Archives For Business

Building Winning Teams

MH3 —  May 26, 2014

Need some practical, yet not superficial advice about Building Winning Teams? Try the pages of High Output Management by Andy Grove.

I don’t tell you that because this book is a hot new read. In fact, although only published in 1995, the twenty years since have brought such radical innovation that in some way the book feels oddly dated. Especially given its author is a Silicon Valley pioneer and one of the most important human contributors to the high-tech tsunami.

The sole reason I read the book was due to the sheer number of times that Ben Horowitz referred to Grove and his managerial lessons in his CEO “guidebook”, The Hard Thing About Hard Things. Horowitz’s book is a must read in my mind for business leaders. Grove’s book, while old in business years, is not a dusty diary but an absolute managerial clinic.

What I found invaluable, and probably timeless, are his lessons regarding recruiting, building, and managing teams for peak performance. This is both an art and a science.

Some things that stood out for me include:

  1. He recognizes how hard it is in an hour or two of interviewing to really size up a candidate’s potential to succeed. Grove stresses interview questions that probe deeply to understand the candidate’s approach to business challenges. It is the approach to the problem, not the knowledge base of the problem, that he feels is most critical.
  2. Grove has created his own index for assessing the level of mastery a report has over their tasks. He stresses this approach to allow for an evolving management style even with the same individual. Over time, Grover believes the management of an individual should vary based on development in their ability to accomplish tasks. In short, it’s okay to micro manage someone who is new to an assignment or has taken on a special assignment that is out of their usual accountability. It is actually helpful.
  3. Train. Train. Train. Grove feels strongly that training should be done by managers and there is no better ROI of a manager’s time than training. He mathematically validates this hypothesis, as you would expect a PhD to do. But in short he believes that the time taken to prepare and deliver training material by a manager has an exponential impact on the productivity of the trainees. He firmly believes managers, not outsiders, own training. Plus a robust training assignment also helps the trainer sharpen their skills.
  4. Hold regular one-on-ones with your reports. Let them set the agenda; it’s their time to seek your assistance with problems and issues. They need to happen regularly. They need to happen without fear. The 1:1 provides the best quality development time for a report and keeps the manager in touch with key issues.
  5. Hold on to the good ones. If a keeper employee wants to quit, drop everything immediately and work to find a solution to keep them. It needs to become your priority and that of your organization’s. Don’t buy their concern of having made a commitment to their new place of employment for having signed a contract, because at that point their signature is on two contracts. The one with you and the one with their new boss. One is going to be broken anyway.
  6. Conduct employee reviews that focus on how they’re contributing to future success of the business, not on the current results of the business. This is essential to ensure that employees don’t get rewarded or punished for circumstances beyond their control. This viewpoint will contribute to employees’ focus on contributing to the strategic plan issued by the business unit and not on short-term results.

In an era when too many fluff books about management are written, both Horowitz and Grove break through with realistic lessons that resonate, at least in my little world.


Mirren Mashup

MH3 —  May 20, 2014

Attending a New Business conference isn’t something you usually tell your loyal clients about.

But without the aid of an alias I crossed the border last week and attended Mirren Live in New York. Clearly I haven’t learned any lessons on discretion in this area, because I am now going to share my key learnings in this blog, which by my last check is read by many of our clients.

While there wasn’t a client in sight among the 300+ attendees, there were insights and inspirations that resonated so loudly with me I think they are worth sharing with all participants in my marketing ecosystem: staff, interns, suppliers, competitors, industry colleagues, clients, ex-clients, and maybe even a few future clients. While intended by the presenters as advice for agency leaders, their applicability to all marketing constituents will hopefully be apparent.

I debated long and hard whether I should attribute these ideas to their contributors and decided I would. However given certain legal trouble I am facing (just kidding), I do offer the following caveats.
1. If I misquoted you as a contributor, please forgive me, advise me, and correct me. In that order.
2. If you didn’t want your comments publicly broadcast – it’s too late for that.
3. If you wish to add to your comments, then please fill your boots and comment away.

I was mentioning to a friend the other day how I get so many comments on my blog directly by email, text, etc. Selfishly, nothing gets me more excited when I receive a WordPress notice of a comment to moderate. Yes I love having comments. Check back to my Donald Sterling blog. I even approve comments when people take a swipe at me.

Excuse the mindless segue about comments. Just don’t ignore it.

