Archives For Business Lessons

Fearmonger

MH3 —  January 19, 2014

This morning, while taking my son to his freestyle skiing competition, I drove past one of my former rivals from my high school football days.

Predictably, he groaned as I began to tell him about every game we played against this school. Not again, he begged, and I begrudgingly retreated into silence. But silence can often prove to be a blessing, as it allowed me to think about my worst game against this rival.

It was the year I finally won the starting QB position. We travelled to this school for a season opener that we should have won. Instead I let the team down, played a tentative game, messed up my play calls, and cost us a victory.

Why? I was afraid. Panicked I would screw up. Frightened to lose my role. In the end, my fear-induced ineptitude swiftly cost me my QB job. This was my first experience realizing that if you think about something too much, it will come true.

There is no greater enemy in the arena or the boardroom than fear. Nothing frustrates me more than when I hear one of my employees is afraid of screwing up or even worse, afraid of me. I once had a client tell me I scared them.

Creating an environment devoid of fear has been a relentless objective of mine for several years. The only thing I want people to be concerned about is not trying. Not giving their all. Mistakes will happen. Initiatives may fail. Pitches may be lost. But trying and giving it our all is the true victory. Not trying is failure. I think I am most upset with people when they won’t try. The effort is as important as the result.

It’s a lesson we need to apply away from work as well. If you have kids who play sports, you have no doubt been a part of some great seasons and some crummy seasons. Odds are high that during the crummy seasons, your child and her teammates competed in a culture of fear. Usually created by a well-meaning coach who thinks she is installing a system, but doesn’t realize she’s installing a Pavlovian condition.

Maybe she is as afraid of losing as I was? Maybe she too had the same experience when she was 15? Maybe she too will drive past an arena from her youth, where fear got the better of her one game, and realize that fear doesn’t breed success.

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?

Fan-tastic

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.

First Cut

MH3 —  September 17, 2013

I still remember the first time I was cut.

Despite being Grant Fuhr’s doppelgänger and my 6.85 House League goals against average, the Orillia Pee-Wee rep team didn’t want my netminding “skills”!

Then again, that wasn’t the last.

In Grade 9 I was thrilled when the basketball coach suggested I join the wrestling team, until my parents advised me this wasn’t an “incremental” suggestion. What I really needed was some incremental inches given I was 4′ 6″, without the skills of Spud Webb.

Seems lots of coaches had some great suggestions for me over the years, but they never involved sticking around. The late Tom Dimitroff took one look at my 5′ 2″ freshman frame and suggested the Guelph campus paper needed a sportswriter more than the Gryphons needed a wannabe Pinball Clemons. (Though in those days, Johnny Rogers would be a better example.)

Even today, when I’m 25 years past trying out for teams, I endure regular cuts from potential clients during the pitch process. Many of them sound just like my old coaches. “We loved your agency, but you finished second.” “If we could only hire everybody.” “Your pitch was great, we just found a better fit.”

But today it’s me who has to do the cutting. It’s my first time. It’s making me sad. I have never had to boot someone off the high school football team I have coached for over 15 years. But I have finally met the kid who won’t try. Won’t listen. Won’t commit.

So it’s bye bye time. Unless he can turn it around. He doesn’t have to be good. He just has to try.

When I am angriest at myself at work, it’s when I lose a pitch I know I didn’t put enough effort into. A valiant effort resulting in a loss is okay. Losing because I was outworked…grrr!

For three long weeks I’ve tried to create the teenage analogy of this lesson in junior’s head. But he doesn’t give a crap.

There is no room in my world for people who won’t try hard. Maybe I should try harder to turn him around. But I really think it’s time. The first time. For me to make that cruel, everlasting decision to cut someone. Because I believe it’s the only message that he will remember.

Workcations Don’t Work

MH3 —  August 28, 2013

Last summer I was pretty proud of myself. I took two weeks off and only sent four work-related emails. Of course the London Olympics were a serious distraction from the office rote.

Stupidly when I embarked on this vacay, I actually expected to work. The theory of this hot air balloon burst quickly when I crashed into this old world time warp called Spain. Since swapping the chaotic romance of Barcelona for the organized tranquility of Montreux, Switzerland…the work time hasn’t increased. But my productivity has…and today while yodelling down the mountain, I decided to share my epiphanies with you.

#1. Mark the hypocrite says don’t work on vacation, but if you feel the pressure to be available, then:

# 2. Take twenty minutes in the morning to work and no more. You will be horrified you can actually do everything that’s truly important in way less than the hours of candle burning you normally incur!

# 3. Email at the best of times is horribly misused. When you are away you realize how much so. Convince your team to use email as a data transmitter, not a conversation enabler, and your inbox will shrink.

# 4. Use the twenty-four hour rule. On home soil, this applies when you’re about to send an angry email. But when you are away, delaying all will allow you to edit your replies so they are divinely surgical.

# 5. Mull. Meditate. Ponder. Never do we have enough daylight hours to think. What better time to teach yourself new techniques.

Smile for the camera, it doesn’t know you’re working!

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!

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.

Leading from the Front

MH3 —  April 11, 2013

How do I summarize a week where it seemed every waking moment was filled with inspiration kicking me in the butt?

