You’ve worked, you’ve grown, and now it’s time to make a statement. For an emerging business, nothing says, “We’ve arrived” quite like a signature event.
Before you begin, don’t even look in an event planner’s direction until you answer one essential question: What are you trying to accomplish?
Consider whether an event is truly the best tactic to achieve that goal. An event can be an exciting coming out party for your company. But if your objective is at all unclear at the outset, there will be headaches.
This year, we hosted the Petplan Veterinary Excellence Awards for the first time in the United States. Making this event our own was no small feat; for 13 years, Petplan U.K. has presented a similar event that’s become known as “the Oscars of the vet world.” We had big shoes to fill indeed!
Here are some lessons we learned along the way:
Make it your event
Just as a handwritten signature represents your personal identity and communicates a promise, your signature event must be a symbol of your brand and deliver on your value proposition. Recognizing and awarding extraordinary veterinary professionals dovetails perfectly with Petplan’s “Pets Come First” credo.
The Petplan Veterinary Excellence Awards let us shine a light on the extraordinary veterinarians, veterinary technicians and practice managers who help keep our four-legged family in the very best health possible. These awards recognize not just their passion and excellence, but their exceptional “wow” service. The event’s purpose spoke directly to our mission.
If your event does anything less than that, you’re wasting resources.
Strategy is king
A good event engages a carefully cultivated audience, attracts media opportunities and generates goodwill in the community your business is a part of. This is where many organizations struggle.
While it is important to determine details like when, where and what’s for dinner, the focus should be on your event strategy: how you’re getting people there, what messages to communicate once you’ve got them and how to keep the conversation going when the event is over.
A feast for the eyes
A well-dressed window will compel people to gaze, so make sure the event’s visual branding lives up to the brand personality people have come to expect from you. For Petplan, that meant translating our fresh, friendly point of view into both décor and collateral.
The visual elements deftly delivered a few fun surprises that really felt “like us.” Once your strategy is firmly in place, don’t be afraid to cross your t’s and dot your i’s with a few creative touches
A signature event is a great opportunity to put a public face on your company; think strategically about who you want to spotlight and how they’ll communicate your company values to the audience.
At the Petplan Veterinary Excellence Awards, our honored guests came face-to-face with our long-time friends and trusted advisors, not to mention key employees. Careful consideration was given to the seating plan to ensure that connections weren’t just hoped for, but inevitable. This made our event even more personal and gave attendees good insight into what we’re all about.
So many moving parts make up a corporate event. Make sure the foundation is sound and you’ll find that things will fall into place accordingly. Once you’ve nailed down your goals and hammered out the strategy, the rest is … well, a piece of cake!
Natasha Ashton is the co-CEO and co-founder of Petplan pet insurance and its quarterly glossy pet health magazine, Fetch! — both headquartered in Philadelphia. She holds an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Staffed with beautiful servers in sexy plaid kilts and matching plaid tops, Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery has its roots deep in the tradition of Scottish, Irish and English pubs. Originally coming to life in Las Vegas, the contemporary, Celtic-themed sports pub is headquartered in Tempe, Ariz., and has been doubling in size for the past couple of years. Today, it has 3,500 employees, revenue of $240 million and locations across the country.
While many patrons may come to Tilted Kilt to view the attractive servers, President Ron Lynch wants to make sure the brand is seen for much more than that. To help him get a better view inside the restaurant chain’s stores and get a firsthand account of how its employees were performing, Lynch went undercover on CBS-TV’s “Undercover Boss” in 2012.
“Going undercover made me realize that we really employ a lot of young people,” Lynch says. “Human resources are always a challenge and more so in our brand because we do hire so many young people. For some of them, it’s their first job. Some haven’t even been employed as servers or kitchen help or bartenders for that long of a period of time.”
One of the biggest lessons Lynch learned from his time under wraps was that Tilted Kilt and some of its younger staff could greatly benefit from a mentoring program. In addition, he discovered that there were a number of superstar employees going unnoticed.
Here is how Lynch took his undercover findings and translated them to make Tilted Kilt a better place for patrons and employees alike.
Educate through mentoring
Many young people looking for some early work experience will often find jobs at an area restaurant. Tilted Kilt is no exception, and that led Lynch to launch a mentoring program to improve the Tilted Kilt experience.
“We assumed at the store level that the management/young-employee relationship was enough, but they talk more along the lines of taking care of the guests, providing good product, being upbeat and entertaining people,” Lynch says. “A mentor relationship can be more of a personal thing for them.”
The idea for a mentoring program surfaced because of the actions of one Tilted Kilt server in particular who appeared on “Undercover Boss”with Lynch. She was seen telling off-color jokes and using language that wasn’t acceptable.