Okay here goes my version of the Mirren Mashup. Remember speakers, these aren’t direct quotes….just me paraphrasing and in some cases not so loosely interpreting.

Hiring Tip from David C. Baker of ReCourses:
If you couldn’t imagine yourself surviving a nine-hour car ride with the candidate, don’t hire them.

Hiring Tip from Alex Bogusky, FearLess Cottage:
Obnoxious people need not apply.

Client Loyalty Regret from Bogusky:
Dumping Mini for VW (while at Crispin Porter + Bogusky)…will haunt me for a lifetime.

Tim Sullivan of Sales Performance International on Agency Pitches:
The majority of agency pitches do not provide a value proposition to the prospect. What is the transactional value? What is the collaboration value? What is the financial value?

Lead Generation Advice from Peter Caputa of HubSpot:
Utilize multiple landing pages to generate more leads for your inbound programs.

WONGDOODY’s Ben Wiener various tips for Agencies:
Don’t wait for the client to ask before you bring them ideas… Have the balls to say no… Don’t forget who you are… My worst day in Advertising is a better day at the office than my wife’s best (who is a lawyer)… Killed doesn’t mean dead… Pitch less.

Mark Harrison on Mirren:
Pitch less was a big theme of the conference. I wonder how clients feel about that?

Sullivan on 2nd Place Finishers in Pitches:
Finishing second is finishing last. The true second place finisher is the first agency to withdraw from the pitch. It’s a poker analogy. When you fold, you cut your losses.

Future of Advertising Comment from Pete Stein, Razorfish:
Less Campaigns and more Real Time Marketing.

Sarah Hofstetter, 360i on Social Strategy:
Develop a database/relationship with the top 10,000 (yes 10,000) online influencers.

Hofstetter on consumers:
They are human beings.

Hoftstetter on the Oreo Super Bowl Moment:
That wasn’t a fluke. It was a case of a brand understanding its DNA and jumping on a moment.

DDB Worldwide’s Mark O’Brien on client-agency fit:
We are a great agency for a client that has tons of ongoing work that needs to be outputted with efficiency. If you’re doing one spot a year, we may not be the right shop for you.

O’Brien on small agencies:
You have advantages over big agencies. Use them.

Mark Harrison on speaking at Mirren:
I would love to speak next year. (Think this will work?!)

Hofstetter on clients assigning agencies based on marketing channels:
You are better off assigning different parts of the marketing ecosystem and having an agency attack that in an integrated manner.

Laura Maness of Havas on Brainstorming:
You need to transition people into the room. They need to be able to switch from their current distractions to the task at hand. Interview them 2-3 days prior to get the juices flowing. Do Projective Exercises when they are in the room to create moments of reflection. Most of all ensure discipline in the brainstorming process.

Values Redefined by Bogusky:
Your values don’t have to be nice values, just have some.

Client Admiration Comment by Edward Cotton of Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners:
Ugly clients can be great for an agency…. You don’t have to have a BEER client on your roster.

Cotton on Being Persistent:
Just because a client turns you down, doesn’t mean you should stop pursuing them. The Saatchi brothers built an empire on not taking NO for an answer.

We had a private investigator on retainer to get us scoops on prospective clients for pitches.

Hopefully my clients feel I wasn’t in the Big Apple trying to cheat on them, but rather working hard to make my agency a better contributor to their business.

This is where I make a kissy face.

Go SouthWest Old Man

MH3 —  March 2, 2014

I am one thousand percent worried I will be the oldest delegate at SXSW this week.

I was further spooked last week, when the first fellow delegate who spotted me on the attendee list was a former intern…barely into their first real job.

Yet it’s high time I broke out of my conference routine. Later this month I will be attending IEG for the 19th or 20th time. But I need to change things up. This April will be the first time in several years I’m not attending the CSTA Sport Events Congress. It’s all I can do to resist the pull of SportAccord in Turkey or the Event Marketer conference in Salt Lake come May. The latter’s been replaced by the Mirren New Business agency conference in NYC. I’m still debating C2 in MTL and want to hear any thoughts people have on that.

(Kudos by the way to the TwentyTen Group and their XL Leadership Summit a couple of weeks back. Hearing lots of orbital buzz about how good it was!)

So I’m making some changes. Slowly.