Some of the motivation was formally delivered. I witnessed a riveting speech delivered by General Rick Hillier at the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance Sport Events Congress. His central message about inspiring others and inspiring yourself revealed that his approach to motivating troops abroad was grounded in ensuring they stayed connected to being Canadian – a sip of Tim Horton’s coffee, a Christmas dinner made by a CO, a visit from the Stanley Cup.

Some of it arrived unexpectedly but in formal settings. In a meeting at Rideau Hall, I was enraptured to hear Bernard Shinder talk about how the event we now call Canada Day was created in the 1970’s by a group of well-connected Ottawa business leaders. Canada Day in Ottawa is a must do event for every Canadian, but in its early days was held away from the shadow of Parliament Hill, as the government feared it may flop!

Some out of the blue. An impromptu offer for a ride from the above Rideau Hall confab, found me being chauffeured by none other than General Walter Natynczyk and hearing about his three children, all proudly serving in our armed forces around the world. How energizing the words of a proud father were, discussing the love his offspring have for serving their country.

Some grew organically. Specifically from Charmaine Crooks, Debbi Wilkes, and Loreen Barnett participating in a Women of Influence panel, moderated by the non-influential male known as MH3, also at the CSTA event. Their voices combined to form a chorus of motivation and insights for women pursuing a career in sports marketing. To quote Debbi Wilkes, “Don’t let anybody else write the script for YOUR life!”

Some were ensnared in the jaws of defeat. Unfortunately at the hands of the US Women’s hockey team who upended Team Canada, in the gold medal world championship game, with their superior skills and sizzling skating. But defeat can be a powerful motivator and all of us should emotionally team up with our women for revenge in Sochi.

I misled you. This wasn’t even an entire week. It was actually only three days. And it wasn’t a butt kicking. No – it was more of a motivational stampede to catch up to those leading from the front!

 

 

Summer School

MH3 —  March 6, 2013

Seems to me that the weather must be getting nicer, based on the flurry of summer job inquiries I received this week.

Friends, clients, ex-clients, suppliers, neighbours, net-workers are all sending me the same email. This email details the ambitions, talents, and virtues of their son/daughter/niece/nephew/neighbour who are looking for that perfect summer opportunity. This email tells me they NEVER hit people up to arrange summer jobs. This email forgot they said the same thing last spring!

Bring ’em on I say. It’s candidly the best channel for recruitment.

But I would like to offer some unsolicited advice to the young nominees who are approaching us for work, to help ensure they get the best shot at the best opportunities this summer.

1. My name isn’t “Mike”. Yep, happened today in fact. A second year student emailed “Dear Mr. Mike Harrison” for a summer job. Guess they teach name recognition in third year. (I politely, for me, emailed them back and said Mike wasn’t hiring, but Mark might be if they wish to try again.)

2. Our company name is TrojanOne. No space. Capital O. Not T1.

3. Enough of the petty stuff… here is an important one. Brevity! Don’t send me your cover letter, resume, and three references all expertly compressed and PDF compatible. Sorry I don’t have time! I am going to flip your email to one of my hiring gurus along with a quick comment: “Mandatory Hire”, “Please Interview”, “Up to You”, and “This kid puked on my lawn last summer…”. So don’t bother filling up my in-box young stars, send me something short, and…

4. Sweet! Hey if you want to work for us, don’t just send me a form email. Customize. Personalize. Humanize. Here is a real life quote from an applicant yesterday:

Dear Mr. Harrison,
Thank you so much for considering me for a potential summer position.

I saw my mother’s email to you … maybe she should be the one going into marketing and promotion. To be described as tall by her is unreliable, at best, and “busty”… maybe relative to my twelve year old brother.

I look forward to hearing from your “hiring dude”.

Hilarious! I hope we have hired her already.

5. This is the most important tip. Figure out what you want to do, how you want to learn, and whom you want to meet. Then be disciplined and diligent at getting it. Summer jobs can be great experiences. They can be great fun. They can be hard work. They can be a great party. They can be a great foundation. There is no right answer. However you need to figure out how you want these four months to impact your future, because whether you realize it or not… you’re not headed to a job, you’re headed to Summer School.

Ten Reasons I Hate “Top 10” Lists!

MH3 —  December 29, 2012

I hate my magazines and newspapers this time of year.

Just when I have time to actually read them all, and not get weeks behind, they turn into mirror thin replicas of their normal selves. Not just in thickness, but also in depth. For the end of every calendar year brings the onslaught of the annual “Best of” Lists!

Top this. Worst that. Best this. Headliner that. Plays of the year. News story of the year. Players of the year.

Can it be that our short term memory is really that….um, what was I going to ask? Assuming you are able to read, the odds are ridiculously high you were alive on January 1st. Therefore you probably were aware of what happened in the last 365 days. So really folks, we do need the media to remind us of what just occurred?

Inspired by irritation, I am going to fuel this hypocrisy conspiracy and provide you with my own Top 10 list. My list is focused on what I detest about lists. Which in a circular way becomes such an immature topic, you probably shouldn’t flatter me by reading it. But because my privacy invasion software allows me to perform unnerving functions, I will let you know now that I can see through your screen and indeed you are STILL reading this. So now you have to finish this blog and read my list. The pissing me off list…

Continue Reading “Ten Reasons I Hate “Top 10” Lists!”…