Friday night I went to the Washington West Film Festival to see I AM, a documentary by Tom Shadyac. You know… the guy who directed Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Liar Liar, Patch Adams, and a host of other popular comedies. After an accident that left him suffering with Post Concussion Syndrome and facing the possibility death, Shadyac came to grips with how his values and the way he lived his life differed. Vastly.
The discomfort spurred Shaydac to make a movie about his journey to reconcile core values with personal actions. Ultimately, I AM seeks to answer two fundamental questions:
- What’s wrong with our world?
- What can we do about it?
The movie just may have answered one of the burning questions I’ve been pondering for some time now: Why do America’s business leaders continue to fail to build healthy workplaces? After all, research has long demonstrated that a strengths-based methodology taught by organizations like The Marcus Buckingham Company can create engaging work environments that enable people to dig deep into their potential and find fulfillment on the job.
And yet the vast majority of Americans hate their jobs. Only about 10% of employees achieve a state of deep satisfaction at work. I’ve consistently viewed this phenomenon—the seeming inability to kick the authoritarian management style to the curb—as a failure in leadership. Elements within I AM enabled me see that the failure point may, in fact, be more deeply rooted in culture.
Among other things, the movie posits that a culture which values an economic system based on competition for the sake of consumption is inherently flawed. Taken back to its root, then, the way we structure our businesses and encourage people to climb the corporate ladder is also flawed.
Inherently I think we sense this fundamentally false value. Otherwise we would not refer to working in a “dog-eat-dog world.” Or entering the “rat race.” If the majority of our businesses adhered to a healthy model we wouldn’t take such glee in reading Dilbert or watching The Office.
There appears to be no question that we’ve built our economic future on a model that cannot support sustained growth because of its inherent flaws. So it’s time to acknowledge that management as we know it is broken. For now. The good news: We have begun to find ways to formally transition from the old management model to one grounded in the science of positivity and well-being.
While the well-being in the workplace movement is still early stage, there are signs it’s gaining momentum. For example, Positivity and Positive Business DC both launched recently. These, and organizations like them, seek to teach businesses how to create healthy, rewarding environments. (Heightened profitability becomes a byproduct of engaged employees.)
I AM is worth seeing. It covers a range of topics far beyond the scope of this post.
Thank you for Tom Shadyac for challenging people to question basic assumptions about the world around them. Thank you also for taking the time to chat with the audience after Friday night’s viewing. The way you interacted with the audience, especially the kids, inspired us as much as the movie itself.
Finally, thank you to Brad Russell for founding the Washington West Film Festival. You had a terrific turnout for an event just now entering its second year. (It’s important to note that all of this year’s proceeds will go to Hurricane relief.) We can’t wait to see what you cook up for next year!
Michael Grass is the founding editor of The Huffington Post’s local DC edition, covering local news, arts and events in the nation’s capital and surrounding suburbs. He’s worked for Roll Call newspaper on Capitol Hill, The Washington Post’s Express, The New York Observer, and Washington City Paper among other media organizations. In 2004, he co-founded DCist.com, bringing together the original group of volunteer contributors for what’s grown into one of the DC’s area top local news destinations. In a town that is known for its ephemeral culture, Michael’s roots run deep. His family has been in DC since the 1860s, giving him a unique perspective to the city. We sat down with Michael to talk about online media and some of DC’s own idiosyncrasies and unique delights.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Your ties to D.C. go back quite a bit, don’t they?
I move 1’s an 0’s across the digital ethos for The Huffington Post, where I edit the local DC, Maryland and Virginia homepage.
I’ve worked for most of the past decade at established and start-up media properties in the DC area. I’ve worked on developing some really great online news projects over the years. I co-founded DCist.com in 2004 when DC’s blogging community was very small. I’ve held editing positions at Roll Call, The Washington Post Express and Washington City Paper. And I always have some sort of side project going, too.
Although I grew up in Michigan, my father’s family has been in the District of Columbia since the 1860s. DC had always been a second home to me growing up because of my family roots here. When I moved to DC after college a decade ago, it already felt like home. HuffPost’s DC bureau is on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House, just down the street from the house my grandfather grew up in. Today, Kinkead’s restaurant is there. If you know the Brewmaster’s Castle near Dupont Circle, my great-great grandfather did much of the interior woodcarving in that mansion, which is open to the public. My ancestors carved wood, I help carve the Internet.
What sets Huffington Post apart from other media outlets? What is the secret to its success?
