Know your worth. If you don’t see the greatness within you and your team no one will. Yet, while understanding your value make sure you are taking time to evaluate your performance as a team and individually so you can fix any issues that may be brewing.
As part of my series about the “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lucky Church, a Global Liaison and a Master relationship builder with over 15 years of experience in the Entertainment Industry. Born in Harlem and raised in the Bronx, Lucky graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School, boasting such luminary Alumni as Stan Lee, Tracy Morgan and Ralph Lauren. Inspired by his secondary education, Lucky chose to further his studies at S.U.N.Y. Farmingdale, where he honed his talents.
Having worked with huge brands like the Grammy Awards, Fat Joe, Nike, Wu-Tang Clan, Team Jordan, BET, Universal Records, DJ Khaled, and many others, it’s safe to say that Lucky Church has made a name for himself as the behind-the-scenes, go-to guy in the entertainment industry. With over 15 years of PR and networking experience, he has become a super-connector, global liaison, and pro at building meaningful relationships.
Simons, currently director of client relations and PR at Mungo Creative Group, is a man who cannot be defined by one single role. The Harlem native wears many hats and has very recently partnered with Billy Porter, taking over his social media and content. He has a natural gift for building and cultivating relationships, and it shines through all that he does.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, 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?
Wow, my backstory is one for the books in many ways yet, I really wouldn’t change my journey because I feel it was the seasoning I needed to be the man I am today. Being born in Harlem and raised in the Bronx made me feel as if I had the best of two unique worlds. I was abruptly moved from Harlem to the Bronx one day when my Mom dropped my brother and I at my Aunt Bernadette’s house. I remember her cold lips kissing me on my forehead and saying she was going to grab a gallon of milk. She said she would be right back… I didn’t see my mother again for the next 6 years and even then I would see her in between drug binges. My mom wasn’t a bad person. She was a victim of her circumstances and she did what she always wanted better for my brother and I even if that meant us not being with her. We ended up staying with my grandparents in the Bronx which wasn’t the happiest of times. Honestly, it was the most terrifying time of my life. My baby brother and I were viciously abused during our youth which was a perfect recipe to breed insecurities, violent tendencies among other intense issues. I guess you could say we were nurtured by the streets yet, deep inside I decided to turn my pain into power and I utilized my creativity as a source of stress relief. That’s when I discovered my love for music and entertainment in general would be the key to changing my life. I spent my early years exploring my various talents in the school choir, ballet, the band, track & field, chess club, the poetry society and so much more. I was attempting to find myself. I was also in a series of R&B groups in my mid to late teenage years which didn’t really do too well but I did gain valuable experience that prepared me for my musical journey in college. While in college I was in a hip hop/rock band that allowed me to grow immensely. I was not only the one of the lead singers but I was also a songwriter, arranger, publicist, manager, video director, editor, social media manager and everything else. I didn’t realize these titles were actual roles in the entertainment business and I was being groomed by my experiences. During this period I began to blossom socially and I didn’t realize my band was preparing me for a future in the entertainment business as a mover and shaker. The opportunity that allowed me to spread my wings was when I worked for Lizzie Grubman PR & Management. I was called by one of my mentors to assist him on a few projects in her office. I delivered above and beyond on my first day. Within a week I had a desk, private line and business cards. Within the next 3 months I was the head of client relations and Lizzie created a new division for me to spearhead called Concierge Services. This was the beginning of my love affair with what it meant to be a power player behind the scenes. I was able to use my unique skill set and networking abilities to grow both divisions of LGPR while establishing a name for myself. Lizzie always supported me and my goals. After 2 years of a successful run with LGPR we decided to part ways so I could explore opportunities for growth in ways I could never imagine to be possible at the time.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
In this business you will always face hard times that make you want to throw it all away. I have faced this issue so many times. The hardest thing I faced in the beginning of my career was rejection. Rejection can break the most confident people into particles of dust. I remember cold calling companies to work with my band or to work with my clients. Sometimes people were rude, dismissive or down right racist at times. I remember one specific situation when I was hired for a job over the phone. They loved me and wanted me to come in the next day to fill out the paperwork. As I arrived security approached and asked me why I was there. I politely explained and they called more security to walk me to the office of the CEO. When I arrived at the office the CEO looked me in my eyes and said, “Wait a minute, you’re Walter Simons. This can’t be. If it wasn’t for your voice I wouldn’t even believe your people could be so professional.” My heart plummeted to the floor. Yet, I never let that discourage me from pushing forward and understanding my own personal value. Growing up on some of the toughest streets in the world you learn not to take words to heart. My rough childhood taught me how to survive and I was determined not to be broken by anyone who wasn’t smart enough to see my worth beyond my beautiful skin color. While I was in elementary school I was blessed to have an amazing Jewish teacher name Mrs. Cymbal. She was one of the first people to