What I Learned at The Honest Conference

Last week Strategy Lab partnered with our good buddies at Pidgeon Social to present the first ever Honest Conference. The idea for the conference was simple: Get some amazing marketing leaders in our community together to have a frank and honest discussion about they know and even what they don’t. I wasn’t personally involved in a lot of the planning, so I don’t feel too bad about tooting the team’s horn when I say it was absolutely amazing. The lineup of speakers was the best I’ve ever experienced and the amount of value they offered was unreal. there’s no way I could even begin to cover each speaker’s background and presentation (head to honestconference.com for more info on that), but I felt it was important to jot down some of the big ideas from the day:

Create First and Improve Over Time

One of the big common threads that tied together all of the presentations was the idea that doing something is always better than doing nothing. If you have an idea idea for something you can create (be it a vlog, an Instagram, or a jewelry company), just do it, even (or especially) if it’s not perfect. Over time, you’ll figure it out and get better, but the first step is just to try. As human beings we have an unlimited capacity for talking ourselves out of things that have virtually no downside. Changing that is one of the first big steps towards doing something amazing.

Always Ask for Feedback and Act on It (in Moderation)

This feeds nicely into the idea of feedback which just about very speakers touched on at some point as well. As marketers, business owners, and people, we’re always wondering what we should actually be doing to succeed, when in reality the answer is very clearly right in front of us in the form of feedback from our people and our customers. Asking these people what we can do to improve our product, customer service, or marketing tactics gives us the road map to success. Now, this piece of advice comes with a caveat as not all feedback is helpful when you’re trying to innovate. As Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

(Photo credit: Sprout Catering!)

If You’re Uncomfortable, You’re Probably Doing Something Right

This is another idea that seemed to emerge somewhere along the way in each presentation. Hillberk and Berk COO Mary Weimer got some laughs from the crowd when she revealed that she is in a perpetual state of discomfort, and never really knows for certain the right thing to do. The truth is, comfort is the cost of doing something that will never really move the needle. Justin Reves’ “80% and Go” rule of thumb I think sums this up perfectly: Get to the point where you’re 80% sure of something and then just go for it  (as Richard Branson would say, “Screw it, let’s do it!”)

Always Keep it Human

Whether it was HB&B’s policy of giving their employees sparkle balls to give out to strangers, or Wheelhouse’s “Wheel Mile” of encouragement at the Queen City Marathon, the stories that really resonated with people at HonCon were those that demonstrated honest to gosh humanity and compassion. In other words, the companies that succeed will be the ones that genuinely treat the people around them (customers and non-customers alike) like human being and not just numbers, dollars, or “stakeholders”. This was particularly evident when the Roughriders’ marketing coordinator Miriam Johnson spoke about their recent influencer campaign during the opening of the new Mosaic Stadium. They did a deep dive to find out what was important to key people in their community to find out what they truly cared about, then customized swag packages for each person along with a handwritten note specific to their lives and personalities. There was no hard-sell or expectation, just a true sense of caring and a desire to do something awesome.

At the end of the day HonCon was a tremendous success. I strongly believe that each and every person in attendance walked away having learned a lot about what other people in this new marketing world are doing to succeed, not only from the fabulous lineup of kick-ass speakers, but from each other as well.

Queen City Hack

5 Reasons Why You Need To Come To The Next Queen City Hack

I had the pleasure of judging the last Queen City Hack hosted by Gas Buddy. I was BLOWN AWAY! These teams created some amazing applications, working applications, applications designed beautifully, ALL IN 24 HOURS!!! I couldn’t believe what these teams created and was incredibly surprised! I left inspired, the future is looking very bright. Here are 5 reasons you should get involved with the next Hack-a-Thon:

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What I learned at the Royal LePage Headstart Conference

What I Learned at a Royal LePage National Conference


This September I had the pleasure of speaking at, hanging out in the pool, and MCing the Royal LePage National Headstart conference. I didn’t have any expectations going in other than I knew Realtors liked to have fun, and well I like to have fun so I thought we may just get along!

I was blown away.

