Name: Michael Krouse
Title: President and CEO of the Greater Ontario Convention and Visitors Bureau and Regional Vice President of Convention Centers West at ASM Global
Organization: Greater Ontario CVB
Location: Orange County, California
Birthplace: Los Angeles
Education: Certified Destination Management Executive (CDME)
• 1990-2003 — Hilton Hotels Corporation
• 2003-2012 — Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board
• 2012-present — Greater Ontario CVB
Michael Krouse’s larger-than-life personality didn’t always come naturally.
“I was quite shy in high school,” said Krouse. “But once I got out there in the real world, I developed my personality and the style I’m known for.”
Krouse got his start in hospitality by driving tour buses to popular attractions around the Anaheim area, like Sea World and Disneyland.
“Because I was so good at giving tours I got promoted up to the sales and marketing department,” said Krouse, a native Angelino who has lived in Orange County since childhood.
While at first it was challenging to get his foot in the door, he eventually moved into the hotel side of the hospitality industry, where he was promoted to director of sales within six months. He went on to spend 25 years in senior sales management positions, overseeing multiple hotels and brands for companies like Hilton, where he was the regional director of sales and marketing. During his tenure, his customer service ratings consistently hit above the 95th percentile.
“For me, it’s all about service and guest experience,” he said. “I’m a unique guy, and people want to work for me because of that.”
Throughout his career, Krouse has made it a point to set an example as a leader by knowing each of the people working in his organization and some personal detail about them.
“It’s how people know who you are — leadership is all about your relationships, and your employees will make or break you,” Krouse said.
His work at the Biltmore Hotel led him to work at the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board. As senior vice president of sales and client services, he managed the meetings and convention sales, client services, research and membership departments for nine years, generating substantial gains in economic impact. During his term there, the department showed an overall net gain of $5.8 billion.
When he joined the team in Greater Ontario, Califorina, eight years ago, people were perplexed by the move from big-city Los Angeles to a small town, but Krouse switched roles to spend more time with his three adopted children.
“L.A. is massive and demanding, but Ontario presented something new,” he said. “We worked on developing streams of funding for the CVB by making use of the arena and expanding the airport.”
In his current role, Krouse oversees the Ontario Convention Center; Toyota Arena, including food and beverage operations; and the California Welcome Center at Ontario Mills, where he directs business development, marketing and destination sales for conventions, meetings and events, and national and international visitors. He’s also the regional vice president of convention centers for ASM Global and oversees 12 convention centers and visitors bureaus.
“I’m known for being funny and direct,” said Krouse. “People know me because I’ve done the job they’re doing and will work alongside them. I’m leading by example and building leaders.”
Tips from Michael Krouse
• Let people be who they are. When I first started out, I had some people tell me I was too much, but if I hadn’t let my personality shine, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Don’t let people squelch who you are, because that’s what your gift is, and that’s what will make you a success.
• In a leadership role, you’re building leaders. Your employees are following your example. Hold them accountable for the duty that they have, but follow up to make sure they’re getting the additional coaching they need to be successful at the task they’re given.
• Never forget where you came from. I was promoted because I earned it, but the people I work with know I’m not above them; I’ve done their job at one point and will work alongside them. Remember that the people doing the job are just as important as you are.