The Huffington Post is an incredibly socially engaged community. It’s not really a secret, but one key to HuffPost’s success has been the ability to adapt how it delivers news and commentary to different readers who sometimes consume information in very different ways. HuffPost isn’t just a news website, it’s a platform to discuss, discover and drive the conversation. Now there are international editions of HuffPost in Spain, France, Canada and Great Britain. But HuffPost can also be incredibly local. And in the DC area, that’s where I’ve been able to help out. The success of HuffPost has been its ability to change and be a driving force.
What do you love about our fair city? What about D.C. still surprises you?
I use ZipCar occasionally, so I live mostly a car-free diet. And I like it that DC is a place where I don’t need to spend money on a car payment, parking citations or gas. For all the bellyaching about Metro, we’re incredibly fortunate to have a good rail and bus network.
Neighborhoods are largely walkable. Transit connects the places that matter. For all the planning and foresight that went into our transportation infrastructure, I’m still surprised by what was left out or unconnected. And I’m still surprised that some people refuse to ride the bus. Technology has removed much of the guesswork that sometimes comes with public transit.
The last decade has seen so much change in DC. Where do you see us headed in the next decade?
There’s certainly been a lot of change in DC. Just look at how places like 14th Street, U Street, and H Street have developed in the previous ten years. Neighborhoods have been transformed in the city and in the suburbs. Plenty of new people have settled in the nation’s capital. There’s so much new energy and so many new ideas. We’ve really shattered the image that we’re a one-company town.
But much of our success is still tied to the federal government and the business of government. With tighter federal purse strings in the years ahead, we’re being pushed to diversify our economy more. We have no choice in the matter. In the next 10 years, the big question will be whether the success we’ve achieved can be maintained and evolve. I think we can continue to transform and innovate.
The DC area has built some solid foundations, a place where new ideas, concepts, businesses and enterprises can experiment and thrive. D.C.’s local politics may just be the most entertaining in the country.
We are the city of Marion Barry after all. Why do you think that this is the case?
Entertaining, yes. But much of what’s been going on in the DC government isn’t funny. But DC isn’t the only place that’s had corrupt elements. (I’m looking at you, Chicago.) What does make DC unique is that we’re not a city and not a state. DC’s local elected politicians can’t climb very high because we’re not a state. It’s not like they can run for U.S. Senate or governor. This has created a local political structure dominated by established players who have few options for growth or advancement. Local DC political culture can stew way too long in its own juices. This particular setup can prevent a healthy political climate from forming. But it can be fun to observe, for sure.
Will DC ever become a state? And what are some of the benefits of becoming a state?
Many people dream of statehood. Will we get it? I’m not sure, but I’m hopeful that we’ll someday achieve full and equal representation in Congress like other Americans. Maybe it won’t be traditional statehood, but it would be an arrangement that gives DC residents more control over their local affairs and a voice in Congress. And that would be something that benefits both DC residents and Congress.
We are known as a city of lawyers and government contractors. What else is there that people should know about DC?
We should be known as a place that attracts highly educated people. That’s a trait that is found across many professions in the DC area. But we’re much more than just a place for government. Our creative and knowledge sector is diverse, energetic, innovative, and international. Yes, we’re the nation’s capital. But we’re also much more than that.
DC is also known as a transient place. People come, they work and then they leave. Why is that and what can be done to ensure people stay in the city?
That’s been a dynamic that’s been going on for generations. Capitals of nations can be like that. But other places are like that, too. We’re just especially good at hosting a transient culture. We’ve come off a decade of incredible growth and change across the region. Overall, more people are moving to the DC area. We have to plan for that growth and make that growth sustainable.
DC can be a very expensive place. It can be incredibly expensive for young professionals, new families, and those who have been here for generations. Across the region, we have to diversify the local economy and create a place where people have the ability to stay long term. Fortunately, the DC area already offers many compelling reasons to stay and grow.
It’s been noted that we may be the only city in America with a surplus of jobs. Why is it hard for us to attract talent?
It depends on what industry you’re talking about. DC certainly excels in attracting top talent in many areas. But just because there are jobs doesn’t mean we’re drawing the right kind of talent in all areas. DC has a reputation of being an all-work-all-the-time type of town, but a lot of people are starting to want a better work-life balance. There are certain professions and some businesses that tend to thrive in a more relaxed setting and I think DC is slowly chipping away at its obsession with work. It’s okay to relax and recharge.
If you had the power to do so, what one thing would you fix in D.C.
If I could snap my fingers, I would have a new crosstown Metro line built to untangle the Orange and Blue lines through downtown. While that would help connect places like Georgetown Union Station and H Street in DC, it would also help the entire region.
The advantages that Gilad cites seem like the real luxuries of chartering a private flight when you compare them to the disadvantages of commercial flights: long security lines, missed connections, possibilities of misplaced baggage, and the lag time on the ground compared to time actually spent in the air.
