Friday, December 8, 2006

Are You a Tai Pan?

Last night I had the privilege of helping to create a nice group of folks who were to be part of a Focus Group that would give ideas, suggestions, and feedback on a presentation of the Mandarin Oriental’s “vision” of Tai Pan. Tai Pan (Chinese for “Supreme Leader” and a great novel by James Clavell, by the way) is going to be the Mandarin Oriental D.C.’s exclusive, membership only, lifestyle club. The goal is to have this club be so unique, it will compete with no other clubs in the city. The amenities and privileges members will experience will be extensive and special, second to none. The future club’s name was chosen because the Mandarin Oriental wants the members of this club to "Tai Pan's", each in their own right: Entreprenuers, industry leaders, and those who are at top of their league.

We all have visions and ideas and before we take them to market, the smart thing to do for any serious idea, is to gather a group of your “test market” and sit them down to discuss what this vision is, just how realistic it is, what in the plan should be altered, added, subtracted, etc. This small focus group did just that.

Spencer Yeo, my new friend who is the Director of Marketing for the Mandarin Oriental, had asked me to reach out to some of my contacts. (Luckily, I know some awesome people from my 5 years with the Potomac Officers Club and ExecutiveBiz.) Spencer is from London, has had numerous years with the hotel abroad, and came here to help take this young property (only 3 years old now) to its next level.

The group included Fernando Murias, Managing Partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers, Rafael Fagundo, CEO of Xcalibur, Jim Speros, President of Chalk Media, Bill Hall, Partner at Winston & Strawn, John Tsiaoushis, owner of Cloud DIning, David Ogden, owner of the Dog Den Golf in Pinehurst, NC, Scott Stephens, President of the Push Group, Madi Nassasri, Principal of Nassasri Consulting, and Arash Shirazi, President of Deep Dish Productions. It was a conglomerate of friends of various backgrounds, ages, industries, experiences, and locations of homes and offices. All had one thing in common though, they each had an interest in luxury, VIP treatment, and exclusivity, both from an individual and business standpoint.

I was really happy the way each mixed and mingled with each other (some hadn’t met, so it was a great networking opportunity) but truly I was so happy that they were able to come together and attend this function (of course, as the Mandarin Oriental always does things first class, there were lovely drinks and the food, OH the tastings, were out of this world, their sushi is awesome!) in the Living Room on the 6th floor, where the new Tai Pan club will be located. And again, all first class: each participant walked out with a lovely bottle of pinot noir that the hotel’s sommelier chose, in a gorgeous box.

So, it was a rather low-key productive evening, spent with fine company and a gorgeous setting. It will be interesting to see what the results are from the focus group. Everyone was excited to see what / when / how Tai Pan will launch. In the meantime, I am more than happy to go back to spend time at the hotel and get some holiday cheer with friends in the lovely Empress Lounge, eat more sushi at Café Mozu and a need massage from their Spa (hey, the holidays brings stress! any excuse for a massage ...).

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