Meeting Tomorrow Origin Story
However over the past 12 years, Meeting Tomorrow has grown into an industry leader that executes more than 9,000 events annually while also remaining dedicated to its core values of commitment, kindness, and humility.
Mark Aistrope started out as a traveling software salesman who gave presentations all over the U.S. and Canada. Every time he flew into a new city, he would have to locate a projector locally in order to do his presentations. Although this was very difficult for him, Mark saw an opportunity to provide a nationwide solution. So in 2003, he decided to start his own business out of his basement with just 15 projectors that he bought on eBay--with only the occasional cockroach infestation. He built a website that advertised for nationwide projector rentals and set a goal to simply get at least one order per day. It was then that Meeting Tomorrow was born.
Mark started the business in Columbus, Ohio while his wife, Marla, was attending business school. Marla laughs and shakes her head remembering how Mark would often drive around chasing down the last FedEx truck of the day because he would never turn down an order. Soon after Marla had graduated, Mark and Marla moved Meeting Tomorrow to its first office located in Chicago. In less than a year, MT went from a makeshift, 600 square-foot apartment office of six people (and one dog!), to an actual office with eight additional employees.
Mark in the MT Office during construction
Growth forced the company to move yet again, but with hardly any time passing, employees began to have their desks set up in the kitchen due to the fast paced growth. As crowded as it was, Jamie Doligosa, who started as a college intern and has been with the company since it moved to Chicago, looks back to all the fond memories she had during those crowded office days. She recalls having to take turns cleaning the bathrooms when there was no maid service and having companywide meetings at the nearby pub due to lack of office space. She laughs remembering the office with no AC or heat and how the employees would go in shifts on the worst Chicago winter days in order to warm themselves up at the bowling alley down the street.
Mark Aistrope and Phil Hamstra
Throughout all those years in interesting work conditions, Jamie remained convinced she hit the jackpot working for Mark: “Whenever the company would lose money on an order or something would discourage the employees, Mark would always tell us that it wasn’t so bad and would continue to focus on the positive.”
As the company continues to grow, it is easy to see that the employees still see the people, Mark included, as the best part of working at Meeting Tomorrow. The About Us page of Meeting Tomorrow’s website includes pictures of all of the company’s current full-time employees. Employees list what they love most about their jobs and describe what they do. Almost every single person lists the people as what they love most about Meeting Tomorrow.
The MT Team at the annual company Whirlyball tournament.
One big challenge Mark faced was coming up with a mission statement that encompassed everything great about the company’s employees and culture. “I didn’t want to have the mission statement be about things we strived to do, but something we are already doing and are already doing really well,” Mark said.
After a couple of weeks meeting with his team to figure it out, he finally realized his mom, Gail Aistrope, had said it best: “Mark always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but he didn’t want to build a place just to work; he wanted to build an environment that fostered respect and affection.”
“I wanted to create a place where Monday was just as great as Friday because you loved coming to work, and that starts with the people,” Mark said. Therefore, he decided to make the company’s mission to build a company that fosters a culture of respect and affection. He wanted to make sure everyone felt the desire to protect Meeting Tomorrow’s core values of commitment, kindness, and humility, so he put those words on the wall of the office and encouraged employees to leave notes for others about how their work has demonstrated those values. “Once it’s stated, there is an accountability there that isn’t there without it. When you have it written where everyone can see it… everyone is rowing in the same direction.”
The MT Core Values Wall
Today, Meeting Tomorrow has a 15,300 square-foot loft-style office with more than 60 full-time employees (and two dogs!), about ten times larger than its original team of six. The company has expanded far beyond renting presentation equipment. Meeting Tomorrow is now providing full-service audio visual production, webcast production, and event technology rentals.
The growth of Meeting Tomorrow did not only come in square footage, but in partner relationships as well. Mark’s desire to fill every potential client need led him to reach out to more and more partners. Originally, he did this by looking in the local Yellow Pages. Today, their ever increasing Audio Visual network includes 2,000 partners around the country, many of them members of ITRA. Thanks to the wonderful partners Meeting Tomorrow works with all over the United States and Canada, more and more clients are provided with successful events every year.
Kelsey and Fudge, the MT office dogs
Focusing on growth is important, but doing so does not just mean jumping into the next big thing; it means constantly reevaluating processes and how to get things done efficiently. Meeting Tomorrow finds it essential to not only see what other services we can provide, but also, how we can make our current services more efficient. In order to do so, employees constantly challenge the way things are accomplished. In fact, Meeting Tomorrow recently reorganized its entire warehouse to accommodate its updated equipment inventory. The new layout enables the warehouse staff to fulfill large quantities of iPad, laptop, and monitor rentals more efficiently.
*MT Warehouse Video
Meeting Tomorrow now executes more than 9,000 successful events annually. For more than a decade, the company’s Event Services Team has been developing quality-control and logistics processes to ensure that clients have “worry-free events”.
Visit http://meetingtomorrow.com to learn more about Meeting Tomorrow.