ecn's wILLIAM f. nIXON, sR. lIFETIME aCHIEVEMENT
Midwest regional Mngr., Nth Degree
ECN’s William F. Nixon, Sr. Lifetime Achievement
MORE THAN 30 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY
D'Anna Hurley, marketing project manager, Nth Degree, Duluth, Georgia
This award program asked the question, “Who’s On Your Crew?” The person we are nominating for this award is more than a figure on our crew. This person is a true industry legend and one of the original Nth Degree team members. In fact, he was on the team when the company was known as I&D, Installation & Dismantle, Inc. Gary has given his entire career and his life to Nth Degree–nearly 38 years. He helped build the foundation, he helped forge the culture and he led the way to unprecedented service standards not only in Chicago where he is the Midwest regional manager, but across every Nth Degree touchpoint and every city worldwide where we operate. Gary is an influencer and a change-
maker, but only when the change brings value to clients and benefits the team he has built.
Early on in his career at Nth Degree the original owners had great confidence in Gary and his ability to go into hard situations and environments and add stability and strength for Nth Degree and our labor operations. Gary was strategically placed in some of the most contentious union cities with the belief he could mitigate the situation and make it a viable place for Nth Degree to service their clients. Some of these cities were Boston, Miami, Las Vegas, and Chicago. His presence and ability to effectively work with the unions secured the presence that Nth Degree currently has in each of these cities today.
Gary managed the biggest shows in Chicago with grit and determination from the very beginning. He navigated the early years and challenges that came with this changing market and forged relationships that continue to play an important part in the company’s success. These long-term relationships are based on mutual respect with the unions in Chicago, the electricians at McCormick Place as well as the other unions and facility employees that collectively attribute to the success of tradeshows in Chicago and the Midwest in cities such as Detroit and Indianapolis. His in-depth understanding of the union regulations in Chicago and facility rules throughout the region, allow him to methodically and thoughtfully plan, manage and execute our customers exhibits. He can take large complex projects and shows like the NAIAS and break them into manageable pieces.
Gary is the embodiment of Nth Degree’s core values and these are the guiding principles that he uses as a leader. He has cultivated a cohesive group of individuals who work for him and Nth Degree to continually grow and produce as our clients’ projects have become more sophisticated and high-tech. Gary has always put clients first and does whatever it takes to navigate challenging (and ever-changing) city conditions while advocating on the client’s behalf with a firm and steadfast approach. Nth Degree’s Chicago operations strength and delivery to our customers has never wavered. As a result, our clients’ fears and uncertainty of working in Chicago are minimized as soon as they work with Nth Degree in Chicago.
He has garnered respect from industry associates, leaders, clients and team members alike. Whether it’s negotiating a special request for a customer or ensuring that every rule and regulation is considered long before install, Gary has a way of ensuring everything and everyone are on the same page and that the client is always provided with best-in-class service and care.
These accolades are also possible because Gary has spent his career identifying, mentoring and grooming new leads and project managers to not only add to the strength of Nth Degree’s Chicago market, but to our company at large as these leads travel worldwide for top customers. Gary is a company man and has provided the same leadership and mentoring to younger city managers throughout our organization and provided mentorship and advice to dozens and dozens of Nth Degree team members over the years. He is truly devoted to the men and women who work for him as well as the clients that entrust their projects to Nth Degree.
As a testament to Gary’s leadership and his sense of responsibility to the team he leads and the company he works for, he has built a crew of 40+ leadpeople with an average tenure of more than 20 years. Nth Degree Chicago has the deepest labor resources of all our base cities and this is a product of the 30+ years that Gary has spent at the helm of Nth Degree’s Chicago operations. If you survey the leadpeople and project managers who work for Nth Degree Chicago, they will say they have stayed because of Gary and how he has looked after them. Gary may not outwardly show it, but he takes the personal lives and situations of everyone who works for him into account. He will sacrifice and work longer and harder if it means that one of his employees is able to be with their family or can attend to a personal commitment. He works tirelessly to provide each person with enough hours every quarter to retain their health coverage. For Gary this is one of the most important things he does each year for the men and women that work for him.
He has helped create an environment where people flourish through positive leadership, unmatched grit and passion and through organic mentorship where he imparts his years of knowledge to every team member he leads. He also encourages other leaders on his team and in the company to foster this culture of mentorship. His knowledge is tapped into and appreciated by countless people on our team and in every department. Gary’s passion for what he has done and his accomplishments as part of our organization, truly shine through the lens of how much he cares about his team, the company and the clients we serve. He builds people up and helps everyone succeed by managing people so that they can do their best work. Because of the loyalty he shows to the people who work for him, he can lead in very difficult situations. The tradeshow environment is hard and takes a physical toll on the men and women who work on the show floor. He motivates them each day to come to work and to provide the level of service he has dedicated his life to. Gary is highly intelligent and lets integrity lead in the decisions he makes daily on behalf of Nth Degree.