My guess is SXSW will be anything but slow. I’m attending the Interactive week, which also is hosting three days of SPORTS this week. The integration of Sports with Interactive is generating pre-conference buzz among attendees. It’s a savvy move by the organizers, mirroring the very real collision between these two social movements on a daily basis. I’m excited to attend an event where I can hear Gary Vaynerchuk one day and Dick’s Sporting Goods the next!

Let me know if I can get anything for you while I’m in Austin. I’ve got to run and find my fake ID that says I’m 27!

TrojanOne is For Sale

MH3 —  December 19, 2013

No, just kidding. But who can blame any of my agency-owning peers for some wishful thinking of selling our businesses this week after witnessing the IMG sale?

In less than 10 years after being sold for $ 750 million to Forstmann Little by the estate of the late great Mark McCormack, IMG is now being sold for more than three times that…$2.4 billion to William Morris Endeavour. These two transactions reflect the brilliance of two men. Mark McCormack, who founded IMG in 1960, effectively invented the agency business model for sports and sponsorship marketing. The second genius in our saga is Ted Forstmann, who, according to the script written by industry pundits, went from a reviled investment banker criticized for gutting IMG…to a man who clearly knew what he was doing!!!

IMG has incredible assets in the properties they own and the rights they broker. Now we know they aren’t just incredible; they are pretty valuable. Worth billions.

So how much would you give me for TrojanOne? What assets do I have? You probably don’t see media rights to international properties or ownership of fashion shows or marketing relationships with star athletes on my balance sheet. But look a little further.

What I do have is the most dedicated and talented team of people you would ever want to be associated with, who proved to me once again in 2013 that they will do whatever it takes to get our clients promoted. They push the boundaries of creativity with Twitter-activated vending machines, keeping a relentless focus on clients’ business objectives, generating thousands of leads for a Grey Cup sponsor, or ensuring our field staff are motivated and equipped to travel the country and endure the demands of a grueling experiential tour schedule.

I have witnessed my team spend all night rebuilding bike racks at an international sports event; held my breath while they created from scratch, in less than 24 hours, a mobile payment system for an event registration venue that threw us a curve; and tried to support them relentlessly during six emergency conference calls on a weekend when a music property went astray.

Most people in life never get to work in area they love. The passion my people have for their work is amazing and I love them for it. That’s why TrojanOne will be accepting bids today starting at Infinity!

Boarding the WestJet Bandwagon

MH3 —  December 10, 2013

You know what I love best about the WestJet Christmas promo video that was soaring to 4 million YouTube views when I started writing this tonight?

Not the fact that the airline’s project lead for this campaign is a former employee of mine.

Not the fact that I was secretly (?) tipped off by a WestJetter the week before it came out. No, not by my ex-Trojanite!

Not the fact that I probably wasn’t being tipped off, but in fact being used as an influencer to hopefully spread the word.

Not the fact that I cry much too regularly at Christmastime, a condition I blame on Jimmy Stewart and his performance in my fave flick of all time, It’s a Wonderful Life.

No. The thing I love best is that this video was done by a company, WestJet, that treats its customers like it’s Christmas 365 days a year.
This has long been their differentiator and it’s entirely genuine. Hence, when you see this video (and if you haven’t, stop reading my drivel, grab a box of tissue, find a quiet place, dial up Google, and get ready to smile), you believe it to be genuine. Even though, in reality, it’s a stunt. A marketing activity. A promotion. Scripted. Contrived. Amplified. What could be more horrific?! Marketing!

Doesn’t matter. It’s a beautiful piece of marketing by a company that walks their talk.

So kudos to WestJet. Not just for the video, but for a little lesson for all of us in marketing.

Imagine if we all treated our clients like everyday was a holiday?

Kicking Game

MH3 —  November 13, 2013

I think every year I could write an emotionally charged blog when my football season ends.

If we finished with a championship win (circa 2005 & 2009), then the storyline might be about how my players overcame the odds or how they developed as a team.

If we finished with a playoff loss (insert the other 18 years of volunteer football coaching here…unfortunately), then I could pursue plot lines of valiant effort, or perhaps how I underperformed as a coach, or a wait-till-next year rallying cry.

This year, following our quarter-final upset loss last week, I could highlight being out-coached, a team that was overconfident despite fielding only 21-22 players versus 45 for our opponent, mistakes by me in the kicking game, key injuries to some of our best receivers, and mistakes by my team…also in the kicking game. Did I mention a team that fields only 21-22 players versus 45 for our opponent?

