In April of 2016, Joey Mouton celebrated his 10-year anniversary at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center after a career as a club manager for the U.S. Army. We talked with Mouton for our Meet the Team series to find out more about his background, his favorite things to do in Columbia, and what he loves most about his job.
How would you describe your key responsibilities as senior special events manager?
I got started at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center in April 2006. I was doing both sales and event management, and they didn't really have a position. Well, they had a position but not a description. It has evolved, but it's similar to what I was first hired to do. I communicate with clients on the sales end, as well as the event management end. My position is sort of a one-stop shop. My initial contact is through the sales end, then I assist them in finding the right room or location, and I also stay with them as the event manager for their event. Clients only have to deal with me and food service. This position was created so our local clients who are not professional event managers have someone to help.
What kind of ups and downs have you seen since you started with the CMCC 10 years ago?
We've been on a pretty good growth spurt. For the past seven or eight years, we've been on a "winning" streak, so to speak, with a lot of good clients and successful events. It is proven in our track record, and in how the building has grown and increased in popularity. Our main focus is customer service.
What do you love most about your job?
It's kind of fun for me because my process has a lot to do with educating people on event planning. Once you get down to the nitty gritty details, clients realize that event planning is more extensive than they thought. My favorite thing is teaching them how to plan for the intricacies of their events. You're planning an event, but how are you going to get them there?
What do you plan to have them do once they're there?
One of the things I pride myself on is being able to convince clients I'm on their side. You are not planning an event; we are planning an event. I'm not going to let you fail. My primary goal is to ensure the event is a success. I have just as much interest in making it succeed as they do.
Do you have any memorable "make it work" moments?
If you've been an event manager, you've had an event like that. We had a 700-800 person lunch for a religious meeting, with a guest speaker. As lunch was finishing up, the speaker was introduced and got up on stage, just as they had begun dessert. He said, ‘Let us all join together in praise and worship.' Well, everybody stood up and started singing and praying, and the wait staff started getting hit and punched [while trying to deliver dessert]. They were feeling the spirit, but the wait staff was getting hurt. The banquet manager said, ‘I can't serve dessert,' and I said ‘Stay low, put them on the table and duck.' It was a total and complete challenge.
What do you like most about living and working in Columbia?
Columbia is a hidden gem. The people here are friendly, and nobody is afraid to give you a helping hand when you need it. The biggest thing I like is that everyone is willing to help you get established, get your feet on the ground, and make your life better and easier. I've worked with a lot of people from the city and from state government, and have gotten to know them on a more personal level. They have the city's best interests at heart.
Sometimes change is hard especially for people who don't like change.
To me, it's great, watching it change. Trust me, living in Columbia for 25 years, I've seen it grow from a little country town to a metropolis that has towns inter-joining with it. But what makes your city different from any other city is its people. Here, they are the friendliest in the world.
What are some of your favorite things to do when guests visit you in Columbia?
I show them the South Carolina State House and the museums. I would take them to the South Carolina Farmer's Market. They hear a lot about Carolina barbecue. One of my favorite places is called Little Pigs Barbecue-and maybe I'd take them to Doc's Barbeque and Southern Buffet to compare. I try to give them a taste of Columbia...and usually there's some kind of festival going on that weekend I can show them.
You've been with the CMCC for 10 years. Why?
It's a great place to work. These aren't just coworkers; they're family. I spend more time with them than my own family sometimes. We're a team; we understand each other. We know each other's innermost feelings. We come together to make everything happen for the common good. We're promoting our city, which we are all very proud of. Everybody is willing to contribute the time and effort. It's a great team environment.