I am honored to stand before you and accept this award on behalf of the Chapter Officers, Honorary Board, Volunteers and most importantly members of the Utah AMA. Today,I hope to share with you some of the lessons we learned during our year that I hope will be helpful to you as you prepare for this coming year. First a helpful story…
Not many are familiar with the name Samuel Pierpoint Langley. He was a well-known astronomer, physist, inventor, and pioneer in aviation in the 1800’s. He was given $50,000 by the US government to build the first manned flying machine. He was a Harvard graduate and assembled a well-educated staff. So why haven’t we heard of him?
A few miles away in Dayton Ohio, Orville and Wilbur Wright were also building a flying machine. They didn’t have money, prestige, or even the educated staff – no one even had a college degree. They were simply driven by their belief that building a flying machine would change the course of the world. It was even said that they would take 5 sets of spare parts for each flight anticipating the crashes that would occur.
The wright brothers took to flight on December 17, 1903. Further proof that Samuel Pierpoint Langley was motivated by the prestige that accompanied him, the day he learned of the Wright brothers success, he quit his pursuit of building the manned flying machine.
Many of you may have wondered why is the Utah Chapter the, “turn-around” chapter? Aren't they new? There had been a chapter that opened in 1991 but later closed in 2002 due to a lack of activity. There was another subsequent group that tried to put a chapter together in 2007. Though much work was done it never developed into a chartered chapter. While I knew that our marketing community needed an association in 2009, I wondered what was going to make my attempt to build it any different than earlier failed attempts?
In addition, while being the guy that started the Utah AMA again and making it successful sounded like a cool personal accomplishment, I had a very real fear. Would I be forever known in my career as, “that guy who tried to start the Utah AMA and failed.” At the time, I knew there was something holding me back from attempting to build the chapter - I wasn’t being driven by the right reasons just yet.
Simon Sinek, an author and speaker most famous for his work called the, “golden circle” stated, “All those great leaders that command great loyalty regardless of the industry they are in act, think, and communicate the exact same way and it’s different than anyone else”While most of us are used to acting, thinking and communicating from the outside in, great leaders do the opposite, they act, think and communicate from the inside out starting with why. For example, as we think about how this might apply to us as chapter leaders, the standard approach for an association like ours is to tell people about our many great and exiting programs, how being a member will benefit them professionally and personally and finally, do you want to join our chapter? The really great chapter leaders take the opposite approach. They start with the why. We believe that marketing is changing the business. We are passionate about marketing and work together to advance the practice of marketing and further develop our talent. We happen to have events each month, want to join us?Great leaders understand that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
It was toward the end of a normal work-day in August of 2010. I was sitting at my desk at work when I received a phone call from a former colleague of mine who informed me that a large company in our area was having lay-offs again and unfortunately several of our marketing friends had been let go and were now looking for jobs. I felt a great feeling and sense of urgency in that moment. I knew my why. I believed that if I could get the right people involved and do it right, I could help the Utah business community understand the critical role marketing plays in making their business successful and help the marketing talent in Utah find new opportunities. I needed to build the Utah AMA and contacted Megan the next day to get the ball rolling.
With our why clearly defined we were ready to focus on the “how” we would do it. I remember standing in the elevator after our final session of LS 2011 and feeling energized by all of the great things I had seen from all the other chapters. I returned home that weekend and life quickly went back to normal. My enthusiasm faded and I became overwhelmed by the amount of things I had to do. We had a group of about 5 strong leaders but how would we do it all. It felt like it was going to be a long year.We knew we would need strong leadership, lots of volunteers, great programming, a plan with metrics, the list goes on. We quickly realized though that we couldn’t do it all ourselves and we didn’t have all of the answers. We set out to share our vision, mission and goals with the CMOs, VPs of Marketing at companies in our community and Marketing Department Chairs of the major universities in Utah. We needed their guidance one what the Utah AMA could become. Little did we realize how valuable their help would become. Many of these VPs volunteered to serve as Honorary Board members. They also provided us membership growth, sponsorships, content, speakers. In fact our President Elect for this year is one of our Honorary Board Members employees.The biggest learning we had throughout this whole process, “don’t just ask people for help, tell them where they are needed and why it is them you need and not someone else.” We had our vision, mission and had begun building a strong group of leaders who were passionate about our cause. We were ready to focus on what we would actually accomplish in our first full year as a chapter and built our “what” which we called our “4Ps – People, Programs, Profit and our new P, partnerships.
