“Reflecting on My First 60 Days at VisitLEX”

Back in June, I wrote about my next career move by taking the position of Vice President of Marketing at the Lexington Convention & Visitors Bureau, aka VisitLEX. Many people questioned me about moving, commuting, going to a smaller city or being around BBN everyday, and wondered if this was really a good decision. Matter of fact, a lot of people were shocked that I would leave my role at the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau. I don’t think they doubted me as a person, but I do think they doubted my decision. But, after 60 days here, I can tell you that I know I made the right decision.

Let me fill you in with what’s going on:

Lexington is much more than BBN. Yes, the whole damn city bleeds blue, but ironically, I met a local business owner this past week who was raised in Louisville and has been in Lexington for years, and he and his wife are die-hard Cards fans – and he’s still in business!!! And while sports is huge in Lexington, due to the enormous impact that the University of Kentucky has, it’s not all we have. Lexington is now getting the local restaurant, craft beer and bourbon scenes, that many cities have had for years. There’s this energy buzzing about the city where local people are transforming old unused spaces into the most amazing businesses, creating distinct tourism districts.

Horses are the new black. Coming from Louisville, I thought I knew horses. But you don’t know horses until you understand the business beyond racing. At this year’s September Yearling Sale at Keeneland, more than 2,700 horses were sold in 12 days resulting in $281 million in sales! And for the second consecutive year, Keeneland has sold the highest-priced horse at a public auction in North America. Have you ever been to a horse farm? Odds are, probably not. Most people haven’t, but trust me when I tell you that these farms are some of the most beautiful pieces of landscape you will ever see. We are currently working on some new initiatives with area horse farms to become more accessible and open for public tours. You’ll actually see where some of the world’s winningest horses live, like American Pharaoh.

Bourbon is still alive. Anyone who knows me, knows I love my bourbon. When I started at the Louisville CVB, and before we created the Urban Bourbon Trail, there weren’t that many bourbon bars in Louisville. Now, if you notice, every bar is a bourbon bar or has some type of bourbon tie-in, coincidence? The bourbon scene is also very much alive in Lexington. We’ve got distilleries, bourbon bars and restaurants cooking with bourbon, plus we’re about 20 minutes away from four of the best bourbon distilleries around – Woodford Reserve, Buffalo Trace, Wild Turkey and Four Roses. Bluegrass Tavern was recently named one of the top bourbon bars in the south by Garden & Gun, and you should definitely check out this story in Condé Nast Traveler, who is one of the leading travel publications in the world, talking about bourbon in Lexington.

Company culture is vital. I have always been a huge proponent of creating the right work environment for staff to succeed. The work environment is just as important as the work itself. It doesn’t confine itself to just your office or cubicle, but it encompasses the entire atmosphere of the workplace like employee empowerment, resources and training. You’ve got to be able to find out what motivates your staff members, because the “one-size-fits-all” approach will no longer work. I now have the opportunity to be on the other side of the table, to help establish a new work environment for our staff to help them become successful in each of their respective roles. And if I can do that, then their success will uplift our organization and the city of Lexington.

Success can be replicated. Marketing Louisville as a travel destination wasn’t hard. The only hard part was trying to decide what story to sell, as Louisville has so much to offer any visitor or convention attendee. There are some destinations that are even easier to market, simply because of the sheer size and popularity of their destination. The real challenge for me in Lexington is whether my success in Louisville can translate to a smaller city, with a smaller budget and smaller resources. These types of challenges are where you find out if you’re really good at marketing, or just a benefactor of your surrounding environment. This is why we, as marketers, get paid to do what we do, and I know we are going to make Lexington one of the top boutique destinations in America.

Lastly, I’ll just say that God continues to show is favor by protecting me as I drive up and down the expressway, and by continuing to open doors that I cannot see. Thank you for reading and following my journey.

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