Too Eager Out of the Gate

A friend and colleague, Craig Molitor, recently landed the Fond Du Lac, WI, CVB gig. As I emailed congratulations, I was completing my first year review. Naturally my mind started thinking of all the changes I would have made that first year and, if asked, what I would advise Craig or any other colleague starting their first year at the helms of a DMO.

I fear the first trap we first year execs fall into is the “we-need-to-change-everything” trap. Sure, there are probably some things that need changed. I inherited a bureau that was using three different logos and many different communication styles. Additionally we were not a part of the greater community. That had to change. But often no change is needed. Instead five simple steps the first year on the job – July’s Five @ 5:

1. Meet, meet, and meet – You had better get a membership to the Y or a new pair of running shoes ’cause if you’re doing it right that first year, you’re eating breakfast and lunch with someone every day. Hoteliers, attractions, Mayor, City Councilmembers, City Manager and department managers, business leaders, the Chamber and ED execs, sports clubs, University President and department heads… and that’s the first month.

2. Listen – it’s not enough to just meet with all of those community leaders, but listen. They may actually have a great idea. “Something I always wanted to share with the CVB…”, “Something that was really successful years ago but then just dropped…”, “What (your predecessor) did real well was…” You’ll miss some real good advise or promotions if all you are thinking is “what can I share from my resume to impress them?”

3. Read everything – Your predecessor may have had a great marketing plan. No sense ‘fixing what wasn’t broken’. By-laws, research, contracts, research, visitor guides, research, history books research, board minutes, oh, and if there’s any recent research on your community, visitor profiles, etc., peruse it. (If not, call someone and have some done. Then read it!)

4. Set Goals – Quite frankly, they can be very modest goals but set goals. I didn’t set any goals and at times I truly wondered what I was targeting. I knew we were getting some stuff done but hadn’t prioritized. What needs reviewed? What is fully functional and doesn’t need looked at? Which employee needs guidance and which one should I leave alone?

5. Check the Attitude – Harsh I know but first, you got the job! You don’t need to impress anyone any more. Secondly, your predecessor may have left in good graces! You aren’t coming in to ‘clean up a mess’ ’cause he/she may not have left a mess. And finally, you’ll be appreciated for what you show a year from now or 18-months from now. Again, you don’t HAVE to change anything just to say ‘I’m the new sheriff’.

If you’re 15, 20, 25 years on the job, the above can still apply. When’s the last time you sat down with everyone to chat and listen? Do you still read new things or ‘just know it’? And maybe everything is still working and you don’t have to change anything ’cause it’s been used for a long time.

(Originally posted July 2010)

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