Dreaming of Dr. King

MH3 —  April 3, 2018

Twenty years ago I got extreme altitude sickness while hiking in Peru with my wife. Thankfully she was there to advocate for me with our guides because if I had been on my own, the odds are high that I would never have made it. I was so loopy that I was unable to explain to our guides, who spoke very little English, that my lungs were filling with fluid and my brain was losing functionality.

Being saved from major illness or worse is not what this blog is about. It’s about the fiftieth anniversary of the slaying of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. The connection? A dream that I had over and over the first night that the altitude sickness was really impacting me in Peru.

That dream, which I feel like I had dozens of times that night, was short and bizarre. In the dream, I burst into the rooming house where King’s assassin James Earl Ray was staying. Each and every time I am a split second too late to stop the fatal shot from being fired. The countless repetitions of this dream almost drove me insane that night.

I’m reminded of this odd moment in my life as I consider the tragic half century marking of Dr. King’s death. Why would a Canadian, who has never truly felt the pain of serious racism, be dreaming about an assassination that can’t be undone? Was there something significant in my dream, or was it a fluke?

Dr. King had a dream that almost everyone in the world has heard parts of. His dream was to end racism. His dream was for people to not be judged by the colour of their skin. His dream was to end bitterness and hatred. His dream was for society to follow the idea that all men are created equal.

The world is killing the dream.

I fear that if Dr. King were alive today it may have killed him as well.

In Canada, we have unarmed indigenous kids being killed by white men who are being acquitted on grounds that it was an accident. Did the gun get loaded by accident?

Across Europe, we have countries closing their doors to Syrian families who are being forced to leave a country they don’t really want to leave, but a convoluted and unwinnable civil war has left them no choice.

In Burma, rape, murder, and arson are being utilized to chase out unwanted minorities.

Don’t even get me started on the United States. “The land of the free”.

“The land of the free” where a professional football team thinks it is okay to use a nickname that at one point literally meant the scalped head of a Native American. Oh, and by the way, the reward for each carcass was $200, about the price of a good seat in the stadium.

“The land of the free” where people want to fly the flag that represents the enslavement of four million of my ancestors.

‘The land of the free” unless you’re a Dreamer which means you’re one of nearly a million young people brought to America by your parents, albeit illegally, who are now being threatened with deportation. That’s right young lady, you were brought here at two years old by your parents, but now despite your university degree, your good job, your loving partner, and your cute puppy – we want you to leave because you seem like a threat.

I do believe in signs, symbolism, messages, and yes even my dreams. Though I can’t explain that night in Peru, or why when I sat down to reflect on MLK why this memory came flooding back. For whatever the reason, I know there is a reason. So with that to consider, I leave you with three thoughts:

I wonder what it will take for the world to fulfill Dr. King’s dreams.
I wonder if our children will live in a world where they can fulfill their dreams.
I wonder what part of you, me, or even a perfect stranger can play in that most important calling.

Do you have a dream?

The Pride In His Eyes

MH3 —  March 21, 2018

The pride in his eyes told the story in full. The eyes belonged to a man whom I had just met at fabled Croke Park in Dublin. Home to decades of Irish history, much of it of the sporting nature, but sadly not all. Here this man and I were randomly introduced at halftime of the All Ireland Gaelic Athletic Association Hurling Club Championships.

The pride in his eyes became a personal highlight reel. This all came about when I asked if he had ever competed at Croke Park. The accompanying smile and voice quickly told me the story of how he and his mates captured two All Ireland medals in years gone by. Two Gaelic Athletic Association championships that mean more to an Irish sportsman than I could ever have imagined. Triumphs that were years in the making and many more years in the retelling. He remarked to his adult daughter that these wins came before her time on earth. A reminder that his telling of the story wasn’t just for this Canadian stranger.

Cuala Fans Celebrating Victory at Croke Park in 2017

The pride in his eyes provided a tour through a unique sporting history. The Gaelic Athletic Association administers two sports – Gaelic Football and Hurling. The games are played and coached exclusively by amateurs, players even at the highest of levels are not compensated for their playing. Founded in 1884 by a group of Irishmen who realized the importance of making organized sports more accessible to the masses, the GAA brought a revival of traditional and indigenous sports to Ireland. Today there are over 2,200 clubs in 32 counties in Ireland. With the GAA being deep-rooted in Irish tradition and pride, it’s not unusual to witness a sold-out crowd of 82,300 at Croke Park for the All Ireland Finals.

