Day One – Travel Day

4pm… Flight arrives on time in beautiful Chicago despite a broken light causing a short delay on departure.  Apparently the pilot stepped on the gas and made up a few minutes.  I continue to be fascinated by the flight crews at Southwest.  They’re always joking and smiling.  What does Southwest do to motivate their employees?  Is it the honey roasted peanuts?  The Khaki shorts?  Incentives can’t possibly tell the whole story here.  Even if Southwest put bonuses in place for on time arrivals and great customer satisfaction scores, you wouldn’t get this genuine “good mood” that I routinely observe. 

The conference hotel is the Westin this year; one of my favorites.  I’m no hotel connoisseur but I do travel quite a bit and Westin is Five Star in my book.  The rooms are always very nice and the Heavenly Beds are the 3rd leading cause of over sleeping (just behind power outages and setting your alarm to PM instead of AM).

7pm… We attended the opening reception (sponsored by Varicent Software).  The finger foods were top notch and I almost of ruined my dinner.  There was also an open bar and everyone had a good time reconnecting with old friends and associates.  These sales compensation events are like reunions to those of us that have been in the space for a while.  Shortly thereafter the Canidium team went to dinner at HUB 51, a trendy spot in downtown Chicago.  We agreed to take their least desirable table in order to be seated without a wait.  It turned out to be a great dinner, the burgers are fantastic.

Day Two – The Conference Begins

After only slightly sleeping in, I made it to breakfast.  This consisted of an English muffin, cut in two, with a ham and egg scramble smothering each half.  It was tasty but I’m not a breakfast guy so I didn’t finish. 

9am… During breakfast (sponsored by ZS Associates) we were entertained by the keynote speaker, Sam Geist.  Mr. Geist has written several books with clever titles. (i.e. Execute… or Be Executed, Why Should Someone Do Business With You?).  His latest tome is titled Would You Work For You?  The cover of the book has a mirror on it so you can ask yourself that question (and we all got a copy!).  Sam travels the country doing speeches and seminars.  He asks insightful questions and tries to get everyone thinking.  His presentation was very entertaining.  I got the feeling he was giving us about one percent of his material but those high points were plenty.  We probably weren’t prepared to do a lot of deep thinking at 9am anyway.

1pm… After attending some workshops, we had lunch (sponsored by Towers Watson).  I give another high mark primarily because I shamelessly ate a huge slice of chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake.  I made some friends from a company in Canada.  Apparently they also love cheesecake in Canada and have business challenges just like we do in the states.  Of course, I offered to help.

2pm… The highlight of the conference was our workshop. 

Forefront of the Global Corporate Landscape: Sales Performance Management Outsourcing and Managed Services

Susan Milhau from Canidium and Rob Pluta from JM Family did an outstanding job describing the benefits of managed services for sales compensation systems.  We are very proud of the relationship we’ve built with JM Family and it’s always exciting to share this success story with others in the business.  Our clients do a much better job of selling Canidium than we could ever do (no offense to our sales staff!)

7pm… The rest of the day consisted of more workshops and networking.  The conference activities concluded with another reception (sponsored by AON Hewitt).  This one had a pasta bar, pizza and more finger foods plus the open bar.  Networking was great once again.  I made another friend, this one from  It was fascinating to hear how uses to manage their sales process.  We discussed the subtleties of developing compensation plans for a product that has ridiculously high market share.  At what point are you just paying people to not screw it up?  It’s comforting to know that I’ll probably always have a job because no matter how successful a company is they always want to do better.

The dinner place tonight is Rockit Bar and Grill.  I was told this place is owned by Jeremy Piven from Entourage.  I don’t feel like researching to confirm that.  I can tell you that he wasn’t there but the food and drink was great again.  It’s going to take weeks to work off this trip!

Day Three – Final Half Day

Still not fully digested from the night before, I skipped breakfast and went straight to the coffee.  This day consisted of a couple more workshop opportunities and precious few occasions to network before everyone starts heading home.  Our objective when attending these conferences is to expand our network and expand our brand.  It’s part marketing, part sales and part knowledge sharing.  We told our story to as many professionals as we could and that makes it a success, but you always want more.  I suspect we will be a regular attendee.  WorldAtWork does a great job putting these on and this was only the second year of the Focus on Sales Compensation.  They will continue to tweak the event and it will only get better.  I’m already looking forward to next year.  At worst it’s an excuse to escape the brutal Texas summer for a few days.