teach my fellow students and I the harsh lesson on race and inequality. She separated my class into two groups of green and red. The green group were considered the good kids and could eat candy or do whatever they wanted. The red group wasn’t allowed to do anything except watch the green group as we sat with our hands folded. She even picked on the red group and made sure we knew the green group was better than us. I remember crying my eyes out because I wanted to be with my friends in the green group. The entire class broke down in tears and some kids in the green group ran over to the red group to hug us and tell us it will be ok. The innocence of children is a true blessing on this planet. Needless to say she explained a lot more about racism and how we would face it as we moved forward in our lives. I am pretty sure in today’s world she would be fired for such an experiment yet, my class was forever changed. We didn’t fully understand it then but we knew it was wrong and that’s what mattered most. The lesson still rings clear in my life till this day and has helped me navigate some of the roughest roads in my life. I consider this the foundation of me understanding that my blackness was beautiful even if others couldn’t see it.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
One of the funniest mistakes I ever made was during the filming of one of my bands music videos. I was new to directing videos but I gladly stepped into the role to make sure my band didn’t have to postpone our filming date. While directing the video my gut was telling me to make sure I stay on top of the camera man and all of the extras involved with the shoot. Yet, I chose to trust everyone as professionals to do their jobs. The shoot was an overall success but during the editing process I quickly realized the camera guy forgot to wipe his lens clean for 80% of the video footage and he even left the lens cap on for a few scenes. I was floored and I learned very quickly to not only trust my gut but I also learned the importance of the directors role on set. I was supposed to make sure everyone was on point and grabbing the necessary shots to deliver the proper visuals. We learned how to navigate a beer budget when the expectations were in the realm of caviar and champagne. Moving forward I made sure I researched camera men with vast experience that went beyond my immediate list of friends and family in the business. You always get what you pay for and us trying to cut corners without an actual plan in place was a huge mistake. I learned the value of planning ahead, growing from my mistakes and also finding creative ways to utilize the blurry footage since we couldn’t afford to reshoot the scenes. This was a true make it work moment and that’s what we did.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I am currently the owner of Lucky Church LLC. I am also the head of Client Relations and Social Media Management at Mungo Creative Group based in NYC/Milwaukee. What makes our company stand out is the lack of ego amongst our team. No one on our team feels they are better than anyone else and we realize it’s all about our collective efforts that can make or break us as a team. We don’t allow outside gossip to affect us and if we have any questionable moments with a client or internally we diagnose it amongst ourselves to get the clarity we need before creating the necessary solution to move forward. We are also filled with a wealth of creative ideas that continue to amaze our clients. As a creative agency we pride ourselves on thinking outside the box and delivering beyond our clients expectations. I even came up with a quote that describes our team perfectly. “We don’t make excuses, we create solutions’’. This is the Mungo way all day everyday. There have been quite a few clients who have put us to the test. We had a few clients who would spend months planning visuals and other ideas for the content they needed. Yet, 24 hours before the shoot we would receive an email or a call with an entire new direction or saying they won’t be able to provide the assets we needed from their end. Needless to say we never panic and we always have a backup plan for the back up plan with a back up plan. We learned to expect any and all changes at any time so we can always have resources on call when we need them most. Always being prepared and ready to go at the drop of a dime allowed our clients to build a high level of trust with us. This trust usually leads to a long working relationship and expanding our working relationship into other projects they may not have considered us for previously. We become their go to and that’s our goal above all. We always want to provide full service for our amazing list of clients.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
This is a great question. It’s so easy to burn out in an industry that can be highly competitive and unforgiving. Yet, I have always told my friends and colleagues to make sure they truly love what they do. If you love your craft you can usually see past the breaking points and find ways to push forward understanding that problems are inevitable in any industry. Beyond the love one must learn the art of saying no. Sometimes we try to take on too many projects even when we know we are on the verge of losing our minds. Self care is essential to survival on every level. Learning to take time for yourself will be healing and therapeutic. Also, find a MENTOR! I can’t stress this part enough. We can always learn something from those who have paved the way. Find someone who is on or beyond a similar track of success you envision for yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. There is no shame in needing guidance during difficult points of your career. Even mentors have mentors and that should be a statement within itself. Lastly, remember you are not exempt from problems or roadblocks along your journey. The problems you have seen in your industry will most likely cross your path at some point in one form or another. Accepting this early in your career can help cushion some of the unexpected blows coming from every direction. Never ever give up on yourself or your dreams. Your dreams are your responsibility and nobody owes you anything in the long run. Your dreams will only work as hard as you do.
