Summer’s Here!

Summer is here! It rudely announced itself to me on Monday in NYC when I walked outside the apartment on the walk to work and into the stifling humidity. I keep getting told that NYC is the worst place during July and August. Something to do with the humidity that brings the worst out in the smells and the people… Well so far, 8 days into July, and I am loving it. Sure it has its downside; the continuous outdoor steam room is definitely one especially as I am dressed like a true Brit in full suit and garb. Now I am thinking about it I really must look to likes of Michael Forbes or John Suguitan our resident GQ fashionistas for help. Back to the ups and downs of the NYC summer.

The upside is great as it reminds me of the early days of CDM in Hawaii and one time in particular when CDM was mistaken for a spy outfit.

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When I first arrived at CDM I was picked up at the airport by Glenn in his bright yellow Jeep. I was fresh off a 23 hour marathon trip from London to Toronto, Toronto to Vancouver, and Vancouver to Honolulu I didn’t know where I was and then BAM!!!! I had stepped out of the A/C and into the tropical humidity in the airport parking lot. Now, for some of our long serving CDMers who were also in Hawaii they know all too well that if the trade winds are gone then Hawaii is very similar to that of NYC this Monday morning. It was in NYC on Monday as it was in Hawaii without the trades – a brick wall of dense humid air. This said I had arrived, my CDM journey begun. I was the other side of the world, an archipelago (see Dad I still know my geography terms) in the Pacific some 7,000 miles away from my family. All these years later and I’m now I am the oldest fart in the company.

Apparently you can’t call your boss an old fart hence why I am the oldest fart and not Glenn. It’s actually quite amazing that half the CDMers right now won’t know what that means. That again is a sign of the huge growth in our ranks we have experienced in the past month and a bit. So, for those CDMers who haven’t been around the CDM British contingent long enough, an old fart is somewhat of an endearing term. I don’t know why but it just is.

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Anyway back to the story and our first office in Hawaii. It was an amazing time and it’s for that reason, and that the humidity of the NYC summer that means that half the men here carry a spare shirt with them, triggered a smile and this post.

I had arrived in Hawaii missing my luggage, which sucked. Should anyone ever see someone wearing a pale yellow v-neck t-shirt with an image of a red parrot that squeaked like a dog toy on the shoulder it’s probably mine… Especially if it was a medium and slim fit… OK maybe XL, but still if you see someone let me know. I thought I was going to stand out like a sore thumb in the hustle and bustle of Honolulu’s business district wearing my flip-flops, shorts, t-shirt and hoodie. Actually I didn’t stand out at all and I never saw the hustle and bustle compared to what I’ve since experienced in Chicago or NYC. Honolulu is a major city – I don’t know the dollar figures it contributes to them, but there are some huge companies and Honolulu has a big downtown – but the businessmen and ladies wear Hawaiian shirts. Apparently there is a nomenclature based upon the colour of your shirt that I never figured out because I never wore one myself, instead we wore suits.

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I had now spent my first three 3 weeks dressed in the same garb I arrived in, except I had gone from surfer chic (Heather don’t comment) to grunge, or more accurately grungy. It was time I purchased a suit. Now in Honolulu if you wear suits you are several things: firstly mad, secondly very hot, and thirdly going to court either as a lawyer or otherwise. I’m glad to say that I never set foot in a Hawaiian courtroom. I did however buy my first suit in the Labor Day sales. I think it was a very fancy Sears brand that would be the very envy of the runways of London, Paris, Milan or New York. Or not.

That following Monday I donned the suit and tie and headed into work, as I would continue to do so for the next several months. Our office was next to those of a couple of military contractors. Having seen three suit-clad guys with accents walking around the floor everyday, one of them plucked up the courage to ask our then very new office assistant what we did. Her reply, much like a lot of us when trying to explain what we do to someone outside of events or technology, left the enquirer very perplexed and muttering that we must be spies. We weren’t although I did try (and fail) to order a Martini at the local Tiki bar that evening.

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How did you arrive at CDM? Did you buy your first suit for CDM recently? Did you fail as bad as I did trying to imitate Daniel Craig asking for a Martini? Love to hear your stories…

Social Selling- is it becoming a distraction and hindrance for you?

