The Pixilated Podcast

Ep. 105 | Interview | Benoit Sauvage | Connect DMC

November 04, 2020 Patrick Rife Season 1 Episode 105
The Pixilated Podcast
Ep. 105 | Interview | Benoit Sauvage | Connect DMC
Show Notes Transcript

Welcome to another episode of the Pixilated Podcast. I’m Patrick Rife and today we’re going to talk with Benoit Sauvage, Founder of Connect DMC.

Website: http://www.connecttravelservices.com/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bensauvage/

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Patrick Rife:

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another episode of The Pixilated Podcast. I'm Patrick Rife, and today we're going to be speaking with Benoit Sauvage, CEO and co ounder or founder, excuse me of onnect DMC. So without further do, Benoit welcome to The Pix lated Podcast.

Benoit Sauvage:

Thank you, Patrick. And thank you for having me today. And hello everyone here listening to the podcast.

Patrick Rife:

Yeah, definitely. We're incredibly excited to have you on. You said you've checked it out. So you know a little bit of how we, we typically just have one interview every week. And with it kind of being so few. It's really exciting. We get to talk to new people. Last week's episode was a colleague of mine that is focused in the big event exhibition space like they they manufacture, you know, tradeshow displays and that whole world. And that was a wonderful peek in. And for your part, you're going to be the first person that we've had on the show, that is kind of from the DMC world of events, and travel and hospitality and the whole thing. So I'm super excited for for your, your perspective, and to hear what you've got what you've got to say. So before we get into the questions, though, bobois, if you don't mind, give our listeners a little bit of an idea of who you are, you know, maybe a little bit of your, your personal history and kind of how you came to be where you are today.

Benoit Sauvage:

Well, where to start. So as we discussed, you and I a little bit earlier, I'm French, I currently live in Miami, and I own destination management companies in Mexico in Dominican Republic. A, I think that if I had to talk about myself, and how did I come into the industry, I think that everything started when I was a very young boy. And you know how people tell you that the day you die, you have a little movie that passes in front of your eyes. And I decided to build my life around that movie. And soon my passion was about culture, discovering people from the unknown. The unknown for me was people coming from other regions or the countries or the parts of the world, and all those little differences that make them so special and attractive to me, right. So I was very, very fascinated by the travel industry. A when I was really young when I was a young boy. Then I got the chance to work with my dad actually, he was handling the press trips for the French president and the French Prime Minister over the world. So since I'm 10 years old, I'm carrying suitcases checking leaves and sticking cigars and, and making sure that everything on the operation side of the travel is perfectly delivered. From then I was hired by an American company, which sent me was out of Minneapolis and they sent me to work first in the Mexico in Cancun and the Riviera Maya which is now the reroute Maya. And from there they sent me to the Dominican Republic where I after working with Dan for two years I open Connect DMC, which has been 21 years now. So if you do the count back word Molex, you find out how old I am.

Patrick Rife:

Sure, absolutely, absolutely. Well, that that that's a that's interesting. So Connect EMC are there? What are the are their primary products? Can you maybe tell for some of our listeners out there that maybe don't know what a DMC is? And, and the kind of core services that it provides the role that it plays for for your customers? Why don't you just tell us a little bit about what that is? What comprises the product offerings, and who do you work with?

Benoit Sauvage:

Sure. So DMC stands for destination management company, we're basically the boots in the ground and the men the shadow, where it just the runners that make sure that everything goes well, at DMC helps you to source your hotel, eventually negotiate your contract, that's something that you need. They provide you with any type of transportation to and from your hotel and inside of your venues or tours. And But above all, and I think that's what snippets apart from from many others, we have a very genuine and very good creativity, a we have a team of very passionated people and we like to really bring that wow factor to the client. So everything around the events themselves, everything around jenewein real sustainable experiences, where you can meet the local communities interact with the local Cremonese and create boundaries with them that the last through time and, and for lifetime. Sometimes. You know, we're very big also, on corporate social responsibility, CSR, we known for helping and providing education to remote and neglected communities in Dominican Republic and, and Mexico where we be able to refurbish schools. We also build by stable playgrounds and we just make sure that through education and sport, we can provide the best future of The local community and the upcoming generations, but that's on the CSR side. But mainly, we are a prominent actor that helps you with everything that is transportation towards CSR team buildings. And we also do, as you mentioned earlier, talking about trade shows, we also do everything related to congresses, seminars, and, and large product launches and so on. So basically, we are the boots in the ground that makes everything happen, let's say, on the destination. Yeah, yeah, beautiful line of work. It's a lot of stress. Yeah, I used to use Well, they I don't know, much anymore. But it's an amazing line of work, you really have the passion,