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?
There have been so many people that helped me along my amazing journey. My wife Vieng has always been my number one supporter since day one. Despite our ups and downs during our journey her faith in me has never waivered. No matter what my dreams were she would always drop everything to be there when I needed her most and unfortunately that’s a rare trait in today’s world. When I was in my R&B groups she was always at the front of the stage screaming the loudest. Partially because she wanted everyone to know who I was with lol but, I loved every second of it. When I was in my rock band she would help with designs, styling choices, promotion, travel expenses, video expenses and so much more. No matter what, she always stuck by my side and that’s why she has my loyalty till this day. She held my hand during both of my heart surgeries and allowed me to be vulnerable without judgement. That’s more powerful than anything. I also have to mention my brother, business partner and mentor Ty Hunter. Ty has been one of my biggest inspirations and teachers. He is the King of killing them with kindness and he’s taught me how to navigate an industry filled with sharks. From the day we met many years ago during NYFW he’s always been a bright light guiding my path and I am forever grateful. One of my favorite moments with Ty was actually during the scariest time of my life. When I was rushed into my first heart surgery a few years back I was a ball of nerves. I remember being in the ER thinking I was there for gas pain when in reality I was in the midst of an aneurysm. My wife told me to call all of my family before I was rushed into surgery and no one answered. My final call was to Ty and he answered immediately at 6:30AM. I was shocked. I proceeded to explain my situation and Ty simply replied “God got you brother, you are not done on this earth and this is going to be a surgery to help you complete your mission. I am not worried at all. I will speak to you after surgery. Stay calm and know that you will be ok”. I was so moved by his words that I almost got cocky and was ready to rush into surgery. I remember wiping the last tear from my eye while grabbing my wifes hand to comfort her. I could see my recovery and focused on manifesting my healing. I am forever thankful to have a beautiful soul like Ty Hunter in my life. My wife Vieng and Ty have truly become my earth Angels.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?
What defines a good company to me is any organization who is known for doing good work but probably lacks consistency, follow through and they don’t fully understand the worth of their team. I also believe an average company won’t really focus on the team as a whole and usually has specific employees who are known to fill in for the team members who fall short of the expected level of excellence. Good teams usually get in their own way instead of doing an internal audit to find their weaknesses and address them. What can make a company great in my opinion is how strong the team is as individuals and as a unit. I believe in working with people who are experts in their field who can also keep you on your toes. I never want to be the smartest person in the room and my team is filled with people I respect, admire and depend on their expertise. A great team also knows there is no specific recipe for success. They are bold and understand the value of taking risk when needed. A great team is not measured by the mistakes they’ve made but by their ability to snap back from adversity. A team that makes no mistakes is a team destined for failure in my book. Mistakes are what mold and develop some of the greatest companies that are still thriving today. Mistakes are probably the most necessary ingredient for ultimate success if you choose to find the value in the lessons learned.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.
The five most important pieces to lead a company from good to great are:
- Understanding your team dynamics and utilizing your team in the most effective ways according to their abilities.