“Time is the real luxury,” says Jacquie Dalton, Executive Vice President of Marketing and Sales at Manassas-based Metropolitan Aviation. Dalton adds, “Private jet travel is often described as a luxury, when in fact it is a critical resource worldwide for businesses, government, and individuals.” What busy executive doesn’t find time priceless? Time, personal service, safety, value for the money, and flexibility are all things that chartering a private flight through a luxury private airline will get you.
Gilad describes ProJet’s timesaving and client-focused service: “Our clients board planeside. They drive their vehicle right up to the aircraft where our customer service agents are there to greet them and assist with their belongings.” No parking hassles, no lines, no baggage checks; just one simple step: right onto your chartered plane.
Once customers are ensconced on their private flight, the more traditional idea of luxury travel ensues. Gilad says, “During the flight, clients are in a comfortable, quiet environment where they can hold productive, uninterrupted meetings, eat healthy, freshcatered food, or simply relax and arrive at their destination rested.” This is a far cry from cardboard commercial flight food, overfilled planes with cramped seating, and the possibility of a chatty seatmate. Luxury private airlines across the board cater to the client, whether it is business or pleasure; comfort and personalized service is the philosophy.
Creature comforts aside, traveling in luxury is safe. Gilad says, “Charter flights are operated at an extremely high level of safety.” Not only are charter flights safe, but they are regulated as well. Gilad explains, “Charter operators and their pilots and technicians are bound by strict Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules and regulations. Many of the best charter companies, including ProJet, have a complete safety management system, including an internal and external audit process.” Robin Purcell, from Martinair, another luxury private airline company operating out of the DC area, educates me about ARG/US, or Argus International, Inc., which is the aviation industry watchdog for operational excellence and safety. Martinair is ARG/US Platinum rated. Purcell says, “Only 5% of all charter operators are Platinum.” This is a safety rating Martinair can be proud of and one that clients can be aware of.
Besides feeling safe, you can also feel like a savvy consumer. Purcell says, “It is often more cost effective to charter rather than go commercial. If you fill up eight or more seats when you are traveling in a tri-state radius for a day or overnight, chartering a flight can often come in equal or less then airlines. Smaller charter companies are also far more likely to be competitive with pricing than national operators.”
After considering the benefits of saving yourself or your company money and time without sacrificing safety, you may be weighing the convenience factor of charter flights. Gilad says, “ProJet is a hospitality company first, which makes us extremely client focused, flexible, and reliable.” Luxury private airlines have one major advantage that commercial airlines never do: flexibility. When it comes to your needs or your company needs, these luxury private airliners can work around your schedule, not the other way around.
For more information or booking questions, contact these luxury private airliners based in the DC area:
www.projetaviation.com | 877-ProJet1
A client-focused hospitality company that operates business jets for private owners, corporations, and for hire. They are uniquely positioned at Leesburg Executive Airport, which is the closest and most convenient satellite airport to Washington DC, the Dulles Technology Corridor, and DC’s wine country. ProJet is a full service aviation company capable of turnkey aircraft solutions. In addition to being a licensed FAA Air Carrier with worldwide operating authority, ProJet is also an FAA Licensed Maintenance Repair Station, an aviation fuel distributor, and an aviation facilities manager with over 75,000 square feet of hangar and office space. ProJet was also voted Loudoun County’s Service Business of the Year in 2010 by the Chamber of Commerce.
www.metropolitanjets.com | 866-332-6770
Metropolitan Aviation is best known for offering the largest and most diverse private jet charter fleet in the mid-Atlantic. They offer a diversified fleet from large cabin heavy jets to super mid cabin, mid cabin, light jets and turbo props. Flying out of Manassas Regional Airport gives Metropolitan clients an advantage because it eliminates the delays and congestion that commonly occur at Dulles. It also allows for additional perks in service—for example, Metropolitan offers a complimentary car detail while clients are out on trips. Metropolitan Aviation is also a good option for clients who are making the transition from private jet chartering to private jet ownership. Owner and CEO, Alan R. Cook, has over 35 years of experience in private aviation and an extensive knowledge of the private jet market.
www.flymartinair.com | 804-222-7401
Martinair has 14 charter aircrafts based in Dulles, Richmond, and Roanoke. Martinair operates a well diversified fleet of aircraft from light Turbo Props, light Jets, mid-size Jets and Heavy Jets. They operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and have done so for the past 25 years. Martinair is also proud to be part of the network of charter aircraft used to transport donated organs.
