Our guest last Thursday in Midwest Entrepreneurs class was Mary Kellogg-Joslyn, the 2014 Wendell Whiteman Memorial Lecturer.
See the stories at the two links below for details on both this annual event and Ms. Kellogg-Joslyn’s amazing career.
As Claire McGuire, the class blogger for this special event discusses below, Ms. Kellogg-Joslyn has both ”made it big time” (in a variety of ways) and led by example all along the way.
After Claire’s blog entry, I offer some additional insights on (1) the marketing of experiences, and (2) Transformational Leadership (and the importance of “leading by example” to build and inspire trust).
Mary Kellogg, born and raised in Monmouth, had made it to the big time; first in the corporate world and now as an entrepreneur. Today, when she gets asked ‘What do you do?,’ she always thinks it is a bit odd to say “I own the Titanic” but that is indeed what she does.
After graduating from Monmouth High School and attending Colombia College in Chicago, Mary worked at CBS where she was the executive director of marketing and programming for 10 years before moving to The Walt Disney Company. She became the executive Vice President of television for Disney and held this position for 20 years. It was at Disney where she found out that advertising price does not work as well as advertising the experience. She took this lesson, and many more, from Disney and brought it into her own business.
After the 20 years with Disney, Mary joined her husband John for their present entrepreneurial venture. John personally worked on recovering artifacts from the real Titanic and now owns many of them, which are displayed in the two Titanic Museums.
With their facility in Branson, MO being on “the strip” of tourism—with about five to six million people passing through a year—Mary and her husband thought this would turn out to be a big hit (the good kind of hit). She didn’t want this to be just a regular museum; she wanted it to come to life. They agreed to build the ship half scale to the original and “back to the second stack.” When making this place come to life, they hired a cast of 110 employees to make the experience as real as possible. They take stories from real people and families and recreate them. Before the actors go out of the doors to start the day, they see a sign that reads “You are now entering 1912.”
“What keeps people coming back is the quality of experience they receive.” To get the complete experience, it takes a lot of work. Mary said that they value the education of their employees and the education within the company. There is learning happening all day every day. The company offers a Titanic University program, which is ten days long and at the end, the employees are given a test. Etiquette lessons are also given to make sure that the employees are acting as they would back in 1912; all to make it a complete and authentic experience for visitors. When talking about education, Mary stated; “We consider the managers as coaches because they are always educating the crew.”
Instead of thinking about only guests/customers “first,” Mary said that it is also important to think about her employees “first.” “If we give our employees respect, an education, teaching, and care for their families, then we can trust them to treat our guests well and give them a desired experience.” It is also very important to listen to what the crew has to say. This builds trust and, according to Mary, without trust, it will be very hard to move forward.
Since the museum in Branson turned out to be such a big hit, they went to Pigeon Forge, TN and opened another attraction. Mary is in charge of developing and coordinating marketing, advertising, sales, public relations and merchandising strategies of both Titanic locations. In being a leader of both of these operations, she says “Anybody can do a task, but it is important for our crew to understand why we are doing it this way.” A leader’s job is not to chew people out for doing things wrong, but to call them in and tell them that they did not get trained the right way. She puts the blame on herself rather than the employee and seeks to help them continuously better themselves (so that, ultimately, the experience of the end customer is as perfect as possible).
In the future, Mary and her husband are thinking about finding another business, perhaps entertainment, because they need to do something in the tourism off season and would like a cash flow. They have had many requests to build additional Titanic museums in other locations in both the United States and abroad. They are currently giving serious consideration to at least one of these requests.
In the last few seconds of class, Mary said one thing that really stuck out to me: “In everything you do, you do with passion.” Mary Kellogg-Joslyn here, as it seems she always does, leads by example!
Nicely done Claire…
I cannot pass up this opportunity to expand upon two issues touched on above; two matters not prominently featured in previous guest speaker presentations in the Midwest Entrepreneur class so far this semester. I discuss these issues below in the form of “two lessons learned” last Thursday.
Lesson Learned #1: The main thing being consumed with many service products is an EXPERIENCE. So… Strive to manage and perfect the experience and look for entrepreneurial opportunities to create better experiences for consumers.
Although previous class speakers have seldom if ever come out and said “I market an experience,” many of them of course do. Creating and delivering memorable and interesting and otherwise satisfying experiences is something that service marketers behind tourist attractions–think Disney World–and themed restaurants–think Rainforest Cafe or Hard Rock Cafe or Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville–strive to do on a regular basis.
In class last Thursday, Mary Kellogg-Joslyn spoke of her 20 years of experience with Disney as first and foremost 20 years of “expereince marketing training.” This training–from as she put it, “the best” in the field of experience marketing–is what inspired her and her husband to build the Titanic Museums. This training is also what she uses on a daily basis to make the “Titanic consumption experience” as perfect as possible for the thousands of customers who visit their two locations each year.
Lesson Learned #2: There is a HUGE difference between being a “manager” and being a “leader.” Sustained entrepreneurial success and growth is more a function of effective “leadership” than “management.” Key distinctions between the two terms/roles include (a) the leader leading in transformative fashion (by positive example), and (b) leaders viewing their role as being founded about creating a trust-based organizational culture and helping employees continuously improve themselves.
In my over 25 years of diverse experience in both academic and corporate environments, I have heard many marketing and management buzzwords be both mis-used and overused; a bad combination. Probably the most mis-used and overused–and thus ABUSED–of these buzzwords are “leader” and “leadership.”
Many managers call themselves “leaders” but are not. Equally flawed is the common assumption that if a person is in what is called a “leadership position” then this person is necessarily a “leader.”
Leadership is NOT simply telling “those below you” what do do and then expecting or formally demanding that they “obey.” Leadership is NOT attacking employees every time they do something imperfectly. These are fine examples of what is often called “management by fear” but “management by fear” is a far, far cry from leadership.
Last Thursday in class–and in a luncheon event I attended as part of Mary Kellogg-Joslyn’s Whiteman Memorial Lecture–I heard about the practice of TRUE LEADERSHIP.
For example, in class, as mentioned above by Claire McGuire, Mary stated that when an employee does something wrong at the Titanic Museum, she views it not as a failure on the part of the individual employee but rather as a failure on her part to not properly train or motivate the employee to perform better. I cannot think of a better example of “administrative accountability.” Further, when someone in a leadership position actively and conspicuously takes responsibility in this manner, it serves as an example of leading by example that serves to inspire and transform the behaviors of employees in highly positive fashion.
In both class and the luncheon event, Mary Kellogg-Joslyn made it very clear that at the heart of effective leadership is the creation of TRUST; trust between leaders and followers that inspires trust between co-workers. She also made it very clear in both events last Thursday that, in organizational settings, the antithesis of Trust is POLITICS. From a services and experiences marketing perspective, not only does gossip and other forms of “office politics” undermine all-important trust, they lead to the dysfunctional wasting of monumental amounts of time and effort; time and effort that would be far better invested in creating better customer experiences.
In closing, it is obvious to me that among the most significant keys to the phenomenal success of Mary Kellogg-Joslyn–both in the “big corporate world” and as an entrepreneur–are that she fully understands the (interactive) importance of both (1) focusing on the creation of memorable, satisfying experiences for customers, and (2) leading by example in transformative, trust-inspiring fashion when dealing with employees.
Thank you Mary Kellogg-Joslyn for a refreshing and shining example of TRUE LEADERSHIP!!