Ten Years’ Worth of Gratitude, with Nicole Mahoney

Episode 155

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With a talent for creating special events that blossomed while working for my dad’s car stereo shop, I got my start in marketing at Frontier Field in Rochester and I began serving as the executive director of the internationally known Lilac Festival. Later on, I headed the Canandaigua, New York Business Improvement District while also performing projects for the tourism promotion agency Visit Rochester. In 2009, I founded Break the Ice Media, with more than 20 years of experience in tourism marketing. I now host “Destination on the Left”, a highly successful tourism marketing podcast. As a business owner, I know what it takes to be successful. I founded BTI to help businesses tell their brand story through public relations, digital and traditional channels. I have the ability to uncover unique marketing opportunities and develop marketing and public relations initiatives that help clients build long-term success. In this solocast episode of Destination on the Left, I wanted to take the opportunity to share my gratitude with you. I discuss the insights I’ve gathered over the course of ten years in business and give you a look into a new project we are working on for Destination on the Left. Break the Ice team members are outside a brick building holding a sign that says "join us to cheers to 10 years" and champagne glasses

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How to help us hit our goal of 100 reviews
  • What I am grateful for right now
  • The celebrations and events surrounding my company’s ten-year anniversary
  • My experience receiving the Small Business Person of the Year Award from the Small Business Council in Rochester, NY.
  • The insights I’ve gathered over the course of ten years in business
  • A sneak peek at a new project we’re working on for Destination on the Left
  • What it means to employ cathedral thinking

Ten Years Worth of Gratitude

As Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season approaches, I thought it would be appropriate to make ‘gratitude’ the theme of this week’s solocast. It is especially timely for me since my company, Break the Ice Media, celebrated its ten-year anniversary last month and I was honored with receiving the Small Business Person of the Year Award from the Small Business Council in Rochester, NY! With this episode, I want to share my gratitude with you.

Celebrate Every Milestone

I am grateful for you, our listeners, as we round off the podcast’s third year with overwhelming support. For our anniversary, we wanted to put together something that celebrates our team, clients, and everyone else who has been an important part of our journey. But with most of those people spread out across the continent, we had to plan something different for each group. I hope this will give you some new ideas and inspire you to do something special for your next big celebration! Our process started by selecting an anniversary planning committee. It should come as no surprise that most of the ideas for our team celebration revolved around food and wine. But we wanted to get everyone involved. Our internal survey revealed that all of our team members wanted to do something unique and special. After some research, we booked the chef’s table at Good Luck in the Village Gate Square neighborhood of Rochester! With that settled, we moved on to brainstorming a client celebration.

A Toast to Our Clients

It didn’t take long for the light bulb to go off and we decided to hold a virtual toast for our scattered clients on October 14th (our birthday). To incentivize them a little bit, we shipped out fifty-six bottles of sparkling wine with custom labels to make the virtual event more sentimental and immersive. I am grateful for everyone that was involved and our team members who made it possible. The Small Business Person of the Year Award was another momentous occasion. But when I was nominated for this award, I was hesitant to actually submit my application. The nomination came at a very busy time and our team was overextended. My leadership team pushed me to commit and I wouldn’t have done it without them. I made the top five of fifty finalists and it was a great honor to be recognized alongside nine other Rochester community business leaders. You can watch my acceptance speech.

Cathedral Thinking

As I prepared for the launch event, I drew inspiration from this podcast and reflected on all of the moments that molded me into a leader. The experience is best described by the concept of cathedral thinking, a mindset derived from manual laborers who began construction projects knowing they would not be completed in their lifetime. We are all cathedral thinkers, building our businesses for future generations, making impacts with our time to build better communities, supporting our families, and laying the foundation for our children and grandchildren for the next generation. I challenge all of us to keep having those big visions that will have far-reaching impact and to work towards that vision today, even if we do so.


