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What I learned when the president of Cinnabon bought me coffee at Starbucks

August 19, 2013 1 comment

I had the opportunity to interview Kat Cole, President of Cinnabon, at the ASAE Annual Meeting in Atlanta earlier this month.  I had first become aware of Kat through the CBS show Undercover Boss with the episode featuring her last fall. I was excited to learn a few months ago that Kat would be at this conference and reached out to her through Twitter to arrange this interview.

Kat Cole, President of Cinnabon

Kat Cole, President of Cinnabon

In the interview Kat touches on a number of topics, but the one I find most fascinating is her deft handling of partnerships. She has worked with major brands like Kellogg, Burger King, and Taco Bell to expand the reach of Cinnabon without taking away from the core business of the franchises. Kat also touched on some of this in her presentation. Her perspective certainly challenges association and nonprofit leaders to consider more thoroughly who they might partner with to create win-win situations.

I walked with Kat from our interview to the auditorium where she would present later that afternoon. As we passed a Starbucks, Kat asked if she could buy me a coffee. What do you say when the head of a major food brand asks if they can buy you an iconic product from another major food brand? You say yes.  When you’re also a blogger, you also think, Hey, this could make a really great title for a future blog post! It should be further noted that Kat was impressed with my selection of a tall Java Chip Frappuccino® Blended Beverage… coffee with rich mocha-flavored sauce blended with milk, chocolaty chips and ice. Topped with sweetened whipped cream and chocolate-flavored drizzle. Ah, but I digress. We walked on. I told Kat that I like how playful she can be with the brand on Twitter when people talk about how they can’t resist Cinnabon or how they’ll have to work out more after indulging. Her response: “We’re not building missiles.” 

Some of the takeaways from Kat’s session at ASAE Annual:

  • Protect the core. Reinvest in what makes you great.
  • Leverage something you’re the best at. @Cinnabon did it w/ @Kelloggs_US w/ their cinnamon.
  • Be honest about what you can’t do well. Decide if you’re okay with that.
  • Culture eats strategy for lunch every day.
  • Be humbly bold.
  • What is small enough to change, big enough to matter?
  • The deal you don’t do is never the one that’s going to kill you.
  • What’s the opportunity cost with the limited resources you have?
  • What is the one thing we could do today that everything after it will be more effective?
  • Be there for your community when it really counts. Are you there for your constituents?
  • Be one IN a million … Not one OF a million!
  • Guess what? @Cinnabon is not healthy.
  • The biggest mistakes are people mistakes.

Believe me, there are some thought-provoking gems here, and Kat’s presentation was well-received. I couldn’t do it justice in even a short blog post. Make no mistake- I found Kat to be approachable and personable in the interview, off camera, and in her presentation, but she is also a focused and determined businesswoman who has not lost touch with her values or who she is. Kat purposely cares for and connects with people, and this comes across genuinely.  She furthers her authenticity by being thankful for opportunities, giving credit to others, and admitting mistakes. Many leaders could learn from her approach and her example.

The Greatest of Great Ideas in Less Than 180 Seconds- #ideas13

March 15, 2013 1 comment

I had the privilege of attending the ASAE Great Ideas Conference in Colorado Springs at The Broadmoor March 10-12, 2013. I was certainly not in a position to capture all that was happening at this inspiring conference. My hope is that if you attended this will serve as a reminder of the material covered in the sessions. Also, may this post and the notes, tweets, photos, and resources below provide you with enough insight that you too will be challenged to think differently about the challenges you and your organization face.

Conference Catalyst, Thom Singer

  • This is not a junior high dance. Ask questions. Power in the word, “Hello.”
  • #1 reason that people attend conferences: networking. But then we stink at it. Smile. Have name tag visible.
  • Invest in people. Anything you need… it’s probably somebody’s 1st cousin who holds the answer.
  • Plan while at the conference how you will follow up with people you meet.
Thom Singer, The Conference Catalyst

Thom Singer, The Conference Catalyst

Opening General Session: The Fascination Advantage: From First Impressions to Lasting Value, Sally Hogshead

  • Are you giving your members the orange ticket- a distinct, irreplaceable experience?
  • What kinds of personalities do you want to attract to your association?
  • Fasination is an intense focus. You’re engaged, in the zone.
  • A $39.99 UPS costume. They’re getting your kid to dress up like an employee of a company. Think about it.
Sally Hogshead, speaker and author of Fascinate

Sally Hogshead, speaker and author of Fascinate

Helping Your Association’s Innovators, and Generating Non-Dues Revenue, Jeff Glassie, Whitney Kulesz

  • How do we support new business ventures that can transform professions/industries?
  • TripLingo: 1st to receive angel investor award from ACTE.
  • One difficult obstacle to overcome for angel investing from an association: just selling people on a new idea.

