EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Nomination Essay - Debbie Frazier- ETC Online

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”  – Ralph Waldo Emerson

About The Nominee

                Debbie Frazier, ETC GROUP founder and president is still ablaze with the same unyielding enthusiasm she harnessed when she started her Corporate Travel Business 25 years ago.   With nothing but a few dollars from her savings account in 1993, Debbie summoned her grit and guts and guile and built the company that today is home for almost 40 employees and posts annual sales of over $ 100 Million Dollars.

                She is an uncommon visionary in an ever-changing industry whose very existence continues to be threatened by technological advancements, and the diminishing landscape of personal one-to-one service.   Understanding the trade’s shortcomings and seizing on the opportunities they present, Debbie’s “Passion To Serve”- continues to inspire her staff, her clients, her partners, and all who know her. 

                “If you expect people who work for you to serve…” Debbie will tell you – “… you have to show them you have a servants’ heart.”

                 ETC GROUP listens to every client to gain appreciation for each individual situation, circumstance and need.  In her own words, “We are not just ticket fillers, we are a business built on a sturdy foundation of relationships and trust.”

                Once clients felt the touch of ETC Travel’s “White Glove Service”, they wanted more. Demand from her clients pushed Debbie to launch the enormously successful Branding Division & Meeting and Events Division, now under the ETC GROUP umbrella.

                A charismatic and passionate leader, Debbie honed her natural sales skills in the hardscrabble lumber business before setting out on her own.  She has shaped ETC GROUP in her own image and it is a company that reflects the values so near to her heart.  ETC GROUP is staffed with caring, loyal, dependable and energetic people who deliver uncommon high-end service, execute memorable first-class corporate events, and deliver unique and impactful branding opportunities and products. 

Type Of Business And Current Activity

          In those early days, the shuffling of papers, posters and signs and the din of the printing press in the office downstairs became the unofficial muffled daily soundtrack for the fledgling Corporate Travel Company in the cheap makeshift office upstairs.  Debbie, armed with boundless energy and teeming with entrepreneurial spirit but staffed with only two other employees worked around the clock in 1993 to turn her initial $ 70,000 savings account investment into over a million dollars in sales in that first year. 

                The little girl who recognized very early in life the value of hard day’s work and who wanted so desperately to succeed and achieve continues to push harder than ever.  Expectations are that ETC GROUP in the coming years will generate over $ 250 Million Dollars in sales annually. 

                The company’s focus in corporate travel in those early days and now throughout each of its branches is to provide the client with unexpected exceptional service.

                “We set our own very high bar and then work tirelessly to exceed it.” Debbie says of her business model.  By listening to clients’ needs and through keen awareness of shifting industry trends and consumer preferences, ETC GROUP has stayed technologically ahead of the curve to offer superior online streamlined booking and tracking services. 

                Meetings & Events is staffed to support any size and style corporate or charitable event or function anywhere in the world, complete with either barbecue and paper cups or champagne in the finest crystal… “Whatever the client needs and wants.” says Debbie.  The Branding Division’s collaborators and partners open doors to limitless options and styles of apparel, trinkets and keepsakes. 

                Where once ETC GROUP’S Corporate Travel Division drove the bus, today the Branding Division & Meeting and Events division comprise almost 30% of ETC GROUP’S annual revenue. 

                Corporate Travel clients regularly reap the benefits of ETC GROUP’S superior reputation, longstanding relationships and hard-earned respect.  Debbie and her employees are available 24 hours a day, and ETC GROUP is one of a very few companies to have “Preferred Status” on all major Airline Carriers.  The Branding Division & Meetings and Events Division follow the same deep-rooted commitment to the highest quality service and products regardless of the size of the group or quantity of the branding order. 

                If you’re in business with Debbie and ETC GROUP, their passion to serve, means nothing is out of reach. 

Innovative Approaches And Future Plans

            There is brilliant, eye-popping blue sky on the horizon for Debbie and ETC GROUP and all her staff and partners.

                Experience counts, relationships count more, and moving forward, ETC GROUP will continue its growth and innovation by doing what it has always done – deepening their exiting relationships by listening to their clients and through their quid pro quo frequenting of those businesses, cultivating new relationships with care and thoughtfulness, staying ahead of new technology while constantly striving to improve their impeccable service. 

                In the Corporate Travel Division, innovations to enhance the customizable travel experiences will be implemented, in The Branding Division, the tireless search for new ways and products to differentiate the client while improving their visibility and achieving their messaging and financial goals continues, and in the Meeting and Events Division, the drive to create new partnerships to offer a wider array of venues and services, and additional staff added to work to offer the client better food and beverage options and a full menu of lively entertainment selections, means a fully stocked arsenal of facilities, equipment and people to get it done right will remain at the heart of ETC GROUP’S corporate philosophy. 

Company Initiatives And Culture

                Debbie Frazier’s “Passion To Serve” doesn’t just apply to her clients; that “Passion To Serve” extends throughout all of ETC GROUP’S employees and their families.  Today the staff is comprised of men and women, and most have been there for an average of ten years. 

                “I will never take any risk or action that results in adversely affecting my people’s bottom line.” Debbie says.  For Debbie, doing the right thing by her people wasn’t anything that had to be mandated from on high, or posted in a manual.  Being good to the people around her is baked into her DNA. 

                Before other companies thought about the concept of employee appreciation, Debbie created her own unique compensation incentive programs and employee initiatives.  She still presents her staff (in those early days they were mostly single moms) with five-year diamonds.  When an employee needs a break, or is hit with a family crisis, or just needs a shoulder to lean on, Debbie is there. 

                Debbie and ETC GROUP helped fund employee’s continuing education, they’ve pitched in during family emergencies, and the company has frequent formal and informal get-togethers to celebrate professional and personal successes. 

                And there is no fanfare surrounding or spotlight shined on her philanthropic work.  She prefers to donate privately and often anonymously to causes close to her.  And she vigorously supports with both her time and treasure the causes of her clients and with everyone with whom she has a relationship. 

                ETC GROUP is an uncommon company, founded and built by an uncommon woman.  To meet Debbie Frazier, even for a moment, is to witness her boundless energy and drive, and to feel her compassion and care.  To work for her and ETC GROUP, is to have the rare experience of feeling that the person at the top always has your back.  To do business with her, in a world where so often so many fall so short, is to realize that there still exist people who genuinely care about you and about the relationship, and who put your needs at the very top of their daily to-do list. 

                Debbie Frazier epitomizes everything that it means to be an exceptional entrepreneur, self-directed, self-driven and self-made and selfless.