The pride in his eyes grew during the course of the day. It was the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, a religious holiday in which Irish people come together and commemorate the death of the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick. In Rugby, the Irish team had just trounced England at Twickenham to win the Grand Slam 24-15. Now that the professionals had made their country proud, the focus was squarely on the amateurs playing for national titles. The hurling featured a back and forth game between Cuala and Na Piarsaigh. With absolutely no time on the clock, the man’s side (Cuala) was down by three. But a foul from Colm Cronin, put Sean Moran on the line to attempt a goal, his success sent the game into overtime. In overtime, David Treacy scored a long point from a free, which tied the game again. In a tradition I have never seen before, the game wasn’t sent to penalty shots but rather a second game was scheduled to break the deadlock.

Cuala and Na Piarsaigh Face-Off in the All Ireland Senior Club Hurling Final

The pride in his eyes was pure Ireland. A country that has overcome oppression, famine, terrorism, and civil war. A country that is cautiously recovering from economic disasters. A country that today, is as welcoming as you could imagine and as optimistic as any. A country that cheers on its amateurs with the same voracity as its pros.

The pride in his eyes will always be remembered by mine.

 

Be Olympic

MH3 —  February 28, 2018

Admittedly this blog is a bit preachy. I apologize in advance.

A day after returning from PyeongChang I don’t know whether I am jet-lagged, asleep, or chock full of adrenaline. What I do know is that I am emotionally quick-triggered (no I wasn’t crying watching Virtue & Moir skate to the Hip’s Long Time Running), already nostalgic about my trip, and eternally inspired. The 2018 Winter Olympics were nothing like I expected them to be at all. In fact, I don’t think they were what many people expected.

Every Olympic Games follows a similar news cycle. The drama of bidding and the subsequent elation of winning for the host country. The controversy over costs and taxpayer money as venues start being constructed. Security fears, logistical concerns, construction delays. Every Games has it. But in many ways PyeongChang had even more lead-up drama including the military threat of North Korea, the ban of the Russian NOC due to drug scandals, the absence of National Hockey league players in men’s hockey.

The region itself was also under attack. The host towns were deemed too small and lacking in decent accommodation, restaurants, and hospitality venues. The time zones were going to make for poor television ratings in North America. The local apathy and economy would lead to poor ticket sales. I almost fell into the doom and gloom trap that caused me to skip Sochi and Rio, but a random conversation with the COC’s Chris Overholt changed my mind.

A quick backstory. Back to being spoiled. I was lucky enough to attend London 2012 and when I left I vowed to attend every Olympic Games from thereon out. Threats of terrorism, safety, and travel issues convinced me not to attend the 2014 and 2016 games. Yet, after both, I felt a serious pang of regret. My thoughts about maybe attending Korea were turned positive when Chris said to me, without bias, that Korea was going to be great. So on February 8th I booked flights. On February 10th I booked hotels. On February 17th my family and I hopped on an AC061 for a smooth thirteen-hour direct flight.

What awaited us I cannot describe. Korea wasn’t at all what I expected. We spent two days in Seoul, before spending five days in Gangneung and PyeongChang. The architecture sucked, the streets were dirty. The food awful in some places. The taxi drivers useless. The mountain bus shuttles frustrating. The lack of English speakers almost insurmountable. A complete dearth of information about local events and attractions.

Yet I loved every minute of it.

First of all, the place is fascinating. Seoul’s streets crawl with amazing pedestrian markets, food stands, street performers, and people watchers. Its restaurants are lively, boisterous and energetic. Its homage to its past is as clear as its focus on the future.

The Olympic host region provided more eternal memories. Both venue clusters were outstanding. Every sports facility and fan venue was monumental yet amazing. None seemed to be fiscally inappropriate yet all had a grandeur. The host towns may have lacked the old world charm of Europe, or the breathtaking beauty of Whistler or Rio, but there was something infectious about their modesty.