One example of the heart that Gary puts in to his work dates back to a dark day in 1985 when Gary was the city manager in Las Vegas and his assistant city manager, Al Stuart, was involved in a car accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down and unable to walk. Gary was in the hospital every single day. He went to the hospital not only to provide support and encouragement from a personal level, but to ensure Al that Nth Degree fully supported him and that he still had a job with our company when he was ready. After intensive rehabilitation, Al did come back to work for the company until his eventual retirement.
Through unmatched dedication, knowhow and the ability to observe, listen and think before he acts, Gary has become the standard by which others are measured. In fact, in many ways, he is a hero-like figure in our company. Much like a character in an epic story, Gary has touched the lives of so many that anyone that has worked for Nth Degree or that has spent time with Gary, has a story about him. Over the years, some of these stories have become company lore, but mostly they serve as examples of how to be the best team member you can be. How to live and breathe your work, how to do whatever it takes to make certain the client (and the client’s success) is the focus and how to build a career and excel in a company with dignity and grace.
One story or what has become a company fact, is related to Gary’s exceptional memory and how every detail in his mind is communicated and leveraged to ensure nothing is missed and everything runs like clockwork. Gary can remember the details of a client’s project from the year prior or often several years prior. He consistently amazes clients with the details he is able remember about their projects, needs and preferences.
The commitment Gary has for Nth Degree’s clients is unshakeable and has been a key part of why so many of our longest and biggest clients stay with Nth Degree. He studies each job before a show ever begins to install to gain the most knowledge he can before assigning the right talent and resources. He prides himself in the fact that so many of the customers that come to Chicago know him and will take his direction when planning labor calls, start times, etc. Gary can explain and reason with a client to help them understand why his approach will be most effective. One of Nth Degree’s top project managers tells a story of how Gary insisted on six leads for a job when he was sure it should be eight. Knowing the job and the client, Gary trusted his instincts and provided six leads. The project went flawlessly coming in under budget and solidifying the relationship with the client that has lasted more than 25 years to date.
This wouldn’t be a true lifetime achievement award without mentioning that Gary is simply a great man. His career is a reflection of his character–he is unwaveringly honest, he is steady and reliable, and he is truly selfless. He works hard for his family and for his team and puts everyone else first. Nth Degree would not be the company it is today if this great man hadn’t dedicated his career to our company. We are eternally grateful for having known him and worked alongside him.
But, don’t take our word for it. Here are just a few of the words our team used to describe Gary: Highly intelligent. Positive. Funny. Hall-of-Fame Nth Degree player. Ace in the hole. Example to follow. Loyal. Company ambassador. Presence on the floor. Deep thinker. Keen observer. True Gentleman. Strong. Caring.
(Dan Pienta Testimonial)
Gary has a great saying that I hold true every day: “Attitude reflects leadership.“ Enough said. Those closest to Gary live by this and it is infectious. The saying helped build our organization.
Gary consistently sends his top guys out at our busiest times. He assumes the leadership role for those guys. The city never misses a beat. When my wife was sick 20 years ago, I had to leave Nth Degree to ensure I had medical benefits. I sat down with Gary, I told him the situation, and told him I had to leave. He promised me, if I did the right things, worked hard, did what he said, I would never worry about benefits ever again. In the last 20 years I have stopped tracking my hours. I did what he said and now I stand as a leader for Nth Degree.
Another example of his leadership can be seen by simply looking at the Chicago market for Nth Degree. We never had to travel in talent for big shows. Gary has
an innate ability to find and develop talent. I’ve been all over the world doing shows. Our market has four or five of the company’s top project managers. Our leadpeople are close to project managers. The gangboxes are like Ace Hardware. We do more with less, and the service doesn’t miss a beat. That is the Nth Degree.
Gary not only built a company in Chicago for Nth Degree. He built a family. Gary cares about all his people as if they are his own family. It carried down to the men on the show floor. Some of my best friends are Nth Degree employees. Gary set the tone for that. We fight like brothers sometimes, but we always look out for each other.
Gary is a father, a friend, and a leader. He has been one of those words to every one of his employees at some point in time, or all of those words in the same moment to some of us.--Dan Pienta, project manager, Nth Degree
(Rick Rogala Testimonial)
Plainly said, I have had the honor to work with Gary for more than 30 years. basically, he bleeds the color purple. He is non-stop--always working day and night, never stopping and always taking his job to the Nth Degree. His dedication to the company is #1 in his life. Happy or sad, always non-stop. He has made an impact on my work habits that I will never forget.--Rick Rogala, assistant city manager, Chicago, Nth Degree
(Maureen Burke Testimonial)
Gary greets each person he encounters with respect. If you walk the show floor with him, he engages with security at the doors, the union stewards, general contractors, our competitors and the Nth Degree leadpeople and project managers with the same respect and courtesy. His presence on the tradeshow floor ignites an energy that is apparent when you see how many different types of individuals interact with him and seek his input or a moment of his time. He can see the landscape of a show as if it is a baseball field and moves resources from one job to another as the show unfolds and the unpredictability of changes, issues or unknowns begin to surface. Oftentimes, Nth Degree’s clients do not even realize that Gary is making changes to their crew or talent makeup to keep the project on time and in budget.