The people were incredible. I’ve only spoken at a couple of conferences, this was by far my favourite. I basically made 300 friends that week.

As I was reflecting on an amazing couple of days it was it dawned on me, these Royal LePage folks really get it, I learned a TON. And here is what I learned.

If its not fun its not worth doing

1. If it’s not fun it’s not worth doing!

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“You Shouldn’t Take Moral Issues To The Stock Market, You’re Going To Be Disappointed”


Betting on Zero, a chilling documentary on the reality of how far a business is willing to go to increase shareholder value. 

I don’t like the stock market. This documentary reaffirms my beliefs in that.

The movie Betting on Zero is the tale of one venture capitalist versus another. A good battling evil story for the ages. But if you’re anything like me you probably Googled the company before the end of the documentary and were completely disappointed with our world.

Herbal Life is a pyramid scheme but it continues to grow and the stock price has increased since the movies release

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Queen City Pride 2017

Queen City Pride Parade 2017

The video footage was shot by Brandon and Andy, then Andy edited the same day. What an amazing result. As a part of Strategy Lab it’s moments like this that really make you smile and reflect on why you do what you do. We’ve had a long relationship with Pride Week (long relationship for @StratLab, Ha!), so this ended up being the best support we could have ever offered Dan and his crew. Even with the rain Pride Week Regina pulled off an amazing day.

We couldn’t have been more proud to put the video together as well as capture some amazing stills (photos thanks to Lauren, find out more about her on our About page). You can see by her work she does some amazing work behind the camera.

Pride Week Parade 2017-1 Pride Week Parade 2017-7 Pride Week Parade 2017-4 Pride Week Parade 2017 Pride Week Parade 2017-2

Regina Pride Week Parade 2017 Pride Week Parade 2017

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Dear Montréal, We’re Stealing Mural Festival. Sincerely, The City of Regina.

Dearest Montréal,

We here on the prairies have grown quite fond of some of the pleasantries your fine cultured citizens have the pleasure of enjoying year on year. We feel it is our duty to inform you that we will be politely (and with the utmost respect) be stealing your Mural Festival as well as a few other ideas from your wildly addictive city.

Your streets are nothing short of beautiful. We intend to do the same to our fair city in due time.  Not only do I want to steal the idea of the Mural Festival, I want to take back to Regina a few other parts of Montréal.

Thank you Montréal for your cooperation and willingness to share in your Mural Festival. We from the City of Regina (unofficially), thank you in advance for your consideration of this request.

A Regina citizen that appreciates your fine city.

First of all Montréal is 375 years old, yeah that’s older than our country! So you can assume Montréal is doing something right, otherwise it wouldn’t be around. There’s a lot of history there, a lot of history this author had no idea about. The people are proud of their rich cultural heritage, far more than I witness on the prairies. It’s about time to start that rich, cultural, artistic, prairie heritage.

If we want to become a major destination in Canada we need to believe we can be a major destination in Canada.

What you want? CHEESEBURGER!! CHEESEBURGER!!

They Get Hospitality and Customer Service – fast service is a win-win

You don’t wait for meals very long at all. Be it crêpes, burgers, or a famous smoked meat sandwich, the service in most places in Montréal was remarkable. They are FAST! Sometimes you are served literally in minutes after ordering. This is a huge win-win! The restaurants like to have more people through their doors and customers don’t want to stay in one place too long. Serving meals fast is a way to impress customers and help your bottom line!

The “cooler” the dining experience the better your odds of success

Montréal really gets outdoor dining. Patios, terraces, tables in the middle of nowhere, some of the most romantic places to share a meal with someone are in the most unique places. We can easily steal this idea. We just need to talk to the City of Regina about allowing dining establishments more leniency on “where” they can setup tables to serve you. “Creating Instagramable Moments”.

Does It Cost To Get In? Nope.

Never short on fun (free) things to do 

We went on a Tuesday till a Saturday and there was the Mural Festival, The Francofolies Festival, as well as a beer fest going on near by. They were all free to attend. That means the organizers must have some great funding to be able to put on acts like that throughout the week. The Mural Festival was an entire street blocked off and shops, restaurants, and artistic acts lining the way. Amazing art pieces now cover the not so boring concrete jungle most cities become.