“That doesn’t represent our brand,” Lynch says. “A mentoring program for those young people allows a more experienced server to talk to them and give advice. Coaching in these areas is for their own good.
“This isn’t just our brand. It could apply for any brand that hires young people. Sometimes they need a little bit of coaching when those young people are in the adult world.”
The mentoring program allows Tilted Kilt’s young employees, like the one seen on the show, to speak with more experienced members of the staff.
“The mentor program is set up so that they have monthly meetings and talk for a period of time,” he says. “We want to enroll all the 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds before they are legally adults at 21. That’s where we have started.”
What Lynch has found so far in the company’s mentoring efforts is that you have to be persistent at getting involvement in the program.
“No. 1 is you have to persevere at it because your young people are going to be resistant to it,” he says. “They don’t think they need it. That’s the hardest part. We may need to rename the program something like Big Sister, Big Brother program — anything other than the mentoring program.
“At that younger age, they think they know everything, and so they think they don’t need it, and that’s the difficulty we are having with it. We need to put a different face on it and call it something different but have it accomplish the same thing.”
Lynch and his team are putting their heads together because so far the mentors and mentees are getting together, but they feel obligated to meet instead of wanting to meet with a mentor. That’s a problem Lynch is looking to fix.
“It takes time, but it’s also the approach that our servers take,” he says. “Rather than them coming up to that person and saying, ‘Hi, I’m your mentor, and we need to meet,’ and they go, ‘Why?’ Maybe there is a better approach.”
Seek out superstars
Much like with the mentoring program, Lynch found out that Tilted Kilt had some real hidden gems inside its restaurants during his experience undercover, which made him realize the company needed a better way to find these employees and recognize them.
“Another thing I noticed was that we have some fabulous people in the field that are going unnoticed,” Lynch says. “I would have never actually seen some of these people without going undercover. So our operations people and I are going to spend more time, particularly in the kitchen.”
Tilted Kilt needed a way to find those superstars within its system and make sure they prosper.
“I’ve challenged our operations people to go beyond that and get into the kitchens,” Lynch says. “Observe and talk to the kitchen people, maybe work on the line a little and assist them where you can. Then a great way to meet the servers is to offer to help run the food with them. That will help get feedback as to who those superstars are.”
To find those employees who are high achievers but might be going unnoticed, you have to challenge your staff to dig in deep.
“I know it’s uncomfortable and you’re in a restaurant that you don’t work in every day, but you have to pick out those roles that you can function in and dig in. You have to help them run and help them prep food and meet those people who are actually doing the job for us rather than just the owners and managers,” he says.
Finding great talent already in your business is one thing. Having the ability to hire those high achievers from the beginning is another. Lynch is also devoting time and resources to improving the hiring process.
Tilted Kilt uses a hiring process called HOST, which stands for hiring only spectacular talent. It’s a process that takes a minimum of 30 to 45 minutes to do.
“We have that potential bartender or potential server role-play with us,” Lynch says. “One of the common scenarios is I play the customer and the new person is the server. We want to know if they will communicate with us and connect. Are they a people person? Will they smile at the customer? That’s very, very key to us in the hiring process, and we spend a lot of time on it.”
You have to make sure that if you have one person in charge of a hiring process that he or she doesn’t get complacent and tired of it.
“It’s an interruption in their busy day, which is wrong, because that is the most important thing — getting the right people,” he says. “The hiring process is the No. 1 priority and the No. 1 priority that they do it right. If you have one person in charge of that hiring process, that one person will do it over and over and get really good at it and have the experience of knowing what makes the best employees.”
How to reach: Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery, (480) 456-5458 or www.tiltedkilt.com
The fear of failure is something that even the most successful and gifted of employees can bring with them to the office.
They are afraid the product won’t be successful or the phone call won’t be returned. I can still remember being almost terrified to make a sales call on one of the largest food companies in the world because I was afraid I would fail.
If we don’t work through this fear, it will almost certainly lead to paralysis.
We procrastinate while waiting for better conditions to develop and remain “stuck” where we are, rather than where we want to be. I must admit I put off starting some new initiatives using that same fear-based rationale. I can clearly recall thinking, “Maybe I will launch my own business, once some additional favorable elements fall into place.”
I was stuck.
But it is our job to help our people overcome their fears and prevent them from becoming stuck. We need to create a courageous workplace. Here are a few techniques I have used to build a courageous workplace for my wonderful employees.
The tool that best fights fear is the pursuit of excellence. It’s the vitamin shot that gives everyone the confidence to move forward. Teach your employees that their performance goal is excellence and giving their best effort in everything.
Aiming for perfection will drain an organization of its confidence and vigor. The goal is excellence! Write it on the office walls, put it as your email footer and repeat it often when you address the organization. Live it. The relentless pursuit of excellence should be part of the fabric of your company.
