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The Case for Black History Month

I am firmly in favour of there being a designated Black History Month.

Especially now. We need this moment of extra attention no differently than cultural industries that enjoy the amplification of awards shows and sports communities benefit from All-Star games. I appreciate those who ask why Black History Month should be a thing because isn’t Black History Month every month? They are not wrong. However, I understand this moment.

Especially this year.

The Black community and other “underestimated” communities (a term I have recently read from Myles Worthington) are facing increasingly more difficult times. DEI is under assault. Affirmative action has been assailed and disbanded. Agency over oneself, especially for women, is being outlawed. Businesses have de-prioritized inclusion.

You can feel the sense of dread as the underestimated start to see the gains and progress being eroded and ignored. Suddenly, the concept of one step forward and two or three back feels inevitable and depressing.

The official Canadian theme for Black History Month is rooted in excellence, and the future resonates with me yet raises the issue of how. Consider this direct quote from the theme description – “This theme celebrates the rich past and present contributions and accomplishments of Black people in Canada while aspiring to embrace new opportunities for the future.” Inspiring words, but for whom?

Will these words stimulate action, commitment, and investment from the current cohort of power brokers? Do those in power believe that the Black community needs new opportunities, or does it deserve them? Is the talk of the past few years becoming a muted whisper, accompanied by the ghostly silence of eliminated roles and budget cuts?

The argument for diversity has been that it is good for the bottom line. That diversity is what customers, clients, and future employees have come to expect. Unless your organization embraces diversity, it will face adversity and brand tarnish, or so we people claim.

These arguments, in my opinion, have failed to endure for the long term. Despite the economic upheaval, which is felt more dramatically by the underestimated than any other groups, companies are generally doing just fine, thank you very much. There may not be the massive activity in the venture capital world that businesses have been accustomed to recently. Still, the growth has been solid on many other measures, including market cap, stock gains, and profits. When the stock market has been revving, and unemployment is still at record lows, who needs to stay committed to diversity? Besides, there are other weighty and worthwhile issues to contend with – wars, climate, mental health, terrorism, politics.

I don’t believe the Black community will achieve the new opportunities it deserves if we continue to expect corporations to do the work for us. I am not suggesting we give up, but while I believe diversity is excellent for the bottom line, the argument is insufficient. In contrast to giving up, I urge the Black community to double up.

To realize the opportunities we all want for the Black community, we must equip tomorrow’s Black leaders to succeed. Whether those new leaders are young or old, their future success or failure will have more impact on combating racism and prejudice in the work world than any policy will. Committing to supporting Black leaders during Black History Month can be an ideal launchpad, assuming it continues throughout the year.

Being an ally to the Black community will require those collaborators to assist and support the development of these future leaders and not merely be the people who say DEI is important to them. Success in any sector requires resilience, self-management, capacity, savvy, and smarts, among other traits. We can cultivate, nurture and bestow those traits when our community commits to those who wish to grow.

Racism is systemic and, unfortunately, entrenched in our legislative, educational, and social systems. Long-term change will be enacted by those with influence and impact, whose faces will continue to look the same unless we elevate Black talent. The distinction between being a decision-maker and a stakeholder is significant and perpetual.

Diversity should not be your objective for Black History Month. Nor should equality. The end of racism should be your objective for Black History Month. We will achieve this goal by including Black voices in writing all future narratives. Those voices will come when we accelerate leadership development at scale and realize our full and just potential.

January 16.

It’s my birthday this week. So what?

While researching my blog, I wondered what milestones are happening this week. Now you know how we got here, and I am relieved because I have something to write about.

When people talk about birthdays, their zodiac sign is the first thing they often discuss. I happen to be one of those who do not care about my sign; however, I read my horoscope from the Toronto Star every day in my 20s. I wonder if they still print horoscopes.

I thought I would ask the intent what type of boss aligns with my zodiac sign, and the prize went to the Times of India (https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/relationships/work/what-type-of-a-boss-is-capricorn/photostory/99708813.cms) for being the first answer that came up in my search. Given the extent of their characterization, I realize that there is an exciting opportunity for self-reflection here, and one that perhaps you may want to consider doing.