Associations Got Talent, Mark Milroy and Jay Daughtry

  • Select 5 objects that describe you.
  • How would you finish the sentence “I am…” ?
  • How do you identify hidden abilities that others possess?
  • Getting people to talk about their talents helps them identify their dreams
  • What cues lead to misperceptions about people?
  • Give people the freedom to try something new & fail at it.

Career Mapping Tools: Charting the Present and Future, Shawn Hulsizer, Scott Mackenzie

  • Creating a career map can help members understand and identify their professional pathway.
  • Career mapping helps rethink and reorganize association products, services, website, education, etc.

Creating Meaningful Business Relationships, Shari Harley

  • In building relationships, ask more, assume less.
  • Going bowling won’t help people work better together. Talking about working style preferences will.
  • The people we work with often think they told us what they want, even though they didn’t.
  • Candor questions: 3 things that will keep you with organization? Worst boss you ever had? Best boss you ever had?
  • Do you prefer to communicate via: email, voicemail, text message or IM?
  • When do you do your best work: early am, mid-day, late afternoon or evening?
  • Choose candor over comfort.

Components & Strategy- Lessons from Sun-Tzu’s “The Art of War”, Cecilia Sepp, Lowell Applebaum

  • If people can help build it, they’ll support it.
  • When we lose focus, that’s when we start to hear the noise before defeat.
  • Every member of an association should be a volunteer.
  • The best marketing tool you have? An engaged volunteer.
  • Do what you can when you can with what you’ve got.

Closing General Session: The Vuja De Moment: Shift from Average to Brilliant, Simon T. Bailey

  • Reach the point of being uncomfortable with being comfortable.
  • The same letters that spell “listen” spell “silent”.
  • People engage because of authenticity.
  • What are we doing to ignite a fresh a fresh vision?
  • There are 20,000 moments in a day. We are in the business of managing, creating & mastering moments.
  • In the dictionary failure is before success. Embrace failure. Failure is not final; failure is feedback.
  • What would I do if no one paid me to do it?
  • An association is a memory, a connection, a collection of moments.
  • Ask yourself what makes your association come alive.
Simon T. Bailey speaking at Great Ideas '13, photo courtesy of Libby Hoppe

Simon T. Bailey speaking at Great Ideas ’13, photo courtesy of Libby Hoppe

Innovation in a Box, Rick Johnston and Becky Granger

  • Exercise: In 30 seconds name as ways as you can think of to use a brick.
  • Think beyond the normal. Don’t let your mind edit you.
  • Win like you are you used to it; lose like you enjoy it.
  • Take someone else’s idea and put your spin on it.
  • Innovation: Don’t worry if most ideas don’t seem immediately implementable- keep them in your back pocket for later.

Thanks to all who followed my tweets from Great Ideas. Thanks to so many who added my understanding while at the conference: Gabriel Eckert, Libby Hoppe, Dan Scheeler, Amy Lestition, Rachel Johnson, Brian Cheung, Rhea Steele, Katie Paffhouse, Kylee Coffman, Ron Moen, Jenna Crane and more. I also appreciate the numerous conversations in hallways, before and after sessions, at meals, and at receptions. All of this made it a richer experience.

For a recap of the 2012 conference, check out my The Greatest of Great Ideas in Less Than 180 Seconds post.

What lessons did you learn from Great Ideas ’13? What were the highlights for you? What other posts or resources from this conference have you found helpful?

The Greatest of Great Ideas in Less Than 180 Seconds

March 29, 2012 6 comments

I present to you “The Greatest of Great Ideas in Less Than 180 Seconds”: the best of the notes, quotes, tweets, posts, and questions from ASAE’s Great Ideas Conference. I have organized these topically rather than by session or chronologically. I have put in bold ones that resonated with me, my personal favorites.May the content below inspire you to more great ideas!