The theme of the games was Passion. Connected. As much as the technology was meant to be the connection fuel, that was the exclusive domain of the people. While many ticketed events had poor crowds, the live sites and public festival areas were jammed with Koreans. They lapped up everything they could and reveled at the fact that the world was on their front step. They lined up for hours to buy merchandise, get mascot pictures, trade pins, and participate in amazing activations by The North Face, Samsung, and Jesus. Yes, there was a lot of ambush marketing by religious groups everywhere you turned!

The Canadian in me was proud to wear Red & White. As we walked the less beaten paths of the towns, many locals smiled at us, bowed, said hello, or in the case of one young seven-year-old Korean, shared all fifteen English words she had in her vocabulary. Which was fifteen more than I know in Korean!

Team Canada didn’t miss these Olympics. They fulfilled their Be Olympic motto to the max. Record-setting medal performances. Dealing with death threats. Hockey teams holding their heads high, even if their medal results were lower than they hoped for. An amazing Canada Olympic House venue became our home away from home. Yes, it served Poutine and S’mores! It was impossible to go more than five feet without seeing a friendly face.

I feel bad for the PyeongChang organizers. There should have been more people there. We found a brand new hotel in walking distance to Olympic Park for a reasonable price. I have never felt safer in a foreign country. The politeness of store staff was punctuated by their literally saying Ahn-nyoung-hee Ga-sae-yo (goodbye) to you every time you left. Once we started to discover the nice pockets of town we found delightful coffee shops, parks, and restaurants. But many people I talked to missed those gems.

I feel bad for the athletes, support staff, trainers, doctors, federation staff, and coaches. They deserved more fans in the stands. They deserved more cheers for a lifetime of work. They deserved more support. They deserved it right then and there.

Being Olympic isn’t just about competing. It’s about sponsoring, watching, cheering, and acting. It’s about recognizing that everybody in a country plays a part in our athletes’ success. It’s about getting your children involved in sports. It’s about getting yourself off the couch and committing to fitness. It’s about supporting the brands, government agencies, governing bodies, and donors that fund all levels of amateur sport in this country.

Being Olympic is about attending your local university sports varsity games or volunteering at a community ringette tournament. It’s about demanding the media provide more diverse coverage on a year-round basis. It’s about inviting our governments to get out of the propaganda business and fund more programs that will create a healthier and happier society.

You don’t have to travel to an Olympic Games to Be Olympic. But I wish more Canadians had gone to Gangneung. The people there wanted to show off their region. They invested heavily and deserved your financial support. It’s a challenged region economically and what little I could do to help, makes me feel good.

The Olympic Games are working hard to get back to the original ideals of the movement and that feels good. Its only two years away before Tokyo. Let’s go everybody! Start planning now. I am happy to be your ringleader.

Let’s get into the groove today. You can still travel to the Paralympics in PyeongChang or show your support online and by watching the broadcasts. There are many many other upcoming domestic and international sporting events that need your love. If we could do one thing together, as a nation, it would be to fill the stands and jam the airwaves every time our young athletes compete.

If we do that together, then our country will truly Be Olympic.

Is Tomorrow Here?

MH3 —  February 2, 2018

I would like to invite you to the future. I would like to an extend an invitation for you to experience tomorrow. I would like to host you in a reality not yet real.

This may seem impossible to you, but it’s not. Because on March 15th I will be predicting the future of Sponsorship Marketing. To be precise it will be March 15th at 1:30 PM GMT. That much I know for sure, because that is what the schedule of the Irish Sponsorship Summit website tells me so. At that precise moment I will be sharing with hundreds of delegates my conference opening presentation entitled What’s Trending Next.

So what does the future hold? Where will our industry be in a year, a decade, or even in just one month. What trends will drive how we plan, develop, activate, and evaluate sponsorships. What Is Next?

Before I answer that question, I have a fundamental one for you. It’s a question that I need you to consider deeply or deeply consider. It is a question that I not only direct to you, but I direct to your entire organization. It’s a question of philosophy and strategy. While simple, I suspect your reaction will be anything but.

How much emphasis do you place on understanding the future?

Let me ask it another way. If you think about the energy and resources expended by you and your colleagues on any given workday, where is the focus? Is it on the past? Are you reaping the rewards of past efforts? Are you enduring pain from past mistakes? Are you solving for the latter while simultaneously benefiting from the former?