Speaker 1: (00:00)
Welcome. You’ve arrived at destination on the left with Nicole Mahoney. Learn from the experience of travel and tourism experts who use collaboration and creativity to attract more visitors, strengthen their marketing programs and reimagine how their industry does business. Hello listeners, this is Nicole Mahoney, host of destination. On the left today is going to

Speaker 2: (00:22)
be another solo cast episode where we do not have any guests. Just me sharing with you my theme for today’s episode is gratitude. The theme is fitting for this time of year as we approach Thanksgiving and the holidays. It is especially timely for me as last month in October, my company break the ice media celebrated its 10 year anniversary and I was honored with receiving the small business person of the year award from the small business council in Rochester, New York, where we are located. I wanted to spend this episode with you today to share my gratitude, provide some insights that they learned as we passed the 10 year milestone, give you a look behind the curtain and share a very exciting project that we have been working on for destination. On the left. I will start with gratitude. First, I am thankful for all of you our listeners who has supported this show over the last three years.

Speaker 2: (01:19)
Yes, we just passed our three year anniversary for this podcast and this show is our 155th [inaudible] episode. That’s a lot of content, nearly 500 hours of content to be exact. It’s also a lot of knowledge sharing and learning and growing. One of my favorite things about being the host of destination on the left has all of the great guests that I get to have conversations with about a subject I love to talk about. That brings me to the next thing. I am grateful for the destination on the left show guests who agree to spend a portion of their day talking to me and creating great content for you, our listeners to enjoy. The guests that we have had on the show are creative, open, transparent, and best of all, I always learn something new after every conversation and I hope you do too. If you do enjoy the show, I appreciate you taking the time to leave me a rating and review.

Speaker 2: (02:16)
We have a goal to get to 100 reviews and we have surpassed the 50 Mark halfway there. I would be grateful for your help in getting to that goal. As I mentioned, my company break the ice media just passed a milestone anniversary celebrating 10 years last month. Our birthday was officially on October 14th that is the day that I signed incorporation papers to officially form my company in preparation for the anniversary celebration, my team wanted to put together a plan that included our clients, team members and those around us who have supported us and cheered us on throughout the years. I wanted to give you a glimpse of what that planning looks like, share some of the creative ideas that we came up with and hopefully inspire you to think about your next big celebration and how you can make it special. We started by identifying an anniversary planning committee.

Speaker 2: (03:12)
The team like to call it the PPC or party planning committee. A shout out to the office, the TV sitcom that made the PPC cool with this smaller subset of the full team. We met and brainstormed ideas and how we might celebrate our anniversary. We wanted a way to thank clients, our team and those who were important to our journey. We quickly realized that we couldn’t satisfy all of our audiences with one celebration. For starters, our clients are spread out all over North America, basically all over the U S and Canada. Second of all, what our team wanted out of a celebration. It was different from what we wanted to provide to our clients. So by the end of our first meeting, we determined we would set up two celebrations, one for our clients, friends and family, and one for our team. Next, we brainstormed many ideas for each.

Speaker 2: (04:06)
We started to think about options for the team before we could identify what we wanted to do with the team, we needed input from the entire company. So we conducted a survey asking for input from the survey. We found out that the team preferred a celebration for just us and they wanted it to be a unique experience, something they wouldn’t ordinarily do. They also wanted it to revolve around food and wine. If you know my team, that should come as no surprise. We settled on a private dinner and after more surveying and a little more research, we picked the chef’s table. Okay, good luck in Rochester’s village gate area. Would the employee celebration settled? We were back to the client and friends and family celebration for our clients. We knew it was impossible to host a client party in the traditional sense because our clients were all over.

Speaker 2: (04:59)
We started to brainstorm ideas for client gifts and then the light bulb went off. What if we hosted a virtual toast that we conducted through Facebook live so that all of our clients could join the celebration? We loved that idea and started to build on it. The toast would be virtual for our clients in live and in person for friends and family. We wanted to hold it on our birthday, October 14 [inaudible] to help our clients participate virtually. We decided to send them a bottle of sparkling wine from our client castle Larga vineyards with a custom label that exclaimed cheers to 10 years. Thank you for being part of our journey. These bottles of bubbly were shipped to 56 clients. In addition, printed wine tumblers with the cheers to 10 years message [inaudible] those to clients in Canada, [inaudible] and us States where we weren’t able to ship wine.