Patrick Rife:

you have success instead. Um, so I guess all that being said, and I'm rounding to a point, specifically, but I think that it would be, you know, like, I think we all understand that hospitality travel, I mean, all industries have been seriously and significantly impacted. Due to, you know, the the global, you know, COVID-19 pandemic, I'd be curious to hear a little bit about maybe some things that, that impact the destination, destination management, you know, the DMC space, if you will, that, that is maybe a little bit different than what other event professionals tourism, hospitality professionals are experiencing. And also, just from an infrastructure point of view, I, you know, you your line of work, you have a lot of infrastructure, right, you need to have a lot of resource like you, I would imagine that your Rolodex of resources that you have access to is really important, because, you know, you don't know what a client is going to ask for needing help with as it comes to it. But I'm curious if there's any, if there are holes in your resources list that have been illuminated, because you know, of, you know, the, the COVID, and the way that it's changing how you have to do business, and how you what you need to be able to offer to help your clients still be successful, in light of, you know, new challenges that weren't there, you know, 810 months ago.

Benoit Sauvage:

Sure about first I would have a message and that would come from the suppressible missions for all of us, I would dare that I've been currently furloughed, or I've lost their jobs. And I always say, this too, shall pass, you know, so. So just hang on tight. And we're almost there. I mean, we all know, and we've seen peaks again. And Funny enough, we just operated a beautiful group in those candles two days ago, and we had one in the Dr. A week ago. So people are resuming, traveling. So I hope say confident everything's coming back. Now, out of every crisis comes opportunities. And I think that he was a great reset, somehow, I'm just talking on the company side and not talking about the devastation that the pandemic has brought to the world, on both outside and the economic side. But on our company, we stand ready to sit down analyze where we were, where we were heading. And if we wanted to adapt a little bit our message in our products to our clients. So yes, we did a very deep dive, actually, after reducing all the costs we could, which was the first step that everybody took, then we did a very deep dive on. Okay, where are we after 21 years? And where do we want to be? And what do we want to do? And first, of course, as you mentioned, well, we started launching new products, because you need to adapt to the current situation you're facing, whatever the situation is, this time being dependent. And so we acquired the franchise for virtual team buildings, that it's absolutely great. And we created our own sets of triggers. So we helping Association such as site MPI, and, and many more, and we're also working with corporate clients, and we're working with hoteliers. So we try to help them to bounce back with their staff. Everybody's working from home. Everybody's working, we recruit ferntree yet and keep building. We extended that where normally when you have a team building or a trivia, you know, you win some points and you have a winning team. And then what? So instead of doing that, we took out of our resources, money and we went to supermarkets, and we bought food supply for poor community and neglected community, again, leaking that into CSR. So during COVID, you will see us with gloves and masks and bosques. And each box was a food ration for a family. And we were just went through small villages and small villages. And we were giving away a food ration to families. So again, I think that out of each crisis comes in opportunity. I think that he was the time to bounce back as a company as collaborators but also bound back within your clients within the local community in the international community. So I think everybody got closer somehow. And funny on odd but let's say Funny enough, through virtual meetings like we're doing, we ended up maybe touching more people than we would have normally, when you go to a tradeshow, you attend a cocktail, you're going to check what 20 3050 ends and, and you end up at the bar with the good friends that you have and talking about the newest things about your son's and your wife's and everything that happens in your life, then out of a certain virtually where we started, we started being exposed to way more people and maybe touching and more people. So in our line of work, yes, we adopted Yes, we created new services that we would not have thought of creating before. But also, I think we did a very good reset within the company. So we reworked everything that was marketing, and digital communication. We're redoing and finishing via our website, we redid everything that was brochure, the way we answer our FB RFPs. And the way we contact our clients. So we had a very beautiful and comprehensive and large set of standards and processes. And we adapted that, again to the new crisis. And and I think that's about it, but I think that he was he was very good to, to know where we stand in what we wanted to do and where we wanted to be in the next 10 years. And anyways, the perfect time to do it.

