Steve Randazzo - President of Pro Motion

All of us provide our goals for the next week the Friday before. This allows me to think about what I need to get done, and it also provides accountability because everyone sees each other’s game plan. We also share our goals each day in the 9:27 meeting, which holds us accountable. I think providing that transparency throughout the organization helps us all be more productive.

Steve Randazzo is the president of Pro Motion, an agency specializing in experiential marketing, event production, mobile vehicle tours, and street team marketing. Pro Motion has been recognized by Event Marketer magazine as one of the pioneers and top event marketing agencies in the industry as it continues to build self-funding experiential marketing programs in the B2B and B2C spaces.

In this project-based industry, Pro Motion has long-standing relationships with clients such as Disney, Duck Tape, Fiskars, Citgo, UPtv, Tractor Supply Company, Hewlett-Packard, and several agency partners.

Steve is a marketing professional with more than 30 years of experience in experiential marketing, sports marketing, sponsorship activation, event marketing, field marketing, lifestyle marketing, public relations, and brand management.

Steve is a recognized speaker in the experiential marketing industry and was the keynote speaker at the Experiential Marketing Summit in Sydney, Australia. He’s often quoted and published in industry magazines like Event Marketer, Promo, Chief Marketer, and B2B Magazine. Pro Motion’s mission is to achieve best-in-class status — not to be the biggest in the industry — so clients get senior-level focus and thinking on a daily basis.

Steve is also active in the St. Louis community and serves on the board of directors for organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters and The Business Bank of St. Louis.

Where did the idea for Pro Motion come from?

I was working at another agency and didn’t like the direction it was taking, so I decided to leave and start a new agency. We didn’t have a client during our first six months, and I began contacting every company I knew that we could possibly help. Our first win was at Anheuser-Busch, and while it wasn’t a big budget, it did get us in the door and began a very successful 14-year run working on every brand at Anheuser.

What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?

The Pro Motion team meets every day at 9:27 a.m. This is a time for us to get aligned and talk about our boulders for the week and what’s on our to-do lists for the day. It’s a great way to communicate and keep everyone on the same page. If someone is stuck, we can work on getting him unstuck. We also sprinkle in some learning and current event discussion, but its main purpose is to keep us aligned as a team.

How do you bring ideas to life?

In a lot of ways, really. We demonstrate how a product works and highlight its points of differentiation. We put a product in its natural environment and demonstrate a memorable experience that creates an “aha” moment. When customers can experience that difference and see how the product can solve a problem, a light bulb goes off in their heads, creating the “aha” moment.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Happy teammates and happy clients. When my team is truly engaged and happy, we can do amazing work together, so I spend a lot of time looking for ways to continue to motivate my team and keep them focused. I also spend a lot of time making sure they know they’re doing great work and looking for ways to teach. From my experience, professionals like feedback as long as it’s productive, so I look for opportunities to pat them on the back, make sure they understand my expectations, and make it clear how we do things at Pro Motion.

Happy clients are a byproduct of happy teams. I know that when my team is engaged and happy, so are our clients. Because we only work with 10 clients at a time (and normally have about 15 clients per year), we get to provide crazy good service, and everyone on the team gets to contribute to the success of the client. So we really are one team paddling in the same direction. When we see our clients face-to-face and we all hug, I know all is good — they’re happy with our work. I am also available to every client and sit in on conference calls just to make sure everything is going as it should.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

All of us provide our goals for the next week the Friday before. This allows me to think about what I need to get done, and it also provides accountability because everyone sees each other’s game plan. We also share our goals each day in the 9:27 meeting, which holds us accountable. I think providing that transparency throughout the organization helps us all be more productive.

What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?

I’ve had a few jobs I would never want to do again, but I wouldn’t say they were bad jobs.

