John Curran – Chicago Hospitality Professional of the Month (December 2015)December 16th, 2015 | hereschicago
John Curran is Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships for The Magnificent Mile Association. His hospitality background includes time with Choose Chicago, Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co., Concierge Preferred Magazine, Rainforest Café and others.
To learn more about The Magnificent Mile visit www.themagnificentmile.com
Where did your hospitality career begin?
I grew up around hospitality. My mother was one of the first hotel concierges in Chicago and my father was with the city’s chamber of commerce. I was exposed to a great many interesting Chicago events as a kid. After working in public relations for a few years after college I got a job as a bartender at a famous place called Arnie’s and then was all in on the industry. 11 years in the restaurant business was a great beginning.
What qualities to you feel a person needs to excel in as hospitality professional?
To be good in this industry you need to have a service-oriented personality, a desire to function as part of a team, and an eye for detail.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
I am grateful for many mentors and influencers. I have always been good about taking notes of what works for people and (equally important) what does not. My sister, Elizabeth got me going as a young adult and gave me lots of opportunity. I worked for Stedman Graham and he helped me understand that you can be successful in business and still have high integrity. Those were the formative years. I have worked with some really outstanding people along the way and taken lessons from all of them.
What is the best advice you have received?
Hire attitude and intelligence and then train them on the skill. Surround yourself with great people.
What kinds of things really make you laugh?
Groucho Marx or Homer Simpson is a good place to start… dry, smart humor works for me.
What’s your favorite place in the entire world?
The next place! I want to take a year off and just travel.
Do you have any pet peeves?
Prize raffles at events where the poor guy with the microphone has to call out the 6 digit number on the ticket and pray that someone with that ticket is paying attention or hasn’t already left.
What were you like as a kid?
Haha, umm… next question! I was a bit of a mess. I have a great deal of empathy for young men in college who have got no clue. I was totally that kid. Call me a late bloomer but I am happy with how it is going now.
What type of events you plan?
We just finished the 24th BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival – it was my 17th year. That is such a great event to work on. I love that it is driven by volunteers and we all feel like owners. (I say “we” there because I was a volunteer on the event for 16 years – this was my first as staff.) I have made so many good friendships from this event over the years. It feels like family when we all get together each year. And each year we add new people to the volunteer mix and they bring new energy, ideas, and technique. It is just such a perfect environment for people who love event production. It is a massive event and there is so much trust and respect among the team as we all do our job in our area and make it all work for the whole group. We are blessed with volunteers from all over the events industry and that is why it has seen such amazing success. There is not another event like this in Chicago. We bring a lot of joy to people. I love that the TV show is now syndicated to cities all over the USA.
What type of music do you love?
It is hard to pinpoint that one… I’ve seen Springsteen more than 25 times in concert. Dylan, Petty, Steve Earle. But I’m also a regular at Lollapalooza and go for the new bands on the small stages. I play the Classical music channel on satellite radio frequently.
What do you love about planning events in Chicago?
One of the best parts is working with our city partners, for sure. Police, Fire, OEMC, Streets and San… they completely get the value of what is happening from the community standpoint (i.e providing entertainment) but also take a very thorough approach to public safety. I have been part of some really intricate events with federal, state, and city safety agencies. I handled the transportation logistics for all VIPs and media for Obama’s 2008 Election Night in Grant Park, moved foreign dignitaries for various mayoral forums, and helped plan the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup Parade. I really like that behind the scenes work.
What is your favorite restaurant or bar (Personally)?
Sheffield’s Beer & Wine Garden in Lakeview. There is a brick behind the bar with my name on it. I’m a tavern guy not a club guy.
When not working, what do you love to do?
Travel. Send me anywhere. Anytime. I possess the ability to just wander. I like that.
Which book(s) have you read multiple times?
I like the classics. Walden, by Henry David Thoreau is a favorite for the self-reliance message and I go back to passages from that one especially when feeling a bit stressed. Loved Les Miserables by Victor Hugo – Jean Valjean is a dude. More modern lit tastes include The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo. The Encyclopedia of Chicago, edited by Jim Grossman and others, is one I can get lost in for a few hours at any time.
Have you ever sung karaoke? If so, what song?
Guilty. I sang Mustang Sally several years ago up in Canada at a trade show and then just sang Sweet Caroline in a local bar a couple of weeks ago. It happens with the frequency of a solar eclipse.
What don’t people know about you?
Hmmm, I have a FEMA Counter Terrorism Certification. I guess most people wouldn’t think to ask that…
What’s your biggest professional goal right now?
Professionally, I’ve never had a specific long range career goal. I’ve made lots of short-term goals where I spend a few years on a project and am able to bring good energy and find success. There are certainly common threads to all of those projects – tourism, for one. I have always enjoyed the journey in a way that I think of as similar to wading up a small river. I like to keep moving upstream and can’t wait to see what is coming up around the next bend. I have been lucky to find so many interesting things along the way. I try to appreciate the moment. The moment I am in at work now relates mostly to team building and our collective professional development. It has been very rewarding to watch that success begin to take shape.
What are your thoughts about Hereschicago.com?
The industry has used the resources provided by HeresChicago.com now for more than a decade. Jim Grillo is a hall of fame member of the industry and has the best network of meeting planners, venues, and suppliers in Chicago. To be successful you have to be tuned in to what is happening in the industry. Know the trends, the resources, the players, and through these newsletters, web pages and events you will find it all at your fingertips.