CHANTILLY AIR, INC.
www.chantillyair.com | 800-720-5387
Chantilly Air, Inc., a provider of charter services in Northern Virginia and Washington, DC, believes that service is in the details. With over 20 years of experience in the corporate aviation industry, with an accident-free, incident-free, and violationfree safety record, they know safety and quality. Chantilly Air is committed to planning around your particular needs.
For those of you who are welltraveled and those of you with high expectations, each of the following properties will be sure to cater to your every whim and offer you an exemplary stay during your time in DC. You can anticipate a fully immersive luxury experience with access to all that the city has to offer. For the most relaxing and unforgettable stay in our nation’s capital, a reservation at any of these hotels will surely fit the bill. Here’s our list of the best that DC has to offer.
THE DUPONT CIRCLE HOTEL
1500 NEW HAMPSHIRE AVE NW
WASHINGTON, DC 20036 | 202.483.6000
Located in vibrant Dupont Circle, this hip hotel offers easy access to an array of unique spots. Excellent service mixes with a trendy vibe to offer a one-of-a-kind experience. Dine in the hotel’s own Café Dupont restaurant, or enjoy a drink in their vibrant Bar Dupont.
1127 CONNECTICUT AVENUE NW
WASHINGTON DC, 20036 | 202.347.3000
Listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, President Truman once declared The Mayflower Renaissance as Washington, DC’s “Second Best Address.” This well-preserved landmark is run by Marriott and dutifully pays homage to its historic past.
1150 22ND ST NW
WASINGTON, DC 20037 | 202. 835.0500
With a name synonymous with luxury, the Ritz Carlton lives up to its reputation. Locations in the District, Georgetown, Pentagon City, and Tysons Corner make business travel easy and accommodating.
2500 CALVERT ST. NW
WASHINGTON, DC 20008 | 202.234.0700
Nestled in Rock Creek Park, The Omni Shoreham is a true reflection of our Nation’s Capital. The hotel has served numerous dignitaries and has even played host to inaugural balls, making it the perfect spot to immerse oneself in the political landscape.
800 16TH ST. NW
WASHINGTON, DC 20006 | 800.853.6807
One of the most well-known hotels located in DC, the Hay-Adams is particularly notable for its unique and colorful history. It has firmly established itself as a gathering place for the elite and has earned its reputation for unparalleled service.
1200 16TH ST. NW
WASHINGTON, DC 20036 | 202.448.2300
Offering a more intimate experience, The Jefferson proudly boasts its status as Washington’s best small hotel. A Book Room houses volumes on Jefferson-era subjects and historical details are painstakingly preserved.
1330 MARYLAND AV. SW
WASHINGTON, DC 20024 | 202.554.8588
The Mandarin Oriental is set in the heart of the District, with easy access to numerous DC landmarks. The hotel delivers an elegant and memorable experience and has been labeled as one of the top 100 hotel properties in the world.
515 15TH ST. NW
WASHINGTON DC 20004 | 202.661.2452
With its sleek and modern look, the W offers broad appeal. The hotel chain offers their signature W bed, along with a full list of amenities.
201 WATERFRONT ST
NATIONAL HARBOR, MD 20745 | 301.965.2000
Step outside of the District and find the Gaylord National peacefully nestled in National Harbor, MD. The hotel’s stunning atrium is covered in 1.5 acres of glass, providing unrivaled views of the Potomac.
2401 M ST NW
WASHINGTON DC 20037 | 202.429.2400
The Fairmont Washington is conveniently located near historic Georgetown. It is a prime destination for business travelers, offering a dependably high-quality experience.
Now is a special time in DC. Let’s try to look past the diabolical weather for a moment and consider all the fun that we can actually have here. In the past decade we have seen a massive transformation. Like so many capitals around the world, DC was a bit stuffy, a little uptight, and in many ways, kind of a drag. One can almost picture long–faced bureaucrats lugubriously scampering along K Street trying to make it to a meeting. But things have changed in the recent years. We have become a magnet for young professionals and creative people who aren’t simply here to fulfill a contract, but rather ply their trades and create waves all over the country. With this new influx, we have developed an entertainment industry to cater to them. Just take a short walk on U Street and see for yourself how much things have changed. In this issue, we have attempted to shed some light on this transformation and have chosen a few spots that we feel best represent what this sudden and delightful shift is all about.
We also sat down with Jonathon Perrelli and Carla Valdes at Fortify.vc, who shed some light on their concept of “Founders Funding Founders,” as well as Kevin Greene of Vallhala Partners. Michael Grass of Huffington Post also joined us for a frank discussion about the possibilities awaiting our fair city.
With so much going on around us, it can be rather difficult to get a full grasp of it all. I hope that this issue can serve as a reference guide to what’s hot right now in our city during these dog days of summer. We hope that you can enjoy and experience all that our nation’s capital has to offer.