- Remove all EGO….. egos can destroy a team from within and affect the ability to deliver at a high level for your clients.
- Learn the art of networking. Your network, connections and relationships will always be your most valuable assets.
- Learn from your mistakes and learn to adjust quickly. Mistakes are inevitable and the faster you learn from them the faster you can grow from them as well.
- Know your worth. If you don’t see the greatness within you and your team no one will. Yet, while understanding your value make sure you are taking time to evaluate your performance as a team and individually so you can fix any issues that may be brewing.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?
Purpose is key to defining many businesses in today’s world. Purpose can help align companies with potential clients they may not have considered them initially and also allows the organization to learn more about their own team as a whole. A higher purpose is not about economics. It allows others to see the inner aspirations of your company and reveals how you’re making a real difference in the world around you. Defining your brand or company’s purpose allows the world to see your heart on your sleeve which is important to today’s consumers. It also will help drive the passion of your team and clients as you imbed the purpose into your daily goals and tasks. The purpose needs to be authentic and align with the overall trajectory of your business. Purpose helps you find your stride while maintaining core values. I believe everyone should find a purpose but I don’t think this model is cookie cutter or a right fit for everyone.
What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
I believe we’ve all experienced “The Wall” during our journey. A point where business is being maintained but the growth has slowed down immensely. During these times I always advise people to learn how to adapt or pivot. Anything can happen at any given moment and I live with this thought in the back of my mind which helps me adjust in the most tricky situations. If your growth stopped maybe it’s time to reinvent your brand or the business model. We’ve all heard the legendary Apple story and how they turned their profits around after discovering a need within their industry and building a business model around that need. My company went through something similar a few years back when we realized we plateaued in a few areas of our business. We took the time to reevaluate our brand strategy, business plan and company goals as whole. This is when we discovered we were specializing in areas such as content creation, marketing and branding among other areas of our business. We used this information to pivot our business focus and also cut a few divisions of our company that were not as profitable as we initially thought. We devised a new plan, hired new staff to compliment the new vision and rebranded ourselves. This move was probably our best move yet because prior to and during 2020 when most companies struggled to find their footing we were able to naturally transition into our new plan. We rebuilt our business substantially while maintaining the core values and vision we started with. Some of our clients noticed our new vision and asked us to advise them on ways to rebuild within their own brands.
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?
There are so many ways to maintain growth in any economy. One of the best ways to maintain your business is by making sure you deliver quality work at all times. Keeping your clients happy and always delivering beyond expectations is key to your clients spreading the word about you or your work. Allow your work to speak for itself so you can be the go to when your clients need you most. Also, building and maintaining relationships is key. Get up, get out and meet people. Sometimes that means hiring someone on your team who is a master relationship builder. Also reevaluate what you’re spending your money on. Do you really need that office space you’re renting if most of your work is digital and your team can work from home 90% of the time? You can reallocate the funds to and make sure you have a cushion for those rainy days. Empowering your team is also a powerful tool to keep your business on track. Acknowledging staff for their amazing work and accomplishments is an easy way to boost team morale. Your team is your most powerful asset at all times. The last thing any company needs is an internal leak of negativity. A happy team equals a more productive environment for everyone which often leads to happier clients and higher revenue.
In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Networking is the most underestimated and underrated by many brands. I say this because most businesses don’t understand that networking must work hand in hand with follow ups and genuinely maintaining the bond with your contacts. In my career I have always considered my wealth to be my health and my vast network of contacts. In times where business seemed to dwindle I would always rely on my valuable relationships to find additional opportunities for growth in my industry. I remember a specific relationship with a dear friend in the music industry. We would speak and laugh about life in general for years before we actually found a way to work together. Yet, due to my consistent follow ups, genuine conversations and building a real bond over the years I was the first person he thought of when a major opportunity appeared on his desk. When networking the key thing is to always be genuine and not oversell yourself. If you are looking to build a real relationship you can’t approach it with an ulterior motive. Sometimes you have to let the opportunities find you just as much as we push towards seeking the next big win.
As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?
