Archives For Mark Harrison

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 The latter’s been replaced by the Mirren New Business agency conference in NYC.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!

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.

Do you share your New Year’s resolutions?

A 2007 research study from the University of Bristol found that women were more successful at achieving their New Year’s resolutions when they shared them publicly.

At a weekend dinner party, I kicked off a discussion about resolutions and then was appropriately heckled when I tried to not to share mine. One could argue my conduct was misguided given the research, however the same study found the secret for men was to set measurable, goal-oriented resolutions.

I am strikingly influenced by both data points. I am always a big fan of measurement and I have been known to share more than one personal tidbit in my life. Both about me and those close to me…usually to their unfortunate chagrin. So it wasn’t totally unfounded when one of the dinner party guests whispered to my wife that my # 1 resolution should be to “get some duct tape for my mouth.”

Given that sort of sentiment, I should have received heaping praise for my reluctance to share. But there was a deeper reason. The best resolutions reflect something much more powerful than a simple “goal.” They provide a window into our soul.

For that, I wanted keep my resolutions list secret, or at least partially. Allow me to explain. I think it’s fundamental to the challenge we all face in life. And that is, we are human.

I had many successes in 2013. But I also had many failures. I am convinced that if I shared the events that I deemed unsuccessful, or the situations that cause me to lose sleep, or the demons that run through my brain daily…you may somehow see me as weak and unfit to be your consultant, colleague, boss, friend, or trusted family member. Most of my “resolution” checklist is built on these loose footings. Somehow it’s easier to make plans from ashes than flowers.

I realize this isn’t healthy. Allowing these issues to rule one’s life will take the colour out of 2014. So I have been trying to crystallize one simple, more positive resolution for the year. I don’t have it perfected yet and candidly that makes me happy. If I can distill it to a tag line, it wouldn’t be authentic. God knows I do enough of that in my life.

During the party I stated I wanted to avoid the one BIG work disaster that seems to throw a cloud over every year. Pretty sure each of us could circle that one on our calendars. But yesterday as I trudged my way through fresh snow on the Niagara Escarpment, I realized this resolution needed reorienting. Let’s make it positive. So instead I resolve that every day, I am going to chase the one BIG work triumph that will shine brightly over all else that happens. In fact I am so enthused by this idea, I plan to extend it to my family life, my circle of friends, my personal fitness, my coaching, my volunteerism, and even my pets. Okay, the last one I made up.

But I like this spin. Forget avoiding disaster, let’s chase glory! After all, there has to be a reason it’s called HAPPY New Year!

Happy End Year

MH3 —  December 4, 2013

Please stop staring at me.

You’re giving me the willies. Besides it’s not very polite.

What’s so interesting about me? I’m not the only person on the planet who is guilty of what I did. Don’t even try to tell me that everybody else is innocent. Shame. Ridicule. Teasing. All of your tactics are unfair and downright annoying.

I see your beady eyes Father Time. Gleefully telling me it’s December already. Laughingly mocking me that 2014 is so close, that I probably swallowed three days in January with my last swill from my cappuccino accompanying this writing session. Must be nice to be so darn smug.

My annoyance is founded. The truth hurts. It is December. I am down to only a few more weeks to achieve my New Year’s resolutions. Yikes.

What about you?

Did you lose that weight? Go to the cottage more? Make those new friends? Read those books? Watch less TV? Swear less? Drink less? Swear you would drink less?

Father Time isn’t just looking at me. He’s stalking you too brothers and sisters. Better finish off those 2013 proclamations soon.

Or you won’t have time to make any for 2014!

Green Cup

MH3 —  November 27, 2013

The confetti had barely landed on the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ Grey Cup Parade when the “dynasty” talk started.

If it wasn’t for a couple of excruciating losses in 2009 & 2010, the Riders would be sporting four Cup titles in the last seven seasons. Even winning two in that span puts them ahead of many of their rivals.

But off the field, the green Riders are a green dynasty. It’s estimated they will sell close to $10 million in merchandise this year; more than all other CFL teams combined…unless the Argos release the highly coveted limited edition Rob Ford XXXXL #12 jersey he has been modelling. It’s even more than most of the Canadian NHL teams, minus obvious exceptions like Toronto and Montreal. The Grey Cup Festival week and game generated $123 million for the local economy, which happens to be a part of what is now Canada’s richest province!