Best Restaurants in Metro DC
Raising Capital for Your Startup
Luxury Hotels in DC
A Beginner’s Guide to Ireland
Preparing For Retirement
Utilizing Your Network
Metro DC Area Business Caterers
Yesterday I finally broke down and registered for Klout after reading Klout Scores: The SAT for Social Media Jobs. Using only accounts I make publicly available, Klout determined the topics I most influence are:
- Health food
Hmm. Those results just don’t add up. More than 250 posts about leadership, entrepreneurship, funding, recruitment, culture, marketing, social media, education, government, privacy, technology, and local business have been published (on this site and others). I’ve written two posts about TEDx, one entitled, There’s No Hierarchical Structure in Salad, which Murray A. Mann retweeted to his significant network of followers. That action alone skewed Klout results to the point of being meaningless when trying to measure personal influence in my public social networks.
One of the most concerning elements about Klout scores is that employers have apparently begun to use them as a screening mechanism when recruiting for social media jobs. Klout positions itself as ‘similar to the SAT,’ which Forbes, Social Media Club DC, and others have reported. Unfortunately, by legitimizing the company’s positioning, these media sources have done job candidates and employers a serious disservice. Here’s why:
- The SAT is a standardized test designed to assess a student’s readiness for college by measuring knowledge in three areas: mathematics (54 questions), critical reading (67 questions), and grammar (49 questions). The College Board, which oversees the program, has well-defined and accepted methodologies for establishing metrics and and a broad membership that strives to ensure impartiality. While standardized tests may be imperfect measures, Klout has developed a more imperfect algorithm, is not a standardized anything, and has no 3rd-party oversight. The fox is in its own henhouse here.
- Employers want to measure outcomes, not activities. Yet, Klout predominantly measures activity on topics and the number of people reached. Then what? Did you influence their way of thinking or cause them to take action? If not, then the activity had little value. If you’re going to measure something, then measure something that matters.
So, how much Klout did I have? Between Twitter and LinkedIn, I scored 22, which is slightly above average. Does it matter? Not really. As with every aspect in life, quality is more important than quantity. Check out this post by Robert Dempsey and you’ll see I’m not alone in thinking Klout takes people down the wrong path.
MindShare is D.C.’s premier invitation only program for CEOs of the most promising companies in the region. Founded in 1997, the program provides CEOs unparalleled access to well established and respected mentors and unrivaled business opportunities. To date there have been more than 550 CEOs who have graduated from MindShare, who have in turn gone on to create a unique and valuable alumni network. Past alums include Tim O’Shaughnessy of LivingSocial; Rick Rudman of Vocus; Hemant Kanakia of Torrent Networking Technologies; and Philip Merrick of webMethods.
The MindShare Organizing Board provides a forum exclusively for CEOs to share success stories, as well as some of the biggest challenges that they have faced during their rise to the top. Each session focuses on a differing aspect of nurturing and growing an emerging business.
Two rising stars from this year’s graduating class are Blake Hall of TroopSwap and Hulya Aksu of CriticMania.
HULYA AKSU OF CRITICMANIA
What is CriticMania?
CriticMania is a few things to few groups. CriticMania Expert is a platform where small businesses must qualify and meet criteria set forth by the experts on our staff to have their business information published in a narrative. Most small business owners need support, education and online partners to improve and expand their online identity. That is what we do. CriticMania is a strong ally to the small business community, not another extortionist made to look like a social media platform such as Yelp and the others. This year we will also launch CriticMania Social where users will be able to use a mobile app to check in and post their own reviews with people that matter to them.
Where do you envision CriticMania in five years?
I can’t speculate as technology is constantly shifting and I don’t have a crystal ball. I can only tell you that we will be quick to adapt, adopt the necessary advancements, and improve as quickly as the marketplace demands us to.
From where do you draw your inspiration?
Ive been publishing in print successfully for the last six years. We have won national acclaim, plenty of awards and have met some of the country’s most talented people. Although it’s flattering to be where we are in the community, nothing inspired me the way the small business owners have. Their needs, their passions and their problems have driven me to come up with solutions that are effective and affordable. Our success is measured in the success stories of every single one of my customers.
BLAKE HALL OF TROOPSWAP
What is TroopSwap?
TroopSwap is the first e-commerce platform exclusively for the military and veteran community. Over 23 million living Americans have served in uniform, yet, prior to TroopSwap, there was no efficient way for brands to reach this demographic online because the government doesn’t provide a digital ID for service members and veterans. We are solving this problem by building a fully integrated marketplace where merchants can retail to verified military users via fl ash sales, permanent military discounts and virtual stores. We also plan to give our military members the ability to create their own stores so they can interact with one another inside of a trusted environment. If you can imagine a military marketplace along the lines of an “eBay meets Amazon” then you can see where we are headed.
