“Seek out the influencers. While we had a clear vision very early on, we were also humbled by the fact that there were industry leaders who could offer a fresh perspective. Additionally, if we could get them on board with our idea, we knew others would follow. So for us, it was a priority to find these future brand ambassadors while also given them the freedom to share their opinions and insight.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Sandy Hammer, co-founder and CMO of AllSeated, a collaborative network for planning events, that recently announced the launch of 360 RealPlans-3D, the event planning industry’s first and only genuine virtual reality capability.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I was a corporate planner for 15 years in the high-tech space and I always found myself expressing my frustration over the fact that I just knew we could digitize our industry and build it into something amazing. So once Uber digitized the taxi industry, that was officially it for me. I knew then and there that it was time to make a change for the better in the event industry, so I found myself an incredibly technology partner and off we went. The rest, as they say, is history.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I travel a great deal so I encounter many amusing situations along the way, but this one is my favorite.
Uber was an early influencer for me at the start of AllSeated and as I traveled more, I began to read about how Uber was really changing the world. I myself became a huge Uber user, having experienced hundreds of rides in my travel.
As we all know, they are waiting for you right in front of the address from which you ordered, and one day, I was busy on my phone texting when I get into the black town car I had ordered. I close the car door and the drive is on the phone talking as we take off. Within 5 seconds, he looks in the rear mirror and says, “Who the hell are you and what are you doing in my car?”
I introduce myself and he quickly hits the brakes, pulls over and exclaims, “I’m not an Uber driver- get out of my car!”
On that note, I always remember to ask the driver if the car is, in fact, for me.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We pride ourselves on our customer service, first and foremost. I’ve always been inspired by the story of the Zappos CEO who arrived to his hotel room very late and hungry, with no room service available. He asked his friend to go on Zappos 24/7 live chat to request the phone number to a local pizza place and within seconds, he had the number in hand without having to ever actually discuss shoes.
I tell this story over and over again to my team, reiterating that they need to do whatever it takes for the customer. Every week, we tell each other our favorite live chat story- and this is why I love my job so much.
We get a lot of nervous couples working on their guest lists with questions. One evening, our live chat support answered a slew of questions for one particular bride, who then asked if she could stay on a bit longer to help her decide on the color of their linens. Our support team don’t necessarily have a background in design but they hear my message “anything you need” and rose to the occasion. The call lasted over an hour and funny enough, I lost my support member as she decided her design skills would make her into a great planner. We also had a happy bride that publicly posted her gratitude all over social media. We even received photos after the Big Day!
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
It’s all about understanding and giving off the feeling that your employees and team are like an extension of your family. Everyone who works for AllSeated has access to anyone of us at all times. Everyone on the AllSeated team feels that can approach anyone else with ideas and feedback.
We learn so much from our staff and build innovation and inspiration throughout the company. I recommend sharing as much as you can even throughout the different departments so that everyone can feel connected.
For example, during our company meetings, we often ask each of the members of our team to take a few minutes to fill the rest of us in on what they are working on, their thoughts, ideas, and any other current happenings from their end.
We also have a lot of fun. I want everyone to enjoy working for AllSeated as much as I love building the company!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
My staff! We could not have built this company on our own. Each member of my staff has played a vital role in building the company. I also realized early on that I needed the industry’s support so my first task when I started out was to locate industry leaders who could be our support system, catalysts for growth and testers. This team, along with some of our early users, have helped build our business every single day.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have been so privileged to have the opportunity to meet a whole new industry and connect with so many of the most amazing people who only want to give. As a result, I am happy to support many of the industry associations, and have even joined a few Boards.
I am honored to have been able to support various scholarships and mentor programs — we even have one named after AllSeated. Education is very important to us as a company, and we thrive when we are able to give back to this amazing industry of event professionals.
Additionally, we’re involved in the Search Foundation, which is a charity that gives back to event professionals facing hardship and tragedies.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
1 — Don’t do your own interviewing — get professionals to help! Personally, I really do love people, so my interviews would be as follows…. person walks in and after an hour, we love each other and have told tons of stories but I actually didn’t ask one question on my list.
2 — Take more interns — they can add such energy to your office. We have found that every intern we make the investment in continues with us in an important position.
My first intern came to us when we only had five people in the company. One of our partners suggested we interview an intern, which seemed like a great idea. I was leaving on a flight afternoon and found myself just prior at the CORT Rental Company trying to select furniture within an hour to make my flight. I told my partner to relay the message to the candidate Rebecca to meet me at CORT. She arrived on time and I had about 30 minutes left and couldn’t decide on a think since my phone did no stop ringing.
In that moment, I turned to Rebecca (who I had just introduced myself to one minute prior), covered my mouth piece and asked if she could make quick decisions. She said yes, as I imagine all 21 year olds would say. I then told her to choose my apartment furniture in 30 minutes and she’d have the job. Rebecca has now been with us four years going strong and runs all our customer support. She can pretty much do anything, and is one of my best decisions ever. What a find!
3. Have a partner. If anyone would ask me what is the number one key factor to successful entrepreneurship, it would be to find yourself the best partner that complements everything about you. It’s easier said than done- it’s really one of the hardest parts of running a business.
We all know the pressure, stress and long hours and that go into running a company. If you find the right partner, the game changes and it can by far, make or break a business.
Daniel is my co-founder, CTO and visionary for AllSeated and I know that as long as we have the two following goals in mind, nothing really mattered. First, we want to continue to prioritize our ultimate end goal- to bring the most advanced technology product with the simplest possible UI/UX with the highest quality of service to our industry. Also, we continue to aim to grow a network of people that can help you accomplish your dream, never wavering from the believe in what you can accomplish.
4. Don’t underestimate the power of belief. I am somewhat of an unusual entrepreneur in that I did go into things a bit blind but I did so with such a deep passion that I could make a change. I believed in it and it all just felt right. I knew it would be difficult, and it still is, but that never discouraged me. In fact, the challenge only fed me more energy. I really believe everyone has it in themselves to become an entrepreneur if you believe it hard enough.
5. Seek out the influencers. While we had a clear vision for AllSeated very early on, we were also humbled by the fact that there were industry leaders who could offer a fresh perspective. Additionally, if we could get them on board with our idea, we knew others would follow. So for us, it was a priority to find these future brand ambassadors while also given them the freedom to share their opinions and insight.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Albert Einstein I am such a believer in this to the point where my three children were raised to eat, breathe and sleep this. And after raising them with this life lesson quote, I now have one child in film school, one in animation and one currently in the Israeli army!!
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this :-)
Sheryl Sandberg, to me, is a modern day superhero who has survived so much, while also helping others survive. She is a true inspiration, above and beyond her contributions to Facebook.