Unified Group IB
Inspirational business speaker Ross Bernstein speaks at The Unified Group’s Service Management Forum in New Orleans. The football-themed conference allowed contractors to wear their favorite jerseys on the first day.

The Unified Group scored a big touchdown at its annual Service Management Forum, held in late January in New Orleans. Taking place just before Super Bowl XLVII, in the same city, the football-themed forum was a blowout, according to group leaders and members.

Play to Win

The three-day forum featured Ross Bernstein, an inspirational business speaker, presenting on the first day. “I think that set the tone,” said Jim Bartolotta, managing partner, The Unified Group.

Executive director Julie Bishop spoke highly of Bernstein’s message. “He was incredibly engaging. He took the whole idea of sports, and how to create a winning team and a culture of winners and leaders, and adapted it into what mattered most to us. It was a great fit.”

The second day, titled “The First Half: Creating a Winning Team” took a look at how to put together a great staff, while the third day, “The Second Half: Creating the Ideal Customer Experience,” focused on client expectations, company image, and best practices.

“One of the main things, and this is typical of our sessions, is contractors have a chance to network with and share best practices with people who do exactly what they do on a daily basis and don’t compete with them,” Bishop said.

“So there’s a lot of learning from member to member. They teach each other how to communicate with the field, discover what to do and what not to do, and learn from each other’s experiences so they don’t have to recreate the wheel. The relationships they’re able to establish continue throughout the year and the remainder of their careers.”

Despite the packed schedule, the sessions didn’t drag according to Chuck Ghelfi, operations manager at Cox Engineering Service Co., Canton, Mass.

“The whole way through the forum, it was engaging,” he said.

“I didn’t think you could keep me for three days, but I couldn’t believe it was over. There was so much good information. There were roundtable discussions, nu-
merous scenarios, and so many valuable things. This was unreal. There was a lot of good information exchanged. The financial benchmarks and how to break things down; I went back and broke things down … and it got me thinking. The conversation gets your mind around new things you typically don’t have time to think about.”

At the end of each day, attendees were asked to fill out an evaluation and then, at the end, a takeaway form is filled out and those are used to help develop future agendas to best help serve the group’s contractor base.

“Attendee feedback is critical,” Bishop said. “They are really the ones who develop the agenda.”

Celebrating Success

All in all, this year’s event was deemed a success by the group.

It was even enjoyable for Bartolotta, an avid Chicago Bears fan who was forced to don a Green Bay Packers jersey after being on the losing end of a friendly wager.

“We wanted to add an element of fun to the meeting while still focusing on the task at hand,” Bartolotta said. “Ross Bernstein talked a lot about successful athletes and teams, what the DNA of those teams were, and how important that is in a business structure. We had jersey day, so you were able to bring your favorite jersey and wear it, offered penalty flags, challenge flags, and other fun gimmicks, with the idea of invoking some fun throughout all of it.”

That was greatly appreciated by those who attended, including Tom Barker, vice president at Guardian Environmental Services, Livonia, Mich.

“It sometimes can drag at a meeting and it helped to put some spice and some change in it,” he said. “The format of the meeting and the speaker really kept it going. It’s very difficult for a speaker to keep everyone’s attention for a full day like that, and he did a great job of it. I kept relating to a lot of the things he said and how it related to our group. I thought it was a good format, and we really got a lot out of it because it really related to us.”

Ghelfi couldn’t stop raving about what he’d learned.

“I could talk to you for a good day about it,” he said. “There was a lot of good information, and I met a lot of awesome contractors. I learned a ton.”

Publication date: 3/18/2013