On presentations and learning:

  • The brain craves meaning before detail.
  • Give people three reasons they need to do something. Short term memory can’t handle more.
  • Think visually and tell stories to be remembered.
  • Retention goes up to 65% when just an image is used. Telling stories is underused.
  • The story is for your audience, make sure they care about what you’re talking about.  
  • Talking trumps listening, cut presentation content in half and provide time for discussion.
  • Provide bite-sized education: 10-minute segments are best.

On innovation and creativity:

  • CEOs and senior management must be open to innovation from any level.
  • Innovation like jazz often happens in the spaces between the notes.
  • Innovation is not about products and services; it’s about experiences.
  • The overhead projector appeared in the bowling alley 30 years before it appeared in the classroom. We’re slow to innovate.
  • Sell dreams, not products.
  • Dream bigger! As Steve Jobs said, in crazy there is genius.
  • Creativity is found in connecting disparate concepts. Connect ideas and fields: Steve Jobs modeled Apple stores after the Ritz-Carlton experience.
  • There is no magic toolbox for innovation. But uncover opportunities. Then act.

On leadership, opportunities, and competition:

  • Visions should be bold, concise, crisp and have a deadline.
  • Besides identifying new business opportunities, associations have to identify current ones that are no longer relevant and eliminate them.  
  • FedEx redefined overnight service. How are you redefining your market?
  • If we hypothetically created the competitor that puts us out of business- what would we do differently?
  • In a global economy you compete with everyone from everywhere for everything.
  • Think big, start small, and scale fast!

On collaboration:

  • Collaboration is too often something we are weak at internally which is why we have trouble collaborating externally.
  • It doesn’t have to be your program you’re promoting. You may need to collaborate with others to better serve members. What collaboration could occur so we can achieve our goal?
  • Inventing it all yourself is too slow and too expensive. Do you have the capacity to make the right connections?
  • When you plan, do you collaborate to paint a clear picture? What does your preferred future look, feel, and sound like?

On the role of associations:

  • Association web sites need to focus on benefits and information to members- not about who and what the association is.
  • If we closed our doors, would they notice?  What would members not be able to do for themselves? Innovation comes to life when you think differently.
  • Associations should not want members; they should want engaged, empowered, and active citizens.
  • We don’t always have to be education providers, we can serve as curators and provide value to our members.
  • If an association does not build the capacity to innovate, its very existence is thrown into question.
  • You have to conceive of your brand as having an impact beyond your potential membership base.  

Miscellaneous:

  • 75% of association executives believe their members use smartphones, but only 28% of associations have a mobile strategy
  • In Japan buildings are painting giant QR Codes on top of roofs so they can be seen by Google Maps.

What would you add to this list? What are your key takeaways? What blog posts on Great Ideas have you gotten additional insights from? (Feel free to provide links below.)

I’d like to thank Amanda Batson, Bob Vaez, Jamie Notter, Devin Crosby, Abby Myette, Maddie Grant, Tobin Conley, Walt Tracy, Kim Howard, Linda Eller, Jane Lee, Lowell Aplebaum, Sarah Albright, Stacy Copeland, Scott Oser, Nancy Fisher, Mark Dorsey, Staurt Meyer, Nora Burns, and Carmine Gallo for their tweets, comments, and contributions to my understanding.

My 5 Words for 2012

December 22, 2011 5 comments

I was inspired by Shelly Alcorn‘s post on this concept of 5 words for 2012 as well as Lowell Aplebaum‘s subsequent response. Basically, the idea is selecting 5 words you want to use to help guide your priorities, time, reading, professional development, etc. You then post these 5 words in a visible place as a reminder.

For my 5 words I’m sticking to concepts that are relevant to my professional development while not necessarily being central to my daily tasks. In other words these are primarily areas of interest for me while also having a bearing on my work life. Lastly, each of these concepts is of some importance to the circles I move in and as a result I’ve had opportunities over the past year for learning and discussions around these. I expect many more in 2012.