Where do you envision TroopSwap in five years?
The best brands build an ecosystem that creates value for everyone who interacts with that brand. I love the story of how Vans became a national brand by organizing a world championship for skateboarders. They had no idea that by crowning a champion they were creating an aspirational brand that would position Tony Hawk at the top of the pyramid and young teenagers who wanted to be like him at the bottom. They just decided that the community needed a world championship and that it was the right thing to do. The coolest part of being an entrepreneur is that I have no idea what TroopSwap will be in five years. We simply want to focus on building great products and services that will create tangible value for our community – if those products and services happen to spur massive externalities then so much the better. Ultimately, Matt and I want to create a vibrant community and a platform that will enable the free market to serve the military in ways that the government simply cannot.
The country has seen better days. This much is undeniable. We sometimes forget that the decisions being made (and stubbornly not being made) by national leaders in our fair city, have far-reaching effects. We have been, happily, somewhat insulated from the lack of cooperation on the Hill, but for how long? As we ponder this question, millions remain unemployed across the nation, and our political system remains in gridlock over even the minutest details of governance. If we continue on our projected path, even those of us living in the nation’s capital and its surrounding suburbs will feel the pinch.
In this issue we bring to you a few people who know well how to iron out complicated deals and understand the importance of reaching one’s goals through careful analysis and cooperation. We had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Robert Barnett of Williams & Connolly LLP, the legendary lawyer who has represented some of Washington’s most elite names, Mike Lincoln of Cooley LLP on the art of the deal, and David Saltzman of Saltzman and Evinch P.C. on his experiences representing the interests of the Republic of Turkey in Washington.
These deal makers and master negotiators can offer more than a few pieces of advice for our gridlocked leaders on the Hill. One can only hope that they would have the wherewithal and the wisdom to listen. I’m not holding my breath.
Our latest issue of MB includes:
Alternative Investment Vehicles
Art & The Good Life
Art & Science
Business Golf 201
Social Media Jobs
The Future is Electric
Jesse Thomas, Founder and CEO of Jess3
Don Rainey, Venture Capitalist
Robert Barnett, Attorney
Mike Lincoln, Corporate Attorney
David Saltzman, International Lawyer
Founder and Chairman of Sun Design, Craig Durosko and President Bob Gallagher
Jimmy Lynn is the founder and managing partner of JLynn Associates, a global strategic advisory firm focused on media, marketing and retail for the sports industry. JLynn Associates caters to teams, athletes, leagues, sports associations, and other businesses associated with sports, both nationally and abroad. Prior to founding JLynn Associates, Lynn spent 14 years at AOL where he served as the Vice President of Strategic Development and Partnerships where he was responsible for AOL’s Sports, which included partnerships with the NFL, NBA, NASCAR, MLB, NHL and PGA Tour, among others. Before his tenure at AOL, Jimmy Lynn worked as Advertising Manager for Home Team Sports, a CBS regional sports network.
It’s been said that you have the biggest Rolodex in D.C. Networking is such a huge part of doing business these days, but sometimes the tendency is to over-use one’s contacts and hence alienate those people you need most. How should someone leverage their contacts without being too needy?
I’ve been told my Rolodex is one of the top five in the D.C. area. I learned from two of the best all-time networkers in D.C. business history – Andy Ockershausen and Charlie Brotman. It’s also a result of living here since ’78, going to college in D.C., working in D.C. the whole time and spending a great deal of time with non-profits.
In regard to your question, I try my best to be judicious about whom I reach out to. I need to be careful. I don’t want to contact the same people time after time, whether it’s for investment opportunities, sponsorships, raising funds for non-profits or asking favors for others (including introductions to senior executives).
My primary form of communication is email. Why? Because it allows the other person to respond to me on their own time – it’s not as pressured as an in-person visit or phone call. Perhaps it’s because that’s how we communicated at AOL – especially in the glory years when we worked long hours as we built the company into a giant, global brand.
What made you decide you wanted to go into the business of sports? After 14 years doing extraordinary work at AOL, was it a big risk to turn your back on all of your hard work and go your own way?
I’ve always had a passion for Sports. I played baseball, basketball and football as a youth. And, I’m still playing baseball in a 30-andover hardball league in Northern Virginia. While pursuing my BA and MBA at American University, I interned primarily for radio stations (music was another passion).
