Profiles in Leadership is a Better Care Weekly feature that provides insight into the bright minds of leaders in the global veterinary healthcare community.
Daniel S. Valha leads operation initiatives for the NAVC’s largest event, Veterinary Meeting and Expo (VMX), overseeing the event operations, customer service and exhibits teams. In his previous roles, Valha oversaw meetings and events totaling $100+ million in room revenue as vice president of global accounts at ConferenceDirect, directed the sales and marketing efforts for 21 hotel properties as Hyatt Hotels divisional director of sales & marketing for the Northeast region. In addition, Valha served as Walt Disney World Resort’s managing sales director, which included leading national sales efforts for all Disney properties, Disney Cruise Line and resorts around the globe with a specific focus on the group and convention line of business.
NAVC: After a record breaking 18,000+ attendees at the 2018 Veterinary Meeting & Expo (VMX https://navc.com/conference), what were the prime takeaways for you and your team as you evaluate 2018 and prepare for 2019?
Valha: While 2018 was an incredible success and represented many record setting achievements, the opportunity to fine tune, enhance and the continued desire to deliver an incredible attendee experience still exists. We are constantly challenging ourselves to create new opportunities for learning and engagement.
NAVC: Our conference has evolved into being much more than we were originally known for. How do we successfully communicate our new NAVC brand without losing the essence of what people love about us?
Valha: That’s correct. VMX has evolved into much more than we even imagined. If you had asked us a few years ago if we thought we would be the largest show of its kind in the world, I’m not sure we would have said yes. Much of this growth has been organic and driven by our attendees. Even as our Programing Team focuses to ensure we are adding topical and relevant learning opportunities, we are continually being asked for more! That’s a good thing. What people love about the NAVC, is the “Community”, not the physical brand per se.
NAVC: You’ve had other heavy duty positions in your career where you were responsible for reaching significant revenue and marketing goals. What’s your philosophy about managing people and projects? How have your previous career experiences been a benefit for you in this new role?
Valha: There is a difference between “commitment and compliance”, regardless of what type of team you become part of, or how large it might be. Creating and supporting an environment of “commitment” will always foster incredible results.
NAVC: What part does customer service play in reaching those goals? How do you instill the gold standard of excellence into your team’s DNA?
Valha: Even though we have a division dedicated to Customer Service, our entire organization lives by a simple credo, “If you hear it, you own it.” As it relates to VMX, I like to think that we are in the business of moments – owning the moment, creating the moment, sustaining the moment. Tom Bohn, our CEO, has championed a culture at the NAVC that embodies an emotional connection to the organization and its purpose. This is carried over by the team in how it interacts with the NAVC Community, which, in my opinion, is our DNA.
NAVC: What set of skills have you found most valuable in achieving success? If you could add one thing to your toolkit to help you in your work, what would it be?
Valha: A former Leader\Mentor always encouraged me with this quote: “Never be afraid to surround yourself with people smarter than you.” The one item I would love to add to my toolkit is a few more hours in the day.
NAVC: What would surprise your colleagues to know about you? Any exotic or exciting hobbies?
Valha: I was born in Japan. My father was in the Military. When he received an assignment for Japan, my mom was pregnant with me when they arrived on station. I am not sure I have any “exotic” hobbies, but maybe being born abroad planted the seed for my love to explore. My wife and I have been blessed to have traveled to more than 30 countries so far.
NAVC: Tell us about your pets.
Valha: We have a rescue dog named Karma. We, or should I say, my daughter, actually adopted Karma from VMX. Karma is a Lab\Boxer mix puppy who seems to have an never ending supply of energy!