Erika Engle

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Forum on business
ethics will kick off
new Kurisu company

The Pacific Leadership Forum is a debut event for Hawaii's Best Events LLC, a new company that aims to go beyond traditional event planning and marketing.

The Oct. 18-19 forum will feature discussions on the role of ethics in building high-performance companies, the costs of ethical breakdowns and the impact of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which increased scrutiny over corporate financial reporting.

The keynote speaker will be Don Soderquist, former senior vice chairman and chief operating officer of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. He wrote "The Wal-Mart Way," a book that sings the praises of company founder Sam Walton, his work and business ethics, and the company's rise to success.

But wait a minute.

Wal-Mart has been accused of terrible ethics, inequitable treatment of male and female employees and a whole raft of other stuff. How can it be held up as a shining, positive example?

TheBuzz asked Rob Farrow, co-founder of Hawaii's Best Events.

"I think the media likes to focus on the sensational negatives, but the positives a lot of times outweigh the negatives," he said.

For example, he said, Wal-Mart recently created an in-house mortgage bank to help employees become homeowners.

Making it clear he was not endorsing the retail giant, Farrow said, "The strongest survive. I hate to sound callous, but it is the evolution of business ... In Hawaii we're not keen on change because it often comes at the expense of someone we know."

Another speaker scheduled for the event served jail time for embezzling $8.5 million in a high-profile telecom scandal. Walt Pavlo, former senior manager of finance at MCI, has taken his testimony on the road.

More information and online registration can be found at the Pacific Leadership Forum Web site.

Hawaii's Best Events is an "experiential marketing" company whose events are to be "self-sustaining," Farrow said.

Is that just your basic consultant-driven-drivel, designed to add differentiation where none exists?

"To get a captive audience interacting with a product, or engaging in your brand is really difficult," he said.

He differentiated experiential marketing from traditional marketing by comparing it to snake-oil salesmen of old..

When the elixir-pitching salesman, surrounded by an audience, would have someone taste the product and comment on it, that was experiential marketing, Farrow said.

The self-sustaining part is what the company will build into its events -- both those it owns and those owned by clients -- which will be promoted by Catalyst Creative Services Group, the marketing arm of Hawaii's Best Events.

"When we design an event, it's designed right off the bat to be self-liquidating," meaning the outlay of money for, say, an event that draws a certain number of people, is offset by admission price, Farrow said.

"There's a cost to everything, but is the cost going to be significantly bleeding you, or equivalent to a normal marketing plan?"

The company was founded by Farrow and well-known but low-key businessman Duane Kurisu, who is also a minority investor in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

Pacific Leadership Forum

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: eengle@starbulletin.com

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