But, after graduating with my MBA in ’89, I went to work for Charlie Brotman, the legendary sports PR expert. I also worked for WMAL, W-Lite and Home Team Sports before joining AOL in ’95 to help launch and grow their Sports business. My primary roles for AOL Sports were business development and account management. We went through a meteoric rise in the media world. And, my team and I managed so many wonderful sports brand names, including the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, NASCAR, WNBA, CBS Sports, ABC Sports, Sports Illustrated, HBO Sports, Turner Sports, NFLPA, WWF, etc.
It really was a special time in my life. The numerous strategic partnerships, particularly the ones with the professional leagues, were extremely effective. They played a significant part in helping AOL become one of the most well-known and popular brands in the U.S. But, the league deals were also expensive. As the league deals started to wind down in ’06 and ’07, AOL also was changing its business model from a subscription service to more of an ad-supported portal site.
I had a couple of meetings in ’08 with my trusted circle of advisers, including my mentor, Ted Leonsis. It was apparent that it was a good time for me to start thinking about leaving AOL in order to better leverage my rolodex of sports contacts. It was a tremendous 14-year ride at AOL, but the time was good for me to go out on my own. So I finally pulled the trigger in March ’09 to launch JLynn Associates.
What was the biggest obstacle you faced when you first went into business for yourself? How did you overcome it?
I didn’t necessarily face any giant obstacles, but it was interesting making the transition from working for the world’s largest media company into a one-person shop. As for the associates, my original thinking was that the associates would be some of the Georgetown University students I’ve taught over the years. But, in fact, the associates are other former sports execs who left global companies to start their own firms. I now have a great network of associates who have particular skills sets that complement one another (branding, licensing, deal negotiations, distribution, etc.).
I did receive some great advice when I initially went out on my own. The most important thing I did was “listen.” I took lots and lots of meetings – I asked lots of questions and I listened intently. I did this for nearly a year – all over the U.S. as well as in Japan, China, Brazil, London, etc. This helped shape what type of strategic advisory services that my associates and I will offer to current and prospective clients.
What would be your best piece of advice for someone trying to break into the sports industry?
Internships, internships, internships. Networking, networking, networking. I am a full-time faculty member for Georgetown University’s Sports Industry Management program. So, I’ll always advocate this terrific graduate sports program. For those that want to work in sports but don’t have any experience, I strongly recommend pursuing your graduate studies as well as interning and networking. It’s vital to do so in order to break into sports, which is one of the hardest fields to break into since so many people want to work in sports.
With all that is on your plate, you still find the time to reach out and help those in need and guide those with promise. You regularly work with over ten non-profit organizations and charities. Is there ever a risk of spreading yourself too thin?
Yes, I do spend a good amount of time with non-profits. It is something that is personally important to me. And, I’ve promised two of my primary mentors, Ted Leonsis and Mario Morino, that I will continue to take the lessons they taught me and “pay it forward” by helping educate and inform the next generations.
Yes, I’m spread too thin and I do need to cut back a bit – particularly with my business travel schedule. But, “giving back” and “helping others” is something I will do for the rest of my life. It provides me with balance and perspective. I could write so many stories about the wonderful young adults I mentor. They also inspire and motivate me. It’s not a one-way street – just me helping them. They provide me with so much joy. As an example, I mentor two Chinese-American youths in D.C.. I’ve promised their parents I will pay for their college tuition. I received a wonderful message on Father’s Day –wishing me a Happy Father’s Day, how I may not be a dad (I’m single), but that I’m like a second father to them, and they thanked me for all I do for them. That message meant the world to me, particularly since I lost my father in ’08.
How did being half Irish-American and half Japanese contribute to your outlook on life and business? What advantages exist for those who have a foot in two cultures?
Growing up, I don’t think I really enjoyed being from two different cultures since I was always the minority wherever I lived (either in Tokyo or D.C.). But, during my college years, I embraced being from two distinct cultures and, ever since then, I’m proud that I’m from both the U.S. and Japan. I go to back to Tokyo every year – for business purposes as well as to visit with my Japanese relatives.
As part of both my consulting business as well as teaching at Georgetown University, I’m constantly talking about the global perspective. I think growing up in two different countries gives me the comfort factor. I have many American friends that are afraid to do business internationally since it’s not in their comfort zone.
Your late father was in the Armed Forces. Did growing up in a military household shape you in any way?
Yes, my father was a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army. I think growing up in a military family helps make youngsters more socially active and better to communicate – since you need to move every few years. It teaches you how to make new friends. It also taught me about being disciplined and punctual.
The three heroes in my life are military men – my father, my Uncle Art, who was an Air Force colonel, and my best friend’s father, General Jack Guthrie. I learned much from these men – honesty, integrity, treating people equally and fairly, love of sports, sense of humor, etc. All three men passed away within the past four years and they’re all buried at Arlington National Cemetery, which is only five minutes away from my home. So, I like being close to them.
