As a former business analyst, Walt Martin has all the tools to make his conference planning department at Rowan University profitable.
By Selena Fragassi
Sometimes you search out change and sometimes change finds you. For Walt Martin, it was a little bit of both. As a business analyst at a mutual fund company (and later a volunteer manager and fund raiser for the Boy Scouts), there was something missing from Martin’s career agenda. Naturally, he began the hunt for that missing link. “I used to work in the registrar’s office at Villanova when I was a student there, and I thought it would be nice to get back to a college campus,” he says. Now as the director of conference services at Rowan University, he’s not only found personal satisfaction but the university is also satisfied with him for tripling his office size and the revenue of the department in the last five years. It’s a feat the analyst in him can be proud of, too.
Unique Venues: You’ve had a lot of interesting career choices. How did you first get involved in the collegiate conference industry?
Walt Martin: “I can only blame one person for that: Pete Berol! I first applied for a job as conference coordinator at Eastern University in Pennsylvania [where Berol was formerly executive director of event marketing], but I didn’t get the job. A week or so later, a job opened for an assistant director, and I followed up with Pete again and was hired. I guess you could say my persistence paid off. After a couple of years, I moved to the University of Scranton in the same role and then came to Rowan.”
UV: What about your current role has kept you engaged?
WM: “What keeps me going here are the exercises of continuous improvement. Just when you think you’ve got everything worked out and have systems just the way you like them, you find something that you can do better. That and the fact that every client we deal with is a new adventure.”
UV: What has been your biggest asset for realizing your successes?
WM: “The focus for me is customer service. If we’re delivering great service we’ll get people to come back and we’ll get referrals, and that’s really the cornerstone of our business. I think if you take care of your clients, they are willing to look past any issues, especially on a college campus where communication can be an issue.”
UV: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced over the years and how have you overcome them?
WM: “One thing is following trends as business keeps changing. I think we’re seeing a lot of changes both as a result of what happened at Penn State a couple of years ago and the recession. A lot of what we do depends on people’s disposable income. So as that disposable income dries up we need to find other ways to generate the revenue.”
UV: What is something people may be surprised to learn about you, a hobby outside of work maybe?
WM: “Well I have four sons and twin girls due within the next week. So there’s not a lot of time for hobbies because I have so many kids!”
Since this interview was completed, Walt welcomed daughters Willow Kait and Ruby Jane Martin.
Director of Conference Services,