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34. In & Out (The Importance of How You Onboard & Exit)

Welcome to Episode 34 of Navigating the Fustercluck—a podcast full of bite-sized insights to help you navigate the up & down world of creativity & marketing.

 

My name is Wegs, like eggs with a W, joining you from Deaf Mule Studios in Dallas, TX where we’re here to talk about onboarding and exiting an agency.

 

According to the most progressive HR person I’ve ever met, Steve Drotter, 90% of what you need to know about a company is how they bring people on and how they see them off.

 

I couldn’t agree more. Yet, when it comes to the front or the back end of your stay, how many agencies make a real effort? Honestly? 

 

Think back. Besides a bag of swag and some paperwork, how have you been greeted on the first day of a new job? Shouldn’t we go beyond a logo-adorned 

t-shirt, mug and trucker hat? 

 

Here are some things I’ve seen that might spark a thought or two for you.

 

A Book

 

Digital or paper…some agencies have “How to Work Here” books. Culture books.

Most suck. Filled with platitudes and written like a Valentine card to themselves.

Some are actually pretty well written but aren’t adhered to. Or the office politicians figure out how to twist it for their own gains. I’m not sure which is worst. Mehhhh, office politicians are the worst. 

 

Another book that I have seen help is a short book full of tents that the agency believes in. For example, if you’re a Multicultural agency how do you think about assimilation? Acculturation? Language as a tactic? Other agencies may be most concerned with the best ways to work with influencers. How do you choose the right celebrity? The right athlete? When is an event called for? And what kind? What makes for great shopper? PR. Whatever it may be.

 

What you want to do is have everyone singing from the same hymnal. Reading from the same page. Whatever cliché you choose to use. So if a client has a question about one of these things you know how to respond.

 

The book I helped pull together for one agency served as both an agency piece but a plane & train book for clients as well. Companies like P&G would call every so often asking for more copies to give to new teammates or those they hoped to influence. It also was a great piece to share with sister agencies to create new opportunities to work together and collaborate… and maybe even help drum up a little new business.

 

And after all, there ought to be something that we all believe in. A philosophy. And cornerstone to the collective culture.

 

Should we know what the agency believes in? How we’re expected to get the job done. Without it, you have no hand on the tiller, and a default culture. Default cultures are rarely headed anywhere interesting.

 

Lunch

 

Stan Richards of the Richards Group has lunch with every new employee who comes on board. And as the owner of one of the largest independent agencies in the country, that’s a helluva effort.

 

I’ve worked at another place where the senior leadership team has one or two lunches a month with newbies.

 

Interviews

 

One place required that within your first month that you conduct a 5-minute interview with every single person at the agency. I rather liked it. Gave me real insight into people. Also gave me a pretty good clue as to who could be counted on to collaborate and who couldn’t. You also hear about whose sleeping with you and where the bodies are buried, etc.,etc., which can really help you from stepping in it.

 

Onboarding Celebrations

 

We celebrate birthdays monthly. Why not new teammates? Monthly. Every other month. Whatever makes sense. Let people introduce themselves. Tell people what you do. Share silly facts. Things that help bring us all together, not just physically, but emotionally. And can we please, please, please reveal what clients and categories everyone has worked on. Shocking how many times new business pitches are nearly completed only to find out that someone with real insight or even relationships are within your walls.

 

Photo Boards

 

Having people share pictures and a short personal blurb allows people to see who’s new. Avoiding awkward intros. A lot of places make this fun, with costumes, etc.

 

Senseis

 

In martial arts, your teacher is often referred to as your sensei. At Crispin, your sensei is like a mentor or work buddy who can guide you through agency culture. Someone you can turn to when questions or confusion arise. You may be bonded with this person until one of you leaves. At some places, your sensei or Sherpa rotates. Either way, the chance to get to know one person can lead to meeting many.

 

This may also be part of a mentoring program. As we explored in 3 prior episodes, you may look into reverse mentoring. Mentoring from someone more junior who’s more familiar with new technology and/or culture. Keeping the pipeline of information and insights flowing both ways can expand the knowledge base of the entire agency.

 

Training Programs

 

If you’re going to stay ahead of the curve, or at least stay current, you better have a learning culture. Some of that will be informal, but you ought to have a formal way to share information. I’ve helped to run 2 training programs and have loved it. You learn a lot. 

 

You can also use this content for newsletters, podcasts or video shares. It’s great way to learn from another and to show the world what your agency knows. I was part of a team that started a newsletter that went on weekly for over six years. Most people predicted it wouldn’t last six weeks.

 

A healthy learning culture becomes an ecosystem. One you can extend outwards to create an extended family. To include outside experts, clients and potential clients.

 

The opportunity to share what you know also brings the agency closer together.

It’s great when you can create content with others on the team. And gives a voice to more junior members who don’t get a chance to present enough. Getting new teammates involved immediately in such programs can bring them into the fold faster.

