Event Planner Spotlight with Sheryl Novak, Owner and President of Inspired Concierge GroupMay 15th, 2018 | hereschicago
What is your name and current position?
My name is Sheryl Novak and I am the Owner and President of Inspired Concierge Group, which also includes Rail Rider Concierge (Concierge services for commuters) and Chicago Hospitality Partners (an on-line support for the Chicago hospitality community).
How long have you been in the industry?
I started my career as a concierge in 1989, at the Hyatt Regency Woodfield in Schaumburg Illinois. I have been a hotel concierge, retail concierge, corporate concierge and business owner. I have done event planning for restaurants and for commercial real estate owners and managers as well as individuals.
Where are you originally from? Where were you born?
I was born in Chicago moving to Harwood Heights when I was 5 years old.
Tell us a little about your current position?
I was the Owner and President of Concierge & Event Services Worldwide, Inc. from 2004 through 2015; our focus was offering concierge services for Class A corporate real estate buildings. We placed concierge in buildings as an amenity offered by real estate building managers and owners to the businesses that leased space. After seeing how trends in business and hospitality were changing, I developed and opened Inspired Concierge Group to better address customer experience needs in corporate buildings, residential buildings and hotels. We also do training, consulting and are available for keynote speaking.
What have you learned being on the job as a concierge/event planner?
I have learned that creativity is the key to success!
Corporate building owners and managers add concierge services as an amenity keep their office spaces leased, to manage their meeting rooms, to enhance their customer service experience and to handle their building events. Our first task is to listen to the goals and vision of each property management company and exceed their expectations at every turn!
Our event planning is different in that we use events to bring a sense of community to each building in our portfolio. We organize year-round indoor and outdoor tenant appreciation events. Our events range anywhere from art fairs, concerts and ice cream socials to holiday cookies and hot chocolate – each with 2,000 to 4,000 people attending. We are always on the lookout for unique goods and services that create excitement for the tenant population. From restaurant tastings, working with local radio stations to host summer lunches to product tastings of well known brands such as Pepsi and Keurig, we work hard to create a calendar of events that will bring people out of their cubicles and into a community setting. At the Illinois Center in Chicago, we are proud to have also used events as a revenue generator for the property management! We created a short term trunk show program to highlight un-leased retail spaces. Not only did this give the tenants unique shopping experiences but gave the empty spaces a liveliness that assisted with new leases! As these trunk shows were asked to pay a reasonable rental fee, this program added up to $40,000 to the building management’s bottom line each year! We also marketed lobby spaces to meeting planners and catering companies for after hour’s meetings and events, managing all the details. This also brought in revenue.
It has been wonderful to create and build a company that brings concierge level customer experiences to our customers.
Do you see any new trends in the concierge/event planning profession?
As much as things change, much stays the same! While much has been written about the concierge profession fading as the internet rises, we know that is just not true! Concierges certainly give directions and make dining reservations, but professional concierges are customer experience experts! In today’s daily information overload, a professional concierge has the knowledge to go WAY beyond the generalities offered by internet search.
What do you love about helping others find the best experiences in Chicago?
The delight they show when they return from an amazing day/event planned with my help!
What skills do you feel it takes to be a successful concierge/event planner?
Imagination and organization!
What are the biggest challenges of meeting and event planning today?
The internet encourages the “do it yourself” approach to meeting and event planning. Educating people on the expert capabilities of a concierge to plan and execute any size or type of event is an on-going process.
What advice do you have for those seeking to secure a job as a concierge and/or event planner?
Be willing to take that first job and learn all you can. Find mentors in your field and ask for advise.
Do you have any Association affiliations?
I was the President of the award winning National Concierge Association – Chicago Chapter from 2006-2016. I took some time off from that leadership role to recharge and to see what I would like to do next. That is how Chicago Hospitality Partners was born. Several things seems to be missing from the professional associations available and a group of hospitality friends got together to design a on-line community that connects, markets, and supports the people in the Chicago Hospitality community. We have no intention of competing or replacing any of the wonderful associations out there, but to be a source.
What’s your favorite place in the entire world?
I have 2 favorites: Anywhere with my family and anywhere in Chicago!!
What is your favorite movie of all time? Why so?
Indiana Jones. Why? Harrison Ford of course!
What’s your biggest goal in life right now?
My biggest goal personally is to be a positive influence on my Grandchildren! Professionally – to continue to be a Chicago hospitality community advocate. To be an influence in the positive promotion of Chicago and a mentor to anyone whose heart’s desire is to be of service in the wonderful world of concierge.
What was your family like growing up?
Harwood Heights is the picture of a working class neighborhood. We had the same neighbors our whole lives and everyone looked out for one another. My brother now owns the home I grew up in and his kids go to the same schools I did!
Have you received any praise or accolades recently?
None recently, but I have been recipient of several leadership awards through the National Concierge Association and was inducted into the Chicago Concierge Hall of Fame in 2011!
What type of music do you love?
Depending on my mood… Led Zeppelin, Leonard Skynard and the Eagles!
What is your favorite restaurant or bar (Personally)?
Being a concierge, my favorites are the places that take wonderful care of my clients!
Besides your professional talent, do you have any personal talents? (Play guitar, etc.)
Have you ever sung karaoke? If so, what song?
As outgoing as I am in my profession, I cannot imagine getting up and SINGING while others watched!
What are you passionate about?
Chicago tourism and customer service!
Are you a Cubs or Sox fan?
What’s your favorite thing about your hometown?
As much as I had a great childhood, Harwood Heights always felt too small – Chicago is really “my kind of town”!
What’s on your bucket list?
I really have never had a bucket list… I really just planned and did things!
If you had to go back to school or learn a new skill, what would you want to learn?
I did not have the opportunity to go to college, but I love learning! I look at something new and then set my mind to find the books or training classes to learn and master it! I taught myself how to create a website and my business social media platforms. I am fortunate to know many smart people who assist me as I go along.
What are your thoughts about Hereschicago.com?
Jim Grillo has been a friend for many years. He is always willing to listen and help. He is the first to introduce people he thinks can help each other. HeresChicago.com continues to be a one of a kind resource for not only unique event spaces but a wide range of industry professionals who are always willing to do what it takes to make a client happy!