By Caroline Brooks
If weathering a hospitality business through the recession doesn’t demonstrate talent, a reputation of success at Michigan State University, in the local community, and in the hospitality community certainly will.
On May 19, the who’s who of hospitality professionals in the state gathered for the Michigan Meetings + Events Hall of Fame awards ceremony to honor the 2016 inductees. Among them, a Broad College of Business alumna and current staff member: Shana Killips, director of sales at the James B. Henry Center for Executive Development and the Management Education Center.
Killips isn’t just any employee at the Henry Center: she was one of the first hired when it opened in 2001. Over the last 14 years, Killips has poured herself into growing its business to what it is today: a world-class expert in meeting technology and event services, and the only dedicated conference center in mid-Michigan.
A founding member of the Michigan State University Women’s Networking Association, Killips is committed to grooming the next generation of hospitality graduates entering the workforce. She mentors hospitality business students and launched a sales intern program to give them professional experience, and was given the Diamond Award by the Michigan Society of Association Executives for her outstanding achievements.
Here’s what Killips has to say about her own path, changes to the hospitality industry over the years, and what she thinks it takes to be successful.
Graduating from Broad with many possibilities in the hospitality industry, what made you want to go into the sales side?
The School did not offer a hospitality sales course when I was enrolled, and I hadn’t considered it an option. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to interview with the Ritz Carlton Hotel Company my final semester. I explored placement options within the organization and, together with their human resources department, identified sales. It was a natural fit, and I’ve been in sales ever since. Now Broad offers a hospitality sales course, so students have an opportunity to consider this side of the industry, and I’ve seen interest grow with our interns and my mentees.
What have been the biggest changes in the hospitality industry and market since you entered in 2001?
Meeting planning has become better recognized as a career. It is now recognized in- and outside the hospitality industry. There are more courses offered in degree-granting programs and more continuing education programs available for professionals. Meeting planners in Michigan have embraced the Certified Meeting Professionals (CMP) designation accredited by the Convention and Industry Council. This has helped to standardize our industry and means that we are interacting with well-educated professionals with a lot of meeting planning experience.
You’ve been with the Henry Center since its grand opening. What have you learned over the years that got the center to where it is today?
I have learned the importance of developing trusting and loyal relationships: with our clients, partners, and industry peers. The Henry Center values relationships above all else. We discuss this openly and regularly when making business decisions. We will not compromise a relationship for a self-serving purpose, and our relationships helped us weather the recession in 2008/9.
What do you feel is the best attribute someone in the hospitality and events business can have?
Adaptability – it’s inherent that things will change before, during, and after an event. The stakeholders of an event are diverse in their personalities and needs; each event is different, each day is different. You must be able to adapt with the environment, your clients, and your team.
Read the Michigan Meeting + Events feature on Killips alongside other Hall of Famers.