After the game, I was particularly obsessed by my errors in the Kicking Game, but was reminded by a knowledgeable parent of one of my players that one play doesn’t win or lose a game. He’s right, though I only half believe him today….

Admittedly, I’m a sore loser. I’ve been looking inward, very very deeply, over the last few days. Realizing that at 48, it really is time for me to grow up. Thankfully, I think I’ve stumbled over the reason why I feel this way.

It’s not the losing that really kicks. Because losing suggests I’m jealous of the winners. I’m not. They deserved to win. What hurts isn’t the loss of the game, it’s the loss of purpose.

When the season is on, everyone on a team has a common purpose. A brotherhood. A galvanizing force. When the season ends, the suddenness of that loss destroys that purpose. It’s the ending of the mission that hurts. Failure isn’t what creates fear, it’s the end of the journey and what that entails.

This is the true Kicking Game moral. It applies to sports, business, a husband and wife saving for their first house, a person trying to lose weight, someone facing a grave disease. The journey, the mission, the effort is the reward. The outcome is important; in most of my examples there is much more at stake than winning a silly high school football game. But even winning a championship results in the silence of the post-season the next day.

Fortunately, and unfortunately, I’ve recovered faster than ever from this loss. I’ve got a ton of missions to sink myself into. Work, clients, helping my wife and kids fulfill their dreams, mentoring my staff, supporting a sick colleague. Given what’s going on in this world, from devastating typhoons to ridiculous mayors, there is so much for us all to become a part of. Having a mission can be so powerful. So instead of waiting for next season to get my kicks, I’m going to tackle everything else in my life like I do my beloved Lawrence Park Panthers. As a volunteer, a leader, a committed partner.

That will give me lots of kicks!


MH3 —  October 30, 2013

Over the past couple of years, the industry volunteers who drive the Sponsorship Marketing Council of Canada have been working their fannies off to build an organization that is more relevant, valuable, and attractive to the marketing community. This morning proved they have achieved their lofty ambitions.

Every couple of months the SMCC holds breakfast forums in Toronto. In past years they have been hit and miss. Some have had great content, with poor attendance. Others have been attended en masse, only to showcase disappointing content. Finally the light went on and made enough people at the SMCC executive table realize that poorly orchestrated events were more than bad events. They were actually reflecting poorly on the entire sponsorship marketing industry. How can you sell the C-suite on the ROI of sponsorship marketing when our own industry events have zero ROI?

Flash forward to 2013 and you now have all-star panels such as this morning’s featuring my pal Don Mayo of IMI, Jacquie Ryan of Scotia, Nathalie Cook from TSN, Iain Chalmers of Diageo, Alan Dark of CBC and Kyle McMann from the NHL. Today’s 8:00 AM seminar was held in Real Sports, which was great except I had never seen the place sober before. (Bummed that none of the usual waitresses were working either, but I did recognize a couple of their moms serving coffee.)

The topic of conversation was “The Elusive Fan,” with the NHL and its partner programs utilized to illustrate the theory that Fan Value is the key for sponsorship ROI for all parties: sponsor, property, and media rights holder. It’s a sound theory that extends beyond the NHL case study, although hockey is a perfect lesson for us all.

More important than the topic is the effort of the SMCC execs and the commitment of the speakers to ensure that the sponsorship marketing industry in Canada grows, flourishes, and is duly recognized for its impact on business success. That’s ROI for all of us!

Hey SMCC, you have won over this elusive fan.

Don’t be fooled. The most important meetings aren’t the entries in your agenda today.

The 8:30 AM conference call with the sales team. The 10:00 AM budget re-draft with your boss. The networking lunch. The 3:00 PM metrics presentation. The 5:15 check-in with a new employee. The 6:00 PM call to the West Coast HQ of your largest customer.

They are all important. They are all vital. They all require preparation galore. But…

But the actual meeting pales with the “meeting after the meeting.” Here’s why.

# 1. YOU often aren’t in the meeting after the meeting. Whether it’s your boss, your clients, or your staff…you were left off the guest list. Because the MATM is usually held secretly, at a new location, quite often electronically…but rarely with your presence. Scary? It can be. Because you are no longer present to shape the dialogue and ensure your point of view is well represented. It’s now left to interpretation, which could be good…or bad.