 

Exiting

 

OK, let’s get to the flipside. How people leave. This can be even more telling what an agency is like than how they welcome you aboard. When you come in, the agency almost has an obligation to play nice. Not so much when you leave. And that’s when their true character comes out.

 

When You Leave on Your Own Terms

 

One agency I worked at had an Alumni Club. Those who left in good standing received a quarterly e-newsletter filling them in on what was going on business-wise and personally. Like who got promoted. Who had a baby. Pictures from the holiday party, etc. 

 

Some were even invited to company outings. These were people we hoped would boomerang back. Often when we send out this newsletter, we would ask for recos for openings and these alums would give us names. Sometimes their own.

 

An occasional alumni party and a social media page also came into play.

 

Layoffs

 

They’re never easy. They suck. But they happen. So dammit, be prepared. These people deserve your respect. If you’re a senior person, attend the going away party. Alert sister agencies and friends. Offer whatever services you can. Show you care for their sake, and for the sake of those remaining. They need to know that they work for an honorable place and that if something ever happens to them that they can count on being treated with respect. Good or bad, how you treat people will get out. It’s basically an ad for those who you may want to consider your agency one day. 

 

OK, time to take a short breather…

 

…We’re here at Deaf Mule Studios to remind everyone that this is Navigating the Fustercluck. And I’m your host, Wegs. And here’s one more thing you can do for people leaving your agency…

 

Keep in Touch

 

Follow up and see how people are doing. They’ll appreciate it. Remind them of their worth. 

 

Let your team know when their old cohorts find new work. Show that you care. And lift the spirits of those still with you.

 

You can put all the pain on others by saying that This is the life we’ve chosen, but quoting the Godfather is probably not going to land you in a Harvard Business School case study. At least not for the right reasons.

 

Get over your guilt, get over yourself, as a leader you’ve got to focus on those effected. Those no longer with you. Those you hope will stay with you. Make the best of the situation you can. 

 

90% 

We started out with Steve Drotter’s claim that 90% of what you need to know about an organization reveals itself by how they welcome you onboard and how they say goodbye. I’m guessing that it may even be more. These are the bookends of your culture. And yet so little attention is paid to them.

 

Well, that about wraps up our 34th episode of Navigating the Fustercluck. ! Thank you!


Here from Deaf Mule Studios, I’m your host, Wegs, like eggs with a W, and thanks again for listening in. And see what you can do to make people’s onboarding and exits as human and positive as possible. Until next time, please feel free to reach out to me at wegs24x7@gmail.com and NavigatingTheFustercluck.com. Remember, we’re all in this together. So you’ve got to be there for people, especially during the hard times. I know you will. Here’s to you. Here’s to the future.

30. Sports Marketing for People Who Hate Sports

Welcome to Episode 30 of Navigating the Fustercluck—a podcast full of snackable insights to help you keep your head in the intense world of creativity & marketing.

 

My name is Wegs, like eggs with a W, joining you from Deaf Mule Studios in Dallas. Here to talk about sports marketing for those who hate sports. Though I’m confident that people who love sports will like this, too. I also promise to do my very, very best not to use sports analogies. The bane of many, many meetings.

 

So let’s go beyond the clichés. Let’s understand why sport teams and athletes have been and continue to be favored marketing partners. 

 

Here’s my favorite sports story that I personally witnessed:

 

Back in the early 2000’s, 7’6” Yao Ming from China joined the NBA Houston Rockets. He was greeted like the Chinese Elvis. Press from all over the planet.

 

Yao’s first few games did not go well. Some quickly declared him a bust. Then, suddenly, Yao flipped on a switch. The game came to him, and he took it to the competition. However, his biggest challenge was up next. And I mean big. A 7’2” 300lbs mountain of an obstacle named Shaquille O’Neal. The man most responsible for their worst defeats of the recent past.

 

The game was in Houston and the battle of the big men heated up quickly. Shaq put up his first shot and Yao blocked it. The crowd went wild.

 

Shortly after, Shaq put up his 2nd shot. And again, Yao blocked it. The crowd got even crazier.

 

Finally, Shaq put up his 3rd shot. And again, Yao blocked it. From the floor to the rafters, insanity erupted.

 

Now that’s what brought the Houston fans to their feet. But I saw more. Something much more. 

 

From my vantage point, I had been watching two father/son duos. One pair was African-American. The other was Asian-American. They didn’t know one another, they hadn’t acknowledged each other. But they were sitting just one row apart. 

 

Now whether they got up to grab a beer or to visit the men’s room, both sons had missed out on the early excitement. Leaving their dads with no one to celebrate with. That is until after Yao’s final block, when both men, excited as the rest of the arena, found themselves facing one another. After a pregnant pause, these two-middle-aged men from very different backgrounds high-fived one another. 

 

They made contact. They connected. And in a small, yet meaningful way, they created a greater sense of community. Uniting two communities that are often segregated. At least that’s what struck me. And made it all worthwhile.