One of the best ways to convert a visit into a sale is by knowing your potential client. Do your research and make sure you know who your customer is. Don’t overspeak and allow the client to tell you what they are looking for but always be prepared with ideas to compliment what they want while delivering things they don’t realize they need. Building and earning trust is a major factor as well. Once they trust you conversion is easy but you also have to work diligently to maintain their trust. Whether you are converting business in person or online these are key aspects to keep in mind.
Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
Authenticity is Key. People can smell a fake from a mile away and even if they can’t, the truth always finds a way to reveal itself when you least expect it. Always be transparent. If you want to be a trusted business or brand make sure you are worthy of your request. As I said previously, make sure you are building genuine relationships. I can’t stress the importance of this piece enough. Own your mistakes and never be too proud to admit you were wrong. Yet, if you are in the wrong also be prepared to approach with solutions that fix the situation even if that means passing the business to someone who may be better suited for the clients needs. Showing that you care for your client beyond your financial needs will help secure and strengthen your relationship for the future. Also deliver top notch customer service and never minimalize your clients issues. If they think it’s an issue face it head on and provide the understanding they need to move forward.
Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?
Kindness is the golden rule when creating a great customer experience. Leading with kindness and learning not to take everything so personal when dealing with clients can help you avoid situations that can boil over into chaos. Learn to listen, sometimes people just want to be heard and in the midst of their experience the client sometimes just wants to know the brand cares about them. Everyone wants to feel appreciated and respected even if they are only making a purchase for 1 dollar. How you treat the smallest issues will be a big reflection of how many clients see you as a whole. Be a brand that is known for keeping their word while delivering above and beyond client expectations. Also, check in with your clients when they least expected. Common courtesy is often the secret sauce of the most successful brands. Remember you are also a client to someone and it could easily be you in the seat of your client.
What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern?
We’d love to hear your thoughts about this. Without risk there is no reward. Everything we do will have risk attached. We can’t walk through life or operate a successful business while walking on eggshells. We can’t please everyone at all times and no platform has proven this to be more true than social media as a whole. Companies need to understand who their audience is and how to speak to them using social media by staying true to their brand messaging. They also must be prepared to face backlash for aspects that may be true to their brand but not socially acceptable at the moment. Owning one’s mistakes will be crucial to building the right audience who will be loyal to the brand. Don’t seek the need to be politically correct at every given moment. Own up to who you are as a brand and the right audience will gravitate to you. A reputation rooted in lies to accommodate the masses will eventually crumble under its own weight. Keep the authenticity front and center and you will reap the rewards in the end. I call this the Cardi B rule.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
The most common mistake I see CEOs and founders make is not trusting their team or hiring people at a cheaper rate who aren’t truly qualified for the task they’ve designated for them. If you don’t trust your team you need to reevaluate your choices and start from scratch if necessary. A team is only as strong as their weakest link. If someone is not performing up to company standards or expectations the people in charge must be willing to make the tough decisions that will help push the company in the right direction. I’ve also noticed some CEOs and Founders who are too controlling or demanding even if they are usually the main reason their company is failing. In these situations I wish more CEO’s or Founders would learn to let go of the control sometimes and trust the experts they’ve hired to do their job accordingly. Lastly the biggest mistake I’ve seen is CEOs and Founders who take credit for all of the work and forget to acknowledge the brilliance of their team. I have been in this situation so many times in my past which is why it’s refreshing to be a part of teams that now see my value, respect me while appreciating me as an asset rather than a liability to their need to be the star of the show at all times.
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If I could start a movement it would be the “Love Yourself Movement” or the “You Are Beautiful Movement”. Beauty and self love has become something we manufacture as if it’s attached to body parts, material assets or financial gain. I wish more people would be able to look into the mirror and see that Beauty, Love and happiness has always started within them. I always dreamed of starting a website where people would log into a website and the words “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL” will appear on the screen in big bold letters followed by the camera revealing their image and a short note reminding them that they are perfect just the way they are. I don’t think we appreciate true beauty, uniqueness and self love as much as we should. If all humans across the globe could appreciate the beauty of everyone around them this world would be a much better place. Love has always been and will always be the answer.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!