To paraphrase a brilliant sentiment by Jim Collins, author of “Good to Great,” we shouldn’t fear failure — it is mediocrity we should be afraid of. Failures mean people were trying new things, rather than standing still.
Encourage employees to take risks. Empower them to fail. Foster curiosity and innovation. Embrace the belief that mistakes are how we grow, and growing employees build strong, innovative and dynamic workplaces.
This technique involves getting the person to clearly decide a specific time when they will “stop working” on a project rather than a stop time. A stop time is far more helpful if they are already struggling to get it started or keep it moving.
In this way, the person moves on to another project, rather than feeling that frustrating, wheel-spinning experience of getting nowhere fast.
Stop time works at home, too. For example, instead of asking my teenage daughter when she will begin her homework, I ask her to set a time when she will stop doing her homework. “I will be done with my homework by 8:00 so I can watch ‘The Bachelor’ on TV,” she responds with a big grin on her face.
Be quick to encourage
As the senior leader, your ability to encourage is essential for a healthy, courageous organization. You are watched closely by your people and are expected to “give heart” (which defines courage) as they pursue routine and difficult objectives. Remember — a courageous, encouraging heart is a talent multiplier!
As we help our employees overcome the fear holding them back at work, we begin to build their energy, confidence and freedom. And you need all three of these qualities flourishing in your people in order for you to operate a successful business.
Joseph James Slawek is the founder, chairman and CEO of Fona International, a full-service flavor company serving some of the largest food, beverage, nutraceutical and pharmaceutical companies in the world. For more information, visit www.fona.com
Can you imagine a world without Oreo cookies? Anyone who has taken one and dipped it into a glass of milk before popping it into his or her mouth to savor the flavor would shudder at the thought of such a scenario.
But when Irene Rosenfeld returned to Kraft Foods in 2006, she found that the company was on verge of delisting the Oreo brand in China.
“We took a U.S. product and jammed it down the throats of the Chinese consumer,” Rosenfeld says. “We were losing money, and it was a very unattractive proposition. We had a $60 million factory in Beijing, which was sitting empty because sales had not materialized. So we were about to delist the product.”
Rosenfeld and her team at Kraft decided to reach out to people in China before taking such a drastic move. They asked what it would take to make the Oreo brand a success in their country.
“They very quickly told us that the product was too big and too sweet for the Chinese consumer,” Rosenfeld says. “When we allowed our local managers to redesign our product for the local taste and local customs, we had a phenomenal turnaround.”
The Chinese Oreo is smaller and less sweet and actually comes in a green tea flavor. It’s not at all what American consumers want when they open their package of Oreos, but different cultures have different tastes. Rosenfeld knew in that case she needed to adapt to earn the business of the Chinese consumers.
The effort has paid off thanks in part to China’s own Yao Ming, a former star basketball player in the United States.
“Who is the best symbol in China but Yao Ming?” Rosenfeld says. “He’s our spokesman, and we actually go to the local guy. It has been a phenomenal business in China with almost $800 million of the $2 billion business from Oreo worldwide,”
The willingness to adapt played a large part in the move completed last fall to split Kraft into two groups. Kraft Foods Group now holds the company’s North American grocery business, which is led by iconic brands such as Oscar Mayer and Maxwell House.
Kraft Foods Inc. is now Mondelez International Inc. and will focus on high-growth global snacks.
“Our dream for this company is to create delicious moments of joy,” says Rosenfeld, chairman and CEO for Mondelez. “The opportunity for us is to create a $36 billion start-up. It’s an opportunity to take an incredible roster of brands that are household names, brands like Oreo, Ritz, Chips Ahoy, Trident and Cadbury, and put those together.”
Getting to the market fast
Rosenfeld does not go so far as to say that the grocery side of the business was holding back snacks. But the two sides did require a different approach, and that created a challenge for leadership.
“North American grocery needs to be managed for cash and for margin,” Rosenfeld says. “There is a big focus there on maintaining the moderate growth but making sure it’s a very cost-focused company.
“Our global snacks business is all about growth. So the focus is on global platforms for each of our brands. The focus is on capabilities and the supply chain and sales, which will drive these products more rapidly around the world.
“The opportunity for us to be able to scale up very quickly if we are properly structured and have the proper communication from one part of the world to another is the main idea for our new company.”
The ability to make smart acquisitions of new brands and make strong connections in emerging markets will go a long way toward determining the ultimate success of Mondelez.
“The rate of consumption in the emerging markets is a fraction of what we see in developed markets,” Rosenfeld says. “So that whole investment thesis behind Mondelez is this idea of a growth company because of our geographic footprint and our category participation. It’s really depending on explosive growth, and we’re growing at a double-digit rate in these emerging parts.”