Utilizing your signs, of course.

So, in the spirit of my birthday, here is the type of boss I am – according to one source – along with my reactions. I am eager to conduct this exercise to be truthful.

What Type of Boss is a Capricorn?

  1. They are super ambitious, and most of their life is dedicated to office work and money-making activities. Capricorn folks want to climb up the ladder of success fast, in fact, really fast. Working at odd hours in the office is not an issue for them. Zodiac signs are an excellent way of understanding the traits and characteristics of people’s personalities. MH3: I don’t believe in work-life balance because I don’t believe we have two lives. Each of us has one holistic life, which includes how we earn a living just as much as it contains our time and hobbies. My career profile mirrors my passions for people, sports, marketing, cause, entertainment, travel, and live events. I am fortunate not to think of my work hours as odd or demanding; they are what I want to be doing.


2. Capricorn bosses are very practical, determined, and hard-working in nature. They are very responsible and believe in professionalism. They are generally prudent, reasonable, calculative, and business minded. If they want something done they will make sure it is. MH3: Accountability is an absolute must-have in myself and those around me. Professionalism is how accountability presents itself, and I would encourage professionals of all tenures to audit their presence.


3. They have a no-nonsense approach to work and expect their employees to be dedicated and focused as they are. They hate excuses and can judge when someone is lying as well. They cannot stand employees with a laid-back attitude. MH3: This is one is my fave. It is me to a tee. No more needs to be said.


4. Capricorn bosses are well known for their organisational skills. This trait of theirs helps them in keeping their team on track. They are very ambitious and set high standards for themselves and their employees. At times, they are very demanding but very fair and just in their approach. They value discipline and order and expect the same from their teammates. MH3: I have always set high expectations for myself and my team. I question if those expectations have always been fair in the minds of others, and in the more recent past, my goal has been to be more blunt about the bar I set.


5. They are always punctual and efficient in their work and expect the same from their employees. At times they are conservative in their approach which may be resistant to change or new ideas. However, they are ready to embrace, new approaches if they are convinced that new and innovative ideas are practical and for the company’s betterment. They are very effective leaders who inspire their team to work hard and achieve their goals. MH3: I think I am open to new ideas to a fault and often chase the shiny and new, which is a crucial driver of why my motto for 2024 is “The Old is New.” My focus for the next twelve months is to execute what I have already launched to perfection. Being efficient with my time will help me achieve that and hopefully inspire my teams.

There may be something telling in that I searched for “boss” instead of ” colleague. ” You may have already listened to that conversation yourself. However, I would say that as much as I want to be a strong collaborator, and in this age, all leaders are pushed to think of being servant leaders, at the end of the day, I am the boss to most of my internal work connections, which makes me okay with my search.

Perhaps I should have asked the www.com if Capricorns are “bossy”?

Welcome to the Year of ???

Welcome to 2024. I wonder if we can label 2024 as the What is Old is New Year

What do I mean by that? Let’s first look at what society has to say about this year. Depending on your beliefs, it is the Year of the Wood Dragon, an eight-year, or a Leap Year. Well, if not Julius Ceasar himself, most calendars will tell us the latter is true, at least for those who follow the Gregorian calendar. 

 

There are some comforting messages in the various forecasts for the year if you want to find them. It should be a year of reflection and introduction, a calmer year that will bring prosperity to those who stay focused. Prosperity of many forms, to be precise. 

The international headlines for 2024 will tell you that AI will continue to dominate business, that inflation curbing will be the focus for governments, and that the US election will have a significant impact on every region’s politics. Travel will still be booming, while luxury goods will be looking to recover. 

The post-pandemic era will continue, and businesses and business leaders must address challenges beyond their profit and loss statements. Mental health. Housing. Personal freedoms. War. Terrorism. Civil unrest. The list seems endless because it is. 

 

Perhaps I am naive to suggest this is exclusive to the post-pandemic era and has probably been the norm through every significant historical period. When people talk about how fast things are changing, an appropriate retort could be that things are constantly changing. Fast. 

