E.D. Corner: September 2019

Good Day,

I am not sure why it still amazes me when I learn great business lessons in everyday life.  Last week’s reminder came as we were planning my mom’s Celebration of Life.  She passed away last Wednesday and, while extremely sad, we got five more months with her than we thought and until the last 36 hours she was conscious and lucid the whole time – time we will cherish forever. She and my dad had discussed that she wanted a good send-off party, not a funeral.  When I arrived in St. Catharines at 5am last Wednesday morning, I said to my dad that it would be better to host the celebration on Saturday, rather than wait a week and do it the following Saturday because it would allow for closure quicker.  He said if we could pull it off, let’s make it happen.

The hall and caterers were booked by 10am and we switched gears to talk about the content and flow of the party.  My dad did not want a receiving line to form.  I echoed his sentiment and just stated, “We won’t allow a receiving line to form!” in a “Called it.  Stamped it.  Swallow the Golden Key” way we used to when we were kids.  It was Trish, my lovely wife, who pointed out that perhaps we needed to put some strategies and plans in place to ensure that one didn’t form even by accident.  And we sat down to figure out how to achieve our goal of not being stuck with a line of people stretching out the door.  This was the plan.

  1. No more than two family members standing together, strategically placed in different parts of the hall with my dad at the furthest place from the entry.
  2. Give guests a reason to move around.  We knew there were going to be 16 tables in the hall to allow people to sit so we wrote 16 stories, each one about a specific time in her life or relationship with a loved one, matched a great picture and placed one on each table.  The guests circulated the room to read about my mom.
  3. Distract them.  On Thursday, my dad was saying how much he had learned about my mom and her impact on people through the condolence emails he had been receiving.  I suggested that he cull through them and create a slideshow of quotes that we could loop through the duration of the party so that people could be entertained for 10 minutes as they read them.

The timing of this reminder could not have been better as this week the CCT board and staff sat down for a full day on Tuesday to begin planning for 2020-2021.  We think we are doing a good job, but that doesn’t mean we can just say keep doing what you are doing.  We know that we have to make plans to achieve our goals.  We also know that there is a lot of uncertainty about the RTO’s.  Will there be another funding reduction?  Will the role of the RTO’s change with the new provincial Tourism Strategy?  Are the boundaries going to change?

But, with a plan in place, it will be easier to adapt to the curve balls we may be thrown because we can proactively address them beforehand.  Even for the simple concept of not having a receiving line we had contingencies to address the “what if” our plans didn’t work.  I placed two of my friends at the door to explain the casual drop-in nature of the send-off party to guests and had others milling about in the hall who, if they saw more than three people queued to speak with my dad, nanny or aunt, were to engage the people at the end of the line in conversation and break up the look of a line forming.  Luckily it never came to that because our original plan worked.

When it comes to setting a plan, it is important to have a clear understanding of what the goal is.  For Central Counties, our underlying goal – reason for existence – is to ensure that you, our amazing tourism stakeholders, are better equipped to build capacity, visitors and revenues.  We believe there is value in the services we provide you and from the feedback we have been receiving from our stakeholders, many of you agree.  The discussion at the board planning session echoed that sentiment and also confirmed that our goal will not change in 2020-2021.

The staff met yesterday to begin to put a plan in place to deliver on our goal.  I asked each of the staff to think about their current roles and responsibilities as it relates to our goal and to come back to the table in a few weeks prepared to speak to a) what aspects need to stay and why, b) what aspects need to change and why, c) what aspects need to be dropped and why and d) what aspects need to be added and why.  From there, our plan will develop with all staff having impact on how we deliver against our goal.  Once we know what we can/should deliver assuming status quo with the Ministry we will layer in the contingencies.  What if we receive a 5% or 10% budget reduction?  What if our boundaries change and we add new territories? Etc.  We will make proactive decisions on things that may or may not happen, but we will be prepared and comfortable knowing that, keeping the end-goal in mind, regardless of circumstance, we will deliver for our stakeholders the best we can.

I am certainly open for feedback and ideas for next year’s plan.  It is always great to hear from stakeholders.  If you would like to discuss your thoughts on our organization, please email me at cthibeault@centralcounties.ca and we can set up a meeting.

I must say that my mom would have loved the party we threw for her.  The conversations were amazing and my grandmother, father, aunt and wife (because I would have been a blubbering mess) got up and said some amazing words.  Nanny, ever stoic, told the story of my mother’s birth in 1944 England during a bomb raid and then got a huge laugh when my aunt got up to speak and began to cry.  “If I could get through my story without crying Pat, so can you!”

In the coming months, we will keep you apprised through our B2B site and newsletter of any changes that may be coming down the pipeline for the RTO’s.  In the meantime, hug or call your mom if she is still with you or toast her tonight if she is not.

Chuck Thibeault


Central Counties is located North of Toronto


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Chuck Thibeault

Executive Director, Chuck Thibeault