Successful Networking: Specific Ingredients for Success in this Industry

By Cosette Strong

In this edition of our interview feature series conducted monthly, I will give you a window into chats with Clem as he shares his thoughts about a number of things, namely 2020s continued impact on our new normal and how specific best practices have contributed to his network and success. This interview took place via a virtual video chat while I was in Ohio and Clem was walking near his home in Florida.

Cosette: During our last chat we talked about networking and how important it is to cultivate good relationships, not only to maintain human connection but potentially to bring about business opportunities for self and others. Talk to me about a relationship that’s important to you and  that’s been an example of that.

Clem: Omar Colom, someone who was a mentee of mine, started an organization called AV Educate. We are on the same mission, the same path, to want to help improve our industry and provide platforms where people can learn how to manage their careers better. So where I’m approaching things from the independent contractor, business, lifestyle, management angle, Omar is focusing on providing technical education for independent contractors in our field. We’ve known each other for years – he joined my VPSG Facebook group, he’s done video projection training with me, and we’ve collaborated on other things as well. Because of our trusted relationship, I’ve even hired Omar for jobs. He’s now creating content on livestreaming and helping people learn the equipment needed to produce virtual events. Omar’s goal is to teach people how to transition and do a career in a way they weren’t previously. 

Cosette: [nodding] And how does that connect to relationships and networking?

Clem: Omar and his team have created the AV Tech Talk Summit, which will take place this July and I’ll actually be speaking there. All of that is an example of leveraging your network to create opportunities, jobs, and to provide education. It started with a friendship, a bond, and an opportunity for one person to assist another. And from that, another person understanding how they can assist the other and continue to move forward.

Cosette: When did you first understand how to leverage your network for job opportunities?

Clem: Well last month we talked about Steve Uhlmer, how important that relationship has been to me and how that’s come around full circle. But another, is my relationship with a client of mine, Performance Paradigm. When doing work for that client and helping meet their needs, I realized that I may not be the best person for specific jobs or tasks. So, I connected with someone in my network, Chris “Chili” Horton. He introduced me to Gabe Davis, who introduced me to Donnie Crawford. That’s all an expansion of my network of wonderful camera operators and we’re able to provide services for a client. This generates income for the techs but also generates continued job opportunities for my business.  

Cosette: What are some tried-and-true best practices — 

Clem: — Oh, you mean “The CLEM Factor”?

Cosette: [laughs] Yeah! What would you say to someone about how to leverage their network?

What do you do to maintain it so that you can leverage it?

Clem: Yeah – l… I really just enjoy staying in touch and connecting with people. I love being of service to others. Then, I build connections and bonds and try to find ways to assist and help. [looks at the camera] That’s my heart and intention. Not everyone is like that, but it’s been beneficial to me and my career. I feel like I’ve received benefits from others willing to help and assist me; Why wouldn’t I want to do that for others and build relationships? Having connection points and threads allows me to see where and how someone can fit. The thing is a network isn’t always about earning money – it’s about going through the journey of life together and being an integral part of someone else’s story.

Cosette: So… “The CLEM Factor” – being of service and a part of someone else’s journey, love of people, all of that…[laughs] What about someone who —

Clem: [laughs] — doesn’t like people? [laughs harder]

Cosette: [joins in again] Yeah! 

Clem: You know… I [sighs]… can only speak from my lived experience right now. I know people who don’t enjoy talking to people. You may not like people or like to go out and operate the same way as someone like me would, but if you build a close enough connection to one person who has a strong enough network, then that person’s network is your network as well.[Clem walks along the path and pauses for a few seconds, thinking.] What is that factor…. What is that factor? You know what? Being a hard worker. Being organized. Disciplined. Being willing – striving to do your best. Definitely that. When I was pledging my fraternity, Christopher J. Harris taught me, “A task once begun, never leave it till it’s done. Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all.” So in everything I do, I try to do it to the best of my ability, and I truly believe that people should have that same mindset. Especially when you’re doing something you love! If you’re doing that, it’s easier. Then you don’t have regret and frustration, but you’re willing to fight for it and turn things upside down because of your love for something and desire to succeed. I believe in fighting for what I want and if you want to have a successful career, you’ll be determined and fight for it as well.