Speaker 2: (05:50)
The gifts arrived at our client’s addresses the week before our toast to make sure they knew the gifts were coming. We sent emails them for being part of our journey and letting them know about the virtual toast. Well, we were reaching out to clients. Each of our team members were encouraged [inaudible] their family, friends, [inaudible] anyone who may have worked with us throughout our first 10 years and made an impact on our company. These friends and family are invited to an open house and toast at our office on October 14th with everyone notified of the celebration. We prepared with toasting glasses and bubbly for the office and I got down to writing the speech for the toast. [inaudible] the owner and founder of the company. I wanted to highlight many of our successes, the team that helped to make it happen, the people we encountered along the way and the many experiences we had.

Speaker 2: (06:38)
Thinking about the toast reminded me of dr Seuss, his book. Oh, the places you will go. I received the book as a gift for my college graduation 25 years ago, and the wisdom that dr Seuss shared left an impression on me. My team knows that I like to write toast to the rhythms of well known pros at our team holiday dinner in 2018 I wrote the toast to the twas the night before Christmas story. I can’t say this was my own original idea. However, I took my inspiration from my sister, who is a fantastic speech writer and presenter, so I decided to write the toast to the rhythms of dr Seuss’s. Oh, the places you’ll go book. It started with, Oh, the places we’ll go. Congratulations. Today is BTS day in 2009 we were off to great places. We were off in a way, I won’t read the whole speech here, but you get the idea.

Speaker 2: (07:32)
If you want to see the toast, we will provide a link to the video on the show notes page of this episode. Our clients were invited to join us on Facebook live. We had about 40 friends, family and staff join us in person at the office and the celebration was amazing. I received countless emails from clients thanking me for the gift and congratulating us on our milestone birthday. One client was so inspired by our virtual toast, it gave them the idea to do a virtual launch of a new program. They are rolling out and they tapped us for ideas to help. We used Facebook advertising to help increase engagement and exposure of the virtual toast video after it was over and the responses and comments on Facebook and other social channels have been overwhelming. As for the dinner at good luck, it was perfect. I felt like I was sitting at the Thanksgiving day table with my family as they shared stories and remember Wen’s and we all laughed and genuinely we enjoyed each other’s company.

Speaker 2: (08:30)
I have a few other little details to share with you about our anniversary celebration. First, generating new business and finding new customers. [inaudible] is always on our minds. We decided to use our anniversary as a way to generate interest in our work and to show off our capabilities. For the month of October, we ran a weekly hashtag TBT email campaign for throwback Thursday where we shared a case from one of our many client projects that we have accomplished over the years along with a freebie download. Yeah, that we gave away. One person asked me about the freebie commenting that it was like giving away our secret sauce. My response was that we believe arising ship lifts all boats. If we can help people be better tourism marketers by sharing our knowledge, that is good for all of us and I am confident that the potential customers that are a right fit for us, we’ll see that and seek us out regardless if we give it away for free.

Speaker 2: (09:25)
First, another very important detail is that a Deena Miller on our team [inaudible] the reins of the planning. Once the PPC committee decided on a direction and she kept us all on track to pull it off, this was so important and we wouldn’t have been able to execute on all of our great ideas without her as our champion. In addition to helping us execute the celebrations. Edina thought of very special touches that made everything even more special. These ideas were so creative. I think you may like to hear them in case you are planning any future celebrations. On the day of our team dinner, which was two weeks after our actual birthday, Edina wanted the whole team to feel it was a special day. She found three special gifts that we could leave throughout the day on each team member’s desk. I loved her idea and supported it wholeheartedly by agreeing to invest in the gifts, which in the end made it as special.

Speaker 2: (10:18)
She wanted it to be. The first gift of the day was a mouse pad for everyone’s desk that lists our core values. Our core values are ingrained in our culture. We talk about them and live them every day of the week. This wasn’t a top down gift. It was truly a gift that represented our team and everyone appreciated. The second gift of the day was the wine tumbler that we send to clients. We do like to drink wine at BTI and this was a perfect gift. The third gift was by far everyone’s favorite and it was a mug with a caricature drawing of our entire team sitting next to each other with wine glasses in hand and with the same, the bigger the dream, the more important the team written underneath the image, the perfect personalized Momento for such an amazing celebration. Edina. Dennis sat there with her creative ideas. She got the entire team to chip in and buy me a gift.