Perhaps your time and energy are solely focused on the present. By present, I don’t mean what is happening today, I mean everything you are working on today. Every program, plan, campaign that has been approved and is currently being developed.

Back to my question: how much energy do you spend on the future? Seriously. Are you developing long-term plans? Are you looking for contingencies? Are you painting the future landscape that you want to live in? Are you designing the environment you want your brand or property to grow in? Do you have a clear or even a vague sense of what the future landscape will look like?

I am a big believer in constant learning. Learning can come from looking at your past and identifying what worked well. But the rear-view mirror of life has a limited view. It has no peripheral vision whatsoever. Better learning comes from looking outside. It can only come from traveling to different places, from engaging with different people, from digesting other’s points of view.

That is my question of you. The unanimous answer to this question is always “Not Enough.” Mine included. We can never spend enough time looking ahead and trying to assess what is around the corner. The present is a heavy anchor and can often be overwhelming.

But I am trying. The fruits of my efforts will be what I share on March 15th. Spoiler alert – I am opinionated. But I will bring an opinion built on a framework that will communicate why I believe what I believe. The foundation of that framework is built on hundreds of conversations and connections that I engage with regularly. The daily dozens of articles (online and offline for the record), that I consume –  Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, ESP Sponsorship Report, Adweek, Sports Pro, Leaders, Stratechery, The Full Monty, WARC, Front Office Sports, Sport Techie, Charity Village Vibes.

Probably one of the most valuable pillars of this foundation are my travels. In the two years leading up to this presentation I will have attended a ridiculous number of conferences and events: CESNBA All-Star Game, NHL All-Star, South by Southwest, IEG, C2, Association of Fundraising Professionals, Canadian Sponsorship Forum, TIFF, Junos, Calgary Stampede, Korean Olympics, American Football Coaches Conference, Ipsos Back to School Event, AdWeek New York, Advertising Age Small Agency Conference, XLive… as soon as I press publish on this I will remember two more.

In addition to all of this ongoing learning I am purposely seeking out articles and cases regarding trends, the future, and what’s next. If you have thoughts, articles, or papers I should read, please forward! Even if it is just your best three guesses!

The trends such as Globalization, Market of One, Tech Impact, of course, will be a part of the discussion. But so will preparing yourself for the future. What types of skills will the future sponsorship marketer require? What will the client or the relationship manager of the future look like?

What new shapes will the definition of sponsorship take? Who will be the dominant player become – the property? The sponsor? The consumer? The public sector?

Will the currency of sponsorship continue to evolve? Literally or figuratively? Don’t you think that change is for certain? Hasn’t Blockchain made sure of it? Perhaps the currency of sponsorship will revert backward?

The best part of predicting the future is that you can never be wrong. The worst part is you can never be right. However, what you can be is provocative. You will not be able to sit through my presentation without disagreeing with some of it, being frightened by other parts, and being ready to race back to your virtual desk immediately to start revamping your career path.

That is one prediction I can promise you will come true on March 15th in Dublin.

 

Mark Harrison Future of Sponsorship Marketing

The Best of CES

MH3 —  January 25, 2018

Two weeks ago I was riddled with enthusiasm as I attended my first ever Consumer Electronics Show.

The 2018 edition of CES attracted some 200,000 delegates so I’m pretty sure it didn’t notice me exploring its halls and the streets of Las Vegas with a massive smile on my face, a rising heartbeat in my chest, and throbbing brain in my skull. But trust me CES – I was there. As were you. So much of you that with almost three full days of attending, I feel like I barely got to know you.

Day one I sampled marketing-oriented sessions, toured an expo hall focused on healthy living, and attended some dynamic sport innovation sessions. Day two I toured the convention center and covered 23,000 steps worth of inspiration. Day three I joined a summit focused on bettering society.

I learned a hundred and one new things, but you don’t have time to read that long of a list so I’ve whittled it down to ten. Each of these ten deserves to be explored in greater depth, which is something I plan to share with my team and clients over the next few weeks. For now, please enjoy this summarized account and accept my preemptive apology if it leaves you wanting more. That’s one hundred and three percent intentional.