Patrick Rife:

Yeah, yeah, I mean, we, we traced a very similar path to to the way that you guys assessed it. Like, obviously, the the first order of business was, you know, how do we how do we reduce burn as much as possible? And then the second one was okay, like, what are we going to? What are we going to productize, in the short term to stay relevant and to keep the conversation going? What are we going to productize in the long term to actually make sure that we're using this as an opportunity to restructure our whole value prop is how we go to the market. And then, you know, probably most importantly, what we did was, you know, aside from redoing everything, like you said, whether it's, you know, lead systems, or its marketing, or its website, or its content, and messaging and branding, like, we did all of that, but we also just, we recognized that a sea change was going to take place in every industry no matter what, and that the events industry in particular is populated by so many small companies. And for us to, you know, this, the the silver lining the opportunity here, right is to make sure that the events industry is better on the back half of it. And that just means like, you know, refining, renewing, reimagining repurposing, like cutting, cutting the fat of things that don't make sense anymore. And I think, like the way that we're most powerful is by having a common conversation, right. So that's where we really went heavily into producing these, these daily podcasts and videos, because we were getting so much information from our clients that we just were like, we're not like, I'm not a writer, but I can talk. So it was like, Okay, here's a really easy way for us to disseminate where, and it's not like, this is what we think it's just, this is what we're hearing, this is what we're gonna say it out loud, right? So that way, you guys hear it too. And it and it makes you think things and if you object, you can say like, I think you're wrong, and then we'll talk about your point too. And then, you know, the other step was, was circulating and creating that industry industry trends report, which we've had like, over 600 entries. So and, and so now it will be taking all of that, and we're working with a writer that is compiling it and turning it into like a really, you know, like valuable authoritative document that, you know, like I'm gonna send back to you, but what I'm gonna say here, like, I hope you find value, share it far and wide with anyone you think may find value, we'll probably do this again really soon. And re re invite all the people that had engaged with us before. And it's and it's, you know, we really see it as community service, we're just trying to make sure that the conversation is as accessible and as inclusive as possible. And the feeling really, that if we do that, and we make good products, and we use it to inform ourselves that like there's going to be there's going to be a reprise for all of us. And that's really the spirit of how we've been conducting ourselves is just make smart products. Like, don't spend money where you don't need to and like be a good ambassador to your community at all costs.

Benoit Sauvage:

Well, we see you like definitively and that's what we've been doing. That's the most important and I think the most important there was communication. You need to hear from anyone you need to absorb what everyone has to say. And then try to direct properly the conversations for as you mentioned earlier, a better industry. You know, and and that's Yeah, that's very key. Also to more and more is speaking engagement. So all my second art because of many hats, but one of my hats also I sit on the international Board of Director for site, I have the chair for Latin America and the Caribbean. And I also add the site, a sustainability committee, I have an amazing team of very passionated people on sustainability. And we did so much through side and to also connect BMC or company on sustainability that we got to a level where now we can research we can measure, we can report we can improve all our impacts just enable the impact. And then we have a link between a system that we we used and something, it's an amazing system to help us on all those phases, right on calculation, and then on reporting. And we signed the agreement with the United Nations with the climate change Secretariat. And we signed the pledge, which is the pledge for Climate Neutral now, which helps us to offset all the carbon impact that we have or that our clients have on our destination. So now we are at the level where we can not only guide our clients on adding a carbon neutral journey for their for every single event that they have, but on top of it to help and project in countries in development that are working towards sustainability, that it's a win meal that they need to water down. And we have all those problems, solar energy, we are all those projects. So we really linking a better tomorrow, a more sustainable tomorrow, within the event industry. And we've been having a lot of fun doing that, because he has to be fun, right? You need to have the passion for it. Yeah. And and we've seen our clients being just so interested, and it doesn't cost almost nothing. But now you can put that label on your company saying that I am carbon neutral. So it's big. Again, it's opportunities that are raised out of the COVID. Yeah,

Patrick Rife:

yeah. So um, you, you mentioned cite a few moments ago and actually cite as somebody that is kind of there, like on my on my radar. For someone for an organization that we need to approach. I know that one of my colleagues has had some conversations with a specific site chapter, if you will. But I don't think they really come up here on our podcast quite yet. But it's a pretty impressive and interesting organization. Would you mind? You know, like, since you identified yourself as an ambassador for them, why don't you just kind of, you know, give it give a little overview about what what site is and its mission. Alright, keep throwing me under the bus there,

Benoit Sauvage:

sir. So psych is it of incentive travel executives, a, it's an association. That is I think we right now have 31 chapters, we are world wild. It's a great, great Association. Before the pandemic, we were close to, I think 2.62 point 7000 members, sign really drives and leads, it's the i in demise. It's the incentive section of the meetings, incentives, conferences and events. industry. And site is a great source of knowledge. It's an amazing source of knowledge and education, so many webinars and education and certifications you can take. And also site is the place where you can meal with insight and do business with your, your, your your site, the site members. It's an amazing association to join. They also have a great young leader section, I would say where just a quick data, I think that very soon 50% of our industry will be millennials. So it's it's it's a segment of slide that talks to millennials and in the upcoming generations. So basically, everything that is around incentives and any engaged directly every single stakeholders. So you have people from the DMC world, the airlines, the cruise lines, from the buyers perspective that is accompanied by your third party. So it's a very inclusive and very good association to join. Definitely, yeah,

