West Des Moines, Iowa, December 13, 2013 – ITA Group founder R.W. “Rudy” Berg passed away Monday, December 9. Berg and his wife, Jerry, founded International Travel Associates—a small Des Moines travel agency—in 1963. They opened an office with a small business loan and an unstoppable entrepreneurial spirit.
Berg was a pioneer in incentive travel. Companies rewarding large groups of top performers with trips to exotic locations was a relatively new concept in the 60s. But the idea quickly caught on. The travel incentive industry grew quickly. And ITA Group grew with it. Eventually, the company branched out into performance marketing, designing incentive programs to drive sales, revenue and performance in larger corporations. Travel is still used as a primary motivator and reward in the company’s incentive offerings, as well as an online points-based merchandise catalog.
At Berg’s retirement in 1994, ITA Group posted annual sales of $75 million. Nearly 85% of that was in the performance marketing side of the business. The company employed more than 200 people at the time. Berg’s business philosophy was refreshingly simple—“Get it right the first time.”
“I’m a thin-skinned Norwegian and I can’t stand criticism,” Berg joked at his retirement. “I just made sure we did everything right the first time.”
“Rudy founded and led ITA Group based on a deep commitment to its people,” said ITA Group Chairman of the Board Steve Chapman. “He made sure everyone in the company was committed to delivering at a higher level than what was acceptable to others within the industry. Rudy understood that by genuinely caring for and supporting his employees, the customers of ITA Group would experience service levels beyond expectation. Clearly, he established a culture that has continued to be the difference in the ongoing success of the company.”
“Rudy ran this company with a contagious enthusiasm and a strong focus on operational excellence,” said ITA Group President and CEO Tom Mahoney. “He believed our success to be deeply rooted in exemplary service and strong, trustworthy relationships. It still is. His legacy runs deep in our organization to this day. And we will continue to grow and learn from it well into the future.”
Today, ITA Group is a leader in events, incentives and recognition. The company is employee-owned and has more than 575 team members. Still headquartered in West Des Moines, ITA Group has sales offices in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, San Francisco and the greater New York City area. ITA Group services some of Iowa’s largest companies and Fortune 1000 organizations across the nation. The company celebrated 50 years in business last July.
International Travel Associates remains a division of ITA Group.