My 5 words for 2012 are (drumroll please)…

Mobile- More and more statistics show what kind of computing is being done via mobile devices. More email than ever is being sent via mobile. e-Commerce on smartphones is seeing dramatic increases. I was astounded to learn from a presentation by Luke Wroblewski (@lukew) at ASAE Tech ’11 earlier this month that many people around the world are using only mobile devices. In other words what they see in the palm of their hand is the only way they see that information. They never see what I take for granted on the larger screen of a laptop. If you’re not thinking mobile, you’ve been asleep Rip Van Winkle-style. The phone is not used much as a phone much anymore. The implications for conferences, social networking, e-Commerce, geolocation, etc. are huge. I want to give more thought and attention to mobile, what kind of experiences I’m looking for in apps, mobile sites, functionality, and how that translates to people I talk with regularly.

Innovation– It seems to me that the recent death of Steve Jobs has only served to bring the concept of innovation more to the forefront. Jobs, seemingly the patron saint of innovation, is referenced frequently in discussions on the topic (I’ve even done it myself, not because I’m an Apple fanatic but because his life, methods, and products bring out great illustrations). More organizations are having discussions around streamlining. Gone are the days when an association tried to be all things to all people. We’ve seen how large businesses can fail because they didn’t focus on their core competencies. The public is crying out for more customized experiences. They want- no, they demand to see value for hard-earned dollars. This will force creativity and innovation from otherwise complacent organizations. I like what I heard from Scott Steen and Jeffrey Cufaude (@jcufaude) at an ASAE InnovationTalks Day. basically that how one frames the question will help to determine the results. Are you trying to build a better mousetrap? Is the problem getting ride of mice? Are you trying to create a safe and clean environment? Are you a problem solver or an innovator? In 2012 I want to think more along the lines of being an innovator and be an integral part of discussions with organizations that are willing to look at their missions with fresh sets of eyes.

Improvisation- Because, after all, how much of life is scripted? Through the work of Jenise Fryatt I’ve been exposed to more concepts and principles regarding improvisation. It’s not just for comedy clubs anymore. Improvisation has applications related to sales, customer service, social networking, etc. and for interactions with members, colleagues, customers, prospects, and partners. Companies, associations, and even governments can no longer hide behind well-scripted statements and press releases. Teaching the skills of improvisation while giving employees appropriate training in other areas and empowering them to make decisions leads to responsive individuals and organizations. I’m looking to learn more in the area of improvisation and apply to my interactions with others. And, it’s just so darn fun!

Collaboration- I’m all for any tools, resources, or methods which allow people to work more closely together. Technology is some of the answer, but it’s not all. Corporate culture dictates whether a collaborative spirit thrives or is moderately successful or dies despite the rhetoric. As I heard Jeff De Cagna say recently, “No one person in the room is smarter than everyone in the room.” We give mental assent to this kind of notion but then go back to departments, divisions, or agencies and then act as solitary agents, never seeking best practices, never asking for the input of an experienced colleague, in effect never tapping into the expertise that is all around us. In 2012 I want to do my part to be more collaborative, to learn more about collaborative technologies and techniques, and to set the tone for others in collaborative endeavors.Engagement- I try to be engaged wherever I am, whether it’s in a one-on-one discussion, at a conference, online, or on the phone. I respond to others’ ideas and acknowledge their contributions. I take note of what interests those around me, and I myself have varied interests. In short I’m engaged. So, why is this a word I have selected for 2012? Because the name of the game for organizations moving forward is engagement: customer engagement, membership engagement, community engagement, constituency engagement, etc. You get the idea. Social media has only expedited and elevated this concept. Social media could go away tomorrow, and I’m convinced that we’d still be left with this sense that engagement matters. The public no longer wants to be talked to, lectured, sold to. They want to interact- with athletes, with actors, with elected officials, with brands. They want to provide input. They’ve been talking to their friends, neighbors, and co-workers for years, offering opinions and insights. Now they’re just willing to make them public, a part of a permanent landscape of online feedback. Tapping into this power of engagement will be key for all types of organizations. And I, for one, want to learn more and offer more in the way of engagement.

If I had to choose a sixth word it would be gamification. Why? Because it has some interesting applications and potential. And it’s just fun to say. Say it with me now: “gamification“. And now try using it in a conversation with someone today. Do they know what it means?

Anyway, so those are my 5 words for 2012. They make a great acronym: MIICE. So, while I’m watching the MIICE in 2012, what will you be watching? Have you selected your 5 words for 2012?

Oh, and if you have any reading material, blogs, conferences, etc. related to any of the letters in my MIICE, send ’em my way. After all, I’m here to learn as much from you as hopefully you are learning from me.