So perhaps we need to look at this year of yours, 2024, which features an extra day and challenges that businesses face as the same challenges that have always faced business. While we may align on what is new and old, we probably agree that our approach to the old cannot be the same. How best to tackle 2024? Is having an extra twenty-four hours going to provide the personal breakthroughs we crave in our lives? I doubt it. 

 

Let me propose an approach worth considering; although, at the risk of painting me old school or not innovative, pushing those risks to the center of the table, it seems 2024 is our year to focus on our strengths. Those strengths are the attributes and approaches that have allowed us to get to where we are today. All too often, we overlook the wins in our career and focus on the losses when, in fact, we’ve had a pretty kick-ass journey to get us where we are today. 

In addition to focusing on our strengths, how do we double up on providing our most valuable forms of support, products, mentorship, and content to our audiences, followers, clients and colleagues? This concept is another form of dealing with our strengths, where we rediscover our proven process and sought-after contribution. Naturally, this foundation of leveraging our strengths and delivering our proven value leads to a discussion regarding the audience we serve. 

To achieve a disciplined focus for 2024, consider making your priority audience your most loyal audience, specifically those who have supported us for as long as we have helped them. In addition to our current loyalists, where have those long-term cohorts we have been neglectful in our connection with over the past few years been? Laying fault for not being in touch at the feet of the events of 2020 is undoubtedly a disguised excuse at best. There will always be new people to meet and connect with; however, they should be a second priority to your tribe. 

 

The most excellent part about this foundational approach in 2024 is that it will be genuine to you. It will feel that way because it is. As someone with a pet peeve with the word authentic, I will even allow it to be highly original. However, if you follow this direction too literally and assume that it means you should run out and buy a flip phone to put in your combo lock briefcase, then I want to reset your GPS.

What you do and the value it creates for the audiences you have long supported need to be delivered in an entirely new way. Technology, advancement, and innovation give you the tools to lean into your old in a new way. In a way that is entirely more human than you could have imagined because of the humanity embedded in the DNA of your approach. 

You should not view AI platforms, bots, metaverses, and blockchains as something from a strange planet. Instead, they are the calculators, digital assistants, joysticks, and databases of the future. None of those latter four concepts should feel remotely intimidating, as AI is rolling through every aspect of your work life. Rejecting AI would be like dismissing having a mobile phone, a computer, or even a fax machine back in the day. 

As we value the impact of Machine Learning on our future, we should consider how it can help us deliver on the strengths of our past. AI and many of its applications are a new solution provider to work through data, complexity, and situations that may bog our minds down and distract us from what we should be doing past and leaning into our foundation. 

After so many years of being told to pivot, adjust on the fly, and revisit strategy daily, we can inhale and pay attention to our signature approaches. We have new tools that will make it more manageable to keep us on track and remove the distractions that prevented us from doubling down on the essentials. I know this reads like a tale of opposites, and that is intentional as opposites attract to create the force field of power for your year. 

By adopting an approach that encourages you to sharpen the tools that have made you the warrior you are, you will soon be celebrating that 2024  becomes a personal leap year. 

Is Your Brand Inspiring

I am intrigued by some new research recently shared by Steve Levy of Ipsos on inspiration in consumer behaviour and how brands should respond to it. Ipsos conducted this eye-opening study, and it got me thinking about what inspiration means to different people and how it can profoundly affect how we connect with brands.

Ipsos asked consumers a simple yet profound question: What does “inspiration” mean to you? The responses varied, but three key themes emerged: new ideas, innovation, and feeling positive. It’s heartening to know that over a third of us experience inspiration weekly, but it’s concerning that one in five of us hasn’t felt inspired in the past six months.

Regarding sources of inspiration, it’s clear that family plays a pivotal role, with 40% of people citing their family as their primary source of inspiration, compared to influencers (5%) and celebrities (4%). To become a source of inspiration, brands must align with consumer values. The research found that brands like Nike, Dove, Apple, and Adidas have successfully done this, and the key attributes they share are honesty, authenticity, and a commitment to giving back.

