Customer Service Savant: Deb Allison-Aasby
Debra (Deb) Allison-Aasby is a woman who knows how to mix business with being real.
Her ability to take the edge out of the work grind through kindness (she introduced every employee we passed by name, regardless of title) and a little fun (she calls the arena’s temperamental heating and cooling system “Oscar”) makes her well-suited to her new position as Senior Vice President of the Menominee Nation Arena in Oshkosh. The job requires a leader that embraces fluidity and savvy decision-making.
“There are a number of negotiations happening [for arena events] right now,” said Allison-Aasby, age 47. “We just made the announcement for professional boxing. The arena will be the home of Extreme Hits Boxing, with athletes competing for titles and belts. We can do gymnastics, dance and twirling. I’d love to see more trade shows, expos and job fairs.”
The newly developed Menominee Nation Arena is home court to the Wisconsin Herd, part of the NBA G League, an affiliate of the Milwaukee Bucks. The arena hosts concerts, entertainment and community events with amenities that include the latest technology, club-level seating, food, beverage, VIP lounge, The Maple Pub and party decks.
Allison-Aasby spoke to Women magazine to share more of her story and vision.
Women: Tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from originally?
Deb: I grew up in a small town in Northern Wisconsin on Lake Superior. Awesome place to grow up. It has a population of less than 500 people.
W: Do you belong to any professional organizations or groups?
Deb: I’m a member of the Oshkosh City Council, Committee on Aging, Long Range Finance, and the Oshkosh Convention & Visitors Bureau.
W: What is your background?
Deb: I worked at Imperial Incorporated in Green Bay after college [She earned her Bachelors of Science-Business Administration from UW-Stout with a Minor in marketing] selling small maintenance parts to the fleet industry. Then I went to J.J. Keller & Associates as a sales associate for three years. I left J.J. Keller to start my own business.
My first business was A Step Above Cleaning. After that I was co-founder of Bayfield County Coffee Co. & Co-Founder of Fine Country Gourmet. I sold two of the three businesses. While owning and operating the different businesses, I worked as a Financial planner at Principal Financial & Edward Jones before joining Windward Wealth Strategies in April of 2017.
W: You’re quite the businesswoman! How did you become interested in leading and growing businesses?
Deb: The real motivator was that I became incredibly sick when I was pregnant with my first daughter. From a financial standpoint, I started to clean homes because I could take her with me.
W: What would you want readers to know about the services provided at the Menominee Nation Arena?
Deb: To my knowledge we are currently the only privately funded arena in the nation. That is very unique! We have a state-of-the-art facility that is not only a sports venue, but has a restaurant and pub. It’s a fantastic place to host family and corporate events.
W: What kinds of events?
Deb: We’ve had companies do training, Christmas parties. We can do birthday parties. We have multiple banquet areas, including the Verve VIP lounge, two party decks and the The Maple Pub, which is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday. We have a full kitchen. We can do a full catering menu.
W: What’s your favorite part of your day?
Deb: I absolutely love early morning. During the day is always go time. If I can get up early before the rest of the world wakes up I know I have an opportunity for a quiet cup of coffee and time to organize my thoughts for the day. It’s usually my best way to get a jump on emails.
W: How has your job role changed over the years? What are some trends you’re seeing?
Deb: I would say that overall my roles have included strategy, troubleshooting, organization and half my career working has been with a new startup that required branding and marketing. No matter what you do, you are in the people business. That is a consistent trend no matter what industry you are in. Your employees, clients, guests, vendors and partners want to be treated with respect.
W: How do you approach branding and marketing?
Deb: Things have changed a lot since I started my first business in 2001 – now we have Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat. For me, marketing is still the way it’s always been, and always will be – it’s how you treat people. It’s how you respond. It’s still that personal element. No matter what your product is, really your product is customer service. It’s all about the people.
W: Do you have a role model?
Deb: In sounds cliché but my family. My parents are very strong individuals who sacrificed things for themselves to make their children’s lives better.
W: Is there a specific story that comes to mind when you think of how your parents have sacrificed for you?
Deb: My mom was a stay-at-home mom. My dad was an over-the-road truck driver. There was a total of five kids. I was the youngest and the first one to go to college. It was really important for both of my parents for me to go to college. My dad worked extra jobs. We were in a really small community. Alcohol, drugs and teenage pregnancy were kind of “the way.” My parents wanted all of us to have opportunities. They were bound and determined to give every opportunity to their kids.
W: What are your “words to live by”? (Or favorite quotes?)
Deb: “Nothing changes if nothing changes.” “When there is no wind, row.” “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” (Vince Lombardi)
W: Tell me a little about your personal life and family.
Deb: I have been married to my best friend Robb for almost 20 years. We have two daughters, Nicole and Rachel. Nicole is a teacher in Fond du Lac and Rachel is a Junior at Lourdes Academy. My mom is still living and I have two sisters and one brother living. My dad and oldest brother passed away a few years back.
W: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Deb: I love seeing my staff get super creative and excited about projects, and I love seeing the look on people’s faces when they see the arena for the first time. There are a lot of smiling faces, a sense of community and pure joy. I can’t ask for more than that. I am truly blessed to lead such a fantastic addition to Northeast Wisconsin. w