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Gung-Ho for Winning Corporate Wars
Motivational message rife with military zest
A group of military fighter pilots descended on Seneca Niagara Casino on Thursday with bullhorns in hand as nearly 300 Western New York business owners and managers convened for Entrepalooza, an annual motivational and strategic gathering.
The main event featured team-building exercises by members of Afterburner, corporate trainers who draw on their mixed military and business backgrounds to apply elite combat tactics to the corporate world.
The session was led by Jim "Boots" Demarest- an F-15 instructor pilot and mission commander, Cornell Law School graduate, real estate developer and martial arts school owner - plus a supporting "team-building-consultants."
In addition to the appeal of their energetic, jumpsuited presentation amid the heart-pumping sounds of loud music and fighter jet engines, the Afterburner team prides itself on teaching pragmatic skills that participants can take back to their own corporate "battlefields."
"Our tools are very practical and immediately useful because they're simple, they're scalable, and they're combat-proven," Demarest said. "Because the tools are centered around business process improvement, they cut across all disciplines.
The team's three-hour workshop encompassed its "flawless execution model," based on the military concept of "zero tolerance for error." It focuses on strategies for planning, briefing, execution and debriefing, which include defining clear goals, identifying threats and resources and planning for the unexpected, as well as learning from previous mistakes and rolling those lessons into future planning.
Tina Perfetto and Diane Cosnyka, managers at K-TECHnologies, a contract manufacturer in Hamburg, said they were energized by the event. More important, the women said, they were grateful for what they could learn about themselves in the Entrepalooza setting.
"We don't know what we don't know," Cosnyka said. "We think we're pretty good, but there's always room for improvement."
Angie Kleeh is chief executive officer of Triple Track HR Partners, one of the events co-sponsors.
"We're all working so differently today, we need new strategies and tactics to improve our performance and our employees' performances," she said. "People have always left [Entrepalooza] with new energy, new focus and commitment."
The daylong event also featured breakout seminars, such as those on energy savings for businesses by EnergyMark LLC and the importance of social media by Time Warner Cable. Warde J. Manuel, University at Buffalo athletic director, gave a rousing luncheon speech and, by the end, had the crowd on its feet chanting, "Let's go, Buffalo!"
Entrepalooza was co-sponsored by the UB Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Alumni Association, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership and the Buffalo Niagara Sales and Marketing Executives.
Among those attending was Shawna R. Dosser, president of BWI Health Promotions and a member of the three main sponsoring organizations.
"It's a great opportunity to learn how to work together on a corporate level," she said. "We all work with our teams, but it's interesting to see how leaders work with other leaders."