So, what can smaller or medium-sized businesses learn from this? To stand out, they should strive to be inspiring and personalized and connect with consumers on a familial level. But how can they do this effectively? Ipsos identified six elements of inspiration that resonate with consumers:

1. Overcoming challenges

2. A sense of accomplishment

3. A future-forward orientation

4. Learning, knowledge, and wisdom

5. The notion of creating something

6. A desire to do better and make an impact

Interestingly, the research reveals some generational trends. Generation Z, for instance, is more likely to seek inspiration from brands, with 47% reporting that they do. Cannabis brands also seem to inspire, with 53% of consumers saying they find inspiration there. For Generation X, who often find themselves strapped for time, the figure drops to 25%.

The frequency of inspiration also varies, with 34% of respondents saying they feel inspired every week, 21% monthly, and 45% less often. Surprisingly, despite our fascination with celebrities and social influencers, we tend to look closer to home for inspiration. Family and friends contribute 40% of our inspiration, while influencers only contribute 5%. This data highlights that inspiration is a deeply personal and intimate experience.

As advertisers and brands contemplate these findings, it’s crucial to recognize that inspiration is less about celebrities and more about the people closest to us – our loved ones and acquaintances. This insight challenges the conventional wisdom of relying on famous figures for endorsement.

Certain activities, even if not inherently inspiring, can trigger inspiration indirectly. For example, cooking inspires 35% of respondents (particularly millennials and females), gardening inspires 25% (more common among older individuals and females), and playing sports encourages 14% (mainly Gen Z and males). These activities may not be inherently inspiring but provide fertile ground for generating ideas.

Ultimately, the research reminds us that inspiration often comes from other people’s experiences, which ignite ideas for our actions. Brands like Nike, Apple, Adidas, and Dove have successfully harnessed these principles, focusing on design, quality, advertising, community engagement, and support for women.

Finally, the research asked if a brand has ever inspired consumers. Seventeen percent responded positively, with Gen Z showing a higher inclination. This finding suggests that what matters most is how a brand delivers its message and actions. Brands must provide quality products, innovate, and commit to doing good.

In summary, inspiration is a complex and deeply personal phenomenon with several vital elements. It’s less about celebrities and more about personal connections and shared values. Brands that wish to inspire should focus on aligning with these values and embodying the six elements of inspiration. By doing so, they can become a source of inspiration that resonates with consumers profoundly. So, ask yourself, is your brand an inspiration?

Scaling Mountains

You don’t have to look very far to see them. You don’t need to open your eyes to feel their looming presence as the dread they stir inside you grows. The mountains that marketers face seem to be more numerous every day. Some pop up unexpectedly, while others have been slowly coming into focus as your distance to them narrows. From economic uncertainty to political instability and financial upheaval, hear about a range of challenges that all need to be scaled somewhat simultaneously … and ask yourself, are my enterprise and team ready to climb them, and am I?

I didn’t realize when I set this as the theme for SponsorshipX Whistler 2023 and the opening keynote summary that I was creating a mountain for myself. It was not whether we could stage an event about overcoming challenges. No, selfishly, it was whether I could make a keynote worthy of the theme. This was the first time I was nervous about delivering a presentation in a long time.

Seriously, this was Pepto Bismol nausea. A few days before SponsorshipX kicked off, my stomach was contorted in pain, and the symptoms were so disgusting that they were not fit for this blog. At first, I was worried it was something I had eaten, but I quickly realized I was anxious about this new presentation. It was less to do with creating something new and much more to do with the fact that I had been relying on one keynote – A Conversation About Belonging- over the past two years, which I had delivered dozens of times. I had that keynote down cold, and giving it was second nature.

Now I had to talk about something to do with Scaling Mountains.

So I did, and the presentation I shared with our guests went like this. When faced with adversity, we can learn and develop. There is a significant conversation about this phenomenon right now. It is called Post-Traumatic Growth. To paraphrase the experts, this is a condition where some trauma has shattered your psychological beliefs, and the outcome is a changed self. This self often immerses themselves in a new life purpose. We educate ourselves for change, commit to service, find a higher calling, and disclose secrets to new friends.

