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 Food and Tourism Entrepreneurs in North Carolina

A Program of the Center for Sustainable Tourism and the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, East Carolina University

Entrepreneur Profile: Vince Chelena, Founder and President

Entrepreneur Organization: The Management Office, Charlotte

The Management Office (TMO) is an association management firm that acts as a home office providing administrative and tactical tasks for the operations of member-based associations.The tourism associations currently contracting with The Management Office are: the Destination Marketing Association of North Carolina, the North Carolina Tourism Industry Association, the Carolinas Chapter of Meeting Professionals International, and the North Carolina Tourism Education Foundation.


Vince’s Entrepreneurial Traits

Not many businesses in the United States provide this service.In addition to filling a niche by founding TMO, Vince is forward-thinking, has a strong determination to make things happen, researches trends and gathers information from a variety of sources when making business decisions, and knows how to assemble a staff with strengths that complement his own. “I have an eye for hiring people who do things well that I don’t do well,” he notes. And while he says that he is not a ‘people person,’ Vince is a good observer of personalities and human dynamics, which is reflected in his ability to work with many different types of people. He is a passionate businessman, with considerable financial savvy, who strives to have a balanced portfolio in his firm’s programs and activities. He is also adept at growing the associations that the firm currently manages. Most of all, Vince is willing to take risks, and will back up these risks with his own money, which is a hallmark quality of an entrepreneun


Why TMO Was Started

Vince’s previous professional life was in the hotel industry, but after ten years of holding management positions in a variety of cities he decided that he was ready to stay in one place for a while. After choosing to live in Charlotte, he took a year off from hotel management to start The Management Office.


What Inspires Vince

Through envisioning new elements of the business, researching the costs and benefits of them, and implementing new initiatives, Vince enjoys the autonomy of making decisions for his firm. He enjoys the challenges of balancing his historical knowledge of the industry in North Carolina, with the continual changing nature of the industrn

Vince and his family live a mile and a half from his office, in a historic district in downtown Charlotte, where they can walk to local restaurants and have easy access to the amenities and energy of an urban center. The key location allows Vince to avoid commuting, traffic, and other challenges of suburban life. The location of his home and his office were deliberate choices made to provide the environment that he desires, which in turn promotes his productivity and the productivity of his staff.


Positive Aspects of the Entrepreneurial Climate

Because the nature of the business is to provide management services, most tasks can be done from any location. With the exception of the on-site oversight of association meetings, The Management Office can answer association calls, plan meetings, solicit new members, and make strategic and tactical decisions anywhere. In this regard, the political, legal, physical, and community climate of Charlotte does not affect the success of the firm. However, Vince notes that Charlotte is a progressive and growing city, and “by being in that environment, you are basically riding that wave of productivity.” Part of that growth includes the attraction of youthful talent, an element of his business that Vince finds vital. While Charlotte has a critical mass of general business infrastructure such as copy shops, internet service providers, attorneys, etc. that a more rural area might not have, the desire of Vince and his family to be in Charlotte is the way in which the community produces the most influence on the business.


Finding Customers

The Management Office has typically gained new customers through referrals and established contacts. Moreover, the growth strategy for TMO is not necessarily to obtain more customers, but is concerned with the growth of their customers’ success, and with diversification of initiatives within the firm. Vince pinpoints the challenge within today’s climate is in keeping the interests of the firm diversified so that the risk to the business is dispersed


Sustainability Factors of TM

Beyond recycling and reasonable consumption practices, The Management Office invests in local real estate as a long-term financial strategy.Another reason for this is to infuse operating dollars directly into the local economy, specifically in a neighborhood undergoing revitalization. The business operates out of a historic warehouse that has been retrofitted with modern lighting, floors, furniture and equipment. The office is open and full of natural light, which saves on energy use.


Additionally, TMO is involved in the community through its Live After Five program, raising funds for Goodwill, and crime reduction initiatives. From a financial standpoint, the tendency of Vince to search for, anticipate, and react strategically to social and economic trends, not to mention his financial acumen, goes a long way towards economic sustainability.


Focus for the Future

Vince and his wife Kay have their “hands in a lot of things.” The Management Office is not their only entrepreneurial venture, although it is their most visible one. Vince is driven to diversify the ventures of his professional life, and create the next generation of revenue and profitability. With that diversification comes security for Vince’s business, his lifestyle, and his family

Sustainable Tourism | Tourism And Entrepreneurship | Chelena

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