Mike Burns, CMP, took up the position of vice president of sales and services for the Oklahoma City CVB in September. Formerly the vice president of convention sales and services at Destination Cleveland for seven years, Burns brings more than 38 years of industry experience. He’s excited to work with the team promoting the new Oklahoma City Convention Center, scheduled to open fall 2020, and Oklahoma City as an event destination with “all of its new assets” including the new Omni, Renaissance and Fairfield hotels.
Connect talked to Burns about his new role.
What will be your role in your new job?
I’ll lead the sales and services team with new hotel development, a new convention center and continuing tourism infrastructure additions and improvements. It’s about changing perceptions of OKC as a meetings destination. We want people to see our city and what we have to offer for large conventions because there’s so much here!
What attracted you to the job?
The opportunity to be part of something new/changing/impactful as we prepare to look forward as a maturing meetings and convention destination. We just opened a 36-acre city park across from the center, and have a new streetcar system and new hotels—the Omni, Fairfield and Renaissance—coming here.
How quickly do you think you’ll be able to catch up with all the development going on there?
Each day is something new as I discover more parts of the community. Right now, it’s about getting everyone aligned; earning trust that, as a community, we can do great things together.
What surprised you about OKC and what will surprise those who've never been?
How friendly the people are, how progressive the city is and how all the stakeholders in the community work to get things done. It also has tremendous amounts of green space and is super clean.
What is your first major goal in this new position?
To become part of the community and understand what success looks like through their eyes and to do my part to get the team all moving in the same direction.
Who are your mentors?
There are so many people who have had a positive influence, starting way back when Jim Altfillisch, a manager with Marriott, gave me my first leadership role opportunity and advised me in the early years of my career. Bruce Harris, founder of Conferon, had a great impact by always challenging me to ask, “Can we do this a better way?”
Others like my colleague Jim Taliak and John Gaca—my boss—greatly influenced my approach to sales. Dave Fuente, my first major customer, always challenged me to excel at thinking outside the box and being customer-focused. Gary Schirmacher, my colleague, customer and my best friend, taught me how to look at things from a different angle. Bob Donovan, with the American Hospital Association, helped me understand the importance of working with, and helping, new people to our industry.
Overall, I have been very fortunate to work with some entrepreneurial-thinking and passionate people. I don’t think there has been anyone I have worked with that hasn’t had some influence in my hospitality career.