Think of Terry Fox in finding compassion in the cancer ward when surrounded by child patients who, despite being very sick, were full of future optimism. Think about how the world responded to George Floyd’s murder or the conviction of Jamie Black to tackle the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous and Metis women.

After reading and thinking substantially about Post Traumatic Growth, it felt like a natural foundation for a discussion. My presentation became less keynote and more of a call for all of us to brainstorm how to use PTG to Scale Mountains. I offered our delegates five thought starters, which I will share now.


ADVOCATE: find a cause, a purpose, or a mission that is deeply important to you or your enterprise.
LIBERATE: We may commemorate Emancipation Day in Canada this week, but ask yourself: are Black people free in this world? Are women? Are queer folk? Companies can help liberate people by fighting for their rights.
COLLABORATE: if the pandemic, invasion of Ukraine, and the current global mental health crisis have shown us, we are all better off when we collaborate. Partnering today could save our business or our lives tomorrow.
INNOVATE: whether facing tight budgets or the uncertainty of AI, we need to innovate. But innovation is not about Technology or Process; it’s about People.
CELEBRATE: I went a little Tony Robbins on the group and asked everyone when was the last time they told themselves they loved themselves. I will ask you the same question. In an era where HR departments implore us to love our teams, you must prioritize self-love. A daily personal pep talk can help you be a better leader, and your teams will benefit from your self-care.

As a person who loves public speaking, it was odd for me to be rattled about presenting to my peers. Ironically, I needed the taste of my medicine and the Pepto to overcome the challenges.

There is a lesson for me – “Practice what you preach.” I may start using that.

I wonder if it will become popular.

Could Bill C-18 Negatively Impact Local Events?

The fallout from the decision by Google and Meta to pull Canadian news links from their platforms has raised concerns about the potential impact on local events, fundraisers, and community sponsorships. Bill C-18, the government’s new legislation addressing the relationship between tech giants and news outlets, has sparked a contentious debate about the future of the Canadian media industry. However, the implications of this bill extend beyond the media landscape and have significant consequences for local businesses and community initiatives.

Public Relations and Brand Building

One of the immediate consequences of Google and Meta’s decision is the impact on public relations and brand-building strategies. Brands rely on earned and organic social media exposure to enhance their visibility and reputation. With the removal of Canadian news links, the reach and impact of brand coverage in domestic media outlets may decrease significantly. This raises questions about the effectiveness of traditional media placements and the need to explore alternative avenues for reaching target audiences.

Furthermore, many brands have embraced the idea of positioning their social media accounts as news outlets themselves. The future of these branded “news sites” becomes uncertain in light of this ban. Will brands divert their resources to non-Canadian outlets to ensure wider coverage? Will they be forced to allocate more budget towards platform advertising to compensate for the loss of search visibility? These are critical considerations for businesses, particularly smaller ones with limited marketing budgets.

Impact on Small Businesses and Startups

The ban on Canadian news links can disproportionately impact small businesses and startups relying heavily on niche or local media outlets. Imagine a potential customer hearing about a brand through a radio advertisement and attempting to search for more information online. If major search engines no longer cover the local media outlet associated with that brand, it becomes unrealistic to expect the consumer to dig deeper. This not only hampers the visibility of local businesses but also undermines their ability to build credibility and brand recognition through word-of-mouth and PR efforts.

Community Events, Sponsorships, and Fundraisers

Local events, sponsorships, and community fundraisers heavily rely on effective marketing and promotion to attract participants and garner support. The ban on Canadian news links can make it significantly more difficult for these initiatives to reach their intended audience and generate engagement. Social media platforms are crucial in spreading information about such events, sharing updates, and recognizing sponsors. Access to these platforms is necessary for the exposure and visibility of local events to be greatly improved.

Moreover, the ban raises concerns about the financial viability of community sponsorships. Many local media outlets partner and collaborate with businesses to support community initiatives. However, if these outlets face reduced visibility and reach due to the ban, they may become less attractive to potential sponsors. This could lead to a decline in funding for local events, impacting their scale, quality, and ability to impact the community positively.