So I was looking for my source of inspiration/topic to write on and as I sat down to my desk at home late on Sunday night I saw the stack of To Do’s. Now any good sales person in my opinion needs to have great time management skills as well as self-discipline and motivation. You could expect that by this introduction that I am to go on talking about time management and how you can work smarter. Well I’m not. The good news, if you need to better your time management skills, is that there are many other business posts about that topic. However, going back to the stack of “To Do’s”, sat on top of the pile were some of the action points and follow ups from the recent management meeting, in particular some of the notes whereby we were discussing sales tools. Following the management meeting there has been a big push coming from all departments to help and improve existing sales efforts. Many of my own team have come to me talking about social selling and some introducing me to technology applications that help analyze the data helping sales efforts. So thank you team for the enthusiastic input. Additional thanks to Heather, Joran, Rachel and Matt who have contributed to many wins in the past but also changes and improvements brought about following the management meeting. These have contributed considerably as we drive some of the best engagement and demand generation results, all without needing to spend big on expensive technologies.

There is no doubt in my mind that there are some cool technologies spearheaded by the likes of LinkedIn that are becoming such a big part of the B2B sales/marketing world. The whole concept of social selling is an interesting one indeed. As we look to scale the CDM sales team even further, given our current leadership position within the industry and the growing demand for our services, it is very clear that the need to identify an easy, replicable and consistent sales process is more important than ever. In today’s business environment data and analytics play a big role, a fact underpinned by IBM CEO Ginny Rometty’s “bold prediction” last month that “In the future, every decision that mankind makes is going to be informed by a cognitive system like Watson” and “our lives will be better for it”. For those of you who didn’t know Watson is a very advanced analytics/supercomputer that IBM has made a BIG bet on, for those of you still don’t know, it beat a bunch of really smart people on Jeopardy.

Remembering her statement as I trawled through the many notes that I had, as well as others my direct team had written along with those of the many technology vendors that have been reaching out or I have reached out to for further information on solutions it made me start questioning what social selling is about. What is it? What isn’t it? Why do we need it? Thinking of Ginny’s phrasing in particular had me suddenly thinking differently. As a CEO of a multi billion-dollar global company such as IBM, you have a fair amount of public and private scrutiny. Her phrasing was done it in a way that doesn’t bring about the idea of robots revolting and enslaving mankind first of all which is nice, although I will probably still go and see the upcoming Terminator movie. Maybe if she had said Watson would make mankind’s decisions she would have one promoted the Terminator movie more so that the big advertising budgets are doing, she might also have many IBM stakeholders and public opinion against her. But for me she phrased it as such that related to after 3 further hours of reading through notes on that Sunday night. It made me realize that many of the sales tools and the hype around social selling probably weren’t going to make our CDM sales lives better. It had made me question all the hype on social selling and what it is and what it isn’t. Several vendors have said to me “social selling is the new definition of selling”. In my opinion it isn’t, and the definition of selling will remain ambiguous. However where social selling can help many organizations is with bettering the sales process which can be defined as a “systematic process of repetitive and measurable milestones, by which a salesman relates his or her offering of a product or service in return enabling the buyer to achieve their goal in an economic way.” Thanks Wikipedia.

So we will be adding sales tools and new technology into the day-to-day to help build upon an already strong sales process. I’ll be the first to say that a sales process is never perfected. It can’t be as we need to factor in the human element and not the data in that we deal with different buyers and those buyers are humans who are themselves unique and different. So whilst data and social selling will help some of the sales process, don’t get carried away thinking that by magic it will overnight replace in-person, phone and email outreach. If you are of this school of thought then you are most probably allowing it to become a time consuming distraction. Please think about the next time you “like” and “comment” on the mass of spam content on the ever-increasing social media channels that we interact across daily. Social selling helps you nurture a relationship across these channels if done in a non-creepy and non-spam like manner. It will never replace the in person meeting or sales conversation whereby you can engage immediately with someone, feeling out and communicating directly around their wants, needs, likes and dislikes. After all we are the market leaders for hosting face to face business meetings at our events as well as one of the fastest growing private companies in the US in 2014 and hopefully in 2015 pending the Inc.com announcement. We achieved this by developing and nurturing relationships with clients directly, engaging them on what they want and creating best of breed solutions to meet this. Not by “liking” or “commenting” on the 1+1=????

