Wade Koehler started his association management career with FSA Group in Louisville, working with FCSI from 1996-1999. During the next eight years, he worked in the collegiate conference and event field, starting at Illinois State University and later serving as director of conference services for Illinois Wesleyan University and Vanderbilt University. Wade founded his own association management company, 520 Consulting, in 2006 and returned to FCSI Worldwide that same year to serve as director of sales, marketing and event planning. In 2010, 520 Consulting took over the association management for FCSI The Americas and has since also served as the executive director of the division.
FE&S: What aspect of your career gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment?
Wade Koehler: My greatest sense of accomplishment comes just after we finish a conference or educational event. Attendees don’t always realize we start planning these events at least 12 months in advance, and it takes a lot of time and hard work for the FCSI member volunteers and staff. Hearing the positive feedback from the attendees makes me feel like my staff and I are making a positive contribution to the industry.
FE&S: Any interesting hobbies?
Wade Koehler: Besides raising my two eight year olds, I like to make custom golf clubs for friends and family.
FE&S: What do you look for in a business partner?
Wade Koehler: The most important things I look for are reliability and the ability to have fun. No matter the contract, job or task, we all have a tendency to get complacent so I try to surround myself with people that work hard, but who also like to let their hair down and have some fun after all of the hard work is complete. That’s what I love about the foodservice industry — there never seems to be a shortage of people who enjoy doing both.
FE&S: What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Wade Koehler: Phillip Cooke and Daniel Maye, formers owners of FSA Group, had the motto "we only deal with nice people," which I still live by. Life is too short to waste energy on people who don’t respect the work others do. As an association leader, I deal with many different volunteers and I have to say, I am lucky because FCSI members are always so much fun to work with and so appreciative of each other’s support.
FE&S: Finish this sentence: Nobody knows I...
Wade Koehler: I have completed a couple triathlons and am planning on attempting my first half Ironman in 2012.
FE&S: When traveling for business, what is one of your favorite past times?
Wade Koehler: I have a couple of favorites. First, I like to go for a morning run in cities I visit. During those early morning runs, you can really get a great view and understanding of the city or area you are visiting. It’s great to watch a city come to life during that time. During one of those runs in Marrakech, Morocco, I got lost in the city and ended up running through a field full of camels grazing. I froze for a minute, thinking, "Great, I am going to be trampled to death by camels, and no one, not even me, knows where I am." Luckily enough, I found my way back to the hotel after my three-mile run turned into seven miles, which is a good thing for me. Second, I like to try and find at least one historical site in every city I visit. I am very fortunate to have visited some great sites and learned about history in quite a few cities throughout the world.
FE&S: What was your first job in foodservice?
Wade Koehler: My first job was as a dishwasher at Mona’s restaurant in Toluca, Ill. It’s a small Italian restaurant located about two hours south of Chicago in a town of approximately 700. People drive down from Chicago and all over the state to visit Mona’s and Capponi’s, and it’s not unusual to have a two-hour wait for a table on a Friday or Saturday night.
FE&S: If I were just starting out in the foodservice industry, what advice would you give me?
Wade Koehler: The best advice I would give myself would be to network with as many people as possible. So many people stay in this industry for life so you never know who you may come across over the years, and who may be able to help you out or give you a good reference.