Don Brommet entered the incentive industry before it had an identity. He arrived in Toronto in 1970 as part of the team opening the Airport Hilton. After eight years of progressive sales positions within the Hilton organization, he noticed a gap in the marketplace and decided it represented an opportunity that was too good, and too interesting, to ignore.
Brommet, who is very soft-spoken, says, "Back in the old days, marketing in the hotel industry was kind of a burgeoning element. It was very old-school," with properties focused on filling bedrooms. "I came across a number of companies using travel as a motivational tool, but they were booking it through travel agents. There were very few people who understood the actual marketing applications: what's ROI, how do you set up funding, how do you set rules and regulations, how do you market, and secondary to that, how do you deliver an incentive-level experience? The professionalism, as far as delivery of the experience, was from the hotel side. There was no organization going into corporations saying, 'here's a new and exciting way to motivate your specific audience, and here's how you do it.'"
So, in 1978, Brommet formed Partners in Performance, that was so successful, Maritz Canada bought him out and moved him to the U.K. to oversee its international operations. In 2003, he returned to Canada, to help Pareto Corporation launch its Elevate Incentives division. After a short hiatus, he's rejoined Pareto and Elevate.
Jill Harrington, president of Potential 2 Performance, worked for Brommet from 1988 to 1995. "I think, in the pioneering days in the industry, he was absolutely one of the most knowledgeable and creative people in the business. Where a lot of people are very much focused on the deliverable - the trip - Don was always focused on what the organization is trying to accomplish; what the trip means to the business matrix."
Harrington describes him as a "creative, strategic thinker. When the rest of us are stuck thinking small, he's thinking about the big picture. And he takes you with him, because he's passionate about what he's doing, but passionate in a very gentle way. He's not one of those rah, rah, rah people. He reads a lot, he digests, he thinks about it, he comes up with ideas that other people don't."
It's this thoughtful approach that lets him separate fads and trends such as tech busts. Brommet shrugs, "It changes the decision-making processes. But these are all moments in time. As the economy improves, people start looking further afield again." Outside of work, this self-described shy person (before colleagues laugh, he has the Myers Briggs tests to back this up) likes to spend time with wife Sheryl, take long walks with his black lab Cleo, cycle, paint and sculpt.
While colleagues speak of Brommet the "consummate professional," it's when they speak of his "creative" streak that his flamboyance becomes apparent.
Longtime client Vladimir Haltigin, Dreams and Memories producer for Xerox Canada, says that since 1984, Brommet has been one of Xerox's most successful suppliers, handling over 20 programmes for them and winning eight Crystal Awards from SITE. Haltigin laughs at some of the ideas they got away with. "In Ireland, for example, he created the Irish O'lympics, where we had games like Irish whiskey barrel jumping, peat stacking and bicycle races to the local pub for a Guinness. We also bought a racehorse and entered it in the Galway races." (It finished third.)
Brommet is that quiet, pioneering visionary, who, given the right co-conspirator, can be a little crazy.