MARKA WAECHTER, SHW CEO and Strategist-in-Chief
Marka Waechter joined the Seattle Hospitality Group of Companies as CEO in 2014, bringing with her over 25 years of experience in leadership and organizational development. Marka's success is built on her passion for building collaborative teams and win-win customer relationships. She has a proven track record of identifying industry trends and technologies to deliver best-in-class products and services while driving cultural change and innovation.
Marka began in the airline industry, as a flight attendant and sales rep, then landed at Metropolitan Travel. During her tenure as President & CEO, the company experienced extraordinary growth. The company was recognized by Puget Sound Business Journal as a "Best Company to Work For." Metropolitan Travel was acquired by Expedia in 2002.
In 1999, inspired by a Bill Gates speech, Marka co-founded Highwire, Inc., which developed and delivered one of the initial web-based corporate travel management tools, adopted early by many Fortune 100 firms. Highwire was acquired by Cendant in 2001. For her role in this industry-leading development, Marka was recognized by Business Travel News as one of the "Top 25 Most Influential Executives" and by Travel Agent Magazine as one of the "Most Powerful Women in Travel."
Marka leads the SHW Strategy Development team by leveraging her first-hand experience developing successful companies, coupled with her years of consulting and coaching for various organizations. Her unique approach engages team members, teaches empathy, and stresses the importance of aligning core values for organizational success.
Marka has been active in Seattle-area philanthropy since her 20s, and served with various non-profits. She currently serves on the boards of Mary’s Place and 5th Avenue Theatre. She is a graduate of the University of Washington with a BA in Psychology.
JOHN WAECHTER, SHW Partner; Delafield Hambrecht, Inc., Managing Partner; Mountain Climber and Motivator-in-Chief
John Waechter uses his decades of experience in business and climbing the world’s tallest peaks to help motivate and engage businesses around the country.
It was no great leap for John equate his business successes – first in sales at Xerox Corp. and GTE, and later in finance, marketing, and operations – with the necessary preparations and attitudes to successfully scale the Seven Summits. He will tell you, it’s all about small, thoughtful steps.
John’s motivating and inspiring talks take audience members on a journey to Tibet, describing in detail the harrowing moments and triumphs in every step along the way, and the importance of faith and teamwork. The themes of his talks are chronicled in a book he co-wrote, wrote The Seven Summits of Sales: From Everest to Every Business, Achieving Peak Performance.
Today, John sticks closer to home with an annual trek up Mount Rainier. John earned his undergraduate degree from Whitman College and MBA from University of Washington.
LORIE THOMAS, SHW SVP of Event Services and Connector-in-Chief
Lorie Thomas has been an event professional for more than 20 years, specializing in large-scale corporate events. She has a keen understanding of the value of a well-run corporate event, and how to capitalize on one success to create a series of home runs.
Lorie works as a consultant and coach with internal event planning teams to identify and deliver systems that produce efficiencies and put event teams on track to show a return on investment.
Of particular interest to Lorie is maximizing sponsorship opportunities. Here she loves to help clients increase sponsorship income, give event sponsors the most value for their dollar, and create high-impact experiences for attendees.
Lorie earned her undergraduate degree from Whitman College.
BRETT ROBERTSON, SHW Vice President of Sales and Marketing and Team Builder-in-Chief
Brett Robertson is a customer-focused, commercially savvy sales and finance professional with broad international experience in complex organizations. His demonstrated track record of partnering with all levels of business consistently delivers actionable insight and profitable growth. At SHW, Brett directs sales efforts, business development, and channel partners worldwide to grow sales and help customers succeed in their events.
With his CPA sensibility, Brett leads from the perspective of an accountant, ensuring SHW clients get the best value for their dollar.
Originally from Shellharbour, New South Wales in Australia, Brett's sense of teamwork and fun comes from his years on a competitive bicycle racing squad.
Brett received his education at Deakin University and University of Wollongong.
JOHN ELLARD, SHW SVP of Creative & Production and Magician-in-Chief
John Ellard has spent more than 25 years building and leading teams, producing events, and designing experiences for diverse audiences both large and small. A 10-year Microsoft veteran, John led Experiential Marketing for the Entertainment & Devices Division, and Global Event and Partnership Marketing for Xbox. Possessing both client and agency side experience, John has overseen dozens of high-profile product launches, executive keynote programs, and consumer activations at events such as CES, E3, Cannes Film Festival, Coachella, and SXSW, among others.
As SVP of Creative & Production, John provides strategic insight for the SHW team, ensuring that we deliver compelling creative, innovative technology, and holistic production solutions for our clients.
John was born in Colorado and has lived in the Seattle area for more than 30 years where he attended the University of Puget Sound. He has a passion for the great outdoors and for live music.