Patrick Rife:

that's awesome. That's awesome thing. Thanks for sharing that. I appreciate it. So, you know, all of all of you know what we said is what we've said I'm curious for you personally like what what is on the horizon right now, you know, I know that we're in this you know, hurry up and wait isn't really an effective way to describe it right now so much is like, you know, you know, make a rough make a rough reservation for something in the future and have a contingency plan around when we're going to abandon that date and kick it kick the can down the road, which makes you know, obviously it makes it makes doing business challenging, right to just kind of have the the start date be very ambiguous and always Think specifically for you, right? Like the start date in Dominica versus the start date in Cabo versus the start date and and to loom are probably different, right? There's there's so much local influence, whether it's, you know, from a legal perspective, whether it is from like, you know, a health perspective, like an outbreak perspective, whatever the case may be. So all of that being said, you know, like, what's, you know, what's on your radar? How are you kind of approaching, continuing to, you know, to push forward, but having so much that's up in the air that really makes setting definitive plans challenging?

Benoit Sauvage:

Well, at first, as most of us did, we went through all our aging safety protocols. And we have very, very strict particles that we put in place, we needed some details about them, we informed our clients again, we're going back to communication, you need to communicate, you need to explain to people everyday, everyday what you've been doing, and when we started seeing the business slowly resuming, but surely, and I would say it started around a month ago. And we started having friends and families and train stations. And then finally now we operate in groups. So again, he was documenting everything and communicating around it. So we started also doing like site inspections. Very simply, our Director of Sales and Marketing, just went to wasn't the Dominican public wasn't a little Cabos and just walking around with his phone and the sales director of the hotel and showing you know, what the protocols are, what he's open, what he's not open, what you can do in our safe is to travel because it's very important to say that with all the protocols in place, I think that there's no other places than a plane or a hotel or being in one of our buses or on a tour where you're the safest you're safer there than going through your own supermarket or the corner of your of your house because everybody is so much involved into the safety and hygiene protocols that it makes it very safe to travel. And so I think that was the part where we really had to show people what we were doing and again fortunately or unfortunately everything that is virtual really helped because I don't have a certain you can showcase to everybody what is really going on in the world and and how the destinations are working so hard on making sure that they are perfectly safe for every single travelers. So the Dominican Republic reopen Los Cabos Mexico reopen so so basically, we just were waiting on on the people to understand and that they can travel that it's safe to travel, and they can resume with the with their business. I wouldn't say as usual because it will take time to resume as as business as usual. And do we want to go back to as business as usual? I don't know. That's another big big question. But definitively I think that to answer also your question, the worst either wait, things been very hard on all of us not knowing what's next, or when is next? And and now slowly, but surely we see improvements and we see reopenings Yeah.

Patrick Rife:

Awesome. That's good info. Cool. Well, listen, we're starting to get to the end of this, but I thought of, I have a like a few kind of fun. Give us a little bit of an idea about Ben walk questions, I hope you'll you'll suffer through for me. So first thing is, and feel free to decline if you don't like the question, but they're I mean, they're not that they're not that sensational. But, you know, like, are you a reader? You know, like, favorite books, or maybe not favorite but but recent book that resonated with you something along those lines?

Benoit Sauvage:

Well, funny now, because I haven't read it. And it's a book that came out a couple of years ago thing, but I just read Sapiens. Okay. And I think it was very good overall humanity. And where are we going? And I think the big question, when you look at sustainability, where are we and where are we going? And where do we want to be? So it resonated a lot with me. And no,

Patrick Rife:

so I read the brief answers to the quiz, which is kinda on the same line a little bit, but it's more on the science side. And he was very interesting. I think that's the last two books that I read. All right. All right, perfect. So you told me when we started that you are your French descent, and clearly you, you work in Mexico, and you spent some time working in Dominican Republic. So what I want to know is when you step off the plane in each of those three places, what is the bite? You know, like, what is the thing that you want to eat that you like, like, I'm back in France, right? Like, I gotta have this or like, I'm in Mexico, I gotta have this or I'm in Punta Cana.