 

You see, once upon a time I was Director of Marketing of the NBA’s Houston Rockets. That’s why I was at the game. What might surprise you, is that before I accepted the position, I turned it down not once, not twice, but three times. Why? Well, lots of reasons:

 

First off, I love hoops, but I’m not a jock-sniffer. I don’t have anything like an autograph or sneaker collection.

 

Also, there are teams that treat marketing as a redheaded stepchild, believing that a team’s fortunes rise and fall solely on the win-loss record of the team.

 

Finally, because so many young people long to be a part of the sports experience, teams save money by hiring smart, energetic young people who don’t have a lot of work experience. That can work to your advantage, or it can work against you.

 

As you can see, working in sports is not as glamorous as it may seem. 

 

For me, it was the sense of community that I just described that made working in sports meaningful. And it’s the many potential forms of meaning sports spawn that can be mined in your creative efforts. At its best, sport goes well beyond a mere game. 

 

It’s all a matter of matching the team or athlete that best suits your brand’s narrative. Is your brand an underdog? A dominant player? Faster, stronger, smarter than the competition? Chances are, there’s someone in sports that represents or echoes your brand story. And their story isn’t relegated simply to competition. It can also be share your personality.

 

Here’s a second story from my NBA days that highlights this. It’s another Yao Ming story:

 

Every aspect of Yao’s arrival was under the microscope. Even the charities that he would choose to associate with. After some months in America, Yao finally announced that he was to become an international spokesperson for Special Olympics. With two nephews who compete in these games, I was personally ecstatic. 

 

Still, I wanted to know more. For that information, I asked Yao’s interpreter, 

Colin Pine, how Yao came to his decision, and why it took so long to announce.

 

Yao had actually made his choice early on, I discovered. The hold-up came from the Chines government itself. They still had quite a grip on whether Yao would even be allowed to play in the NBA. And unfortunately, their views on the mentally disabled are quite behind.

 

They believe that the mentally disabled are defective, crazy or worse. They’re often warehoused and kept out of sight. In short, they are seen as “freaks”.

 

Yao, who at 7’6”, had been extremely tall since youth. Stared at constantly. He, too, was seen as a freak. And he wanted to align and support those who in his own way he could identify with like few others.

 

That’s a story that doesn’t require any understanding of the game of basketball, that only proves that Yao Ming is an excellent player of the game of life.

 

If you find yourself working with a marketing partner in sports go deeper than what people see on TV or the Internet. Hopefully, you’ll find more than superhuman abilities, you’ll find some super humans. People with great stories that can help to tell the story of your client and their brand.

 

Let’s Take a Short Breather… (EXHALE.)

 

…We’re here at Deaf Mule Studios to remind everyone that this is Navigating the Fustercluck. And I’m your host, Wegs. Before we close out, let me tell one more Yao Ming story. If you can’t tell, I grew rather fond of not just the athlete but the man.

 

Shortly, after the Houston Rockets drafted Yao with the overall #1 pick in the NBA draft, I asked Carroll Dawson, the General Manger of the team, what was the biggest reason he chose Yao over all the other talented players he could have chosen.

 

Without missing a beat, Mr. Dawson, better known as CD, replied in his wiley Texas twang, Well, Wegs, you can’t teach height.

 

That has to be one of my favorite lines ever. And I’ve adapted that thought to matters of talent. If you’re a great storyteller, that may be where you stand taller than the rest. If you’re a born diplomat, that may be where you stand out. We all have something that sets us apart. It may not be as obvious as being 7’6”, but it’s there. And it requires the same amount of training and practice as a top-tier athlete to make the most of it. All that said, there’s a lot more going on in sports than games. Charles Barkley once famously said, I am not a role model. But athletes don’t get that choice. Rightly or wrongly, wisely or foolishly, athletes are often seen as heroes. When we draw out heroic elements of their stories, there can be some worthwhile values to share.

 

In fact, here’s the marketing mantra we shared back in those days. Something we could all march behind together. One thing to keep in mind is that the last line is a famous quote from the Rockets championship days:

 

We’re in the Hero Business

It’s what we’re passionate about.

Basketball is better at hero creation than any other sport.

It’s what our fans and corporate partners pay to be a part of.

We win as a business if fans are part of the team.

Fans want to see heroes.

But more importantly, they want to feel like heroes themselves.

When we act heroic on the court, they want to be the 6th Man.

When we act heroic in the community, they want to be at our side.

We win if we succeed in the hero business-

And hero is just another word for champion.

Never underestimate the heart of a champion.

 

As Nike and Weiden & Kennedy have shown over the years, you can say a lot about sports. But at their best, there’s a lot of good to say.

 

Well, that about wraps up our 30th episode of Navigating the Fustercluck. Thank you so much for your time & attention.


Here from Deaf Mule Studios, I’m your host, Wegs, like eggs with a W, and thanks again for listening in. For full transcripts of this episode and the entire catalog of  back podcasts, go to NavigatingTheFustercluck.com. And feel free to reach out to me personally at wegs24x7@gmail.com. Remember, we’re all in this together, so thanks for being part of the team. Here’s to you. Here’s to the future.