Q: Please state your name, location and occupation?
A: From the town where they still say “cool beans,” aka Boston, Mass., I’m Rick Cram and as a consultant and speaker, my purpose is to help your business and you grow by equipping you to strategically plan to be your best as you navigate change. It’s a framework with the most effective ways to plan, lead and communicate your way through transitions, no matter how tough things get.
Q: How did you get into public speaking?
A: An executive at the Federal Home Loan Banks asked me to speak at their annual managers meeting. He said, “We’re having a difficult time as a company and need a program to give our managers ideas on how they can lead themselves and their teams through this. I know of your work in strategic marketing and leading employee and customer engagement events. Can you put together something for us?” It occurred to me that he just asked me to do what I’ve been preparing for my entire career.
Q: We recently shared the above encouraging video on our social media and loved your calming radio voice and good ideas. Where do you find your motivation?
A: I draw on three things:
- My professional experience with all that I’ve learned from helping hundreds of companies drive and respond to change
- My personal experiences, including navigating both good times and tough stuff (e.g. seven surgeries on my left knee, for one)
- A commitment to help people turn the challenges associated with change into action plans for success. I believe when you learn how to do something difficult and get through it stronger than before, you’re uniquely qualified to help others do the same.
Q: It seems you have life all figured out! Do you ever get discouraged? If so, how do you work through it?
A: I’m still no stranger to getting discouraged. Yes, I’ve found a number of very effective keys to plow through discouragement which work for businesses as well as individuals, yet I have to practice them myself… sometimes daily and sometimes hourly. In addition to these challenging COVID-19 times, the year-long process of healing from my seventh surgery on my left knee, which was last October, has included a painful setback. One step forward, then two steps back isn’t easy. The first three things I concentrate on are remembering who I am, staying committed to my plan to be strong mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically, and to taking one thoughtful step at time. I’ve been through it before, and I know that where I am now is not as important as where I’m headed. Identity is the most important. What I say I am, then I can.
Q: We heard you have consulted for hundreds of companies and been the motivating facilitator or speaker of 1,000 talks, meetings, and customer and employee engagement events! That’s super impressive, can you tell us your top experiences and why they resonate with you?
A: That’s easy. First, it’s those wonderful “a ha moments” when people who are working through the planning questions of my framework and are hit with an inspiration. What’s really happening then is growth including growth in understanding, an increase in potential, and identifying something new and very practical they can do to achieve their goals. Second, it’s when people are high-fiving each other. They’re having a shared experience which strengthens their relationships and teamwork which equals more growth! And third, when the results of all of the good work leads to the client saying, “Rick, we just realized a 47 percent increase in sales (or fundraising or market share)!”
Q: You also consult on building your business brand. What is some key advice to having a solid brand?
A: Great question! Make sure the way you craft how communicate your brand has these following three qualities. One, it’s credible to everyone inside and outside your organization. Two, it’s relevant to everyone and three, it’s unique, that is, it differentiates you from the competition. Each is like a leg of a three-legged table. It’s got to have all three for the table to stand.
Q: How did FullSail Strategic Communications begin and how does it fit into your brand?
A: My love of sailing and the idea of having your sails full of wind (a metaphor for all you need to chart your course) was behind the name. I started it in 2002 after the ad agency I was with folded during the challenging times after 9/11. It took two years to really gain traction, then we were able to help business across the country, from Fortune 1000 companies to small regional brands as well as some non-profits. After creating “PLAN TO BE YOUR BEST …As You Navigate Change,” I followed the advice of a consultant to rebrand all that I do under my name. I was reluctant, because “it’s not about me” as they say.
Q: What are some huge red flags not to do in building a brand?
A: Don’t go it alone. Don’t make branding and communication decisions based on your own perspectives. And, don’t not test new strategies. That is to say, always involve others in your branding work. Ideally, involve one or more people who have deep expertise in developing brands and brand messaging. Then, everything you do and communicate should be done with your audiences in mind because our own perspectives are very often skewed and inaccurate. Listen carefully to your audiences and let their feedback guide you. And lastly, create and implement a plan which involves the testing of different strategies and tactics. But make sure you can measure what you test. Through testing, you’ll find out what works and gives you the best return on all that you invest in your efforts. We’ve got uncertain and new times ahead, and testing is highly important, now more than ever.
Q: Should you tie in your brand to your home location?
A: I’m hesitant to encourage this idea. I’d rather challenge you to consider other ways to position yourself without the need to reference location. Let’s go back to the question above about how to build a solid brand. Does it tie-in and support all three of these: credibility, relevance and differentiation?
Q: What is First Night and why is it significant to Boston?
A: First Night is the largest celebration of the arts in Boston, which just so happens to take place on New Year’s Eve. It was first created in Boston in 1976 and is a concept that’s been adopted by hundreds of cities around the world. When I was their director of marketing back in the 90’s, it was an exciting time as we saw the attendance double from 600,000 to 1,200,000 in just two years. The marketing strategies we applied were designed to drive significant growth, and they had a huge impact.
Q: During this digital age, we hear you are offering educational webinar services? Please tell us more!
A: Especially during these challenging times with so much uncertainty, I want to help you plan, gain energy and direction through your planning and to encourage you. Every Tuesday at 1 p.m. (EDT) I lead a planning session. It’s 95 percent discussion, 100 percent active planning and I provide worksheets to use. Plan to be your best weekly! Learn more and register here: https://www.rickcram.com/
Q: Your motto is “The people who plan to be their best as they navigate change are going to be the most successful.” Can you please expand on that?
A: Every success story in business I’ve had the good fortune to be part of was the product of good, sound planning, and everyone knew how to be and were their best. The results were tangible and often very significant. Plus, the thing is, the same practical strategies needed to do that also apply to how you and I lead ourselves and others through any endeavor we pursue or any challenge we have to overcome. Again, it’s all about the way we plan, lead and communicate our way through change, even the most challenging times.
Q: What do you do in your downtime to relax and recoup and how does it help you stay focused?
A: I fully relax and refresh when I’m by the water, when I work out on my Total Gym, and when I write in my Evidence Journal. I use all these times to reflect and plan. Working out gets me breathing deeply and strengthens me mentally and physically, and the Evidence Journal is like fuel for taking action. All these work well to lower cortisol, the stress hormone, too. By the way, Total Gym, which I bought promptly after having the extraordinary opportunity to workout with Chuck Norris. That was decades ago, and my machine is still in great shape… probably better shape than I’m in.
Q: What’s the best way to get in touch with you?
A: My website is rickcram.com and I look forward to knowing if there’s anything I can do to support your success. If you’re interested, just ask for a free copy of “10 Questions to Ask as You Lead Yourself and Others Through Change”. It’s especially timely, and the answers you come up with will provide you clarity and even confidence. Also, let’s connect here [https://www.linkedin.com/in/rickcram/] as well as your favorite social media. Meanwhile, thank you very much for the time you’ve spent here. My best to you!