New CEO of Maritz Holdings, David Peckinpaugh, speaks:
- Talk about the reins of the family business
- Recovery amid Covid-19
- Integration of digital and hybrid preferences
A 30-year veteran of the meetings and events industry, David Peckinpaugh has held executive positions in hotels, destination marketing organizations, and meeting management companies and has led industry organizations. Peckinpaugh has moved this month from his role as chairman of Maritz Global Events to CEO of parent company Maritz Holdings. He is the first member of Maritz’s family to do so. Just before starting his new role, although he also retains the leadership role at Global Events, Peckinpaugh spoke with BTN Editor-in-Chief Terri Hardin to talk about the changes coming to “Maritz 2.0”.
BTN: How would you describe this expanded role as CEO of Maritz Holdings?
Peckinpaugh: It’s a somewhat logical evolution of responsibilities. Literally on my second day at Maritz in 2011, Steve [Maritz, former Maritz Holdings CEO] called me and we had a conversation about a structural change to a more decentralized model. It was really timely because I walked in from day one and have been a part of that evolution for the last decade.
When Steve asked me some time ago, “Are you interested in taking on additional responsibilities?” I said, “Absolutely.” We, who understand and know Steve, know that he focused on this shift from long-term family management to long-term family ownership. For the past 10 years, Steve has focused on succession planning and the right way forward for the business.
BTN: How has the removal of the Maritz family from day-to-day operations affected the organization?
Peckinpaugh: We had a town hall in December and Steve said, “I’m not going anywhere. He is still our executive chairman. He still has day-to-day responsibilities and certainly key governance and ownership responsibilities. And he’s the chairman of the board. He is in charge of the governance of the organization’s board of directors. From the perspective of customers and employees, I don’t think there will be a huge change.
BTN: How does this larger role at Maritz Holdings fit in with your concurrent role as President at Maritz Global Events?
Peckinpaugh: During my time at Maritz, I appreciated the opportunity to manage what had been the largest and most profitable area of business. Maritz Global Events primarily serves the corporate market followed by association, trade show and live event markets. I would say the mix is around 60% business and 40% associations, trade shows and live events. This mix continues to be quite close to this day.
My areas are strategy, vision and execution. With the new responsibilities, I have to take a broader perspective. It needs to look at things like our long-term business strategy and our long-term business vision.
The good thing is that I have worked closely with the leaders of the other business units, Maritz Automotive, Maritz Motivation, as well as our Global Business Solutions, Corporate Center, so I was attached to these guys- the.
BTN: How did the challenges the company faced during the pandemic impact each division?
Peckinpaugh: Maritz Automotive has actually had a great year. If you look at the auto industry, the pandemic has not had any negative impact, it has only had positive. Our automotive division has had some very good years.
Maritz Motivation made significant progress during its last 18 month transition, but it was not as impacted by the pandemic as Maritz Global Events, where we have been through a rough patch but are now on a very healthy path towards recovery.
Certainly, what we learned during the pandemic is unlike any other. And 13 months ago, we challenged ourselves to say, “We can’t be the same company coming out of this crisis as the one we were about to enter. We need to start focusing not only on survival, but on the future and making sure that we are evolving and changing, so that we can take advantage of the market.
I think it was Winston Churchill who said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste. And I think the organization has done a phenomenal job in overcoming these challenges.
BTN: How? ‘Or’ What?
Peckinpaugh: We have put together what we have called our “six beacons for recovery”. These are our strategic plan and our filters on what keeps us going. The six pillars are professional services and the evolution of a personalized supplier based on the design of creative and innovative solutions in the market. Smart simplicity.
So how can we make ourselves easier to work for and with our clients and our own people? We have intentional growth. We want to make sure that we grow up with organizations that value the same things that we do. We want to focus on the technology and be the best external third-party technology implementer whenever possible, and then build where absolutely necessary. We want to focus on innovation and ensure that we continue to bring state-of-the-art products and solutions to market.
And then, organizational health: how do we continue to promote our professional brand, our job brand and our culture within and through our employees? We need to focus on things like diversity, equity and inclusion and focus on long-term sustainability efforts. Focus on cultural initiatives. These beacons are what will move this organization forward.
BTN: How much do you rely on technology?
Peckinpaugh: In April 2020, we created a digital practice that we are very proud of. We have a great existing customer base and a very large pipeline of opportunities. It has certainly declined over the past six months in particular; I would say [digital represents] less than 10 percent [of currently planned events]. That number, of course, is changing, but there are still events and customers who want to continue in a hybrid or fully virtual environment. Thus, our digital practice is strong. It is absolutely essential for us to meet the needs of our customers.
When you deliver value to content, the way you deliver it comes with a variety of different options. But the bottom line – what the original goals and objectives are and how to achieve them most effectively – will drive the design. And then the design will drive the delivery mechanism.
BTN: With the explosion of omicron, what is the responsibility of meeting and event planners to protect the health of attendees?
Peckinpaugh: It continues to be first and foremost on everyone’s mind. Everyone is committed to continuing the events, whether it is a face-to-face or a hybrid model. The key is how do you make sure you are performing these face-to-face events in the safest and healthiest manner possible?
We have to get back to trade. The good thing is that we have so many more tools at our disposal than a year ago. To look at [Professional Convention Management Association annual conference] Convening Leaders, coming in this month: availability of testing, requirement for vaccination to be able to attend in person, these are all tools that we didn’t have not that long ago.
I think we have the ability to run events knowing that this thing is going to keep throwing curveballs at us. At the very least, this pandemic has proven that while there are other models that can help complement the face-to-face experience, nothing can replace face-to-face events.
BTN: What trends is Maritz Global Events observing from 2022?
Peckinpaugh: All the markets are on the rise, but I think what’s leading the charge right now is the auto, financial services, and tech companies.
The pharmacy also continues to perform very well. They’ve moved to a more hybrid model, but they’re really determined that their business, like many clients, is built on relationships, which are built, supported and strengthened through face-to-face events. We see this as part of the recovery.
BTN: What do you think will be your first step in 2022?
Peckinpaugh: For me, it’s about listening and learning. I’m not going to make reckless or initial changes just for the sake of change. It will be a well thought out strategic approach. And I can’t wait to go.