Over the last nine years on the road we have worked with countless clients, taken exhibits to 48 states, and been exposed to a diversity of industries. While no two tours are the same, there are some national events that tend to draw in our customers each year. You can always count on at least one program visiting the Minnesota State Fair, one of the Maker Fairs, and the National FFA Convention. In those nine years we have been to them all, finally.
In my youth I was an active member of both 4-H and FFA. These organizations shaped who I am and gave me not just skills and experience but the confidence to reach for some large goals. I know that attending the National FFA Convention as a high school student broadened my view of the world and the opportunities in it. You see I’m from a very small town and it can be hard to leave that comfort for what adventures may be found. Sixteen year old me certainly didn’t envision a life where I get to help companies create a message and sell it.
So it is only fitting that the last show we do after nine years is at this same event. LAST SHOW, WHAT?? Yes, Josh and I have made the decision to set down some roots, in Portland Oregon. We are also making some moves in our careers that will take us off the road. This was the first time we have taken a program to any FFA event, not going to lie I brought my jacket. It was actually useful, one of the other event sponsors had a scavenger hunt challenging students to find poelpe who fit into a number of categories (Like a former FFA member). It is things like this that make FFA a great club, give members challenge to go interact with professionals and they will rise to the task.
There was one group of young leaders in particular that I was hoping to meet, the members of the Brown County FFA Chapter. I happen to be a very proud Alumni and having these exceptional students come by my exhibit will forever remain a career highlight. They were able to stay for a bit and talk to me about the chapter along with what they are each doing in the club. I’m inspired. The chapter is in the rebuilding process and as part of that alumni are coming together to support that organization. I was already excited to take part but now I can’t wait to be a help. There are so many ways to give back to a community, I feel lucky to now have a way to repay a group that gave me a solid foundation for success.
Josh was able to find a group attending that were all former students of his mother, this was truly a special event.
Last week I traveled to my hometown for a memorial dedication ceremony.
My father worked for a Rural Electrical Coop for 27 years. He began his career there as an appliance technician but due to his hard work and dedication he became an irreplaceable part of the organization. From managing systems that monitored the power grid to overseeing the installation of two wind turbines, his passion for work is being honored. The organization chose to renamed that second wind turbine he oversaw the Randy D. Rigg Memorial Wind Turbine.
This tower of steel and technology is located at the edge of town, it overlooks a community he loved. It has become a part of the landscape. His legacy and dedication will live on not just from the work he did but the lives he touched.
Seven years ago he was seriously hurt in a motor vehicle accident, it changed parts of him. Not just the things that could be seen as he lived in pain for much of those seven years but in how he saw others. He had an acute way of sensing when someone else was suffering, be it physically or emotionally. In the time after his passing countless stories were shared about kind words or concerns expressed by him to others. Some of those coming at a moment when they had thought the pain would swallow them. He wanted others to know that someone understood and was there listening.
You know how special a family member is but to see in others how much they meant is touching. It has been hard to talk about my father, but what his work family has done for all of us has given me some words. They needed this, a way to honor him and to show how much he affected their lives. One finally Thank You.
He is missed by many. As I write this I am fighting back tears. I miss you Paw.
It is inscribed as follows: ” Randy D. Rigg Memorial Wind Turbine named in loving memory of our dear friend and trusted co-worker. This wind turbine stands in tribute to Randy Rigg and his 27 years of dedicated service to Adams Electric Cooperative. As we look heavenward and see the blades spinning on this incredible machine, we are mindful of Randy’s hard work, high standards, and perseverance that helped make this dream a reality. Randy’s legacy will live on as long as the wind blows. Presented by the employees and directors of Adams Electric Cooperative. October 20, 2017.”
It’s not every day that one of us has to crawl under a counter to work on plumbing but believe it when we say there is no typical day on a marketing tour! At a recent event we had a little tiny leak one a fixed coolerJ. Had that drain failed during a show we would have quickly found a wet floor and can unhappy client. Lucky for Team Van Gelder, Josh has the skills and patients to keep on top of all the moving parts.
Neither of us are strangers to a toolkit. Abigail’s father was an electrician and plumber like many of his ilk the last thing he wanted to do when he got home after long days was to have to fix something. Thankfully he taught his kids more than the basics and it’s that comfort that has made a big difference of tours, just a few weeks ago she rewired some speakers to custom fit on a new build. As for Josh’s hand skills he’s just that, handy. His love of learning to build things started in the Boy Scouts and has never ceased. When still teaching he spent a summer off as a handyman. Part of the lure of marking tours is the need for diligence in maintenance and there are always new problems to work through.