1. I learned that the more people globally list this position as their occupation than any other. Can you guess? A driver. More people work as drivers than any other job on the globe. It made me question the societal impact of the billions of dollars being spent to create a future state of autonomously-driven vehicles. How will all of these people deal with becoming forever obsolete?

2. A man should not be defined by his worst deeds. So said Shaka Senghor. A drug dealer, convicted murderer, MIT fellow, and New York Times bestseller. He was told by the guard when he left jail after seventeen years behind bars – seven of which in solitary confinement –  that he would be back in six months. Senghor used that as his motivation to focus on the future and not the past. To climb past his worst deeds. I (thankfully) haven’t committed murder, though I was jailed for a night, but too often I put MH3 in my own cell of regret over something that went wrong in the past. Senghor convinced me that the blips in my past aren’t worth becoming speed bumps in my future. Blessed that at a technology convention I learned something so powerful about my own humanity.

3. There is a technology rebellion on its way. Gen Z’s are stressed out by tech. Research is showing signs of boredom with technology. Millenial women are diving back into reading print pubs. The explosion in the experience economy is coming and will be bigger than we could imagine.

4. VR is a great technology for experiential if you have buckets of money. Done to scale like the amazing Samsung Olympic VR installment, VR can actually be used quite powerfully. Samsung packaged simulators, rides, indictable and group activities in a seamless manner. VR is still probably a more B2B focused technology, but planning your next 2D marketing campaign in VR will open up endless possibilities that I certainly wasn’t seeing before.

5. Want to get rich? Own the data. It’s that simple. Every industry story has the same bottom line, access to data. It’s everywhere. In the 20th Century Cash Was King. In the 21st… Data Dominates.

6. Intel has it figured out. They were everywhere at CES and everywhere they were they did it brilliantly. Their opening keynote was being talked about right until the closing of the show. Their nightly drone shows lit up the Nevada sky. Their trade show installation was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Staffed by talented, mature (not 22-year-olds) and highly paid (two of them told me so unprompted) brand ambassadors, the energy level and activities was infectious. I didn’t want to leave. With literally more than dozen engagement points. I didn’t have to. AR. VR. AI. Drones. They had it all. If I was giving advice to a college grad of where to go to work, I would say find a way to get into Intel. No pun intended.

7. I would love to be a robot for a day. The bar is so low to be admired. I saw one play ping pong versus a human. People gasped. I saw another take in job applicants. People aped. A third played for a large crowd and flittered with spectators. People giggled. I am not sure if my fellow attendees were aware, but I can do all three of those things. And more! Plus my soon to be released 3.0 model can dance with a full beer can on his head without spilling it for two entire songs.https://www.instagram.com/p/BdyHIbjnuY-/?taken-by=markharrison3

8. Living longer is not only a universal goal, its an unbelievable business. Aisle after aisle after aisle proffered gadgets for healthier living, staying fitter, measuring every indicator a human could possibly create, stimulating your brain, tightening your tush, and improving your looks. Perhaps my naivete to this category demonstrates nothing more than my own ignorance, but wow. The money being poured into healthy pursuits has no end.

9. Like many major events, CES can be characterized by the official event accessible by all, the official exclusive events accessible by the chosen, and the unofficial events accessible by the connected. I am not ashamed to announce that I was invited to exactly ZERO events of a VIP nature. ZERO! It is probably one of the few times in my life where it didn’t matter. The energy and enthusiasm of the showgoers flowed over to the bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and even the gym at my hotel. If you didn’t end up talking to a stranger, that was by your choice. A choice you actually had to work at to succeed at. People wore their convention lanyards like a badge of honour. Up and down the streets, the CES badge gave you license to nod, smile, or greet a perfect stranger. It was like Burning Man for people who wanted to keep their pants. At least where I was, anyway. The all-too-obvious closing statement to this comment is to lament why we can’t be this social everyday and everywhere. Despite its predictability that is the question I am going to pose to you.

10. Everyone was at CES. When I mean everyone, I mean everyone. Governments, charities, celebrities, every industry imaginable. Why? Because despite all the trend spotters out there, nobody really knows what is going to happen next. Being a CES helps you figure that out. But  There is a lot hype in this world and the biggest challenge at CES is sorting through all the prototypes, demos, and one-offs to understand what ca actually be applied to the here and now. The upside of all this hype is that it provides a powerful kick in the jewels to inspire more innovation and experimentation in your everyday life.

