Beth Salinger is the Chief Event Officer and founder of Endurance Marketing Inc. From concept development to planning, execution and everything in between, she leads a passionate team of event managers to deliver memorable experiences for participants. Her clients include the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, Hospital Hill Run, All American Marathon, Fort2Base Race and more.
How did you become an event director?
I didn’t plan on becoming an event director! I have an English and Communications degree and worked in PR right out of college. I hated it and moved into the IT industry—I designed wide-area networks for Fortune 500 companies, mostly banks and law firms. When the tech industry crashed in 2001, I started freelancing for small businesses and one of my first customers was the Washington DC Marathon.
I designed and installed the DC Marathon’s network and it was clear they also needed help with online registration. At that time, there were only a few companies who provided online registration and I chose ACTIVE, so I’ve worked with you guys for a long time.
The marathon also needed help with timing, so I took that on…and then they asked me to manage the expo (which I sold out!). I ended up working for the event part-time and discovered I had a gift for event management. I loved the energy in the running world—people are happy and doing something that’s personally fulfilling.
At what point did you found your own company, Endurance Marketing Inc.?
I was working part-time for the Washington DC Marathon and we had been successful in 2002, our inaugural year. But in 2003, the event was cancelled just days before the race due to the start of the Iraq War. The marathon could not survive financially and it looked like I was out of a job.
Rick Nealis, director of the Marine Corps Marathon, called me and encouraged me to go out on my own. He even offered to be a reference. I took his advice and started Endurance Marketing Inc. in May 2003. That’s where it all started and I’ve grown my company almost entirely through word of mouth. To this day I consider Rick a good friend and adviser.
Who else has been a major influence on your career?
This is my 11th year working with the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon and Jack Staph, the Executive Race Director, taught me a lot about how to be a businesswoman. He always emphasizes that while we’re having fun and making dreams come true, this is a business. Be professional, pay your bills on time, and don’t promise what you can’t deliver. This business-focused approach to event directing has been incredibly important to my career.
I also worked closely with John Bingham, owner of John Bingham Racing LLC and the Chicago Distance Classic. (I was the event director for 6 years before the event was bought by Competitor Group.) John is all about customer service. He doesn’t believe in using “info@” email addresses and posted his personal email on the website. People were shocked that he spent so much time responding to emails, but he was adamant about the importance of that 1-1 interaction. As he said, “people will be loyal for life if you take five minutes to answer them,” and he was right. All the races I direct have my personal email and phone number posted and I try to instill the importance of that personal connection with all the people I work with.
How do you approach your relationships with vendors, sponsors, host cities, etc.?
I don’t have vendors, I have partners. If I have a problem, I want my partners to be just as invested in my event as I am. For example, both the event name and ACTIVE’s name are on the registration system—our success is tied together. It’s a partnership.
Whether it’s a sponsor, partner, charity, client, or city official, it’s important to have a conversation around goals and how to meet them as a team. For example, if a city wants to promote green initiatives, we’ll make sure to operate as “clean” as possible and get sponsors to support that. And if we make a mistake, we fix it.
What are some pieces of advice to offer other race directors?
If you don’t live there already, spend a ton of time in your event cities. Get to know the flavor of the city and its ins and outs. I’m so comfortable in the places I work in that I can give driving directions and restaurants suggestions. You don’t ever want to say “I don’t know” to a question about a city where your event is located.
Treat your very first participant and very last participant exactly the same. You want it to be a great experience for everyone. No one finishes last in our events—we don’t even pull down the pace clocks or water stations until everyone has gone by.
And don’t overextend yourself just to increase numbers. It’s not worth getting an extra $100 to let in one more person, and then the back-of-the-packer who registered months in advance doesn’t get a medal. Stick to your plans and don’t make exceptions.
Finally have fun! Running is fun and we are so lucky to work in this world!
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