Sunday, July 13, 2014

Failure Coach LIV

Retreat at Tan-Tar-A                         

Irene Siena was clear that she wanted the board and key stakeholders to regroup and plan for the future of AEFFSF.  So Abbeshire & Bluestone suggested a retreat to inspire, invigorate and get everyone on the same page. “Tan-Tar-A Resort is located directly on the Lake of the Ozarks just far enough away for everyone to focus on positive ways to marry business with pleasure.” Says Daniel Bluestone, in his most persuasive client pitch mode tone.“Beautiful views of the Lake of the Ozarks,” he paused, smiled and added “It doesn’t hurt that it is also a premium golf destination for those so inclined.” Daniel already knew he would likely be able to convince Bob Caster, Alan Edgewater and a player to be named later to fill a foursome on Thursday. That round was scheduled with the fourth golfer being Jimmy, an audio/visual/computer tech Abbeshire & Bluestone contracted to make sure all things involving technology were managed flawlessly. Jimmy was a soft spoken twenty-something with a smooth swing and a natural athletic ability. This team bonded on the golf course, all sharing a desire to facilitate a first rate retreat.


The early October weekend arrived and the foursome became the informal advance team. They were ready as the proceedings kicked off. An orientation and a full day on Friday spilled over into sessions on Saturday. There still would be time to relax that weekend, go for a boat ride on the lake, play golf, BBQ whatever. Extending through Sunday was also an option and it seemed like that was a popular idea for many participants. AEFFSF reserved a block of rooms at a group rate in advance.


Alan shuffled papers with notes as he facilitated brainstorming, breakout sessions and teambuilding exercises. 10 of the 12 board members were able to participate. Only two board members had unavoidable conflicts but submitted input in advance which was summarized by Abbeshire & Bluestone account managers. One-on-one and small group interviewing techniques to probe initiatives and generate innovative thinking applied. The discussion guide for interviews served as a sort of outline for Alan Edgewater as he challenged the group to think outside of the box. In all they occupied 22 rooms. Abbeshire & Bluestone staffers doubled up in three of those rooms. Jan Abbeshire and Daniel Bluestone shared a suite. Irene Siena, Alan Edgewater, Bob Caster, Lori Ripp and the remaining board members about half sans-spouse. In all, 32 guests enjoyed the amenities of Tan-Tar-A while sessions averaged 20-24 people with staffers quietly recording events and running around managing scheduled breaks.


The retreat was a blockbuster success. Board-members, agency and support people in and around the AEFFSF were fired up. Alan Edgewater was the perfect catalyst for distilling the accomplishments thus far and projecting a vision for the organization going forward. The team from Abbeshire & Bluestone were brilliant in capturing the essence of the proceedings while video segments punctuated accomplishments of the scholars. Edited with quality footage from the Newark public television production, the Philadelphia awards evening and highlights of Alan Edgewater and a moving tribute to Coach Robert Siena left not a dry eye in the house. This was not your average non-profit. This was big and was destined to become even bigger as board members enthusiastically supported the notion of adding value to assure continuing success of not only the scholars into perpetuity but also their families. In addition, it was clear that the schools liked the idea of fortifying the award with amenities and accommodations of their own. Being among the schools was becoming an honor on educational opportunity unlike any other. The University of Miami, Oberlin College, Pittsburg State University and New York University all received unprecedented social media activity followed by almost instant recognition of the AEFFSF scholars who became almost overnight celebrities. Johnny Appleseed, as the first recipient grew into the role as elder statesman with an eye on law school, Andrew Valentine was instantly recognized as a talented vocalist with viral videos with more than a million views, Alicia Apricot was surprised at how her interest in Construction Management vaulted her into a celebrated spokesperson for careers in construction through the Association of General Contractors (AGC) and Gloria Beck instantly capitalized on her existing franchise of followers featuring examples of her acting triumphs.       


The team at Abbeshire & Bluestone synthesized the notes and within three weeks generated what was to become a beautifully written and designed strategic platform with a dozen specific actionable steps, six of which were short term and six of which were long term objectives. Each supported by comments and reactions to the Tan-Tar-A weekend retreat.


Short Term

1.      Continue to champion the AEFFSF scholars

2.      Continue to offer the unconditional annual awards  (i.e. not based on academics, athletic or other ability).

3.      Leverage the success of the scholars with leadership grants through AEFFSF even as they graduate (i.e. assist scholars interested in post graduate training or career launch)

4.      Produce annual report and documentation with optimal transparency

5.      Selectively and conservatively support family and influencer network activity with incremental funding

6.      Continue to develop unprecedented model for scholarship

Long Term

1.      Assist in placement/role for scholars to assume leadership for future successes

2.      Train future leaders to propel sustainable AEFFSF for 100 years or more

3.      Manage fund for growth to keep the AEFFSF infrastructure relevant and healthy

4.      Develop an academic circle for participating universities/institutions willing to offer attractive benefits for AEFFSF scholars

5.      Develop incubator for entrepreneurship based on leadership direction suggested by scholars

6.      Make Alan Edgewater Failure First Scholarship Fund (AEFFSF) the gold standard of non-profit enterprise

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