2018 was one of the biggest years Nth Degree had in Chicago, beginning in January through RSNA in December there was one mega show on top of another moving in and out of McCormick Place. There were days that Gary had to navigate 300-person calls and deploy the labor appropriately into each project. The true grit that Gary possesses really showed not in these huge labor calls in McCormick, but in his ability to cover shows in countless venues in the Midwest at the same time. He shows humility in grace in even the most seemingly impossible situations.
At IMTS 2018, Nth Degree had 54 percent more projects than in 2016. Many of our competitors as well as the general contractors were not sure how Nth Degree was able to manage our clients’ needs with such a large number of projects. Gary and his team pulled together and with the support of Gary’s union relationships, Nth Degree provided high-quality service to our clients and positively affected their presence at IMTS 2018.
Gary has been a constant presence in Chicago and the Midwest for more than 30 years. He is one of the most loyal individuals that have ever worked for Nth Degree. He walks the walk every day, in his belief that Nth Degree is truly the best provider in the industry. He is a true ambassador of the Nth Degree brand and our commitment to the service we provide to our customers.--Maureen Burke, senior account director, Nth Degree
It is with great pleasure that I nominate Mr. Gary Wannemacher of Nth Degree for consideration for the 2019 ECN Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition to performing his job at an exemplary level, Gary demonstrates an extraordinary commitment to the overall tradeshow community. Gary takes it upon himself to provide exceptional support and service to both clients and exhibit firms. He discerns quickly their individual needs and moves efficiently to provide key information, recommendations, or direction. Gary is also a wonderful ambassador for McCormick Place and the city of Chicago…in assisting visitors as they navigate the convention center and the resources of the Windy City.
Over the last 30+ years, I have known Gary to be a fantastic labor partner…always welcoming and exceptional in everything he does. His quick wit, attention to detail, and loyalty to his staff have endeared him to the tradeshow industry. He is a true champion for labor with a tireless commitment to providing an outstanding Chicago experience.
Gary Wannemacher has made a difference to all in the tradeshow world. His skills, knowledge, willingness to help others, and dedication to the overall industry make him my Lifetime Achievement Award nominee.--Jack Hally, executive vice president, BlueHive, Worcester, Mass.
Laborinc.ca, Ontario, Canada
ECN’s William F. Nixon, Sr. Lifetime Achievement
MORE THAN 30 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY
Nominated by: Don Brown, VP Operations, Laborinc.ca
I am pleased to nominate Brian Kearns, president of Laborinc.ca, for the “Lifetime Achievement Ace Award.” The reason that I am making this nomination is that over the years I have witnessed firsthand this commitment to the well being of the exhibit industry and the people who are involved within the industry in one way or another. Brian first became involved in the exhibit industry in 1983 with Alphaform Exhibits + Design. At that time the company was little more than a start-up, designing, manufacturing and installing exhibits throughout Canada.
As the business grew, so did the clientele, exhibit sizes, complexities and geographical exhibiting locations. While building the business Brian would often manage multiple exhibit installations at the same time. He was always courteous to the crews and possesses a unique eye for identify the varying skill set levels within each installer within minutes. He always kept the guys busy, while never assigning a task to someone who did not have the capabilities to carry out the task successfully. He always had encouraging words and a thank you to share with all.
The clients soon picked up on the positive atmosphere that radiated throughout the exhibit space despite the varying installation obstacles that lay ahead. It is no surprise that Brian was always requested by the clients and the installers were always keen to work with him.
Having worked throughout North America for a number of years Brian knew firsthand many of the installers and account managers for companies such as I&D, Nth, Renaissance and many more. Building off the U.S. model Brian observed he was instrumental in starting International Installations in 1988, one of Canada’s first installation companies. Many of the installers in Canada came through III’s doors at one time or another.
Brian went on to become president of TAG and International Installations. Both companies would exhibit at the Exhibitor and TS2 shows on a regular basis dating back to 1990. Prior to Brian’s departure in 2012 the companies had always supported the industry through memberships, sponsorships, advertising and support of the directors on various industry boards. During this time Brian has always made the time to be involved in minor sports and working with youths in Canada.
Today, Brian is president of Canada’s only “Trade to Trade” I&D company, Laborinc.ca. He is once again active in the industry. Whether it is supporting industry associations, attending industry shows and conferences, advertising within industry publications and making donations to industry charities, he remains active. I believe that Brian has had a positive impact on the industry and the people he has come to know and that is why I am nominating Brian Kearns for the “ACE Lifetime Achievement Award.”
Over the 20 years we have worked together on the Cruelling auto show circuit we have thrown everything including the kitchen sink at Brian. We always been amazed at the level of professionalism and calm that Brian and his team portray as they go about delivering on our request. This could not be achieved if it weren’t for the patience and leadership Brian brings to the table. -- J. Robertson, Jaguar/Land Rover exhibit manager