Speaker 2: (11:10)
They purchased a hanging wooden wine rack, personalized with the company name and your established date. Then each team member bought a bottle of wine to fill the rack. They were charged with picking a bottle that reminded them of me or BTI and when they gifted it to me, each one explained why they made their selection. It was a lot of fun to hear their stories and I think it was fun for them to buy the wine and think about their selections too. The last little detail that Dina suggested was for the team dinner. She had the entire team brainstorm. Remember when she compiled them all into a single document, then cut the document up and handed out the remember Wednesday each team member to read during dinner. The fun part was they didn’t know, remember when they got and while some of them knew you remember when’s others didn’t and the whole evening was full of stories.

Speaker 2: (12:00)
Laughs and fun. Back to the theme of this podcast, episode gratitude. I am so grateful for this wonderful team. They are so genuine, deeply caring and a lot of fun to be around. I am the luckiest business owner that I know. It’s the anniversary celebration in October, wasn’t enough to keep us busy and fulfilled. I was honored to be the recipient of the small business person of the year award from the small business council in Rochester, New York. I thought I would share this story with you as well because there are a lot of lessons learned and good ideas that have come from the experience to start. I will say that when I was nominated for this award, I was hesitant to actually submit my application. The process for this award is it someone puts your name on the list but you as the nominee needs to fill out an extensive application to be considered?

Speaker 2: (12:50)
I was honored to be thought of and to have my name put forward. The nomination came at a very busy time and our team was overextended. We had a huge event that we were planning for our client travel Alliance partners and we were down one employee who was out due to injuries from a car accident. By the time things settled down for me to focus on the application, I only had two days to get it filled out and submitted. On top of that, it required three letters of reference, which meant three people were going to hear from me. Big ask and a short turnaround. Like I said, I almost didn’t even apply. It was my leadership team who encouraged me to submit the application and to yes approach it would the same can do attitude that we approach everything at BTI. A quick shout out to the three references that I used for this application, one of our very best clients, someone who pushes us to be the best that we can and to always exceed expectations.

Speaker 2: (13:42)
Kelly rapon, tourism director for the Genesee County office of tourism and Bobby go here, who runs the women president’s organization, that work group that I belong to you and who provides leadership coaching to me every month. [inaudible] to my leadership team, Rhonda, Sarah, and Camille who wrote a combined letter. The reference letters alone were affirmation that I was doing the right thing by submitting the application. The application was submitted in June and then we wait. In mid August. I received notification that I was one of five finalists in the under 50 employee category. There were an additional five finalists in the over 50 employee category. The announcement of finalists came out and congratulatory messages started pouring in. It was a great honor to be recognized alongside nine other Rochester community business leaders. There was a video to record an interview with the Rochester business journal head shots to provide and tickets to be bought all as a buildup to the main event.

Speaker 2: (14:40)
The launch event was held on October 11th four days before our birthday. There was a private reception that evening before and networking before the actual words event on the day of the lunch. I took advantage of all of it. I asked previous recipients if they had any advice. I was told to make sure you take advantage of the networking. It was the best part about the event. Another person told me to make sure I take time to hug my family if my name is called because photos can wait. Great advice. I met a lot of new people and I felt a deeper connection to the greater Rochester community, which I have lived in all my life. Even though I know a lot of people in this area, I find that we can get pigeonholed into our own industry networks or with the same group of faces as there are only so many committees, boards and volunteer opportunities you can take advantage of.

Speaker 2: (15:29)
This event. Gave me a whole new set of faces and I was open to meeting them. I met as many people as I could. I listened and ask questions and genuinely try to be present for all of it. On the day of the event, I prepared some remarks just in case my name was called. I don’t want to say that I was doubtful that it would be called because I did believe that I was as good any one of the finalists, but I also thought any one of the finalist names could be called. We were all that good. Okay. Prepared remarks because I didn’t want to be blubbering through a speech in front of 700 people at one of the biggest business lunches in the area. I gave thought to the speech and wanted it to be short but memorable. I drew inspiration from this podcast to come up with the theme and my key takeaway that I wanted to leave with the audience.