Evaluation and Research

As this ban unfolds, it will be interesting to see the empirical outcomes and evaluate its true impact on local events, sponsorships, and community initiatives. Researchers can examine the decline in social media exposure and subsequent effects on the value for partners and the success of these initiatives. By studying audience behaviour, information dissemination, and the overall health of local media ecosystems, we can gain valuable insights that inform future policy decisions and contribute to a more balanced and sustainable media landscape.

In conclusion, the potential impact of Bill C-18 on local events must be addressed. Major tech platforms’ ban on Canadian news links can hinder public relations efforts, impact small businesses and startups, and disrupt community events, sponsorships, and fundraisers. As we navigate the complexities of this legislative landscape, it is crucial to conduct ongoing evaluation and research to understand the full extent of these implications. By doing so, we can work towards mitigating the negative effects.

Hopefully.

Paris 2024 – Nouveau Games


Recently I was fortunate to be in Paris with the Canadian Olympic Committee and some of their commercial partners for an orientation trip ahead of the 2024 Games. 

Our itinerary featured a dinner cruise on the Seine, while incredibly scenic, will not compare to the spectacle the Paris organizing committee is planning for the Olympics opening ceremony. They have decided to eschew the traditional in-stadium opening ceremony and instead create a flotilla of boats carrying 10,000 athletes through a six-kilometre stretch of the city down the Seine. Three hours after the first boat departs and the French delegation arrives, the final torchbearer will pass the flame to the games-time torch at the  Eiffel Tower. 

In addition to the 10,000 athletes on the river, there will be 100,000 spectators in paid seating, free fan zones for another 400,000 spectators, 80 giant screens displaying the event, and some 35,000 police to keep everyone safe. Mind-boggling.

The Paris 2024 committee is working hard to provide access to people who want to attend the games, as this will be the first Olympics since 2018 where companies and spectators can fully embrace attending, activating, and hosting the Games. The pent-up demand is palatable. Already the organizers have sold nearly seven million tickets. 

The entire presence of fans is an integral part of the Olympics. The pandemic taught us that sport is not without fans in the stands. Live crowds bring the energy, emotion, and home team advantage that no technology we currently have in our grasp can do. In addition, the opportunity for friends and family to cheer loved ones will be a fantastic reboot. Nearly 70% of athletes only compete in one Olympics. Hence many of 2020(1) and 2022 participants lost the opportunity to share the moment in real life with their closest supporters.

The Paris Games will soon hit the one-year-out mark, and the Olympic torch relay will be upon us before we know it. IOC and NOC partners worldwide are finetuning activities and amplification plans to capitalize on this moment of total return post-pandemic. Sooner than we can imagine, billions of spectators will be tuning into broadcasts and following their heroes on social media. 

On the ground, live sites and country houses are in the design and budgeting phase, while the new hospitality programs for the IOC and OnLocation are on sale globally. This innovative concept is another exciting part of the Games where for the first time, individuals with no corporate affiliation can purchase an official Olympic event package that includes hospitality at the venue, tickets, and sightseeing options. The delivery of these packages is through first of its kind e-commerce site, and customers will even receive access to a unique hospitality center, Club 24, located in the Palais Tokyo Salon 24 near the Eiffel Tower. 

Navigating these significant changes will test marketers globally to rethink their Olympic playbooks. The return of fans will provide a boost to those who activate in France, those who have access to the torch, and those who create domestic campaigns to support their athletes. 

How it plays out will require a new scoreboard for evaluation and assessment. But I suspect the innovations we see here will quickly appear across significant properties worldwide. 

Succession

Have you heard what happened during the last episode of Succession?

According to what I read in Strategy Magazine over the weekend, the legendary Noel O’Dea is handing the keys to independent agency Target over to Catherine Kelly. The 45-year-old agency is living proof that the “world needs more Newfoundland,” and Kelly is the right person for the job, according to O’Dea after her twenty-five years with the agency.

