Elegant Execution

Some business owners shudder at the thought of cold calling. The idea of telephoning total strangers to persuade them to set up a meeting can be terrifying, but Tammy Dickerson thrives on that pressure. When the owner of The Baker Group, a boutique events management firm, followed up on a lead, her unsolicited contact led to a face-to-face appointment with an organization that became one of her biggest clients.

Last year, the Milken Institute, an independent economic think tank founded by philanthropist Michael Milken, was searching for an events manager that would service its 8th annual Global Conference. Dickerson decided to make the call to arrange a meeting.

“Based on the caliber of the client, I knew that I had only a few minutes to ‘win’ their attention on the call and get them to agree to talk with me about the opportunity,” says Dickerson. During the conversation, Dickerson piqued the interest of the Milken Institute contact by pointing out her familiarity with the conference’s venue and her strong relationship with key managers at the hotel where the conference was being held.

Knowing that her potential client was under pressure to find an event planner quickly, Dickerson used the remaining 20 minutes of her call to point out The Baker Group’s experience in serving the needs of other clients who had a very short window to plan a major event. The contact invited Dickerson to come to his office for an interview.

Dickerson knew this presentation would be critical to her business, and being prepared was essential to the success of her firm’s pitch. She pulled together members of her team and event consultants who worked with her agency on major projects similar to the Milken Institute conference.

“Our team developed a list of potential interview questions; we agreed on how we would answer; what role each team member would play in the interview; and, most importantly, how we would close the deal,” explains Dickerson. During the presentation, each team member discussed the strengths of The Baker Group, while focusing on how its service portfolio could meet the client’s needs. By the end of the day, the firm had landed the job.

Today, The Baker Group is in the second year of a three-year contract to serve as the logistics coordinator, hotel manager, and vendor manager for Milken Institute’s annual conference.

Dickerson, 40, launched the Culver City, California-based Baker Group in 2000. The firm, which specializes in total-event management, services corporate, political, nonprofit and celebrity clients. It posted $285,000 in revenues last year and expects revenues of $400,000 in 2006. Dickerson, who serves as president and CEO, says she’s proud that her firm handles a wide range of event-planning services, including logistics, site selection, catering, theme, décor, entertainment, lighting, sound, and collateral materials.

The Baker Group has planned more than 200 events for high-profile clients, including the Coca-Cola Co., Tavis Smiley Foundation, the National Basketball Wives Association, and Morehouse College.

Among the firm’s satisfied clients is John Bryant, founder, chairman, and CEO of Operation HOPE Inc. in Los