Our first P, People. We had set the goal to grow our membership to 300 members within the first year. Though we had a great kick-off, we like many other chapters begin to experience a dip in our activity and engagement. We wanted to blame this on the summer, speakers, etc. It was through really engaging with our volunteers that we realized that if we could grow our volunteer base, the natural outcome would be growth in our membership. We began recognizing volunteers and holding volunteer events. WE didn’t reach our goal of 300 in our first year but we do know that a primary reason we were able to get to a membership of 210 was due to the fact that over 40% of them were volunteering. In several cases having several volunteers within one company led to group memberships.Each member wants to be recognized and valued as part of the organization. Let people know where you need their talents and remember that if you want to grow your membership, grow your volunteers.
Our second P – ProgramsLike most chapters we had the goal of executing monthly events. Through several conversations with our Honorary Board, we quickly recognized for us, in our market, charging our members for events once they have joined would severely impact the perceived membership value. So from the beginning, once a member of the Utah AMA, you will be able to attend our monthly events and receive many of the benefits we provide for free. I need to mention here that I am not suggesting you apply this for your chapter. It simply may not work for your market. What I am suggesting is that for your chapter, challenge the status quoe of how things have been done in the past. Don’t be afraid of trying something new. Some of our programming highlights included having Jim Stengel, former Global CMO of P&G and Fortune Magazine’s dream team of marketers speak to our membership and provide them copies of the book. Another, are the monthly career coaching sessions we offer to our members such as this one focused on personal branding. Members can also meet with the career coach for a free consulting session.
Our third P, Profit. One of the most valuable pieces of advice we had heard from other chapters who had been successful is the Board in the Box concept of “Pay for Nothing” and focusing on the 3 Ps – programs, people and profit.” With wanting to protect the membership value by not charging for our monthly programs we knew we needed to increase our revenue through partnerships and began visiting with companies to share our sponsorship packages and opportunities. We were surprised just how receptive companies were to what we were trying to accomplish. I will never forget sitting with one CMO and after going through the presentation and suggesting they become a gold sponsor at $5,000, he asked if they could do much more and contributed $15,000. The value of partnerships is not only in the cash sponsorships but also in the in-kind donations (our website, spiffs, video, tools). We were surprised by just how many of our speakers, locations, members, group memberships and volunteers came from these 21 partnerships. They were critcial to our success as a Chapter in 2012-13 year.
I want to close by sharing one of my favorite stories that again, illustrates the importance for us as Chapter Leaders to focus on thinking, acting and communicating our why. Derek Redmond is an Olympic athlete who was competing in the 1992 Olympics for Great Britain and was favored to win the gold in 400 meter sprint. He had been training all his life for this moment. The start gun went of and Derek was fast out of the gate. He was leading and even the announcers were anticipating his victory when…
…just 175 meters from the finish his right hamstring tore and he fell down to the ground in pain. Derek said he heard a “pop” and thought for a moment he had been shot. Soon medical personnel arrived to help and the race appeared to be over.
But even with being in such pain he lifts himself to his feet and starts hobbling down the track. When his father who was in the stands saw his son in trouble, he leaped over the railing avoiding security guards and runs out to help him.
He tells him, “I am here son. You should stop, You have nothing to prove. Derek says, “I have to finish.” His Dad replies, “allright, we’ll finish together.
With 65,000 fans Derek Redmond received the cheer of the games and he finished the race. Derek is an incredible example of what I believe my whole experience as a chapter leader has taught me. We work hard as volunteers and many times that comes without recognition or compensation but we do it because we believe in it. With all the preparation our race is about to begin! Be fast out of the gate.We know that as we look ahead we set our sights on winning the race but also know that there will be moments where we will experience failure. Get up. There will be others that are prepared to help. Accept their help and realize that you will never be successful on your own. Use others to strengthen you.Derek’s ultimate goal was to finish the race. His why was to finish. In all that we do as chapter leaders lets not forget to be very clear about our why and share that with others.
Finally I will leave you with this thought. Wherever we are and in whatever way you decide to contribute to your chapter this year, you will leave a legacy. For me, the greatest satisfaction of founding the Utah AM comes from knowing that we built a chapter that has helped marketing become more recognized within our business community and helped the Utah marketing talent, like my colleagues I found out about find new jobs. Most satisfying to me is that the chapter is now in more capable hands than mine and that they will carry it to new heights. Thank you to the judging committee, to the AMA and most importantly you, for letting me and the Utah AMA be part of this great Leadership Summit.