Not the Succession story you were expecting from me?

Were you hoping to hear more about my handing the reins of T1 over to Liz Rose and Nithya Ramachandran on January 1st? How have the two of them and the entire T1 Leadership Team seamlessly transformed our business into a complete stack sponsorship innovator bleeding strategy, activation, and amplification for impactful brands?

Hmm. I suspect I am at two strikes, and what you came here for is my hot take on the HBO hit – Succession. Well, I will not scream “I LOVE it” at the top of my lungs as I only watched one episode, the finale, and I can’t say it had me wanting to go back for more.

One of the reasons the show is so successful is that the topic of Succession is one that many of us can relate to. Even those without a business background may have gone through legacy-like situations, including dealing with estate planning, will probates, or even less significant moments, such as who will run the office sports pool.

But really, how many of us can relate to being billionaires?

In entrepreneurship, there are at least three sides to every Succession. First is the incumbent, often the person or persons who started the operation. Second, are the candidates, those who want to ascend to and perceive they have a shot at the throne. Then there are the masses jockeying for position, casting and recasting their support while fretting over their future.

I am in the middle of my Succession and very happy to report it is far from a soap opera. It has been purposeful and intentional and not designed to attract the ratings that an HBO series does. In one respect handing the reins of T1 over has been easier than I imagined because it didn’t coincide with my retiring or exiting the industry. I now focus on business development, networking, future-proofing, and storytelling, to borrow a word from Noel.

However, it has been challenging, and there are some things you need to consider if Succession is on the horizon for you. First and foremost, you must find or develop new self-control muscles and habits you had never previously possessed. This new self-control applies to the small everyday items even more than the big decisions. You will have to learn to let the multiple occasions that occur daily go by without fretting over them. For example, the shades of these balloons may have been your favourite decision to make at past company events, and you may still have the itching; however, your comments on them will be perceived as your inability to put a lid on your hot air.

Who gets hired, who gets fired, who gets paid what? The more significant issues that are very important to the organization you relinquish is how you adapt to not weighing in on them. If choices are being made you disagree with, consider that progress towards the transformation of a company that will be even more fit for the future.

The relinquishing of control is made more accessible through many conversations, frank discussions about value, and a lockstep alignment around financials. Especially financials. Being an entrepreneur is not a fantasy. It can be gratifying, life-changing, and society-making. However, these outcomes can only be achieved if the venture is sustainable and viable. Having a stake in the game is what separates the person who is entrepreneurial from the entrepreneur. This is a tricky tightrope in a succession exercise, mainly when commitment or investment mismatches occur.

In a direct line succession where the new regime has bought out the founders, there is usually less tension around the financials if the financial commitment of purchase has been satisfied. This, too, can become complicated when an additional earnout is in place for the founders or if the seller is financing the buyer. This can be an area of friction in situations even where this is well-documented.

Legacy, reputation, and brand are the most emotional components of any succession process. Often founders feel that the acquiring or succeeding group needs to provide more value or care to clients and customers than they do. This can be exasperating in some situations, to the point where some founders will try to complete their earnout period on an accelerated base. If not, abandon it altogether. It is hard for them to watch someone else mistreat their baby.

As you have been reading this, you may be ready to argue that even a local business succession event could have much of the same drama as a TV show. The well-written script of the transition process is apt to be stained by emotion and tension that inevitably comes through in something so central to human survival.

Who knows. HBO may need a Succession capsule on Survivor to keep as an epilogue. Or maybe I shouldn’t make these suggestions, as I have never seen an episode of Survivor either.

29 Candles

On May 16th, T1 has the honour of decorating our company birthday cake with twenty-nine candles. 

birthday cake with candles number 29 isolated on white background

The flaming passion for this business is even hotter than when I launched it from my home office. That was back when nobody worked from home. My reasoning was economic, not pandemic. 

I am less interested in looking back at the past twenty-nine years and more looking towards the next twenty-nine. Anniversaries, milestones, and birthdays are significant to celebrate and recognize achievement. Yet they can also be a trap. 

