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Gratitude, Making a Difference and Facebook

Bonnie & Fred Cappuccino
At Greenfield Services, we are truly grateful for the relationship we have enjoyed with our clients, partners and employees again this past year.

For the last three years we have expressed our gratitude and helped those less fortunate by donating a portion of profits to a charity whose mission it is to combat famine and promote economic development around the world.

This year we wanted to do something a little different.  While World Vision is still a highly deserving NGO, they are nevertheless a very large organization, with lots of support.

The idea came to my partner Heinz and me when we attended an event in our little town of Alexandria this past fall to benefit a much smaller and equally deserving cause: Child Haven International.  Inspired by the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, Child Haven “assists children and women in developing countries, who are in need of food, education, health care, shelter and clothing, emotional and moral support.”

Their founders are Fred and Bonnie Cappuccino, a couple who have made their home in nearby Maxville since the early 70s.  Locals will tell you lots of stories about this remarkable duo, not the least of which is that, over the years, they have adopted 19 children in addition to raising their own two biological children.  In 1985, they started Child Haven to help more.  I heard Fred joke that this was the only way he could prevent Bonnie from adopting more kids!

Now in their 80s, Fred and Bonnie are assisted by family and volunteers in the running of their eight homes: five in India, one in Nepal, one in Tibet and one in Bangladesh. Child Haven is a registered charity in Canada, the United States and India.  It operates on a shoestring (about $1,000,000 annually) and receives no government subsidy.

To help this worthy cause, we had thought of donating $5 for each new “Like” on our Facebook Page.  Truth be known, if our idea went “viral” we wouldn’t have an unlimited budget.  Instead we will donate $1,500, regardless of what happens with our Facebook page.  Still, we think we can help by spreading their story.  Will you please help us by clicking that you “Like” us on Greenfield's Facebook Page, letting your network know about Child Haven?

To make a donation yourself, please click here.

Whatever holiday you celebrate, we wish you the gift of time to enjoy this holiday season with those you love.  And may 2011 bring you health, happiness and fulfillment!

Greenfield Services Collaborates with Queen's University

Queens MBA Students
(L to R) Queen's University students Harish Gopal, Ashtad Pouredehi, Borce Gjorgjievski, Roshan Kalra, Doreen Ashton Wagner (Greenfield Services), Nathania Go, Meagan Rockett (Greenfield Services), and Ted Hincks.
Last September I agreed to participate in a student project, part of the Queen's University MBA program.  At the time I did not know the precise nature of our collaboration.  I was contacted on November 24 and asked if we could meet with the students one week later!
According to team leader Roshan Kalra, the purpose of the visit was to "provide a look into a company with a direct and observable operating process."

The students chose Greenfield as the subject of an assignment for their MBA course “Operations Management”.  Their task is to map Greenfield's existing process and recommend a redesign of the process.

As an entrepreneur, I have always believed in having "fresh eyes" look at our operation, to help us improve the way we do things.

Up until now, this has been mostly through new employees and various trainers and consultants we had hired for various programs.  While I had said yes a few months back, I thought the project would not take place because I had heard nothing since.  In addition, there was the question of "observable process"; since our work focuses entirely on data, I assumed our process was just a little too abstract.

While I have yet to see their report, I was pleasantly surprised by the calibre of questions from this multi-disciplined team.  These students are not just business students.  They come from an impressive variety of cultural and educational backgrounds:

My main contact, Roshan Kalra is a law & economics grad.  Ted Hincks has an environmental engineering background.  Electronics & communications engineering are Harish Gopal's specialties.  Ashtad Pouredehi has management consulting & accounting credentials.  Nathania Go studied in management engineering, marketing and graphic design, while Borce Gjorgjievski majored in computer science.

Their work is due December 15.  We look forward to reading their "process re-engineering" report!

How are your numbers?

Board Meeting
A great meeting can be defined by many things – one of the most important factors (and the one that most organizations are concerned about) is ensuring that your attendance at your meeting continues to grow.

As a planner, what can you do to ensure that you are achieving attendance targets?
One way is to keep a close eye on what your members want.  This means surveying your membership regularly.  To get a complete picture, survey those who have recently attended your annual meeting (in order to determine their satisfaction level), and those who do not attend/have not attended recently (to find out why and what would change their mind).

What questions should you ask?

While some questions need to be different in the initial part of the survey, others can be very similar to enable you to compare responses.

Ask about a suitable location:  This can be done either by free form or selection boxes (recommended).  Include both top-tier & second-tier cities as options.  Start by looking at the cities you have held your annual meeting in the past – but ensure to include an “other” option – with a free form for the contact to input their selection.

Find out about the budget:  Registration fees, hotel room rates, do you know what your prospective attendees are willing to pay?  It’s easy to assume that the lower the rates the better, but find out what their preferences are… offer ranges, ask what services or amenities might be important such as complimentary access to fitness facilities, wireless internet, parking, etc.

Dig into the content:  People attend annual meetings to find out what is new in their field, to receive their continuing education credits, etc.  Are there topics that they want to hear about, speakers they want to hear from, etc. that you are not aware of?  Be sure to ask!

If they are members and are not attending your AGM, you might want to know what other associations they belong to where they are attending conferences, etc.  What is that association doing differently?

Inquire about areas of concern outside the educational component:  Attendees logically look at the conference program for education, but they often consider what overall “experience” they will get by attending the event in a particular city.  What activities or attractions appeal to your audience?  How do you keep them entertained?  What would they like to see?  Surveying them is a great way to find out!