Speaker 2: (16:17)
The speech, thanks. My husband, he is always first. Then my family, my parents, my friends and my team. Then I shared my insight and it went like this when I was thinking about where they might share if my name were called today, I reflected on all of the little moments, aha moments that have shaped me as a leader, a CEO, as a business owner, a wife, mother and daughter. One in particular stood out to me the concept of cathedral thinking. Cathedral thinking goes back to the medieval times when an architect, stone Mason and artisan began construction on the large buildings that we become places of worship, community gathering spaces and safe havens. These visionaries would begin their work knowing that would not be completed in their lifetime, maybe not even their children’s lifetime. In some cases it would be three generations or more before the project was complete.

Speaker 2: (17:11)
We are all cathedral thinkers building our businesses for future generations, making impacts with our time to build better communities, supporting our families, and laying the foundation for our children and grandchildren for the next generation. I challenge all of us to keep having those big visions that will have far reaching impact and to work towards that vision today, even if we do so. Knowing that we won’t be around to see it completed. Keeping our focus on the longterm vision instead of the short term gain is what will build a strong and vibrant yeah future. That was an excerpt from my speech. You’ll will have a link to the video in the show notes of this episode if you’d like to see it live. Cathedral thinking was a topic that I explored on this show with Rick Anson and episode 44 if you missed it, I strongly recommend that you go back and listen to episode 44 it made a lasting impression on me and I know it will resonate with you too, and as I mentioned at the top of the story, my name was called.

Speaker 2: (18:12)
It was amazing. I was so surprised I started shaking, which doesn’t usually happen to me. I gave my speech and afterwards I had so many people come up and tell me what a great speech it was and the portion was even used in the new story that announced the winners. Now that is validation that you left an impression after receiving the award. A whole slew of new congratulatory messages started piling in through social media, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook through email, flowers and gifts and mailed cards. Amazing is the best way that I can think of to describe it. My team was so excited for me and for the company. My family was excited for me and for them. I was excited for me, my company, my team, and my family. My best advice, anyone that gets recognized with an award is to relish it. Take a minute, breathe it in.

Speaker 2: (19:04)
So often we don’t slow down long enough to celebrate ourselves. This gave me the inspiration to just take it. Yeah. All in. As a followup to the award, of course, pushed it out on our own channels, social media and email, but they wanted to take it a step further. I wrote personal handwritten notes to each of the finalists, all nine of them, including the winter in the over 50 employee category. I wanted to congratulate them and to express my gratitude for being recognized alongside. Yeah, all of them. Wow. That was my October and I am so grateful for all of it. Before we wrap up this episode, I wanted to share what’s on the horizon. We are in the midst of planning our first ever destination on the left virtual summit and best of all it will be free for all of you to participate.

Speaker 2: (19:53)
I am really excited to bring this new content to our audience. I have 13 of our past podcast guests signed up as presenters. The event will take place December 9th through the 11th and the best news is you won’t have to leave your office. You will be able to access all of the awesome sessions that we are putting together from your own computer, no travel time, no hotel nights, just great content and more ways to learn from our smart podcast guests. We wanted to provide a topic that would be most helpful to all of you as we finish out 2019 and go into 2020 the theme of the virtual summit will focus on tourism, marketing effectiveness, proving value, relevancy and ROI. I am hoping that this content will provide you with 2020 vision as we flipped the calendar to the next decade. Our registration page with all of this summit details will be going live next week.

Speaker 2: (20:49)
We will send out an email and share the page on our social channels. If you want to be one of the first to be notified at this event, please text D O T L [inaudible] six six eight six six that’s D O T L too, six six eight six six and we will add you to our email list. It makes sure you are one of the first to find out about the virtual summit. I am so grateful for the amazing October and equally grateful for the opportunity to continue to serve you our destination on the left. Listeners, thanks for sticking with me all the way to the end of this episode. I’ll be back next week with another amazing and smart

Speaker 1: (21:30)
it’s time to hit the road again. Visit destination on the left.com during your travels for more podcasts, show notes and fresh ideas.

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