Focusing on health
It’s hard to talk about snacks and the love that people have of them without talking about obesity. Rosenfeld says the problem of people being overweight and out of shape is big in the United States, but it’s also a concern in other parts of the world.
“It’s every bit as challenging in India, and it’s on its way to markets like China,” Rosenfeld says. “It’s an issue we take quite seriously, and we look to address it in a couple of ways.”
The first part is looking at calorie intake. Efforts are ongoing to formulate products in a way that they taste good but can be enjoyed without guilt or risk to your future health and well-being.
“We continue to focus on taking things out like calories and sodium and sugar and replacing them in our products, as well as increasing the level of fiber,” Rosenfeld says. “We’re not pretending chocolate is going to be something other than it is.
“What we’re doing with products like that is to make sure the consumer has portion control. We’re making more of our candy bars scored so you can break off a piece at a time. We have resealable packaging. We’re doing a lot more single-serve products, which is good for price value and consumption.”
As for burning calories, Rosenfeld says she and her company will always do what they can to promote exercise and an active lifestyle for consumers young and old.
“We have been working very actively in partnership with organizations like KaBOOM! and with playgrounds in inner cities in this country and in programs like Healthy Schools in the U.K.,” Rosenfeld says. “We’re helping to educate children about good nutrition and the value of exercise.”
The key to being successful in providing nutritional foods to consumers, whether it be children, college students, young professionals or senior citizens, is easy to understand. But it’s often a lot more difficult to achieve in actual practice.
“Healthier products like Triscuit and Wheat Thins are growing at twice the rate as the base products,” Rosenfeld says. “There’s a clear business opportunity as well as the social responsibility. It’s not a tough sell, but what’s hard is to make sure these products taste delicious. Because at the end of the day, if it doesn’t taste good, the rest of it doesn’t matter.”
Staying in touch
From the outside, it seems like it would be a nearly impossible task to manage 100,000 employees. And while Rosenfeld has a proven track record of effective leadership and is regularly named one of the most influential leaders in the world, she agrees that managing that many people is impossible.
“The fact is I can’t manage 100,000 employees,” Rosenfeld says. “What I can do is inspire as many of the leaders of the company, then, in turn, to inspire their teams. It’s a cascading process.
“The single biggest role I play is in communication and talking about where we are going, why we are going there and what it is I need the organization to do. Then I really need the leaders to grab that and translate that mess into what it means for their folks on the ground.”
Rosenfeld spends about two-thirds of her time on the road meeting with employees and assessing whether they have what they need to succeed.
“I spend an enormous amount of time thinking about talent,” Rosenfeld says. “I look at our key roles, and I want to make sure they are operated by our top talent and that we have good career paths for those individuals as well as good succession plans behind them.”
The name change from Kraft to Mondelez has required a restating of what it means to work for this new organization.
“A lot of the work we’re doing right now is creating an employee value proposition and being explicit about what Mondelez can offer you as the prospective employee that you might not get elsewhere,” Rosenfeld says.
Empowering women to grow and succeed is another area of focus for Rosenfeld. Half of her management team is female and a third of her board is women.
“For many companies, they can legitimately say they have no one in the pipeline because they didn’t focus on that,” Rosenfeld says. “It’s a multilayered process, and it has to be a commitment from the top. I’m very proud of the progress we’ve made and we continue to talk with peers about what sort of actions we’ve taken that have contributed to our success.”
If you ask Rosenfeld for advice on how to succeed in life and in work, she says to just be yourself.
“If you’re not comfortable in the environment that you’re in, get out of it and do something else,” Rosenfeld says. “We all work too hard at what we do to not be comfortable and to feel like we have to be somebody that we’re not.”
The Rosenfeld File
Name: Irene Rosenfeld
Title: Chairman and CEO
Company: Mondelez International Inc.
Education and memberships: Rosenfeld holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, an MBA and a doctorate in marketing, all from Cornell University. She is active in a number of industry and community organizations including The Economic Club of Chicago. She also serves on the Grocery Manufacturers Association board of directors and Cornell’s board of trustees.
The path to Mondelez: She began her career in consumer research, later joining General Foods, which itself became part of Kraft Foods. Rosenfeld led the restructuring and turnaround of key businesses in the United States, Canada and Mexico. She served on the team that spearheaded the company's IPO in 2001, and successfully integrated the Nabisco, LU and Cadbury businesses.
Rosenfeld took a short break from Kraft Foods in 2004, serving for two years as chairman and CEO of Frito-Lay. While there, she accelerated growth in better-for-you products and health and wellness offerings.
She returned to Kraft Foods, the predecessor to Mondelez International Inc., in June 2006 as CEO and became chairman in March 2007, following Kraft’s spinoff from Altria Group.
How to reach: Mondelez International Inc., (855) 535-5648 or www.mondelezinternational.com