Good luck and happy hunting as we close out Q2 and 1H.

On Being Tenacious, Prepared, and Grateful

So, it’s long been an intention of mine to write more/share thoughts. I have no idea if this is vanity getting the better of me, or if it is me being the overly competitive type thinking that the vast amount of Linkedin stories add up to little more than common sense or same old, same old.

I have been putting off writing simply because I had no idea how to start. Whilst in junior school in England I remember many of my English writing teachers tell me that a story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Now here is the snag: I don’t consider myself to be an industry expert, I don’t consider myself to be a hugely successful entrepreneur, and I don’t think that I am so worldly that I can impart a “zen” like wisdom to all, so coming up with that story was proving tough.

I am sure most of you have heard or are following the earthquakes that devastated much of Nepal. I was with my team in NYC watching video footage from drones, personal cameras, and TV crews that were quick on the scene. The damage to the cities and many of the ancient monuments/temples and other buildings is hard to see. This will become harder as the news develops and more stories emerge about the rising death tolls and utter devastation that the earthquakes and aftershocks have had on one of the world’s less affluent but culturally rich countries. Amongst all of the stories I was particularly taken back by the unfortunate death of the 33-year-old Google X executive that died in the avalanche that destroyed much of Everest Base Camp. This, I suppose, spurred me into writing as he and I were of similar ages and both work in technology. My heart-felt hopes and prayers are with the Nepalese people, as well as all of the people and their friends and family who were caught in tragic circumstances following their dreams of climbing the 29,029 feet to the top of the world.

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I was fortunate enough to travel to Nepal in my younger years, spending several weeks on a climb. In a complete plot twist and drawing on my own time in Nepal it was nothing short of amazing. At 18 years young, like most young men, I thought I knew everything and could conquer the world. Then I arrived in Kathmandu. From the minute I stepped out of the Tribuhavan International Airport and with the rest of the group hopped on the bus that would whisk us to the hotel for a much needed sleep after a 20hr trip from Heathrow, I was taken back by the sheer poverty and third-world conditions. I found myself feeling guilty about many things I have complained about (such as the hot water levels in the shower). As I soon found out, I began yearning such comforts of home, the hotel, and even Kathmandu city life. Whilst trekking and climbing, our rations, along with oxygen levels, depleted. We adapted to life eating SPAM fritters and hacking up a lung whilst throwing a snowball or two. Needless to say the couple of months that I was out there would test my personal and mental endurance and in many ways shape some of the values that I hold closest to me. I am very thankful to the Nepalese people and that experience.

How does this draw parallel with my current sales role? Allow me to explain:

Prepare to win…

Those of you whom know me and especially my team in NYC will know that I hate losing.  It is a deep-rooted loathing and something I cannot lose from days of playing competitive sports. I ask the question of all candidates that I interview “Do you like to win, or do you hate to lose?”. Cheesy, but as we know all too well in sales, where we are faced with many setbacks and objections, we need that competitive drive. The drive that, no matter what, we are going to win.

After a restful night’s sleep every night – trust me, walking 4-10miles and on average climbing the height of Ben Nevis (UK’s highest mountain) every day, it was restful – we would wake up to our Sherpa bringing us “milk tea” (interesting fact: Yak milk is pink!). After the morning routine of milk tea, bathing in a tiny water bowl (size of a dog bowl), chowing down on chef’s preparation (usually involving SPAM), we would pack up our bags and head out. Makalu is a 2-3 week trek from Tumlingtar Airport through some amazing lowlands and along the Arun River before you hit the Shipton Pass (whereby you know lowlands are no more and the trek becomes a climb to the base camp and beyond). I was always amazed that, despite leaving an hour after the rest us, the support team would overtake us half way through the morning to set up lunch and would repeat the same overtake again in the afternoon to set up camp. I was amazed at the support team of Sherpa and especially porters (generally a mix of older men and women whom carried on average 50-80lbs of equipment and supplies on crates attached to rope which was strung around there foreheads). In short, at 18 and being an avid swimmer, rower, and rugby player I thought I could beat them. I failed badly. I am sorry to say that there isn’t a comeback win for me here, it was just loss, after loss, after loss as they passed me by every morning and afternoon. That said I was very happy with this arrangement at times when temperatures were sub zero and the wind would kick up. Seeing those orange tents in the distance was a welcome sight indeed.

