Meet Leslie Petro, CMP, Supervisor, People, Growth and Engagement with HORNE LLP.
As an event supervisor for her firm, Leslie Petro really enjoys the meetings and conventions she helps plan both internally and externally. And then there is what she calls the “fun stuff.”
This is the time of year that Petro gets to enjoy one of those “fun” projects she and her teammates organize.
“In 2012, HORNE had its 50th-year anniversary and we had a year-long celebration,” said Petro, who is supervisor for the People, Growth and Engagement division of Horne LLP, a Certified Public Accounting firm based in Ridgeland, MS (north of Jackson). “Part of that 50-year celebration was to pay all of our team members to go out in the community and serve. So we paid all of our team members a full-day’s pay and told them to go out and serve a full day, like with charities that you love (or) organizations that you love.
“Our team members loved it so much that every summer since we have a thing we call a Summer of Service. So from May until September our team members go out in groups of 10 or 20 and go out into their communities and do a full day of service. Last year we served 2,500 volunteer hours in 41 different organizations all over the country and regions where our offices are and it’s awesome.”
But as she has had to do with all of her other meetings this year, Petro and HORNE had to find a different way for her team members to experience their Summer of Service.
“We needed to figure out a way this year to still attack our communities virtually,” explained Petro who said the board studied several of her ideas in April and May before picking one. “It is called HORNE $20k in ‘20. Our team members over the month of July nominated organizations they have served in the past and all 23 are now up for a vote.”
The $20k in ‘20 reference not only plays off of the year, but the contest runs 20 days (Aug. 10-30) and the winning organization receives $20,000 ($10,000 for second and $5,000 for third). The nominations included organizations that covered the HORNE footprint which includes most of the southeast, Texas and even Puerto Rico.
“After seven days we have already had 11,000 votes,” said Petro excitingly. “This is just another, what I call, an ‘unmeeting’ planner thing that I do. It is a lot of coordination. It is a lot of project management. We had never done this before. It took a lot of research. This has probably been one of the most rewarding things I’ve worked on in 17 years. Just to see the impact.
“These charities are really hurting.” Petro continued, “The money that they aren’t getting because of COVID. It is really heart-wrenching.”
The satisfaction Petro receives from this project falls right in line with most of her experiences since coming to work at HORNE in 2004.
A little over a year after graduating from Mississippi State, Petro started as an executive assistant for the HORNE partnership of the firm. With only 150 employees, many of the leadership were still planning their own meetings.
“I started saying, ‘I’ll do that (plan meetings). I like to do that,’” said Petro who grew up in Canton, MS, approximately 30 miles north of Jackson with a population just over 13,000. “Where I (learned to) love event planning was growing up in a small town. There weren’t wedding planners. The mothers all got together and did the weddings.
“There were a group of women. Funny they called themselves the Wedding Mafia,” laughed Petro who enjoyed watching their process. “They would plan and execute all the weddings in our small town. They had florists in their group and caterers and so we didn’t have wedding planners. So I always grew up with a love for events…really old-fashioned parties and showers.”
Petro kept taking on more of the meeting planning responsibility even after moving into the firm’s learning and development service areas as both a facilitator and knowledge leader in licensing and continuing education.
After moving to the marketing department where she would be a full-time planner of meetings, Petro saw the need to grow as a planner. The company was pushing 1,000 employees and her knowledge in this industry needed a boost.
“So, in 2013 I learned about the CMP designation,” Petro explained. “I approached my leadership and said there is this organization and there’s this designation and I really think that it would be a great investment on y’all’s behalf for me to go for this and study and get this designation. My thought process was it was going to help my firm on the backend during contract negotiations. I wanted to get that credibility that I knew what I was talking about and I knew what they (hotels) knew.”
Her current position as People Growth and Engagement supervisor has her creating experiences that align with the firm’s strategic initiatives while promoting the company brand. She still does meetings and it allows her to do some of the “fun stuff” she enjoys as well.
Notes: Petro earned her Bachelor of Business Administration from Mississippi State. She is involved with the Chi Omega Alumnae Group.
Hobbies: Spending time with her husband and their 13-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter. Watching her beloved Mississippi State Bulldogs and Dallas Cowboys and playing fantasy league football.
Favorite Movie: The Notebook