Ask for feedback (even if it is hard to hear). Everyone can learn in turbulent times, and the CEO/President is no different. It is important to hear from your team members and allow them to have a voice, even when they disagree with the way you handled something. This is not easy, but it is important.
As part of my series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lindsay Bertelli.
As Owner and President of REACH, Lindsay has 20+ years of in-depth experience in tour/event promotion and production and sponsorship management. Her work with top entertainment and corporate clients has made her a well-known force in the industry with the knowledge and expertise needed to navigate the changing, and increasingly virtual, event and sponsorship environment.
Lindsay began her career as a concert promoter at Moore Entertainment Group, which ultimately affiliated with TBA Entertainment and AEG Live. She managed eleven years of production and sponsorship for CMT On Tour, which involved artists Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban, Sugarland, Brad Paisley, and Jason Aldean.
With the launch of REACH in 2011, Lindsay combined her years of experience as a concert promoter with progressive experiential marketing methods for clients looking to maximize their visibility and reach in the entertainment and lifestyle landscape.
Lindsay believes that today’s partnerships are more than just the placement of a brand logo on a festival stage or tour marketing materials. Instead, it is discovering, creating, and executing innovative ways to authentically interact with the consumer by providing memorable experiences that bring into sharp focus the desired message of an artist or brand.
REACH has worked for an array of brands since its conception, including Toyota, Norwegian Cruise Line, SiriusXM, Farmers Insurance, Calgary Stampede, ConAgra Foods, Bravo TV, Kretschmar, and more.
A Delaware native, Lindsay loves to travel and explore new places with her daughter. Lindsay is a graduate of Belmont University with a degree in Music Business. Her quick wit and sense of humor stem from her love of great 80’s and 90’s sitcoms like Designing Women and Golden Girls. On the weekends, you’ll likely find Lindsay surrounded by friends hosting a fantastic dinner party at her home in Nashville.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I grew up in Delaware, and I moved to Nashville, TN to attend Belmont University to study music business. I’m the only daughter of an art teacher and a farmer/business owner who taught me that I needed to work hard for what I wanted in this life. While attending Belmont, I took a concert promotion class and fell in love with the combination of the creativity of marketing a show and the logistics of executing and financially settling a show. I was hooked. I began my career as a concert promoter at Moore Entertainment Group, which ultimately affiliated with TBA Entertainment and AEG Live. In 2011, I started my own talent buying, event production and experiential marketing agency called REACH.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
At age 22, I was asked to fax (yes, fax!) an offer to a booking agent for an artist to play a specific date. I mistakenly faxed the offer to the wrong agent in an entirely different, competitive agency. It caused quite a bit of hassle and turmoil for my boss at the time, and I was humiliated by my mistake. It taught me to slow down. It also taught me that I could get 150% done in a day, but if the extra 50% is sloppy and done wrong, I should have just focused on doing the 100% right.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My professor at Belmont who taught me concert promotion and booking and then became my one and only boss in the music industry, Steve Moore. He gave me my first shot. I worked alongside him and learned from him for 13 years. When I wanted to start REACH, he invested in the company and me. I will be forever grateful because he believed in me and still does.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
REACH was founded to help our clients create and execute the best entertainment and strategic experiential marketing campaigns. Our partners benefit from the unique opportunities REACH can present and execute, resulting in robust, results-driven marketing initiatives and once-in-a-lifetime experiences for their consumers.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
Prior to the pandemic, REACH had more than 25 events on the calendar with six different clients. All of these events were supposed to be live events. Two months into the pandemic, they were all canceled. There were three key things that I did during the first two months of the pandemic:
- Identified and applied for government funding available for small businesses (PPP, EIDL loan, grants, etc.).
- Held a company-wide Zoom meeting where I outlined what was anticipated (as far as our clients/live events), the company’s plan for seeking assistance and how our focus needed to shift to ideate campaigns for our clients that would resonate and ensure ROI during the pandemic.
- Closed the office and outlined the remote-work plan to ensure that our employees and their families would be safe.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
I have never considered giving up, but I have been halted in my tracks by challenges or briefly frozen by difficult times. It’s essential to stop and analyze the situation and quickly dive in to uncover the steps to continue/pivot. In this case, it helps that I am ridiculously stubborn.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
An honest communicator. I believe it is critical to lead with a level of transparency. That transparency should always include the issues at hand and the plan for moving forward. I want the team to feel educated on the company’s status and direction and understand how they can support from their roles.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
Encourage, communicate and listen. The best way to manage and motivate a team is to encourage discussion, creativity and collaboration. Alongside that, your team must feel heard and understood. As always, I believe it is important to lead with a level of transparency.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
I find it best to be forthcoming and direct. It is best to deal with an issue head-on and to own your part in the difficulty/mistake if and when necessary.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
You plan for as many scenarios as you can, and then you embrace your ability to pivot.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
Always be transparent.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
- Reacting too quickly and not communicating the reasoning behind their decisions, leaving employees to feel unsettled and “in the dark”.
- Panic. Employees can see/sense your panic and will, in return, begin to panic. While it is best to have a level of transparency in your communication, panic should not be an emotion that is shared company-wide.
- Not encouraging open communication and feedback. While this is the easier route sometimes, in the long run, it is not the best option for the success of the company.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
We utilize our key learnings to grow and succeed. It’s also smart to research what other clients and agencies are doing to see how you might be able to utilize those technologies or forward-thinking ideas for your clients. I’m always learning and always ideating.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Always maintain a level of transparency. Communicate often and be as open and transparent as you can be. It is best to communicate about the company’s status and your plan of action in the same conversation so that your team understands your plan to “right the ship.”
- Encourage consistent communication. Ensure that your team knows that you have an “open-door policy” and that they can bring questions, concerns, etc., to you for discussion at any time. This doesn’t mean that you have to answer or address everything, but it allows you to manage the direction of communication.
- Celebrate even the small wins. During turbulent or trying times, it may seem as if there aren’t many “wins” to be excited about, but it is important to share even the smallest wins. Positivity can only breed more positivity.
- Share your vision for the company and your plans/steps to get there. Even if you only share this vision with your key team leaders in the company, it is best to have a level of accountability to help you maintain the direction you desire the company to take.
- Ask for feedback (even if it is hard to hear). Everyone can learn in turbulent times, and the CEO/President is no different. It is important to hear from your team members and allow them to have a voice, even when they disagree with the way you handled something. This is not easy, but it is important.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Crisis moments create opportunity. Problems and crises ignite our greatest creativity and thought leadership as it forces us to focus on things outside the norm.” — Sam Cawthorn
This quote was one I printed and put up in my home office to remind me to use these moments to encourage and spark creativity. It was an excellent reminder.
How can our readers further follow your work?
I’ve also written some articles for Experience Good, a thought leadership platform for event marketers: https://www.experiencegood.co/
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!