Brent Butt joked at one Grey Cup event that Saskatchewan loves football so much because the province is shaped like a football field. I might suggest the economics might also generate some of that affection!

But there is a key lesson in all this excitement. Like Darian Durant, it wasn’t so long ago that the province was trying to wave its team goodbye. They were lovable, yet losers. They were adored, but unsupported.

Magically, the team turned to community ownership and in a dramatic oversimplification, you could say the rest is history. But it’s true; community ownership has built this green machine. Over the Grey Cup weekend, Commissioner Mark Cohon talked about a 10th team for Atlantic Canada becoming a reality. The community ownership idea being eyed as the key business model.

Nothing makes more sense to me, for the CFL, than to see the Atlantic Schooners become a reality. The very real fan club by the same name would probably agree. A 10th team would do wonders for the league.

But I wonder if more teams shouldn’t look at this model. Sport building community. Community building sport. This past May we themed our sponsorship conference “Building Community.” Guess where we held it?

Saskatchewan. Home of the Green Cup!

The Grass IS Greener

MH3 —  November 20, 2013

This isn’t an “I am Canadian” ad, but Mr. MH3 has watched CFL football almost everywhere in this country.

But the word ‘almost’ wasn’t inadvertently placed in my opening sentence. Incomprehensibly, impossibly, inexcusably, I have never watched a game in the purest home of Canadian football, and also the home of one of my favourite prime ministers. For a Torontonian, I have been to Regina, Saskatchewan more than most, I’m sure. This is trip number 10, I think. Although one of them was during Craven, so maybe that should really count for at least 2.5 trips on its own! But it’s still the only current CFL city that for some reason I’ve never watched a game in. Actually I’ve watched the Riders play when I’ve been in Regina. But I was at a sports bar and the team was in Hamilton, so that doesn’t count.

As I’m bumpily (too bumpily by the way Captain Crunch, if you can hear me up in the cockpit) strutting on gilded wings towards the Regina airport through the evening sky tonight, it’s dawned on me: Grey Cup 101 will be my first Riders home game ever. Holy Horseshoes in my gitch, Luck is my middle name. And no, Dumb isn’t my first.

Rider Pride here I come. You’ll probably be happy to hear, I AM a Riders fan!! Big time. Favourite CFL team of all time. I already put in a deposit for future season tickets. Can’t wait to do a boys weekend trip for a game. Hopefully Russ Jackson, Condredge Holloway, Tom Clements, J.C. Watts or one of our other legendary former quarterbacks will inspire our current pivot’s play.

Yep, it’s true. I’m an Eastern Rider man. Sorry 306, me loving the Red and Black.

But now I’m troubled. Speaking of Red and Black, the new Ottawa team won’t be a Rider brand. So maybe I should become a Western Rider man. I have to admit this is troubling.

Truthfully, I’m not sure who I’m going to cheer for. The Ticats played all year at my alma mater, Moo U, and I’m a big Hank Burris fan and in awe of Kent Awestin. (Oh come on, of course I know it’s Austin). On the other hand Double D and Double C faced some pretty long odds to steal home field advantage for the Coupe final being hosted by the entire province of Saskatchewan. I’m pretty stoked for the football-crazy atmosphere that’s erupting when we are wheels down.

Saskatchewan so loves its football. I was in Calgary, with the 13th man, a couple of years ago and the Red Mile was definitely dyed green that weekend. Oh, I’m sorry. Is there a provincial law against the number 13 in your fair province? How silly of me to forget.

So I will start there. Let’s cheer for coaches on both teams who can count to twelve. Twelve is symbolic of what makes our Canadian game so amazing. Twelve players. Endless motion. Three downs. 110 yards. One optically bigger ball (according to some soothsayer named Lysko that used to be seen north of the 49th).

If you’ve never been to a Grey Cup, the emotion of what my iPad is sharing with you probably doesn’t mean much. This will be number 14 or 15 for me. I really should do an accurate count. I’m not just a groupie; I’m the groupie club President. Grey Cup week has few event peers when cast as a canvas for what our great country portrays.