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Preparing for the job at hand and never failing to stop learning are key in sales as they are in beating a spotty teenager up a mountain. Applying what learning I can from the experience, I know that I was beaten by an expert; someone who had over the past 30-40 years practiced and practiced and most importantly where far more prepared. Nothing beats consistent hard work and my elderly Nepalese friends handed me a beating to remember.

Tenacity can’t be trained…

On the sales team we work hard. I always remember resenting a certain sales manager/come CEO a little in the past for saying I needed to work harder. In retrospect he was probably right, there is always room to work harder and I know as I too dole out the same line of “you need to work harder”. I do so not to annoy, but to help with a persistent determination to win. This persistent determination or tenacity I believe is something that only the individual – that’s you – can have.

Climbing and trekking in the Himalayas comes with its challenges, as does sales. Preparing oneself will only get you so far; after that you just have to do it. No one will drag you up a mountain, and no one will get you that sale but you. The very best in climbing and in sales are persistently determined. I don’t know if he is the best climber, but perhaps one of the most known, Edmund Hilary who climbed Everest in 1953, being the first man to do so along with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. Hillary had climbed 11 peaks in the Himalayas before attempting Everest, and he climbed another 10 peaks after. I can only talk about the tenacity needed in sales and it is immense.

Sir Hillary and Norgay smile after summitting the Mt. Everest

Perhaps the same phrase is said in climbing as it is in sales, in that you are only as good as your last deal or peak in the case of a climber. The best sales people are those that are always seeking out the next deal just as much as they are chasing down the direct dial, lead, or whatever the task at hand maybe. Like climbers, father time catches up with sales people. That’s not to say we burn out, just that we need to work at pace as you never know who else is trying to get into the sale. We need to conquer it first just like Hilary and Sherpa Tenzing did in 1953, a good 3 years before the next. Imagine what we can do inside 3 years with a client without any competition knocking on the doors.

Be grateful for what you have…

Since coming to NYC, I have been constantly amazed by this city same as I was in Kathmandu, though for very different reasons. NYC literally has everything you can ever think of, in Kathmandu its the opposite. Yet like any great city, the underlying culture helps shape the growth, architecture, and people. Not to say that New Yorkers aren’t appreciative of what they have, as I think any true New Yorker would defend the city till they are out of breath. But Kathmandu’s people are hardy (hearty?). Unfortunately they will need to be more so than ever. There is a deep religious and spiritual undertone within the city, something that I feel that Western cities and other modern cities have probably lost. The Nepali people are hard working and respectful of others. The Namaste greeting, which follows you around Nepal everywhere you go, literally means, “I bow to the divine in you”.

Whilst on my journey up Makalu I befriended one of the junior Sherpa. He’s someone I have kept in contact with in the years since and someone who I hope to visit soon. His annual salary of 32,000 Rupees (about $500) was back then a good salary compared to some. He wore an old Barcelona soccer jersey and pants and his boots were hand-me-downs from a group 3 years before and well worn. I can’t fathom how many miles and how many feet he had traversed up and down the Himalayan Mountains. Yet not once did he complain about his job, and was all the more happy to go out of his way to help me barter for a can of Pepsi or whatever else I was craving. I haven’t heard from him since the disaster and I hope he is OK, which I am sure he is. We nicknamed him “the Cat” for his ability to always land on his feet despite the tumbles and trips that happen at altitude.

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I don’t mean to overdo this lesson but sometimes in sales and with the company you are with, whether that is CDM Media or otherwise, it’s always good to take a step back and appreciate what you have got versus what you haven’t. That’s not to say that you don’t prepare and work tenaciously to get what you want, but be appreciative of what you have and the others around you.

So I hope this satisfies my English teachers and that it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. I will be back soon with my next post after some thinking about what to write and welcome your ideas and input. If you are interested in helping the plight of the Nepalese there are several great charities helping, but here is a less well-known one that helps the Sherpa and porters who contribute to the Tourism industry that is the largest part of the Nepal economy.  http://himalayantrust.co.uk/

Thanks to my friend, The Cat, and the Nepalese people. My thoughts and prayers are with you all during some tough times. I hope to be out there enjoying another Tongba soon enough.