In high school, I got a job at a local McDonald’s where a couple of my friends worked. That job was tough at times and taught me to work within a team, and they had lots of training videos to learn more about different jobs in the restaurant. Everything was focused on food production (everything was actually cooked back then), so in the busy times, we’d have 10 or 12 of us working to get all the customers’ orders processed.

That was almost 35 years ago, and I still have about 25 friends from that job. McDonald’s should do a commercial with all of us. We are business owners, lawyers, accountants, and even McDonald’s franchise owners now. Several of us play in a golf league and go on a golf trip every year. It’s crazy because now some of our kids are starting to play golf with us, too.

I also worked for the Kansas City Royals as a marketing assistant. It was my first real job out of college. It was 1985, and the Royals beat my St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series that year. It was the best job I’d never want again.

I really had two jobs with the Royals and only got paid for one. During the day, I was a marketing assistant; during the games, I was on the stadium atmosphere team — making sure all the commercials, announcements, and entertainment happened as planned. So they were long days and nights, and when the team was home for a long home stand, it was several days without a day off. I loved it.

I was a sponge, absorbing everything going on in that organization. With the Royals, I learned about sponsorship activation, event activation, and customer service. That job showed me how much I loved event production and planning, and it’s probably why I stayed in event production most of my career.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

This is a really difficult question — I’m a “no regrets” kind of guy. There are tons of things I would do differently if I could rewind, but I’m happy with where we are and what we’re doing today. It’s been a really fun 30-year career for me.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Our 9:27 meetings. You don’t have to have meetings at 9:27, but you do have to keep your team on the same page and moving at the same pace to be effective.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Doing great work. Most of our new business comes from referrals from clients who love us, and that has been amazing. We just got a referral from a former potential client who didn’t end up hiring us. The prospect was asked who ran his mobile marketing program; the client wasn’t happy with his current agency, so he gave our name and said he hadn’t hired us but wished he had.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

After the 2008 market collapse, our clients were hit hard. Everyone’s budgets were frozen. Clients didn’t know, day to day, whether they would even have their jobs. We had several million dollars in revenue go away overnight.

We worked hard to keep as much business as we could without layoffs, but eventually, I had to let some really good people go. This was a first for the company, for me, and for the staff. It was emotional for all of us, and it was really difficult on me. It hurt my confidence, and my leadership skills suffered, too. My staff was divided and in shock, fearing we were going out of business.

To show that wasn’t going to happen, I decided we wouldn’t have any more layoffs. Instead, we’d all take cuts in pay, and to show I was committed to turning things around, I took the biggest by far. We’d all feel the pain together. That was the wrong decision.

In hindsight, I should have cut more staff and kept paying the core team I had to keep them focused. Instead, it was a huge distraction.

Fortunately, we were able to right the ship by the end of 2011, and the company has grown each year since then. I know I’ve more than made it up to my core team for taking away some of their salaries, but I will never make that mistake again. The lesson is that sometimes you have to trim some branches to keep the tree alive.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

My wife and I went to dinner on Friday at a sushi place near our home called Oishi, and I’m pretty happy about the food and beverages we had for about $100.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

Hatchbuck is a great CRM and email distribution service.

LinkedIn is a powerful way to keep on top of happenings with your network and your industry, as well as to get thought leadership and wisdom from titans of other industries.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

There are so many great books out there. “Good to Great” by Jim Collins comes to mind. It looks at company greatness in a scientific way, and I really believe in a lot of the concepts in that book. I think we have a great company, and for most of our 20 years, staffers would say it was a great company to work for.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

I worked for Don Schneeberger for four years in my mid-20s, and he took me under his wing and taught me so much about business and life. He’s 85 years old, and we still get together and talk business. He’s such a valuable resource for me.

I like to peruse LinkedIn for new insights on all kinds of topics. I also follow Richard Branson, Mark Cuban, Guy Kawasaki, Verne Harnish, and Jack Daly to learn about sales, marketing, and entrepreneurship.

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Pro Motion on Twitter: @ProMotionInc