Hey Canada, park your Ford frenzy for a week (please tell me you liked my pun…Ford…) and smell the greener grass.

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!

Mo Confession

MH3 —  November 6, 2013

I have a confession to make.

I forgot about Movember.

Despite the weekly announcements at our all-company Monday meeting that have been alerting me since early September. Despite my company launching an engaging internal program featuring our female associates as “Mo Mentors” for our posse of male “Mo Growers.” Despite me signing up to attend and later bailing on a Movember launch event. Despite that my beloved father is five years strong since being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Despite all this, I forgot.

It gets worse.

Cue up Sunday, November 3rd, sometime around 7:00 or 8:00 a.m., depending on whether you believe in Daylight Savings Time or not. I entered the shower after an enjoyable 6k run, which was capped with my daily (check my app…it’s daily) Starbucks breakfast routine of a Venti Soy Cappuccino and Strawberry Soy Smoothie in a venti cup, followed by a quick cool-down six-minute walk home from Yonge Street to my house, to an enthusiastic canine greeting featuring a few licks on the cheek and one sneaky salty dog tongue fully inside my mouth from Prince, our Cavapoo. So after disinfecting my gums, into the shower I paraded. Cue the video….

No, I won’t make you suffer that visual, especially since I sport back hair that would make Sasquatch jealous. But picture me showering away happily about to head off to a work event, despite it being a Sunday. The weather was cooperating, my team was already on site getting set up, and my Steelers were waking up in Boston ready to crush the Patriots. Wish I could rewind that video. Clearly my daydreaming got the better of me, because before I knew it I was shaving. Not just my beard, but my nascent three-day-old Movember ’stache. To make matters worse, I didn’t even realize it for two hours. Then the horror set in.

So now you have my confession! I’m three days behind on Movember. My facial hair needs fertilizing. My fundraising does too.

So now that you’ve read this entire hairy episode, I have a simple request. Support my Movember efforts pretty please!

Here is my mo space…http://mobro.co/MoHerschel

Here is my pitch!

If you donate to me, I may donate back.
If you donate to me, I may take you to lunch.
If you donate to me, I may buy you a present.
If you donate to me, I will say thank-you!
If you donate to me, you will change the face of men’s health!!!!!

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.

Out of Bounds

MH3 —  October 16, 2013

Last week, my high school football team was involved in a game-ending incident.

Some people called it a brawl. Others called it a fight. Some called it unnecessary roughness. I call it unnecessary.

On the surface, our player started it by manhandling an opponent out of bounds on a play that was completely on the other side of the field. At first I was quite angry. Later, after watching film, it was clear that both players were the villains and they had been going at it for most of the game.

The scuffle that ensued resulted in many more players joining in and candidly my players were outnumbered and out-slugged. At one point it escalated to a scary tipping point, but players and coaches stopped it.

It was touch and go for a moment.

There were some bumps and bruises. This week, suspensions are being laid down. But there is more significant damage than that. I am concerned about how two players could get so mad at each other during a game, a simple game, that they want to fight. They need to respect the sport, the opportunity they are given, and embrace it. Yes, teenage egos can be fragile and tempers even more shaky, but football is a game of hitting, until the whistle blows.

Then it’s time to dust yourself off and help your opponent up. And leave it at that.

I love this game too much to let one scary incident chase me away. But looking at film of the episode does send chills up my spine, as one of my players is kicked in the back. Thankfully, all involved cooled down and the two squads shook hands before parting.

It was in the handshake line that my faith in the game was restored. You need to know the referees did not want us shaking hands. But myself and the opposing coach made it happen. It became more than a handshake. Player after player on their team apologized to me for what transpired, complimented us on a good game though we lost by three TDs, and several even opened up for hugs that meant the world to me. Not only for me, but for many of our players.

Thankfully, the spotlight shifted to the midfield armistice, far from the out-of-bounds area we had bloodied only minutes earlier. Here we embraced our tormentors and rejected the previous senselessness. This was, after all, just a high school football game.