NACMA Board Retreat 2012

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to venture over to Whitefish, Montana, to help out my boss, Christie Anderson, with quite a big deal she had arranged. Starting July 15 and running through July 18, Grizzly Athletics hosted the 2012 National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators (NACMA) Board of Directors Retreat. Wow, what a mouthful. Referred to in the condensed version as the 2012 NACMA Retreat, it served as a great way for me to see the top people in my industry while at the same time getting to visit one of the most gorgeous spots in Montana.

The NACMA Board is made up of individuals from all across the country who serve as marketing directors, or in other equivalent roles, in their respective athletic departments. When I say all across the country, I am not kidding. We had representatives from the west of us (University of Oregon, Boise State, University of California – Riverside), south of us (Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Arizona State, University of New Mexico), and a whole host of schools from back east (Xavier, Kansas State, Northern Illinois, several Florida schools, etc.). Not only were our guests from diverse geographic locations, they were also from diverse institutions as well. While the board contains reps from powerhouse schools such as the University of Oregon and the University of South Carolina, several colleges in smaller conferences such as Embry-Riddle University and the University of New Hampshire also enjoy representation on the board. While geographic location/conference affiliation might differ, the goals for most of these people are shared.

I joined Christie in Whitefish to help her with transportation. Joining in the effort to haul the NACMA board around the area was our assistant athletic director for business operations, Jimmy, and one of our interns in the department, Tim. As we did not attend any of the meetings or do any of the “official” board stuff during the conference, the three of us got to hang out with each other quite a bit.

Tim and I drove to Whitefish at 8am on Sunday (7-15) morning. With me behind the wheel, we made the two and a half hour drive in a University of Montana 2010 Dodge Caravan. We arrived in the Whitefish area and started shuttling people from the very small Glacier Park Airport to the retreat headquarters at Whitefish Mountain Resort on Big Mountain. As the members of the board all came in at different times, the three of us drivers made several trips back and forth between the airport and resort. As most of the board members had never been to Montana before, many of them asked interesting questions as we took them on the thirty minute drive that took them down an old Montana highway, through downtown Whitefish, and then up a big mountain: “Are there really Grizzly bears here? What kind of place is the Blue Moon tavern? General stores really do exist? How hard is it to work for Christie? Do you actually know where you are going?”

Up on the mountain, our guests could not resist taking pictures.

The first day centered mostly around getting the whole board to the retreat spot. As people arrived, we took them to the lodge at the resort where they hung out and chatted. For the first night, a progressive dinner was held. To buy supplies, we transported the 20+ person group to the Whitefish Safeway where they pretty much took over the store. The board members made sure to buy all the necessary items that would make the dinner a smashing success, so you can probably understand why this resulted in the blocking of several aisles, the forming of long lines, and the irritation of locals who probably just wanted to pick up their milk and bread. I don’t think anyone could really complain though…the Safeway had to have made a killing during that half hour of chaos. Tim, Jimmy, and myself all got to participate in the progressive dinner and the food was delicious. I had never had better pigs in a blanket in my life.

The NACMA Board took a picture together on the roof of the resort.

The next day the board strapped down and went to work. The three of us drivers transported everyone from the resort rooms to the lodge where the meeting room was. After getting everyone there, Jimmy, Tim, and myself moved from our previous living headquarters at the Hibernation House to the Morning Eagle, the place where the board was staying. Because the three of us were missing three days of work, we did as much away from the office that we could in the early morning. We then went back into town where we made a trip back to Safeway and then ate lunch at the local Taco Del Sol. Soon enough, it was time to pick up the board after the long day of meetings and take them back to their rooms so they could get ready for the night’s activity. What was the activity you might ask? A beautiful boat ride on Whitefish Lake. With the weather absolutely perfect, we took three boats out onto the lake for a two hour cruise. We had amazing tour guides who told our guests every single detail about the lake itself, the residents who lived in the giant lake houses, the exact value of each property, and anything else they could possibly ask. After the boats docked, we all got to enjoy the breathtaking Montana sunset on a warm summer evening. The whole night was probably the shining moment of the retreat.

Several members of the NACMA Board on one of the boats.

Christie and I after the boat cruise.

The next day started with the same thing. Jimmy, Tim, and I transported the marketers from Morning Eagle to the lodge. We then went to town where we ate breakfast at the Buffalo. We returned to our room and I did work for the rest of the morning and early afternoon. The time quickly came for us to pick up everyone from the long day of meetings. After bringing them back to freshen up and change for the evening, Christie and Nick came up to the room to hang out with the three of us drivers. Now, I have neglected to talk much about Nick in this post. Nick was one of our interns who recently received a prestigious internship with NACMA. In addition, he also earned the opportunity to attend the retreat as well. It was very nice for the five of us to take a little bit of time and hang out. We sat out on our room patio and chatted and joked around for about an hour. That night we took the board to downtown Whitefish where they got to eat at a nice restaurant and then explore the town for the rest of the night. Just like at the lake, you could tell that the attendees were genuinely enjoying themselves and really taking in a way of life that was dramatically different from their own.

After the meetings on Tuesday the business part of the conference was officially over so that meant Wednesday was departure day. We returned from town late on Tuesday night and because I had to transport two of the members to the airport at 4:30am I just stayed up. That initial venture out to the airport signaled the start of a very long day for me. It seemed like I was driving back and forth between the resort and the airport (and many places in between) nonstop. After dropping off some luggage to a couple of the attendees at Whitefish Lake, I made the trip back to Missoula. I dropped off the van at motor pool a little after 5pm and went home. After not sleeping for thirty plus hours I fell down on my bed and slept.

The three vehicles we utilized during the trip.

Although I did not participate in the content portion of the NACMA Retreat, I did get to meet some of the top marketers in the nation who are doing some really cool things at their universities. Most of them were down-to-earth, nice, fun people to be around. I even met a few who I looked at and told myself that I want to be like that guy (girl) as I advance in my career. Although all of the people at the retreat come from different backgrounds and situations, they all battle with the same issues in their respective positions. Because of this, there is a tremendous level of respect shared between every single member of that board. This was something that I envied and really made me want to be on a board of a similar nature in the future. Aside from observing people who I didn’t know, I also got to have a great time with the people who I do know. Jimmy, Tim, and myself worked together to do the best we could to serve our guests and help Christie out. The instances that the three of us got to spend time with Christie and Nick were very worthwhile, especially since I will probably not see Nick for a very long time. The NACMA Retreat was an exciting adventure that I will look back on fondly. Don’t Blink.