Monday, September 13, 2010

Standing On Tradition Or Wiping My Feet On It

"I'm content to stand on tradition.
I'm even more content to wipe my feet on it."

-- Aaron Allston
How does one create a tradition? Do something many times on a regular basis. Regular can mean any time frame, like per year, per month, and so on. Just do a thing over and over for a while and it is then a tradition. If we do it long enough, it becomes our heritage.
Many things we do in business become traditions. Take an event for example. You think of an event, promote it and it works, so you make it an "annual" event or some such. Maybe a certain sale, teaming with a charity, tying an event to another local event.
What happens next? It gets old and drags on people. It becomes an obligation. People try to take time off during that event, or vacation, or some other excuse to miss it. It's dead, but we are wary of burying it and being done with it.
This train of thought had me remembering an annual event that we used to have where I worked. I was there for the first one. The wonderful man I worked for was very good at making the event special, had plenty to see and do, live music, small shows for entertainment, food, and so on. He promoted the heck out of it. Made a big deal of it. And, it was a huge success. I watched and learned from a master.
He left us all too soon, and another manager took his place. He decided to keep the event and so we did it again and again each year and each year it lost more of its pizazz. It was boring and people didn't want to participate as they did. It wasn't promoted, there wasn't anything special happening, no shows, cheesy music, lousy food.
Now move ahead and over 25 seasons later, I see the event is still going. . . poorly. No one wants to participate, it is a pain the the behind to almost everyone involved. It is not promoted at all, so the traffic is almost non-existent. Why in the world do we keep doing it? Tradition. It's the 26th year, and we had one year repeated 25 times, but certainly not done the same way. It has become an anchor.
Continuing like this gives pain to all involved. So there are two clear choices to me: One, kill it and be done with it. And, two, GET EXCITED ABOUT IT! Change it up. Promote the heck out of it. Blog about it, Twit it, facebook it, tumblr it and generally get the word out. Next, create some draws. Why would people want to come? Why should they? What will they miss if they don't come? Make it exciting and interesting and change it up year by year. Create a bit of suspense. Add to the event. Create more going on. Get more people excited and involved. Make it a happening! In other words, take it away from tradition and the resultant obligation, and turn it into a brand new event every year.
An event is what we make it after all.

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