The speed at which the world changes. The need for individuals to grow constantly. The shifting desires customers. The headwinds and tailwinds of society all contribute to a need to ensure your compass is pointing North. 

I have done a lot of public speaking in the past three years, where I have stated my North Star changed, primarily due to George Floyd’s murder. When I first launched my business, I would liken much of my motivation to my need for independence. I wanted to succeed or fail based on my own decisions, not others. 

Over time my North Star gravitated to our impact, whether creating great jobs for people, helping our clients succeed, or being part of a great business community. 

About a decade ago, when I discovered I had seven half-siblings I didn’t know about (part of my adoption backstory), I doubled down on the theme that having my own business was driven by a subconscious need to never rely on others. I say this in concert with the comment that I won the adoption lottery, and Ron & Ann Harrison are two people even a stranger could rely on. 

Then came the horrific George Floyd murder, and I deemed that my business became a platform to help those in the Black community I had never adequately supported. 

When I was a kid, the Jeffersons were a favourite show. The theme song ran along the lines of « moving on up to the East Side, to a dee-luxe apartment in the sky. ». The pioneering show told the story of a Black man ascending in society. The Jefferson’s was laced with stereotypes and bigotry, yet funny and unapologetic, the show broke through the day’s programming and set precedents. While the main character, George, could be a bit of an egomaniac and not always empathetic, the most important lesson that has always stuck with me is that you must take control of your future. 

Not everybody wants to be an entrepreneur. Nor should they. Not everyone wants to do the same job for twenty-nine years. Nor should they. But everyone should look at the milestones they are fortunate enough to achieve and give thanks to those who have helped them, reflect on what they have learned, and, more importantly, double down on their commitment to themselves to plot their destiny. 

In doing so, they will have more reasons to celebrate; they will have more to share with those who have helped them and more to share with those who need help. 

From Halifax, With Love

by Mark Harrison

I love Halifax. I have been dozens of times, and the experience magically seems more special each time than the last. Over the past weekend, I was a guest at the East Coast Music Awards, an invitation I eagerly accepted after attending the 2019 event in Charlottetown. (Thanks to the East Coast Music Association for having me!) Personally and professionally, it was time well spent for my soul and brain. I have a few goals in mind whenever I go to an event.

First, we are blessed in our industry to be able to mix and pleasure. How many professions allow you to build friendships, experience new cultures, and gather ideas simultaneously? In a nutshell, that was my weekend at the East Coast Music Awards. I met many people, and in the name-dropping category, it was fun to talk with Heather Rankin of the Rankin Family, a favourite of the generation that loves roots music. I recognized her as a singer-songwriter. However, she is also an actress, comedian and entrepreneur. The Red Shoe Pub is her seasonal spot in Cape Breton and is now high on my list for a family trip.

My brain enjoyed assessing the Red Carpet for the awards show, an energetic activity zone featuring Atlantic Lottery, Libra, Dairy Farmers of Canada, and local breweries.

 It was like a moving sidewalk in a mall of promotions and engagements. I loved the transformation of the dreaded event lineup into an engaging attraction zone for the fans fortunate enough to have a wristband.

One thing I loved about the receptions I attended is the focus was on people connecting and not politicians speaking. Of course, being a great hostess requires preparation, thought, and discipline. But, there is a magical balance between telling people your message and allowing them to live it. Kudos to the ECMA for finding that balance. Galas, receptions, showcases, and activations are all vital elements to any award show, yet the ECMA conference sessions may have the most long-term impact. Designed to build the music industry, guide emerging artists, provide resources for marginalized talent, and network for unknown people, it will amplify the “GDP” of the Atlantic music industry for years to come. Convening to build business is time well invested.

The East Coast Music Awards gala, honoured the amazing Natalie MacMaster with the special director’s award. She performed with her seventeen-year-old daughter to close out the awards show. The standing ovation she received was well-deserved and heartfelt. However, there was no resting on her laurels as Natalie and her daughter turned up in the Marriott hotel lobby two hours later and started to perform again. Surprise and delight never get old, something all marketers can learn.