A Bravo Performance
Sandra Rodriguez is the catalyst behind Latin Trade's crown jewel event
"There are a thousand details. You just don't
call up the president of a Latin American country and speak to him directly.
You have to go through 30 people. The same with the CEOs. In the beginning,
I thought I was planning a nice dinner event. Well, there are 350 people
from all these countries coming in for the dinner."
- Sandra Rodriguez
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"What Sandra sets out to do, she does well." "She takes full responsibility. She rallies people. Sandra doesn't pass the baton; she's the type of person who owns things. People are so impressed by her commitment they join in as well. She's a true role model."
- Sabrina Crow
"Sandra never lost her cool during the process. In fact, she expressed joy at how much she had learned in taking on the project."
- Sabrina Crow
"With my schedule, it's important to be focused and organized. That's how I get things done. And I have the help of a great team at Latin Trade."
- Sandra Rodriguez
Early in 1999, Latin Trade magazine's prestigious Bravo Business Awards and Leadership in the 21st Century Conference was at a crossroads.
The high profile, black-tie event that attracts Latin American heads of state, top industry CEOs and, one year, President Bill Clinton had been losing money for four years. Also, the three-person events staff that coordinated prior events had left the magazine.
Freedom International Magazines President and CEO Sabrina Crow called her troops together and asked them the crucial question, "Are we going to continue this event?" A resounding "yes" was the answer and Sandra Rodriguez, Crow's executive assistant, volunteered to coordinate the event. This despite the fact that Rodriguez had never planned a conference of this magnitude and she worked part time for the magazine.
Crow didn't blanch at the idea. Rodriguez had been her assistant for two years and Crow knew Sandra's capacity for getting things done.
"What Sandra sets out to do, she does well," Crow said. "She takes full responsibility. She rallies people. Sandra doesn't pass the baton; she's the type of person who owns things. People are so impressed by her commitment they join in as well. She's a true role model."
Born in Miami, Rodriguez worked her way through college earning a business degree from Florida International University. She went to work for an engineering firm as a project manager, putting together proposals for government bids. But her true passion was the media and she jumped at the chance in 1998 to join the Latin Trade staff.
When she took on the Bravo Awards assignment, Rodriguez said she didn't know what to expect. "There are a thousand details. You just don't call up the president of a Latin American country and speak to him directly. You have to go through 30 people. The same with the CEOs," she said. "In the beginning, I thought I was planning a nice dinner event, well, there are 350 people from all these countries coming in for the dinner."
Coordinating the event meant that Rodriguez was responsible for assembling the award nominations; orchestrating an awards dinner and conference for 350 people; working with the presidents and top government officials of Latin American countries; organizing the Leadership Conference with key speakers; working with the 10 key sponsors of the event including Lucent Technologies, Epson and J.D. Edwards, and getting the invitees to the fabled Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Fla. She also worked with Latin Trade's sales teams and all the outside vendors.
"Latin Trade magazine at its very core is devoted to regional business in Latin America. The Bravo Awards honor the best of what is out there in the region. It represents our readers, heads of state, CEOs of major Latin American corporations and executives of U.S. and European multi-national firms. The Bravo Awards are the crown jewel of what we do," Crow said. "This was a huge undertaking for one person, especially for someone who works part time."
Planning the event begins each February and the Bravo Awards and Leadership Conference takes place in the fall.
"Sandra never lost her cool during the process. In fact, she expressed joy at how much she had learned in taking on the project," Crow said.
So what was the outcome? Latin Trade's 1999 event was its best ever.
"It was fabulous and no one thought we would be able to top last year," Crow said.
That was until Rodriguez did what most customer-focused experts do, she asked for feedback and then acted on it.
"She asked for feedback from sponsors, customers, attendees and the Latin Trade staff. She asked about all the areas we could improve the event. Once she got back the emails, Sandra put them in a notebook," Crow explained. "Then she did what few people do, she acted on the suggestions."
The changes had a dramatic impact on the 2000 Bravo Awards and Leadership Conference held last October. More key speakers from 65 in 1999 to 130 in 2000 were added to the Leadership Conference. Also the setup of the room was reconfigured for maximum dialogue and participation for the discussion on the digital divide and the impact of technology on Latin America. Attendance increased at the evening session from 270 in 1999 to 350 last year.
On the sponsors front, Rodriguez made sure the sponsors' packages went out early and that separate areas were established for their booths at the event.
Participants' booklets contained more information on the sponsors than in past years and internally, Rodriguez made sure to work with Latin Trade's creative team early on so there was plenty of time to conceptualize the event.
Rodriguez managed all of this while taking time out to give birth to her son Christopher the previous April. "With my schedule, it's important to be focused and organized," she said. "That's how I get things done. And I have the help of a great team at Latin Trade."
Once again, the results following Latin Trade's sixth annual Bravo Awards and Leadership Conference were impressive.
"Not only did the event bring in more then $170,000, but it also showcased our magazine and company in the highest light," Crow said.
"Sandra is a model of integrity, personal responsibility and life balance. She is a terrific human being and we are all very proud to be associated with her."