@cesofficial

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“Google, Sing Happy Birthday”

MH3 —  January 17, 2018

I’m pretty sure I never envisioned the day when my son could ask a small electronic device to honour the day of my birth with a song. But that is just what happened in my house.

Birthdays in today’s world are weird.

There is no way to hide the fact that you’ve just done another lap on planet earth. Thanks to social media, digital profiles, and electronic networks, everybody knows. It’s that simple. There is no hiding.

I’m one of those people who declares that their birthday isn’t a big deal to them. But the hypocrisy in that statement went up in Californian smoke the minute I started crafting this blog. Yet I’m still going to defend my position and declare it really isn’t a big deal.

There is no need for a big party or a fancy dinner with lots of people. I don’t need a surprise or a hat or balloons. There is no internal desire to take the day off work, although that is a perk we started offering to the team a year ago.

But I have to tell you this social media thing makes you feel kinda good on your birthday. You get to spend the day being feted, in small morsels and bites, every few minutes. People you haven’t heard recently from, family in distant lands, and people you enjoy daily all chime in.  You would have to be the coldest dude in the land to not enjoy it.

So I did.

But not solely for my benefit. As I looked at the greetings and notes, it made me realize that most people love their birthday. I am not suggesting they are being disingenuous in sending me greetings. But each one gives me a little glimpse into them. People like to celebrate their special day. They also like to celebrate others’ special days.

That’s why I donned a fun t-shirt I found online a few months ago and posted a rare selfie. I wanted to ensure that I signaled my never-seen-before openness to birthday greetings. If people want to enjoy a birthday – mine or theirs – I wanted to help them.

It was worth it.

Not because it fed into some cliche about getting better, not older. Not because I’m so vain that I was repeatedly counting the posts and comments throughout the day. No, because as a business contact reminded me during an afternoon meeting, human beings are happiest when they feel love and a sense of belonging in this world. (BTW he didn’t know it was my birthday or perhaps he forgot my gift).

Happiest when loved. Happiest when you feel you belong. Perhaps that is the real meaning behind the words Happy Birthday. It’s an extra special message of friendship and connection that each of us deserves, at least once a year.

Even if that message is delivered by Google.

Football As Life Version 2018

MH3 —  January 9, 2018

The world doesn’t need another ‘sport is a metaphor for life’ blog post, but I absorbed some powerful thoughts at the American Football Coaches Convention that I do need to share.

Yes, they are words of wisdom espoused by college, pro, and high school football coaches and therefore shouldn’t automatically be accepted as life lessons. But they just as easily could have been words of wisdom from business, government and societal leaders. By extension, they would have similar transferability to the sports arena.

Certainly, the coaches presenting and attending at the AFCA Convention feel they contribute to the world much more than just fun and games. The unofficial theme of the event was that football and the military are the last remaining bastions of American society for young men today. Their pitch to their fellow countrymen is that without football, their country is at risk of a weakened backbone. That football provides the role modeling, discipline, and maturation that young men in America need so desperately today more than ever.

I have long suggested that businesses should also take a role in nation building. Business executives (female and male) should be role models for their current, future, and former colleagues. Businesses should provide opportunities to teach, train and develop young people. Businesses need to be prepared to help in times of financial need, small and large crises, and unexpected disasters.

In order for businesses to be able to act as a guiding force in our communities, they may consider approaching their culture building based on some of the principles that lead to successful football teams.

Let’s examine three.

1. Culture
Culture drives behaviour. It needs to be established at the outset and worked on every day. The leader must be clear on three things: 1. Here is our plan; 2. The plan is infallible; 3. Follow the plan.

2. Competitiveness
Competing is all about maximizing your abilities. This requires a relentless focus on preparation, hard work, and effort. Tell your team that they are the hardest working in the league. Tell your staff they are the most prepared. Push them down the stretch not to punish, but rather to prepare them to handle adversity late in a game, a project, or a sale. Expect adversity. It’s part of the game.

