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Nevadan at Work: Exec guides crews that set up, tear down big conventions

With a 4-year-old daughter and his wife by his side, Steve Moster balances his time between two families.

When he’s not at home with Madalin and Sandi, Moster is focused on the 3,000 international employees he oversees at Global Experience Specialists, or GES as it is commonly known.

Moster oversees about 500 Las Vegas-based employees, not counting herds of temporary union workers — sometimes numbering 4,300 — who assist GES during the setup and takedown of large-scale conventions such as the International Consumer Electronics Show.

GES has about 3,000 permanent employees in 61 locations worldwide.

In all, GES operates 38 U.S. and 23 international offices. In 2011, the company produced more than 2,500 exhibitions and events in 46 countries, including more than 300 in Southern Nevada. Including the temporary union help, GES issued more than 16,000 W-2s across the U.S. for 2011.

Originally from Minot, N.D., Moster’s family moved to Cincinnati when he was a child. He studied chemical engineering at Vanderbilt University and took a job at Kimberly-Clark Corp. after graduation. There he saw the launch of the Huggies Little Swimmers, disposable swimwear for children, from conception to delivery, which helped spark a deep interest in business.

At GES, Moster was hired as the head of the products and services division in 2004. In November, 2010, he was named president.

The lesser-known side of GES, Moster said, is that it also produces events and experiences outside of the convention realm. Last year, “Harry Potter: the Exhibition,” a GES creation, toured the U.S. before it moved to Sydney in late 2011.

“People trust us with major brands, which is a testament to our creative talents that we have,” Moster said.

GES worked with Potter’s creator, J.K. Rowling, and Warner Bros. to re-create the movies’ look and feel.

“What’s amazed me about it, what I’m proud of, is the amount of attention it’s received,” Moster said.

GES also designed and built displays for Nike Las Vegas when the store was remodeled last year.

Question: How would you describe yourself as a leader at GES?

Answer: Fair and balanced. I’m very engaged. I like to be hands-on. That is something that probably has been with me since I was learning to be an engineer years ago, so whether it’s in the warehouse, the call center or at a show site, I like to be hands-on. I think that is reflected in my style with direct reports. I think I’m also someone who is very focused. To me there is a handful of things that we need to accomplish as an organization each year but also for the long term and I try to keep the company focused on those initiatives that we need to get done. I enjoy having fun at work and it’s important to me that the culture here is one that’s focused but at the same time fun.

Question: What’s the most challenging portion of your day?

Answer: Being able to predict the future. What I try to keep my focus on is where are we headed both in the short term but also the long term. This is a very volatile market ever since the downturn that started in late 2008, and the most challenging thing for me is to understand where the industry is headed both in the short term, but how we should position the company longer term to be successful.

Question: What’s your favorite part of the workday?

Answer: When I see our team succeed. Success to me is when I receive a letter from one of our clients telling me to thank our team on how well they serviced a client. That’s probably the best part for me.

Question: Where do you see the industry going?

Answer: I’m very happy to say that within the trade show and convention industry, we’ve had six quarters of consecutive growth, and the way we measure growth is by something called same-show growth. We look at shows that occur in the same quarter in the same city, year-over-year. Those shows have grown, just last year alone, they grew over 11 percent, year-over-year.

Question: To what do you attribute that growth?

Answer: I think, No. 1, marketing budgets are coming back so people are planning and spending more to participate at live events, whether that be a corporate event or a tradeshow or a convention. No. 2, I think there is a solid foundation. People see the value of participating in face-to-face meetings. They understand the underlying value there and they’re trying to reach their target audience and this is the easiest way to do it and the highest return in order to do it.

Question: Who do you look to for guidance in business?

Answer: I have a lot of mentors. Some of them are within the company and some of them are external. Paul Dykstra, (chairman, president and CEO of Viad Corp.,) is my boss. He’s been in my role in the past and knows the company well. Additionally, outside of the company, I really look to my father-in-law, Mac Moore. He was a senior executive at Procter & Gamble for a number of years and has a great business sense and a focus on simplicity, which I appreciate.

Contact reporter Laura Carroll at
lcarroll@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4588.

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