Lovin’ It: How McDonald’s Happy Meals Saved the SIG Summit

McDonald’s at the SIG Summit

Anyone that has ever worked for SIG has heard me say that if we are going to fail, fail fast. And over the years, we’ve tried and failed at more than a few things. Truth be told, I don’t mind failing as long as we use it as an opportunity to learn and grow.

Fail Fast and Learn

I learned this lesson in my earliest days with SIG in 2008. We were coming to the end of my first Summit as the CEO and it had been an amazing week. For all intents and purposes, it had gone flawlessly. The speakers were incredible…the content was cutting-edge…the dialogues were advancing the industry…the property was beautiful…and our partnership with the hotel had been nearly perfect. I could not have been more excited by the energy from the event and was looking forward to capping it off with a bang during the final night.

I knew from personal experience…and from Agi (a beloved longtime colleague who had been with SIG since it was founded) that close to half the delegates – most of them providers – usually leave before the final night’s celebration, so it was an opportunity to relax a bit more with the practitioner members.

We had a beautiful evening planned for the smaller group. Buses were available to shuttle everyone to an offsite restaurant in Newport Beach, where we had local delicacies and signature cocktails ready for all. Or so we thought.

In my excitement, I spent the entire week hyping the final evening. I mean, of course I wanted people to stay, why wouldn’t I? (Side note: now very few people leave early because the surprise entertainment is always worth waiting for, so as you plan for our next in-person Summit this fall, arrange your travel plans accordingly!)

Apparently, I was very effective because the buses kept coming. And coming. And before we knew it, we were out of food. The waiters darted through the crowded restaurant rolling in tables, putting on new linens, bringing chairs and restocking everything they could…including the now-dwindling bar. I couldn’t believe that this amazing week was going to end in failure.

One and Done

I felt defeated but more than anything I didn’t want to disappoint the delegates. So, I did the only thing I could think of…I apologized and told them that based on historic projections, we hadn’t expected a group this large to show up, but guaranteed them that we’d provide additional food as soon as we got back to the hotel. And then we scrambled. It was too late to call on the hotel’s restaurants to feed a crowd of this size in short order, so we brainstormed and decided that the fastest way to deliver on that promise was in fact, fast food.

SIG has always been known as a well-produced event with innovative content, on-time sessions, executive-level attendees, delicious snack breaks and great meals. The McDonald’s drive-through was not ever a part of the plan…and yet, a hundred+ Happy Meals saved the day.

Our team took cars to every McDonald’s within a ten-mile radius and purchased every Happy Meal, quarter pounder, Big Mac and french fry in sight, literally buying out all available supply. We didn’t know how it would be received, but we’d guaranteed food and were going to deliver.

Much to our surprise, the delegates loved it! We tossed Happy Meals boxes to people as they got off the bus and listened to their childlike excitement as they opened their toys, exchanged them and even played with them. What could have been a complete disaster turned into an utterly fun evening. The McDonald’s slogan could not have been more appropriate.

And the SIG team learned a valuable lesson…it’s the little things that make a big difference to people, and because of that they keep coming back. That evening could have been remembered as a failure, but instead it created a memorable experience and a lasting impression that SIG always go above and beyond to satisfy our members. To this day, I continue to be teased by some of our longtime delegates who remind me every chance they get of the Summit where we served Happy Meals.

And you know what? I’m still lovin’ it!

Dawn Tiura, President and CEO, SIG

Dawn Tiura, CEO and President of SIG, SIG University and Future of Sourcing Digital Publication, has over 26 years leadership experience, with the past 22 years focused on the sourcing and outsourcing industry. In 2007, Dawn joined SIG as CEO, but has been active in SIG as a speaker and trusted advisor since 1999, bringing the latest developments in sourcing and outsourcing to SIG members. Prior to joining SIG, Dawn held leadership positions as CEO of Denali Group and before that as a partner in a CPA firm. Dawn is actively involved on a number of boards promoting civic, health and children's issues in the Jacksonville, Florida area. Dawn is a licensed CPA and has a BA from the University of Michigan and an MS in taxation from Golden Gate University. Dawn brings to SIG a culture of brainstorming and internal innovation.