3. Accountability
It is the job of the coach and the business leader to hold their people to a high standard, to stress accountability, and to communicate clearly with people when they are falling short. As an individual in an organization or a team, you need to do your job so your colleagues can do theirs. As a teammate, you show your love for your team based on how hard you are willing to work.

Sports and Business share a common trait. The ability to measure success and failure. Wins and losses, Profits and losses. The results are not hard to see.

I am shocked, appalled, and mortified.

I just found out that a very well known major sports organization in this country pays their interns seventy-five dollars a week. Yes, the equivalent of $3,900 a year if they were employed for fifty-two weeks. I also discovered that a major sports league in this country provides their interns with an honorarium of $500 per month. That’s $6,000 a year or 35% more than the first organization I referenced. A third organization I heard about recently, a sponsorship consultancy, is paying their interns with tickets to major league events. But while in attendance (by themselves because they only get one), they need to audit the sponsor signage and promotions at the venue.

Last time I checked minimum wage was $11.60 per hour in Ontario. If you asked an intern to work a forty-hour week, you should pay them $464.00 a week. I don’t need to teach you how to do math, but clearly somebody needs a math lesson since these organizations are paying people a fraction of what is legal. In fact, a $75/week stipend is 16% of what minimum wage calls for.

Are they only expecting 16% effort, 16% productivity, 16% accountability, and 16% responsibility? I doubt it. In fact, I bet it’s the opposite. I suspect they are expecting 116% of the intern’s life.

You don’t need a math lesson and you don’t need a lesson in fairness. But someone does. How is a young person who has tuition to pay, rent to find, food to scrounge, and probably debts accumulating supposed to survive on these meager wages? It is not enough to suggest they are being rewarded through training. That is crap. Total crap. I am fifty-two years old and I am learning about my job every day. Does that mean I should make slave wages? Hell no – Abe Lincoln solved that for me a long time ago!

We used to underpay our interns, years ago we only paid a $2,000 per term honorarium. But we soon realized that was rampantly unfair to both the interns and to us. They were not getting a fair financial return and we were not attracting the best talent. So when we increased it and then late began to follow minimum wage, I falsely believed everybody else was doing the same. Guess I am wrong.

This came to light for me recently when a friend’s daughter asked for advice as to what internship they should choose. Her first criteria was to find something flexible so she could keep her non-internship, part-time job, which pays quite well. It was only then that I discovered the facts!

Our industry needs interns, not the other way around. They provide a pool of talented short-term labor which is crucial for busy times. They form a pipeline of entry-level talent that you know well through extended exposure. They bring ideas, energy, and enthusiasm. They become ambassadors of your brand for their professional lives.

If you can sleep at night supporting a system where you take advantage of interns than more power to you. But I can’t – and I believe many people are on my side of the bed on this one. I think that the colleges and universities who pitch their students to companies should begin to freeze out those that won’t provide fair compensation, regardless of their profile.

Mountain Climbers

MH3 —  November 21, 2017

I am really excited about our T1 Speaker Series event next week. I would have used the word “stoked”, but after posting it three times yesterday people have told me that my quota is up.

But I am stoked for a bunch of reasons.

Our panel wasn’t assembled by accident. That’s pretty obvious. It’s a bit of a sneak peak of our lineup for sponsorshipX 2018.

Darren Kinnaird is the General Manager of Crankworx and our partner event for the first edition of sponsorshipX, happening this August 2018. (Yes in case you have been ignoring me for months, CSFX is now called sponsorshipX and we are going global with content, speakers, delegates and an international event soon). David Zimberoff is the VP Marketing of SRAM and one of biggest partners of Crankworx. Micayla Gatto is a professional mountain biker, artist, online host, and brand ambassador.

Micayala Gatto is the panelist I know the least because we haven’t actually met yet. I have been spending some time this week learning about her in the way we learn about most people in 2017 – online. But as vast as the interweb is, I have a feeling that it is only telling me a fraction of the story. I am excited to have her share her story of juggling her multiple roles, endorsement deals, appearances, and content creation. Here is a link if you want a sneak peek, though I think meeting her in real life will be the real deal.

