by Kris Ann Hegle
SBJ Contributing Writer
Finding all the elements needed to host a conference, convention or special event can be a little tricky. Take a recent call The Sullivan Company (TSC) received from one of its clients. The client needed an auctioneer, a comedian and a five-piece band for an upcoming special event.
Sound a little off-the-wall? Not to Joe Sullivan and Mark Bass who run TSC, a full-service production company headquartered in Branson.
"When you've worked in the entertainment industry as long as we have, you don't get too many requests that surprise you," Bass said. "We've done the bizarre, the weird and the quick. The quick turnaround requests are the toughest, but we always try to stay within a client's budget and give them several options to choose from."
Some of the clients who contact TSC have a specific production need, such as lighting, staging or entertainment. Other clients have the company put together and market an event from concept to completion.
A few of the bigger events produced by TSC include the Destined for Branson Big Show; the NTA Branson Luncheon Show with the Osmonds, the Presleys and Maggie LeMee; and the Branson Boat & RV Expo, a new annual event that will be held May 7-9 at the Chateau On The Lake in Branson.
TSC also produces BransonFest, which will be held this year March 24-28 at the Lawrence Welk Resort Center in Branson.
BransonFest has been an annual event since 1993, and it was during a 1995 planning session that Bass first met Sullivan.
The two quickly discovered they had good creative chemistry and complemented each other.
Bass, who previously worked as the marketing coordinator for the Lawrence Welk Resort Center and as the public relations director for Digital Design Studios in Branson, has an established network of local contacts.
Sullivan, on the other hand, has a national network of resources and contacts. Before founding TSC, Sullivan said, he worked for a Nashville radio station and later went on to found Sound Seventy Productions, which produced and promoted an average of 200 concerts per year and managed entertainers such as Charlie Daniels, Wolfman Jack and Nicolette Larson.
In 1991, Sullivan and his family moved from Nashville to Branson, and he co-founded the Americana Television Network, which was bought by TCI in 1994. Rather than return to Nashville, Sullivan decided to stay in Branson, and he founded TSC the same year.
For Sullivan, the decision to stay in Branson marked a turning point. He already had started two companies, supervised many employees and traveled throughout the country while managing entertainers.
Sullivan wanted to simplify his life, spend more time with his family and get back to doing more hands-on production work.
Sullivan's desire for simplicity is reflected in the way he does business. TSC's office has two rooms, and Sullivan said he doesn't plan on expanding beyond what he can fit into that space. Rather than hire and manage additional employees, subcontractors are used to help with large projects, such as BransonFest.
Occasional consulting jobs in Galveston, Texas, Naples, Fla., and Nashville have taken Sullivan or Bass outside the area, but the majority of TSC's business is local.
Most of the company's local business comes through referrals from the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and from large hotels in the area, such as the Radisson and the Chateau on the Lake, which frequently host conferences, conventions and other special events.
Between special events, Sullivan and Bass work on their latest venture On Hold Communications, a new division of TSC that was founded last year. On Hold Communications develops customized messages for businesses that can be played whenever customers are placed on hold.
According to Sullivan, having a customized message helps customers learn more about the products and services offered by a company, reduces the number of hang-ups and helps increase sales. Bass agreed.
"This is a growing industry," Bass said. "We compete with a lot of national companies, but most of them use a cookie-cutter method for their messages what works for one travel agency should work for every travel agency. We'll go out to a business, see what it does and develop eight customized messages that will help sell a particular product or service. We update these messages for our clients on a regular basis, and everything is done digitally for maximum clarity."
Sullivan said On Hold Communications has been so successful it could become a full-time business by itself.
"We're working in a town filled with theaters," Sullivan said. "Given our backgrounds and experience, we'll always have plenty to do." [[In-content Ad]]
General aviation terminal expansion is set to wrap by August.