February 27, 2009

Bet on Yourself

Last night, Calixto and I were talking about competition. Specifically, we were talking about how it's really important to be informed of your so-called 'competitors' but not overly influenced by their decisions or apparent strategy; stay laser focused on your own vision. It's tempting to make wide-sweeping assumptions about another business' level of success based on external observations. But, that's not reality; just like Dorothy in Oz, you're not peeking behind the curtain, where there is ALWAYS a different, more complex story. Plus, you know what "they" say when you assume... it makes an ass of u and me. (Oh, come on, you knew I was going to write that!) Remember, a key factor for any business is to drive public perception through careful, conscientious brand positioning and marketing.

It's very easy to get insecure about strategic decision-making in un-chartered waters. For example, through the years, Calixto has quietly expressed frustration that we (uh, I) over-deliver to our NY Int'l Latino Film Festival sponsor partners while other properties seem to skirt by with a banner and catalogue ad. First off, I think that's boring as hell for the consumers and adds absolutely nothing to the event experience - a crucial component to longevity. Second, I've always held fast that over-delivering and understanding the need for real, material ROI is the surest route to partner loyalty and retention. Obviously, there are no guarantees in this world, but, through the years, we've had the great fortune of securing multi-year partnerships with key partners, including HBO, Heineken, American Airlines, Turner Broadcasting, Verizon, Suzuki Auto, all of our media partners, et al. On the flip side, I'm watching brands drop other properties like the Stock Market over the past year: fast and hard. Moreover, in these incredibly tough economic times, sponsorship is an even bigger bear than it normally it is. It's a massive challenge to raise the funds necessary to operate on the level to which the business has grown. Those same properties that have lost key sponsors have been forced to cut back significantly on event programming and duration. It's very sad. The community
needs to support emerging voices and continue to encourage creativity, storytelling, risk-taking, dream chasing and originality. And, of course, event producers have a responsibility to run their organizations in a responsible, professional way and deliver a positive experience to their entire community: talent, corporate partners & audience.

Back to the point: it's vital to stay abreast of the corporate landscape, competitors, trends and research, but, as an entrepreneur, you should be slightly ahead of the curve and an independent thinker. That's presumably what landed you in this position, in the first place. It's easy to get nervous when you have a different approach and are trying to shake up the system, but that's the point of what you're doing, right? Just stay focused on that. Be confident. Don't wonder why only you seem to recognize the opportunity amidst the clutter; appreciate it, bet on it, bet on yourself and go for it. Worst case scenario, you lose the bet. Eh, so what? You'll be a better, stronger, more knowledgeable person for trying... and better prepared for the next go-round. ;)

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