Brighter Lights, Bigger City

As we finally get a brief moment to breath during the busy events calendar that CDM Media has this year, I wanted to take some time to let you all know what is going on a little place they call New York. Yes the rumors are true; CDM is opening another office in its quest to bring world-class executive events to the masses.

Over the past 7 years here at CDM Media its been a privilege to see the rapid growth from some pretty humble beginnings in a small no-window office in Hawaii to 2 years later taking over the entire 28th floor of the building – which had lots of windows (I’m still not sure what was worse – living in paradise and not seeing the outside, or having 270 degree views overlooking Honolulu and Waikiki and being stuck in the office).

Hawaii Office

Fast forward another few years and we relocated company HQ from Hawaii to Chicago where I had the pleasure of taking some very fine CDMers and opening up the doors at 155 N Wacker Drive. Within the year we opened our UK office in Cardiff and our march into EMEA took full stride. During the past several years it has been my honor to be a part of numerous hirings and openings across all our offices. Further, its been great to see that many of the folks that worked in Hawaii and helped open the doors in Chicago are still amongst us, and in well earned and deserved senior positions across the company.

But enough reminiscing (although the photos from Hawaii might warrant a couple of other blog posts about the amazing travel locations that CDM staff get to see… hint, hint blog master!) and back to what I’m meant to be talking about; CDM is opening yet another office and we are to have official dwellings in Chelsea/Flatiron in the bustling metropolis that is NYC.

For CDM, the city of New York offers an abundance of new hires within a very close proximity- if you haven’t already heard Manhattan has a very dense population and a whole new employee base for us to onboard and turn into highly functional, fun and fantastic CDMers. Finding the right hires for any company is important, but finding the right hires for a company opening a new office is massively important. So over the past few months between Glenn, Mike, and I we have interviewed over 100 candidates for both Business Development and Relationship Management roles for NYC alone. Going into the interviews we knew what we were looking for – that’s the easy part. Sifting through the 1000+ resumes, conducting several hundred calls to vet candidates, and then interviewing face-to-face is the hard part.

Recruiting staff has to be one of the most mind-boggling, brilliant, but painstakingly resource intensive experiences I been through here at CDM. Going into NYC and interviewing 10-15 persons a day even, with the likes of the comical genius Mike at the side (and doing the majority of the heavy lifting in scheduling etc.) is nothing short of knackering. Just pulling from my personal experience from interviewing not only was I able to meet some great candidates and go on to hire several already, but I also took a real sense of pride in what CDM has achieved to date. Our products are highly regarded not just by our clients that receive top class events and digital media services, but also from our peers and contemporaries at other companies. Sure I am not naïve enough to think that during the interview process a candidate would look to put CDM on a pedestal, but flushed with candidates many coming from well established companies such as Gartner, Wall Street Journal, and The NY Times it was great to see that many candidates had taken time to research about CDM and, having seen the recruitment video online, had picked up on the CDM culture. Kudos are due to HR and to TechServices for doing a great job on the videos across YouTube and beyond.

The end result of the sometimes-tiresome NYC trips was that we were able to invite some of the 3rd and 4th stage interviewees to come in for more interviews at our Chicago HQ office before pulling the trigger and getting them onboard. What we are looking for in new hires pretty much embodies the major cultural principles that drives successful CDMers – putting the client first, working hard and enjoying it, being entrepreneurial go getters, and the list goes on.

Taking a momentary step back, its nice to think that we have over the years seen CDMers from all walks of life join and embrace this culture and for many help shape it across the various departments and office to ensure that we have a truly great employee base. I bring this up not just to champion the quality of people (that’s you CDM) that I have the pleasure of working with everyday who make the business truly brilliant. No, I do it to highlight that with having such a unique culture to our business today, how much easier recruiting and successful on-boarding of new staff can be. After all a man who is credited “with inventing management” did say “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

So as the bright lights of NYC beckon and with the incubator team of Ira, Justin, and Matt heading back home (which I think they are looking forward to) and shortening their commute by 1000 miles or so, we go into our brand new office space in prime real estate in Chelsea/Flatiron. Monday will also be the starting date for some other new hires – watch this space as we hit the ground running and look to build CDM within the Empire State. Anyways time to get back to the day job but no doubt you will see me flitting in between Chicago and NYC racking up the air miles.