A marriage of management and labor

Robert "Bob" McClintock started as a housekeeping supervisor at the old Civic Center. Now, he is chief operating officer in a management companys unit that runs the Convention Center. (Charles Fox / Staff Photographer)
Robert "Bob" McClintock started as a housekeeping supervisor at the old Civic Center. Now, he is chief operating officer in a management companys unit that runs the Convention Center. (Charles Fox / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 10, 2014

Just over a quarter-century ago, Robert "Bob" McClintock, a top executive in the management company that now runs the Convention Center, landed his first real job in convention center management.

"I started out as a housekeeping supervisor at the old Philadelphia Civic Center," McClintock said.

He was working there as part of an outside management firm hired to improve labor relations at the Civic Center.

Does anything ever change in Philadelphia?

Maybe not, because now McClintock works for SMG, the management company hired in December by the Convention Center, the Civic Center's successor building. A priority? Fix labor relations with many of the same union leaders McClintock, now 54, met in 1987.

Maybe one thing has changed.

These days, McClintock no longer directly supervises the folks who clean restrooms. He is chief operating officer of SMG's convention division, in charge of 71 convention centers.

In May, SMG and the center's board made headlines by signing a customer satisfaction agreement with four of the six unions that had worked in the Convention Center, with two that failed to sign on time locked out. The agreement was designed to reduce cost and labor hassles after those factors, among others, caused the center to lose bookings.

Question: What leads to good labor-management relations?

Answer: Strong management and strong labor is a very good recipe for success. It's when you have the imbalance - if you're weak and labor is strong, or if labor is weak and you are strong - you have problems.

Q: Really? I bet a lot of companies would like weak labor and strong management.

A: The reason I disagree is that labor unions are there to represent employees, to provide them with good working conditions, to make them feel in a good place. If management is strong and labor is weak, very often you have dissatisfied employees.

Q: Why is that?

A: They don't feel like their voice is heard. When you have strong labor relations, they feel their voice is heard. Labor and management work in a very strong, harmonious relationship and it works extremely well.

Q: Interesting, because the center's unions had long complained that the center's prior management was weak and ineffectual.

A: I'll be honest in saying with you that we all had to fix our houses. We as management had to fix our houses. Labor had to fix their house.

Q: What do you like about the convention center business?

A: It is an amazing process when you realize that in the course of a week, there are going to be hundreds of people constructing a show. Then there are going to be thousands of people attending that show. Then, it's all going to get torn down in two days and it just repeats itself over again.

Q: Sounds like a short attention span kind of business.

A: I have no problem admitting two things. One is that I have OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). The other is I have a short attention span.

Q: How does OCD impact work?

A: If you are in this business and you have a little OCD, it really helps, because the key to success of any event is attention to detail.

Q: How about at home?

A: My kids laugh at me. My wife will leave me alone and say, 'That spice cabinet is really messy.' She'll come back in an hour and it's organized.


ROBERT McCLINTOCK

Title: Chief operating officer, convention center division, SMG.

Job: Manages 15 million square feet in 71 convention centers.

Home: Linwood, N.J.

Family: Wife, Carol; children, Colleen, 22, twin sons, Chris and Kevin, 19, Katie, 11.

Diplomas: Radnor High School; College of William and Mary, political science.

Major events: Headed support teams at the 2009 G-20 Summit, Pittsburgh and the 2011 NATO Summit, Chicago.

Beer: Stella Artois.

Travel ritual: Finish the crossword before the plane takes off.


SMG

Where: West Conshohocken

Business: Operates convention centers, stadiums, arenas.

Employment: 20,000 worldwide, 170 locally.

Ownership: Privately held. Majority owner is American Capital, Ltd., a private equity firm.

Major centers: McCormick Place, Chicago; Cobo Center, Detroit; Moscone Center, San Francisco.

Nearby: Pennsylvania Convention Center, Wildwoods Convention Center, Meadowlands Exposition Center.


MORE ONLINE

Bob McClintock on dealing with labor: Respect, say "Hi."  

www.inquirer.com/jobbing


Interview questions and answers have been edited for space.

jvonbergen@phillynews.com

215-854-2769

@JaneVonBergen

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