I know David Zimberoff the second best. But that may be a slight exaggeration since our relationship to date has consisted of one evening together at the Crankworx partner dinner, and one phone call to discuss his speaking at sponsorshipX 2018. But it only took a few minutes at that dinner to realize I had met someone who not only has an unlimited insider’s knowledge of the biker world & community, but also a unique and savvy approach to business building. Plus his stewardship of the World Bicycle Relief Program is reflective of the type of difference we should all want to make in this world.

Darren Kinnaird, I know the most from his attendance and involvement in several past CSFX events. For years he prodded me about hosting our conference in tandem with Crankworx. To be candid, I had dozens of misconceptions as to what Crankworx was really all about. Turns out, it’s the world’s largest mountain biking festival – attracting thousands of affluent, influential and engaged consumers – and Whistler’s most lucrative event of the year.

That is a great segway to our the discussion we will hold next Tuesday during the Speaker Series. As consumers shift away from mass to mass customization, properties become increasingly globalized, and affluent customers seek experiences over collectibles, we as marketers are faced with many questions. How do I reach unique and targeted consumers? How do I connect with authenticity? How do I uncover the many layers of my customers and understand what makes them tick?

See you next Tuesday!

It’s a People Business

MH3 —  November 14, 2017

Sorry I skipped a week in my HR entries of how to work with your boss, grumpy or otherwise. But I’m back.

Thought I would take a slightly different tack today, though it’s consistent with my messages of the last couple of weeks. This one is inspired by both my recent posts and a presentation I just gave to the board of a sports-related national organization. But the topic at hand is not about working for a boss – it’s about working with clients, customers, sponsors, etc.

I love to ask my audience this simple question: what business are you in? Invariably we all fall into the trap of sharing our business’ mission or vision statements. If you take Peter Drucker to heart, you know that the purpose of any business is to make a sale. For example, the board I was presenting to last week was very tightly aligned on their organization’s mission, but I would argue they were wrong to think that way. In reality, they are in the Fundraising Business. Because without resources they cannot provide the opportunities and access that is so strongly articulated in their values.

Truth be told we are both right. They are in the Opportunity Business and they are also in the Fundraising Business. But if you scratch the surface you will also realize that we are both wrong.

This organization, your organization, my organization are all in the same business. It’s easy to forget sometimes and when we do, or at least when I do, we all pay a heavy penalty for it. The business we are all in is the People Business. Whether you are a tech company, a service organization, a rights agency, or an entertainment provider. Our customers are people.

Understanding we are in the People Business is key to selling programs, ideas, campaigns, sponsorships, media, innovations, investments – you name it. In my book (which yes I am still writing); it’s a point I keep trying to make. So much so that it may become the subtitle.

The business you are in is the People Business. If your business or organization isn’t hitting its sales targets, if you are not winning enough RFP’s, or if your channels of distribution are drying up – perhaps it is time to stop looking at the numbers and look at the names.

Who is it you are selling to? What motivates them? How are they evaluated in their job? What is their true role? You can ask yourself a hundred and one questions about this person and I think you should. Creating a clear picture of who your customer is and what their needs are is the easiest path to success.

So why don’t we do it more often? I’m not sure, but let me ask you this: in the last forty-eight hours, how many times have you thought about the person on the other side of the desk (your customer) as a person? Not in a butt-kissing or sappy way, but in a pragmatic and thoughtful way. It can start with a deeper evaluation of what they are asking of you and your company. This more in-depth understanding is much more valuable than the specifics of the ask, and should be dimensionalized around parameters such as problem-solving, providing confidence in your solution, or, inspiration from your ideas. In short, you need to understand what fears that person has and how can allay them.

Have you heard the expression that nobody ever got fired for hiring XYZ big-name supplier? (I removed the actual company name because it actually delegitimizes the expression.) But it’s true. Your customer doesn’t care whether you can provide the specs. They care whether hiring you will get them fired.

If you think that they are the same thing you are wrong. Because every one of your competitors, including you, can provide the specs. But who can assure the client they won’t get fired? The one who takes the time to understand how the internal machinations of the company work. The one who learns the risk tolerances of your customer’s bosses. The one who learns the true issues impacting their company.

Getting to know your customer is no different than getting to know your boss. Out the time in. Shut your flytrap. Open your ears wide. Take lots of notes. Do your homework. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.