Benoit Sauvage:

All right. Well, first, if I go back to France, everything is amazing. Just fine. It's like, I go back to France like to mount the Euro mount. altitude altitude, and again, like 10 kilos. It's like just looking at the case. I'm like, blowing. Now the first thing that I want to do when I get back in France is go down to garritan. Surf because I'm a surfer. And it's some of for me the most beautiful waves in the world. So that's, that's something that really dear to my heart, but foodwise France, I can't tell you because everything is good. Now, if you go down to Tyco to to Mexico, and there's a place that I really love, it's a very local place, but it's a local taco place where they have for me the best tacos ever. It sounds very easy to say Mexico taco, but yeah, I'm sorry, those things are of the chart, I mean, really have to have those cycles. And if you go to the Dominican Republic, where there's a there's a there's a what they call the CIO, which is a it's an red snapper, that the deep fry, it's fresh just from the ocean, curl it, open it put it down on the barbecue or deep fried with with the cocoa stoners, which is a two prong table. It's kind of matched and then it's fried. It's absolutely amazing. So I think that would be my three favorite dish. I mean, my two favorite dishes and then friends. I just, I just seek any for amount enough.

Patrick Rife:

Everything. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. That's I was recently at with my family and into loom for a nice, you know, for whatever a week or something like that. And, you know, like, it's all about finding all of the taco stands, and then figuring out like, which one is the one and I found the one that was clearly like the community favorite. And we stayed in until noon proper, like, not at the beach. So you know, like, you finally find that spot. And I don't think we ever deviated from eating from that place.

Benoit Sauvage:

You know, you have those ladies that cook from home. I mean, so it's really all made cooked. And they sell it out of the trunk, they just open the trunk and decide it's in

Patrick Rife:

the trunk. Yeah, or the ice, or the bicycles with like, the trays on the front of them. One of those guys actually saved my butt. I was out I'm a runner, and I was out running through kind of like, the less populated roads and you know, like, most houses in Mexico have like a bunch of dogs that are kind of like house dogs. And they came out and I don't think there's a lot of, you know, big white dudes running around until loom. And they like looked at me and just like started coming after me. And all of a sudden, like, like, I stopped and they stopped. And on cue this dude with like, on a bicycle with like a tray of rain came by. And as he passes by, I just started running next to him. And he's like, looking at me, and I'm looking at him. And we finally got far enough away and I was like Muchos gracias Adios. took off running.

Benoit Sauvage:

Actually, it's funny enough to say that. But those dogs in these communities. It's the same in the Dr. It's the it's the same in many, many countries. They will never attack you. Yeah, ever. Yeah, they are way more scared that you that you have to be scared.

Patrick Rife:

Yeah, yeah, with a lot.

Unknown:

Yeah, they do. But

Benoit Sauvage:

I don't want to resume the Mexican food because I have so many Mexican friends and I'm gonna make so many enemies there. I don't want to resume to tacos. But that's the first thing that came that came to my mind. Now, if we can meet and talk more food and beverages, you have some cocktail mixers in Los Cabos, which is out of this world. I mean, they invent things and the taste of it and just sitting on the relaxed sunset, looking at the ocean, and then drinking those. It's a miscount based and, and it's kind of all amazing, too. So yeah, we like we like good food and good drinks. Yeah.

Patrick Rife:

Well, Bella, hopefully at some point in the future, we can run the zoo, somewhere in Mexico and eat some tacos and sit mezcal together. It will be my pleasure. Hey, so listen, um, that brings us to the end. But before we go, I definitely want to make sure that you let everyone listening know how they get in touch with you if they want to plan an event for their their corporation or organization, their association. How do they do that? And yeah, just just all of the info on how to get in touch with you.

Benoit Sauvage:

Well, it's pretty easy. You can find me on LinkedIn. So I'm Ben Savage. People can be many Ben. So I'm Ben savage on LinkedIn. You can find me there. You can look at our website is www. sdnc.com. Or you can send me an email at Ben at CTS. dmc.com.

Patrick Rife:

Perfect, perfect. Ben, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to chat with us. This has been an illuminating conversation also, like really great to get a chance to connect with you and and meet face to face.

Benoit Sauvage:

Thank you, Patrick. The pleasure was all mine.

Patrick Rife:

Alright guys. So that's it for another episode of The Pixilated Podcast. Please take some time go track Ben down, track his company down see what he's up to send him some business if you can. Also, if you could before you go. Please remember to rate review and subscribe. Your reviews help us find more listeners for our podcast and your subscription ensures you're notified each day when we We publish a new episode. So until tomorrow