Asking your membership for feedback is great; they will feel that they have a voice and that you are taking their feedback seriously.

But don’t stop there.  Many associations have a list of contacts who are not members but are in the profession.  Survey them too, as it may help you find out why they are not attending.  Not only will this give you ways to improve your AGM, but it may give you insight on why they are not currently members and how to make them members in the near future.

Is Your Association "Walking the Talk"?

Destination Marketing Association International
Recently I attended the annual convention and business exchange of DMAI, the Destination Marketing Association International.  As a trade association regrouping Convention & Visitor Bureaus (CVBs, a.k.a. Destination Marketing Organizations or DMOs), DMAI is essentially an association of associations.

This was my first attendance at the event, and I learned a lot about what DMOs face such as pressures from their own members, government funding, etc.

But one item struck me as ironic and unfortunate.

DMAI advocates Corporate Social Responsibility for its members.  The convention program even featured on a session on CSR with Jonathan Greenblatt, co-founder of Ethos Water (which is sold at Starbucks).

An informative session it was, except that message rang false for me because of what was happening in the coffee breaks...  Because of my long-time association with MPI, CSR to me also means the "greening" of meetings.  Imagine my disappointment when I saw the coffee break stations had paper coffee cups and plastic lids, as well as the usual china.  Even more disappointing was that most people were reaching for the disposable stuff before going back to their session.  Why?

Aren't china cups a greener solution?  And given the choice, why would delegates choose disposables unless they are going to leave the premises (which most DMAI delegates were not)?  Why would the Westin Diplomat, which presumably abides by the Starwood Hotels & Resorts Environmental Sustainability Policy, even offer the paper cup alternative?  Did I miss something?

I walked away feeling like perhaps DMAI was not walking the talk, and needed to learn more about CSR and the greening of business tourism. The experience made me think.  Are we walking the talk?  Are the other associations I belong to walking the talk.  Is your association walking the talk?  Please share your thoughts...

When You’re Stuck with the Boss’ Son…

Nygel Pelletier
We help dozens of organizations every year to update their database.  At times we come across some clients who aren’t able to outsource the cleansing process.  This was the case recently with a law enforcement association who couldn’t export their data for cleansing because their CRM had limitations that required too much of their IT consultant’s very expensive time.

We would have loved to do the work, but it just wasn't mean to be.  Our recommendation was for them to hire temporary help.  This project would have taken us just two weeks to complete, and now this is going to take them all summer.
Fortunately we were able to connect them with a candidate with roots in our area in Glengarry County.  Nygel Pelletier is a former AHL referree (that's him pictured above!) whose next dream is to get into law enforcement; he was only too eager to get the experience for his résumé!

At times association administrators cannot convince their board or their senior executives that outsourcing is a more efficient way to go.  They are simply told to “hire a student”.   We love students, but what if what if you’re stuck with the boss’ son as your intern to help you clean up your database this summer?  Our client was very happy with how things worked out with Nygel, so we compiled the tips we gave them for your reference:
  1. Establish a clear goal – What information needs to be updated?  What titles/positions or functions are you trying to get information on and why?  For instance, if you’re trying to update a list of potential exhibitors for your tradeshow, outline those potential titles who may oversee the decision to exhibit at events.  Make sure your intern understands how to explain this purpose to the receptionist.
  2. Write out a script – Have your intern write out exactly what they’ll say.  Play act with them any potential objections so they can present themselves professionally.  (e.g. Receptionist: “I’m sorry; I have no idea who would want to exhibit at your Widget Association Show.” Intern: “I understand.  Perhaps someone in your marketing department would know.  Can you please transfer me?”)
  3. Define phone vs. online approaches – The internet is a great tool, but don’t assume contact names are easily found online.  Sometimes it’s quicker to call up a company and talk to a human being than to search for people online.  Also decide whether the intern will have an email address to send requests for update.
  4. Take the time to train – Supervising a less experienced staff member doing tedious work is often a challenge for busy managers.  Updating a list is not rocket science, but it is an art to convince people to give you the time of day to update any information.  Make sure you take the time to show the person what you want, and how they should sound.  Have them listen to you updating the information so they hear how it’s done.
  5. Keep track of progress – If updating is taking place “live” in your database (and not just on an Excel spreadsheet), make sure you print out a master list, by account/organization name or whatever order makes sense.  Have your intern keep track of their progress by checking off organizations as they are completed.
  6. Spot check – Make sure the information is updated correctly and thoroughly.  It’s stating the obvious, I know, but it’s easy do a great job updating names and forgetting to check that the company is still at the same address.   Spot check records if you can by verifying zip/postal codes, and clicking through to websites to make sure the information is correct.  Have someone else check on a few records, just to make sure things are going smoothly.
  7. Establish metrics – After 3-4 days, your intern should be able to tell you how many records he/she has been able to update per hour.  An experienced person should be able to update 10-15 records per hour (we define one record as one contact per company; so 2 contacts at the same location = 2 records).  If the information is particularly dated or obscure, the pace may be closer to 8-12 records per hour.  A pace less than that and your intern may have productivity issues or may be overwhelmed with the task.
And last but not least, make sure your intern realizes how vital their work is!  A clean list is the starting point for any effective and sustainable direct marketing effort.  Don’t let them think you undervalue their work!