depending upon each group’s needs. While his title is executive director, he also does administrative, meeting planning, and background work for the groups, along with finding the appropriate locations for the meetings. The decision of where an event will be held is usually up to the board, but Dan scouts out two to three possible meeting sites and does the legwork so they can act accordingly. This includes determining the feasibility of the attendee’s ease of travel, location availability, and overall site package. He also does the negotiating with the locations to get the best possible rates, and he makes sure that the individual conferences are budgeted efficiently and then run according to that budget.
Dan says that it has been a real treat to still be involved with the industry and its members. He was active in his user group when he owned a call center and became convinced of the benefits that can be gained from attending such a meeting. Dan says, “No matter how much you put in, you always get more out.”
Dan indicated that he did not solicit any of the groups for business; each one approached him via word of mouth recommendations. “Every group has its flavor and what it is used to having,” says Dan. He tries to merge the process of hotel and food selection with programming that fits the flavor of a particular association; it’s all about adaptability.
While Dan notes that there has been a reduction in attendance to some meetings, he thinks that reduction is mostly due not to the economy but to “fear” of the economy. People that Dan has talked to throughout the industry say their call volumes are down, but in many cases they have made up for it with new business or different types of business. Certainly, people are in a “wait-and-see” mode and have been for the past year. Hesitation in the economy seems to have a domino effect, and Dan feels that this is as much of an issue as anything else.
According to Dan, people come to the regional events because they can usually drive to them, they are affordable, and they can bring staff members that they might not bring to other events. Mr. L’Heureux indicates that the programming changes from year to year because of the changes in each association’s volunteer board, the economy, equipment changes, new services and features being offered, and an always-changing client base of members. Dan says that you can’t bring the same content year after year to a group and expect it to be successful. The message has to be constantly updated to make sure that what is available in substance as well as features are of value to its members.
[From Connection Magazine – March 2010]