Regardless of whether you are a sole proprietor, a behemoth like Canada’s Wonderland or a civil servant, you have a better chance of meeting your goals and objectives when you find others that are heading in the same direction and working together to make it happen. I can understand some level of skepticism when you hear the word “networking” – especially for people who are most usually the doers in their own organizations. Don’t get me wrong, there are “networkers” out there that give networking a bad name. One of my old neighbours “had a guy” for EVERYTHING. When we were looking to get our first hot tub, he had a guy. Needed the chimney inspected, he had a guy. Wanted cheap attractions tickets, he had a guy. I learned quickly enough that when it came to that last one, I was “his guy”. He connected me to all sorts of people that were able to give me a deal and to just as many who got a deal from me because I was part of his network. It really was an annoying thing of beauty…but I digress.
Doers don’t typically believe they have time to network and/or don’t see the value in it. Trish spent time this summer in Halifax at the Indigenous Games. The timing of it was difficult because of other commitments she had with Basketball Canada, Field Hockey Canada and her own clinic – so much so that she was contemplating backing out. Trish is a doer, through and through, and isn’t really all that comfortable networking with her peers. The Indigenous Games was a very big event that brought together lots of high-ranking sports games medical professionals, those who pick who gets to go to what events across the world. Recognizing that, she decided both to go and to step outside of her comfort zone, making an effort to get to know more of her sports medical peers while she was there. And it paid off. While we were away with the family on vacation at the end of August, Trish jumped up a yelled “I got it! I got it!” “Got what?”, the boys and I asked in unison. “I got chosen to be part of the core Canadian medical team for the Youth Olympics in Seoul Korea in January!”, which is a very big deal in her world because of the points it gives her, in some very convoluted process, that determines which medical professionals are chosen to go with Team Canada to the Olympics.
As it turns out, one of the people she met while supporting and enjoying the Indigenous Games was the Chief Medical Officer for Canada’s Youth Olympics Team. Trish had been passed over for so many multi-sport international games that she didn’t even bother telling us she applied because she didn’t want to have to tell us she didn’t get it. Well, in this case, she got to know some decision makers and, as importantly, they got to know her. Combine that with her having the right skillsets and enough points to be eligible, means my house is going to be a bit messy for three weeks in January. That, and Trish is moving one step closer to meeting her goal of getting to a summer and winter Olympics.
Networking can save both the doers and the visionaries loads of time, effort and in many cases money.
CCT has recently been hosting networking events for our stakeholders, in partnership with the local Destination Management Organization. We originally started doing these types of meetings in Headwaters and the results there have been pretty amazing so far. We have seen a stakeholder-led route, that celebrates all things maple, developed, which in turn has inspired Derek from Elliott Tree Farm to become the new home of the Maple Syrup Museum of Ontario. This summer, several Headwaters stakeholders got together to create a tour map that took visitors around the area and to each of their businesses. At these latest networking events, I got to speak to some of the successes our stakeholders have had by working together and even spoke a bit about how I use information I learn from our amazing stakeholders to make decisions for my own business. And that goes both ways. Just this week, I got an email from Chris at Cedar Park Resorts asking about contacts for purchasing or revenue sharing arcade games for an expansion they are working on. Talk about a perfect example of networking. Instead of starting from scratch and trying to find contacts and make decisions about different ways to add an arcade, Chris is able to use his network (in this case me) to better understand the pros and cons of owning vs revenue share, best practices for pricing, contacts for redemption items and, of course, the names and contact info for the people that we think are the best in the business.
For all of you doers out there, my bet is the one thing you would like more of is time, followed closely by money. Using the expertise of your network can save you time as illustrated above. Working with people in your network who have a common goal, can also save you money! We were recently at a stakeholder networking event at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection co-hosted by CCT and Tourism Vaughan Corporation. We learned there that Canada’s Wonderland and Vaughan Mills were partnering together, along with area hotels, to create new “stay, shop and play” packages. Once all the details are finalized, they are pooling their resources so that they can collectively go to market – saving money for each of the network members while expanding their reach further than they could do on their own. On top of that, their working together creates a bigger, more compelling reason to visit, meaning they can tell their story to people who will be traveling from a far enough distance to justify staying over, spending more money in Vaughan on food, drinks, gas, etc.
With the start of fall comes our planning season for fiscal 2024-2025. One of the things that we do during this process is set up meetings with our network of staff from each of our municipalities. All of our municipal and regional contacts are doers at their core and are often held back by politics and diminishing budgets. CCT is no different. By chatting with each municipality, we get a sense of their 2024 priorities and where they feel they can use the most help to achieve their goals. Once we meet with all of our municipal partners, we will have a good sense of common themes and will be able to build our plans for fiscal 2024-2025 to support the priorities. It also allows us to connect municipalities in our network to each other and to stakeholders, many who have similar goals and/or who already have the ability to support achieving the municipal goals.
CCT will be hosting more networking events and I highly encourage you to attend when there is one in your area. It is amazing to watch people connect and find common ground so quickly. These informal sessions have spawned amazing new partnerships, products and experiences which are benefitting both those involved with the program and other businesses in the municipality, not to mention the community itself. While not a networking event per se, our workshop later this month with Dakota Brant is going to be an amazing opportunity to learn how you can expand your network by working with Indigenous communities for mutual benefit. “A rising tide lifts all boats” is a quote that I think captures the notion of networking and the visitor economy perfectly. There are so many people doing so many amazing things to create vibrant communities that attract visitors and provide pride of place for residents. When we network and share, we just expedite the time it takes to achieve success. And while you may not be as overt as my old neighbour, I have no doubt you “know a guy” who may just be able to help someone in your network and whose success grows the visitor economy.
As always, please reach out any time (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have some ideas or concerns or just want us to come for a visit to see what amazing things visitors can experience there. My absolute favourite part of this job is the networking! It is completely invaluable and I wish that I could do it even more.