There’s a free app called Cite Memoire that tells the history of old Montréal in 22 different projections telling the history of Montréal.  Some of these projections were literally hundreds of feet in the air and you could only see them after a certain at night (had to check the app). They were breathtaking. Talk about “creating Instagramable moments” what a smart idea!

 

cite memoire

Got street art?

It’s beautiful just to walk around, the Street Art is amazing

Many of the most spectacular ones were from last year and 2015, Mural Festival is a way to keep making your city more artistically beautiful. The amount of tourists walking around snapping pictures of the Murals was also amazing (guilty!). What a brilliant way to make your city more beautiful, once a year hold a “mural fest” invite famous artists from around the world, and BOOM, every year there are more places with stunning art for everyone to enjoy.

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Imagine if you could

My Favourite Business Book of All Time

Maverick written by Ricardo Semler in Brazil published in 1993. A transformational business book from start to finish. Completely counter what you’d come to expect from a Ricardo Semler MaverickBrazilian industrial tycoon. I think Mr. Semler is one of the most thought-provoking, honest, most humble leaders I’ve ever come across.

Semco, a heavy duty industrial manufacturer has no rules to live by. You pick your own hours, pick your own pay, pick your own vacation times, heck you even vote on your own managers regularly! Twice a year you fill out a 30 question questionnaire about your management and division you work in.

No one has a long term contact. No one is employed longer than 6 months. Everyone’s salary is openly known by anyone who cares to know.

Semco is the most democratic company I’ve ever read about, and they did it in a 1980’s Brazilian economy. Not the beacon of sought after economies you once thought, on the contrary, Brazil was avoid by many businesses because of the government, high inflation rates, and a fast growing unpredictable future. It’s astounding what Ricardo and Semco accomplished during this period in Brazil.

How did they get it so right?

Ricardo lucked out in a sense, his father build a multi-million dollar company. He became of age and realized it would never last in its current state. Plus the fact that second generation wealth is squandered 70% of the time, Ricardo had to make a gamble.

He was courageous in his decisions but the theme throughout his career and the book was that he cared (and still cares) dearly about people. It’s so refreshing to see in someone like him in a leadership role, putting people before profits.

Telling, forcing, commanding, never works. Inspiring, helping, listening, always does.

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Why You Won't See Any Blouses or Ties at the Stratlab Office

Dress Code? Nah. Why You Won’t See Any Blouses or Ties at the Stratlab Office 

In Ricardo Semler’s Maverick he tells the story about the first few times he came in on a weekend. The first thing he noticed “people dress differently when they come in on the weekend, why is that?”. They did it to be more comfortable. But don’t we want everyone to be comfortable when they are working all week long?

The dress code era at Semco was ended.

The executive dealt with the obvious backlash. “What if someone doesn’t want to do business with us because of the way someone is dressed in a meeting?” Ricardo’s answer; “if someone doesn’t want to do business with us because of the way one of our employees ‘looks’ then that’s probably someone we shouldn’t be doing business with”. Wow, that’s leadership.

Isn’t that simple? Why do you try to make your staff conform? Because you’ve always done that? That’s not a good reason why. Ask your staff, what they think, you may stumble upon a smart way to make your company culture better.

The original dress code disobeyer

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Happy building in portland

Portland Oregon: A Lesson In Purple Cows 

Have you ever had a Blue Cheese and Pear Ice-cream cone? How about a Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper Ice-cream cone? Or maybe you have tried Carrot Cake Batter & Pralined Hazelnuts Ice-cream? That’s not a typo, Salt & Straw has been making Ice cream like this since 2011 in Portland Oregon. And people freaking LOVE it. 

You must be asking now, why the hell do they sell such weird Ice cream? The answer is simple, because people LOVE it. They don’t “like” it, most people “like” Ice cream. But if you are going to travel across the city, pay for parking, wait in line, there’s something special about the Ice-cream. People who go to Salt & Straw LOVE Ice cream and they can hardly wait to try the next crazy concoction the Ice cream gods can think up.

