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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.

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!

She’s Grand

MH3 —  May 16, 2012

Babies. Kids. Pets. We all have our cute names for the projects or initiatives we love. When we create something from scratch, conjured by the heights of our imagination, and fermented by the hard work of many hands; there is no greater feeling.

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Grand Slam

MH3 —  March 8, 2012

The moment of truth has arrived.

The day of the big new business pitch has arrived.

It’s like the killer exam in third year university. The door has been firmly shut. The adjudicator has taken his seat. Your trembling hand reaches for the first page. There is no time to run out and wish you had studied more.

It’s time to present the pitch. Continue Reading “Grand Slam”…

Home Run

MH3 —  March 1, 2012

I often wonder what people are thinking when we get in front of them to make a new business pitch.

We had a couple going on last week. Big ones. Agency game-changers in fact.

Each is with blue chip companies. Good-sized budgets. Great brands. Plus a history of doing interesting experiential and event work. Which makes me both excited and nervous.

Often people ask me to provide them examples of our best pitch ever. Hard to say. Perhaps because the process is like speed dating meets job interviewing. Continue Reading “Home Run”…

Tour de Montréal

MH3 —  February 8, 2012

It’s a bit of an oxymoron, but lunching with Andy Nulman is a gas. If you don’t know Andy Nulman, he is the über-charismatic president of the Just for Laughs Festival. It’s his second stint with JFL, the first starting after he was fired as a journalist at 23 and then in 15 meteoric years rose to CEO of JFL. Then left to start Airborne Entertainment, sold it for $110 million, then bought it back for way less, and then returned to JFL in 2010. Wow… And what have YOU done in the last 20 years?
Last week, I jammed a whirlwind dose of Montréal into a 27-hour window. It’s amazing to me that despite the fact I go to the village formerly known as Hochelaga quite often, it never feels often enough. That’s good news for Porter, as I need to go back again soon. What I have realized is that it’s more than the charm of the city and the lure of its events that keeps me coming, but rather it’s the people that provide its spark. Continue Reading “Tour de Montréal”…