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The Group Travel Leader Small Market Meetings Going on Faith

Sheri McCoy: ‘You’d be perfect for this group’

Sheri McCoy had spent years in a variety of positions in the banking industry but didn’t have a clue about directing a travel club. So imagine McCoy’s surprise when the president of Nodaway Valley Bank in St. Joseph, Missouri, brought her into his office and said, “You’d be perfect for this group.”

“I’ve always been an outgoing, never-met-a-stranger kind of person, and I guess he saw potential,” McCoy said.

After that fateful day in the president’s office, McCoy spent the next three years assisting the director of Nodaway Valley Bank Ambassadors. She has been the sole director of the Ambassadors for 13 years.

“Yep, I do it all myself. I like to say that even the typos in my newsletters are all mine,” she said.

From the BlackBerry to bathrooms
Fellow bank directors will relate to McCoy’s near panic when time came for her first trip alone at the front of the motorcoach. “The night before, I had nightmares that we left on a big yellow school bus and everything went wrong. The next day, I was exhausted, because I hadn’t had a wink of sleep,” she said.

McCoy also admits that her director skills have improved throughout the years. “I used to think I had to constantly entertain and please everyone. I finally learned that we are all adults and that our travelers often enjoy some quiet time on the motorcoach.

“And I don’t always have to be so diplomatic at every single corner. People look to me to make decisions. I’ve even had people tell me they enjoy my leadership more than ever now that I’m more assertive.”

Technology has also been a plus for McCoy. Ambassador members all have her cell phone number and e-mail address, and she has been known to be up until the wee hours answering questions.
“It’s my theory that I should always be available for these people who place so much trust in me,” she said.

With an extensive schedule that includes day trips, long-weekend jaunts and international tours, McCoy feels fortunate to lead a very active club, even in this economy.

“Six times a year, we usually sell out two buses to go to the New Theatre in Kansas City, Kansas. It’s a dinner theater only an hour away, and we’ve even gone a second time to get everyone there that wanted to go. On the other end of the scale, we had no problem selling out a safari in Kenya,” she said.

Part of that success is likely because McCoy loves to sell a trip, especially if she has taken a familiarization trip to the destination. McCoy explained, “A fam trip gives me confidence that our group will enjoy a destination. I’m taking a fam trip next year to South Africa, and I can only imagine that South Africa will be on our agenda in the future.

“Sometimes I discover that a destination may not be the right one for our group, and sometimes I can be wrong about my opinion. After a fam trip to Beijing, I thought it may not work, because, quite frankly, women have to squat in the bathrooms — they are surely not what we are used to. When I returned home and discussed my concerns, the women absolutely disagreed. They took it as a personal challenge — keep in mind our typical travelers are in their 70s — and they took exercise classes to strengthen their muscles.

“Sixty people signed up for that trip, and they had a ball. The most memorable photos from that trip just may be the dozens that were taken of the bathrooms.”

An open-door policy
Many of the 3,700 Ambassadors are people who have remained physically active as they have aged. White-water rafting and hot-air ballooning are not uncommon activities when this adventurous group is on the road.

“When we were in Hawaii last year, one 88-year-old lady even did the zip line, where you are harnessed on a rope seat between two trees, and the journey takes you hundreds of feet below the forest floor. She did not want to be left out,” McCoy said.

However, McCoy realizes that not all of her members can travel. “Some may not be physically capable, and some may not be able to afford it,” she said. “That is why everyone is invited to our travelogues, where we are premiering a trip, even if they have no intention on going.
“We also have a lunch club once a month in each of our different locations.”

Sheri McCoy
Nodaway Valley Bank Ambassadors
St. Joseph, Missouri

Born: Hannibal, Missouri

Education: Attended Highland Community College and Missouri Western State University

Employment: McCoy has more than 20 years of experience in human resources and has been board secretary and worked in payroll in the banking industry. She has been director fo the Ambassadors for 13 years.

Family: Husband of 38 years, Roger; two sons, Chad and Brian; three grandchildren; and one dog.

Hobbies: Loves to read, spend time with grandchildren and volnteer her time as a board member at the Performing Arts Association of St. Joseph.

When McCoy says that everyone is invited, she means everyone. This one-time human resources professional calls herself an equal opportunity traveler and posts few rules that must be followed in order to travel with the Ambassadors.

“I allow friends and even people who have simply seen our trips publicized in our newspaper to come along. These nonmembers also act as ambassadors for the bank, and, most likely, they will eventually become a customer,” she said.

Blind faith and blind dates

McCoy claims that married women who have her job have to have strong, self-assured husbands, as this career choice often takes them away from home.

“However, Roger, my husband, loves to go with us when he can. I appreciate it as well, as he is a great suitcase hauler.

“Years ago when they were in college, our sons also went with us on a trip, and they jumped right in, hauling those suitcases. It was a cruise, and they appreciated the fact that my Ambassador members were setting them up with dates with every cute, available girl they could find,” McCoy said.

This sentimental travel director fondly related and often sighed when talking about her experiences with the Ambassador club.

“When you first get started, you’re worried no one will want to go,” she said. “The greatest gift I receive is when people sign up for trips. It never fails to touch me that I’m trusted so much. That trust and their companionship totally enrich my life.”