# 2. Depending on the outcome of this meeting, the impact of your scripted meeting will soon have a new scorecard. In direct terms you need this meeting to be more effectual than the scripted meeting if you hope the mandate you established gets carried out with zeal. We have all heard from Debby Downer, sometime after the scripted meeting, that despite their head nod to the formal conversation, they really had no intent to follow through with their commitment.

# 3. You didn’t plan for the meeting after the meeting. You were naturally well prepared for the scripted meeting. Tight agenda. Sharp presentation materials. Detailed budgets. But did you think about where your materials, words, and discussion would travel in the next 24 hours? Did you project who, beyond the live/dialed-in meeting attendees, would virtually be part of the extended conversation? Did you forecast the agendas of the various stakeholders and what fires they would light within seconds of smile f’ing you out of the room?

Since I know you are reading this while you actually are in a meeting, you cheater, I am glad I caught you at a timely moment. Look up from your tablet and scan the room. Tally up who you think will be meeting with whom. Project what their mood and motives will be. Speculate how this is going to impact you. Then load up your verbal cannon and lob a few proactive comments on the table to preemept the chatter.

If you really want to be ballsy, why not let the room know you are in on their secret and you too plan to have a meeting…after the meeting!

Building Community

MH3 —  April 25, 2013

Yes this blog title matches the theme of the 2013 Canadian Sponsorship Forum. But no, this isn’t an advertisement to attend. Not today anyway.

Today these two words summarize for me some reflections I am having.

The first reflection is of Jane Knox and Eamonn O’Loghlin. This week at the 2013 Sponsorship Marketing Council of Canada Conference we are honouring Jane and Eamonn. Both were people I did business with. Both attended numerous Canadian Sponsorship Forum events. Both became friends of mine, I hope. Both were community builders. Both departed us much too early in the past two years.

Jane was a stalwart in the sponsorship community through her work at CBCF and Sick Kids. She was active as a marketer, volunteer, and champion. Eamonn led sponsorship at the CNE for years, all the while championing all causes Irish in Canada.

We invited their families to the conference this week, so our industry could say thanks. Both individuals make me realize why I love the Canadian sponsorship community.

The second reflection is from Coca-Cola’s presentation at the conference. While the presentation focused on their partnership with WWF Canada, the key for me was their rationale for this type of activity. The Coke presenter eloquently stated that when you Build Community you Build Business.

Building Community isn’t just about building business. Take Paralympic Champion Michelle Stillwell, who has decided to trade her Team Canada uniform for a campaign outfit as she runs for the Liberals in Parksville on Vancouver Island. I don’t really know Michelle, but she partnered with one of our clients last year. What struck me about her was that she was so genuine in determining whether she would work with our client. The money they offered didn’t matter. The exposure they offered also didn’t matter. What mattered was how our client was contributing to society.

Makes me believe that as a politician she will be truly more interested in her riding, in her community, than her potential personal rise to the top. If I was eligible to vote for Michelle, I would. Twice!

The Human Race

MH3 —  April 18, 2013

Events, such as the Boston Marathon, are the ultimate celebration of humanity.

Endurance events celebrate human achievement that many thought impossible in themselves. Festivals provide a stage for expression and recognition. Sporting events bond people together and prove that team colours are thicker than red blood.

Events aren’t supposed to result in death, amputation, devastation.

Events aren’t supposed to result in CNN, 911, 617.

Events aren’t supposed to result in this.

There have been many, many call outs for us to soldier on, carry on, move ahead. Events and organizers around the world are putting on a brave face. All of us realize the need for beefed up security and additional diligence in our planning. I want to add to the choir.

Our industry might be perceived as fun and games. But we hold the key to The Human Race. We create experiences, joy, and triumph. Now more than ever we must continue to do so.

In this nonstop age of media onslaught, only events will ensure people connect physically. Only events will ensure that we get to know our neighbours. Only events will drive the fitness of our bodies and minds.

Almost every person who reads this blog contributes to that. You need to realize how important what you do, what you do each and everyday, is to society. Whether you are a sponsor, organizer, producer, marketer, volunteer, or a marathoner.

Whatever your marathon is… keep running. Keep organizing. Keep supporting.

Look into the faces of your participants and recognize the importance of what you do.

You don’t organize events. You build people.

Don’t let some nut stop that. It’s the best tribute we can pay to the victims, their families, and the countless people engaged with the Boston Marathon.