You teach a course called Sports Marketing Strategy at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University. What made you decide to add professor to your growing list of titles and honors?
I’ve taught in the McDonough School of Business for six years. It’s the only sports course taught in the undergrad program. I love interacting and engaging with the younger generation. One of the reasons is that one of my areas of specialty is Digital and Social Media. This younger generation is growing up with social media. So, I love to teach but to also receive feedback from them.
I now have a much larger role at Georgetown. We created a graduate sports program, Sports Industry Management, in the School of Continuing Studies. I serve as the “Visiting Professional in the Practice of Sports Industry Management.” It’s a hybrid role – teaching (three classes), advising students and business development. Although we just finished our third year, we’re already one of the best programs in the country. Matt Winkler, the Associate Dean of the program, and I want to make this the best graduate sports management program in the world. So, we’re working on partnerships and programs in Brazil, China, London, etc.
What motivates you? Who inspires you?
In terms of motivation and inspiration, I’ve mentioned two of my mentors, Ted Leonsis and Mario Morino. Both men came from humble beginnings, were the first ones in their families to receive a college degree, went on to become major successes in business, and then devoted so much time and money to philanthropy and gave back to help others.
But, it’s not just the big business execs that inspire me. I have others that inspire me, including one of my students who was in an accident right before his freshman year at Georgetown. He was paralyzed from the accident and is in a wheelchair. He could be a negative person who complains frequently but, instead, this young man has a positive, bright outlook on life. I love seeing his smile and his energy. He graduated from Georgetown and is now in our graduate sports program. He has a bright future ahead of him.
I have another mentee who lived in 14 foster homes in Chicago while growing up. He’s lived in homeless shelters and lived on the streets. He’s another person who could complain about life. But, instead, he had the opportunity to change his life and he has embraced it. He just completed his junior year of college and has a 3.8 gpa heading into his senior year.
There are plenty of others that inspire me, but there’s a smattering of people who inspire and motivate me.
Every decade or so, emerging technologies disrupt entire industries and create opportunity for those bold enough to forge their own paths. New market leaders displace companies that have become entrenched in the old way of doing business. IBM, DEC, Microsoft, Dell, Amazon, Google, and Facebook offer prime examples of the power new technologies and business models have over economic and cultural disruptions.
No one really questions that disruption is occurring across industries and that forces such as mobile are playing a big role. The question is: Who will dominate as companies vie to become the new leaders in social media, clean technologies, healthcare, and financial services? As importantly, how will they do it?
Pete Erickson figured out a way to bring those answers to light when he launched Disruptathon on July 17, 2009. The company’s name, a mashup of disruptive innovation and hackathon, focuses on fostering innovation and growth in the economy. With the help of world-class sponsors, Disruptathon has hosted 10 events in the past two years.
Disruptathon is not a vehicle for funding or commercialization. At its core, the company establishes a forum for identifying innovative technologies and companies that can lead to economic growth in industries already in flux. The process creates new value in the marketplace by facilitating direct and timely feedback from customers, colleagues, partners, service providers, and investors. These events eliminate the myopathy associated with a single-source feedback loop.
Each Disruptathon focuses on a vertical. Smaller, intimate venues with industry experts and enthusiasts generate a vibrant network effect. A narrow scope keeps the engagement level high, while feedback generated by diverse stakeholder groups means that the best companies rise to the top. Participants gain meaningful feedback from their Disruptathon experiences. By giving presenting entrepreneurs the spotlight, Disruptathon accelerates the momentum of companies already on their way to success.
Disruptathons have a pulse. They are lighthearted events with serious intent. Dr. Tom Love, co-creator of Objective-C, the language the runs all Apple, told Pete that Disruptathon was the most fun networking event he’s attended. I concur.
So, how does Pete do it? He based the Disruptathon business model on sponsorships. The quality of sponsors (Cynergy, USA Today, Gannett, MyDiscovery, National Geographic, The Washington Post, Womble Carlyle, Qorvis Communications and more) offers a testament to the company’s value creation and Pete’s vision.
Disruptathon continues to evolve. Pete strives to make each event even better than the last. The next one, scheduled for September 27 in Washington, DC, will feature social media. Up to 25 companies will spend the day conducting business development, meeting with service providers, and competing for a coveted slot to present that evening. The finalists will have five minutes to speak. Then, the audience will vote on presentation, uniqueness, design, model, disruptive potential, and overall favorite.
The next major step for Disruptathon will be going digital. Using lessons learned from the physical experience, Pete will create an online forum. Expanding input to a virtual venue will deepen the value we all gain from Disruptathon. I can’t wait to see what happens!