Exclusive With Carlin Putman: Outsourcing Is Trending

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two arrows, one pointing to in-house, the other to outsourceIs outsourcing a trend? Industry veteran Carlin Putman, CMP, CMM, has noticed that more companies are outsourcing some, or even all, of the meeting planning work to external third parties.

People may not be talking much publicly about a growing trend of companies laying off internal meeting planning staff — or just not rehiring to fill positions when internal planners leave on their own — and instead outsourcing to external third parties. Carlin Putman, who now has joined the ranks of those external third parties after spending the majority of her 24-plus–year career with a top Fortune 100 company as a financial and corporate event specialist, says the trend comes up often in conversations with meeting planning colleagues. Through her company, Page-One Meetings and Events, LLC, Putman performs, nonprofit work for special causes in the Houston area and supports other companies as a planner or trip director when seasoned planners are required to support the internal meeting team for their on-site meeting needs.

Carlin Putman, CMP, CMM
Carlin Putman, CMP, CMM

Outsourcing has been a viable option for planners who were laid off during the pandemic down time — those who didn’t choose to switch over to the hotel side or go into real estate, that is. Like Putman, a lot of seasoned planners started their own third-party companies after pandemic-related layoffs, and companies that did rehire post-pandemic when business again picked up often tended to bring in people who were less senior in their careers. While this was a positive economically, some of these new hires need a bit more support, so it makes sense for companies to hire third parties to fill any gaps.

Putman says she has noticed that companies are leaning more towards working with third parties for a number of reasons: to reduce fixed costs and overhead, increase efficiency, free up internal resources, increase flexibility and gain capabilities. “It also looks good to the board and to investors to have lower employee headcounts as part of their budgets.” she says.

And those are all legitimate benefits, she says, but there are also a few down sides. She cites a study that found executive concerns about a loss of control, availability of talent, lack of understanding of the business environment and acumen, impact on the quality of service, cultural alignment and data security.

Also, she says, “I’ve noticed that when you bring in those third parties, you may lose some of that corporate culture.  The interaction becomes more transactional, especially when the third party is hired on a per-project basis rather than being brought in full time.” This makes the work more difficult for the outsourced contractor, especially if they aren’t given access to some important internal databases, platforms or other resources. Even just getting to know the client company’s hot buttons and VIPs can be challenging at times — not to mention the level of special treatment those VIPs require.

“For one international meeting I recently worked on, they had to give me a breakdown of where their attendees were coming from so I could work with the chef to curate a menu that would accommodate everyone’s dietary needs, from halal and kosher meals to having miso soup, charcuterie and fish on the breakfast buffet. It was a new learning curve for me to figure out how to feed people coming from so many different cultures, religions and dietary needs versus already knowing and anticipating the needs of the attendees in my previous position.”

Contractors also have to work harder to manage their relationships. “You spend a lot of time getting out there and networking and letting people know your history and background, the services you offer and your availability.” And, because the contractor is running a business as well as managing aspects of client programs, you spend a lot of time on basic business administrative tasks. “I have to learn QuickBooks — wait, what?” she laughs. And outsourced jobs don’t come with paid time off or benefits.

But there are other, less tangible benefits to forging out on your own, Putman says. She has two kids who are just easing into their teen years, and it’s important for her to have the flexibility that comes with contracting as an outsourced third party. “I was just missing too much of their lives when I was working 80 hours a week and that time is priceless.

“Maybe when I’m an empty-nester I’ll go back to a full-time position,” she says.

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