One of the best parts about summer when you work in the experiential marketing field is the prospect of taking out new tours. So many programs launch as temperatures rise and the opportunity to be a part of events that draw people out comes. When looking at new programs there are a thousand things to learn about the equipment and how the actual shows will run. Something that is hard for new people to the industry, at least those who travel with the tours is that you also have to “live the brand”. The moment you step near that marketing vehicle you represent that brand; fueling, stopping at a rest area, even pulling into a hotel. You, as the road team you are part of the visible element for your client. This should be reflected not just in how you act but also how you present yourself.
Guests to a mobile experiential program don’t know and aren’t going to be understanding that you are “just the driver” or don’t work for the brand on display. It is crucial that you match the image clients to reinforce their message. One of the programs we currently work with is a high-end firm hosting training seminars. It’s key that anyone coming in sees us as a person they can engage with, that we are supposed to be there.
On the other hand we serve two roles when in the field. when setting up the truck or moving down the road we also represent our employer. You never know when a random contact could turn into a long term program. We are careful to look professional even when setting up an exhibit. Years ago we met a gentleman while setting up a trailer in Washington DC, that brief contact put my firm on his radar and a few years later he was a driving force to put a tour on the road. What he saw of us ensured that we would be the right choice to representing that brand on a national scale.
Living the brand goes deeper than that, it takes very little effort to be knowledgeable about the industry your client operates in. It’s as easy as taking a gander of PR Newswire a couple of times a week just to see what is going on with a client’s customers and their competition. This can help you talk the talk as you walk the walk.
During dinner a few weeks back we started to both bring up examples of times we have broken the rules. Looking back at our early days in promotional marketing, there were many times we joined crews of brand ambassadors handing out fliers and giveaways. Rarely did we have a permit to be there. To be frank it was a highly unauthorized promotion that led us down the path where we found MRA and started the adventures in marketing tours.
We drive the wrong way down roads, illegally park, take up handicap spaces, put up signs without permission. How often do you send out event staff as a field team to drive in traffic? On a recent call with city planners office some strange questions started coming up. About half-way thought the process I realized that she had at one time worked with a different firm who widely misrepresented their event and left the city with damage and cleanup. She wasn’t trying to get more permit funds from me but instead to make her local police and park employees aware. Maybe too often we view people in those positions as an obstacle versus a partner.
We recently had the opportunity to help out with some planning on tour run by our employer but outside of our client portfolio. They needed help to secure a year’s worth of tour stops in three weeks. This was a great opportunity to put forth a concentrated effort treat the contacts at locations like they were a preferred vendor, a partner. By expressed our excitement to be in the community and to use their facility. It was a striking difference, out of the entire list only one location said no. We were able to give the client exactly what they asked for. It has been a great opportunity to grow professionally from this and noticed immediately how differently it felt to work some of other vendors.
We wear a number of different hats within the company and it will be a long time before again seeing anyone as a road block versus a partner again.
Well this year has brought a great deal of change and some heartbreak. In January of this year we sat down with management and were informed that they needed us to fill some slightly new roles. Abigail was needed in-house as project manager for new and relaunching programs. Josh was needed in the field for some tours that were having troubles. He has a keen ability to come into stressed situations with a clear head and patience to fix problems. Abigail has a knack for sorting through huge lists of tasks and keeping it all organized, detail work. As you can imagine we were both excited at the opportunity to increase our skills and help out the company.
Well that was January, it’s now May and we are still on separate programs. Not to say we have not seen each other in five months but it has been limited. For two people who are used to and enjoy working together, the separation is wearing on us. The other difficulty has been the passing of Abigail’s father. While it’s never easy to say goodbye to a parent, Randy was only 60 and leaves behind a very close family.
We are two people who consider each other partners in life and in work. While some joke about how nice must to be get a break from each other, it’s not. We enjoy working together, sharing our work. Being apart while one of us going thought such a hard time has made this all even more taxing. It has also helped us look at some things differently, as grief does to anyone. We appreciate our partnership even more, thankful to have found another person who makes you feel good about yourself. We have to share our work day happenings via an evening phone calls now. Most of these conversation include a moment where you realize “wow, you are the perfect person to handle that”. The work we have both done this year really has helped us both grow and set our focus for what the rest of the year might hold.
Randy and his Fairlane