Matt Hollander, CFE, is the general manager-regional vice president, Spectra Venue Management at the Miami Beach Convention Center. He earned his Certified Facilities Executive (CFE) designation in 2009.
How did you get into the venue management industry?
Like so many of my industry contemporaries, I stumbled into this industry while I was a college student. I was a commuter student studying communications at Florida Atlantic University. To enrich my college experience, I quit my part-time, off-campus job and took a position at the student center on campus. That venue had active meeting space and the unique feature of a 2,400-seat performing arts venue that served as a cultural and event center for the regional community. I became completely hooked on the work that we did servicing the events and the users of the venue and took a full-time position with the venue upon my graduation in December 1990. With the exception of a brief pause, I have been in the venue management profession ever since.
What inspires you the most about the business of venue management?
Venue management provides a diversity of activity that I can’t image occurs in any other industry. Every day is different and brings new opportunities, new challenges, and new and interesting people. I have learned so much about so many different things just by being exposed to interesting and diverse events. It makes it fun to come to work to see what the day will bring.
You recently shifted from managing a venue account in a secondary market in the northeast to a large venue in Miami. Other than the weather, what has been the biggest difference?
I truly value both experiences. In the smaller markets, and particularly the smaller venues, you get to be a lot more “hands on” with the staff, the clients, and the events. But this transition to Miami Beach has allowed me to really expand my management skill set. We are in the process of planning a $500 million renovation project and the possible addition of a new headquarter hotel. I am also working with our CVB partners in developing the plans to market the new center. And I also have the challenge of managing through the client pain points that can be a part of a project of such disruptive scale as this renovation. These are very exciting opportunities for a venue management professional.
What do you find most rewarding about being in this industry?
I love this industry, because no two days are alike. And so often a day goes completely astray of what I had planned. This might drive some people crazy, but I thrive in this environment. I never get bored, and there is an excitement that comes with the reality that anything can happen.
After many years in the industry, is there anything that still impresses you?
While the spectacle of live events still really hits me at an emotional level, the thing I tend to be most impressed by is the general goodness of the people in this industry. Though we tend to compete with one another for business, we are also willing to share information, ideas, successes, failures, and opportunities that help this industry thrive. And this is never more evident than the outpouring of support we receive from each other in times of real need. When a tornado ripped through Springfield, Massachusetts, a few years ago, I can’t even begin to count the number of my industry friends who reached out to see how they could help. I saw this repeated after the Boston Marathon bombings and again recently with the challenges in Baltimore. The people of this industry really are amazing.
If you weren’t working in this industry, what might you have found yourself doing?
I tested those waters several years ago when I left the industry for a period of about two years. I knew almost right away that I had made a mistake. I simply can’t see myself doing anything else.
Why did you choose to pursue the CFE?
Earning my CFE was always a personal goal. My decision on the timing of the pursuit of my CFE was quite deliberate. I made it a priority when I learned that the IAVM convention in 2009 was going to be in Boston. The venue I managed in Springfield was owned by the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, and I thought it would be a unique honor to earn my CFE at the conference hosted in their premier venue.
What would you say to other fellow venue management colleagues about becoming a CFE?
Do it—it is something just for you. The process of writing the essay and exploring your values as a manager are truly enlightening. I learned things about myself and my thoughts about our industry that I had previously never thoughtfully considered. The journey is incredible, and the destination is one you will be proud to have reached.
You currently sit on the IAVM Certification Board and have been in numerous volunteer leadership roles with IAVM. Why do you choose to be involved at the highest levels in our organization?
This industry and IAVM in particular have been extremely generous to me. I want to give back and help make sure this amazing organization is thriving for the next generation of industry professionals who will rely on it. I encourage everyone to get involved. Your work is rewarded tenfold, and you meet some incredible people along the way.
You were part of the team that developed and launched the new CVP for mid-level managers. Why do you feel this certification is important?
This certification fills a long recognized gap. Our industry thrives and our individual venues succeed because of the work of the departmental experts that run our daily operations. This certification allows those professionals to demonstrate their deep understanding of their discipline and recognizes the contribution that they make to our successes. Not everyone wants to be the general manager or executive director of a venue. The CVP certification recognizes the incredible depth of knowledge of the middle managers in our industry.
What are you most proud of professionally and personally?
Personally, I am most proud of the amazing young people my children are becoming. They are accomplished, smart, and caring and make me proud every day to call myself their dad.
Professionally, I am proud of the reputation of integrity that I have achieved over the many years I have been in the industry. Sometimes as leaders, we have to make decisions or take actions that are not popular but are in the best interest of the organization. I strive to employ fairness and caring for those around me when making such decisions. My hope is that I am viewed as fair and that it is clear how much I value those with whom I work. FM[ad_dropper zone_id=”67″]