I’m telling you about Salt & Straw because every time we past one in Portland there was a lineup outside the door 15 minutes long at the very least, an hour long at peak times. The Ice cream was priced reasonably, $3-10 cones and bowls. That was the most unique quality that we saw again and again; businesses don’t charge an arm and a leg for unique products in Portland, they’d rather charge an honest price and create mass amounts of demand.  After all, a lower allows many more people to try your creation!

(Yes I spoke with a women who got the Blue Cheese and Pear combination, she loved it, weird.)

Salt and straw portland

But it wasn’t only Salt & Straw that had a completely ridiculous lineup every time we walked by, the famous Voodoo Doughnut was just as bad.

The famous Voodoo Doughnut was a very unique experience. We waited in line for 20 minutes, finally at the front we look at the menu expecting you know, $10-20 maybe? Like you know what you’d find at a fancy Doughnut Delicatessen? Nope, most were under $2 other than the fancy ones.

How peculiar! Any MBA worth half their education would say, “Raise your prices! You could be making WAY more cash money!”. The obvious response to the MBA: “then it wouldn’t be special anymore!”

The reason Voodoo Doughnut is so good is that it isn’t easy to get. You can’t just go buy one from any old store. You must wait in line. But the price point is so anyone can afford it! A brilliant concept, charge an honest price, do something amazing. 

The best part about the entire experience was the box (shown below). The box is a piece of art you want to put on display. You don’t pay extra for it, everybody gets one and as soon as you leave Voodoo it turns into a Social Object (people talk about it).

Voodoo Doughnut Portland

“Good things come in pink boxes”.

Next was the advertising. Some amazing displays of creative work, travelling through Portland will have you kinking your neck a lot. The Lyft billboard shown below was a monstrosity in downtown Portland, our Uber driver pulled over so I could take this picture!

The elephant in the road

Portland is going through a change. You don’t see a lot of super cars. You don’t see a lot of suits or people looking down their nose at you. It’s a very laid back, friendly, west coast vibe. They like to have fun and businesses are not afraid at using humour in their messaging. See below.

Marine Layer Portland

Marine Layer is a clothing company started on the coast. They have fun (like this sign), staff is really friendly and “it’s an Airbnb. (seriously)”. My favourite part.

Welcome to “Nike Biketown USA”

Nike Biketown Portland

A week before we arrived in Portland Nike and the city had arranged a $10 million bike share program in the downtown core. You sign up online or on the app, connect a credit card, and you have a bike for $2.50 per hour. What a brilliant idea! They have stations all over so you don’t have to return your bike to the same place you rented it. Amazing.

I believe they stole this one from Europe, what an amazing service. 1,000 bright orange Nike bikes are all over Portland.

The vast majority of these weird Purple Cow places had several things in common

  1. The best ones had a unique characteristic (Superpower) that they are now known for
    Unconventional Ice-cream, best chicken and waffles, completely original doughnut flavours, and entire library full of whiskey.  
  2. They weren’t expensive
    The restuarnts that had a wait time (Mother’s, Pok Pok, Voodoo Doughnut, Salt & Straw) were very affordable if not considered “cheap” price point to other establishments close by.
  3. They were inclusive; you see all walks of life frequenting the best places
    One of our Uber driver summed it up for us; “you don’t see many suits anymore, people don’t care about the money, they would rather be comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt, big money isn’t looked up to here.”

So what did this little ol Canadian from the prairies learn? Location isn’t an excuse. Portland has never been a major tourist destination until the last decade. They are forward thinking with government policy (this attracts the young people). Without the young people you aren’t growing. But the to attract young people it has to be affordable, Portland is. And finally if you want to be a world renown place, company, or even Airbnb, find your superpower. Embrace your superpower.

All the best places in Portland had something special about them, something weird.

Now go find your Purple Cow, your social object or superpower, whatever it is don’t be afraid to be different.

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