Cosette: At the beginning we talked about Omar and this AV Tech Talk Summit he created. Tell me a little bit about where the formulation of that idea came from… I know, previously, you and I talked about an event in the near future you’d like to sponsor.

Clem: Yes, you and I discussed an idea I had to create a job networking opportunity experience, but you know what? You know I’m a faith-based individual, and I believe God works in the ways He works. AND…you and I both know – I already have A LOT on my plate. 

Cosette: [smiles] — Yes.

Clem: In understanding that, and recognizing how God works, I talked about doing something in July, but then, Omar reached out to me about speaking at his event in July. It’s an example of something that was already in my head and heart but God was saying, “Dude, really? You’re doing the most right now. You’re doing —

Clem/Cosette: [at the same time] too much. [both laugh.]

Clem: Exactly! #TeamTooMuch. I’ve always been that type of person, but I have to realize I don’t always have to be the one to do the work. I can support the work and contribute to the work. Omar and his team can do that work while I focus on other work. Omar has the desire to educate technicians from the skillset perspective. That is what is helping them to generate money, especially in a time when live events aren’t happening the way they were. This allows people to skill up to be more marketable. For me it’s understanding my role, Omar’s role, where we are on our journeys, then partnering to help promote what he and his team have created – The AV Tech Talk Summit. Even in a summit, a convention, or just going to lunch, it’s a networking opportunity. Shoot, going for a walk like I am now is a networking opportunity. If I stop to talk to someone along the way, we are networking. You can’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and do what’s necessary for your success.

Stepping out of our comfort zones during this time of continued transition is a challenge. Coming back stronger and working to regain what may have been lost is one as well. Navigating these challenges, though, is necessary if we’re to progress through the end of this global pandemic. Upskilling to get back in the game will be instrumental. Leveraging the resilience we’ve developed over the last year and learning from any missteps will be as well. Join me next month as Clem and I discuss how to take a misstep and turn it into a learning opportunity for a better you and more success in this industry.

The Network as an Essential Ingredient for Seeing, Believing and Achieving Success

By Cosette Strong

In this edition of our interview feature series conducted monthly, I will give you a window into chats with Clem as he shares his thoughts about a number of things, namely 2020s continued impact on our new normal and how networking is an essential part of being successful in the live event production industry. This interview took place via a virtual video chat while I was in Ohio and Clem was home in Florida.

Cosette: As you think about how relationships with people connect to being successful in this industry and transitioning from 2020 back into whatever our new normal will be, how would you say that relationships and partnerships play a role?

Clem: Every aspect of this industry and my success and the success of others I’ve known is based on relationships, friendships and partnerships. When I speak at colleges and universities we focus on the importance of networking. I guess that’s a fear or, more, a discomfort, for college students in this generation. It’s about building a network and understanding the power of networking. It’s about getting outside of your comfort zone and putting yourself out there and building those relationships. During this time of being off, with in-person events not happening the way they were, we aren’t able to build connections, bonds, and relationships the way we did. Before we’d always be together. From creating and building the event to going to lunch to going out after the show – all of that involves networking.

[Clem pauses for a second, looks away, then looks back.]

What people enjoy most in this industry is working with people they know, people they like and trust. People they want to spend time with. When we’re not able to do that as we used to that can impede those opportunities when things start back up again. If you’re not going back and building and maintaining those relationships, you’re banking on those bonds still existing when the doors open back up.

I was scheduled to work with DCE productions here in Tampa – the event was scheduled for April 2020 – it didn’t happen, but we continue to be in communication around random things – renting gear, they invited me to a BBQ at the office, talking shop – just being in contact. I got a call from a manager the other day and he asked me if I knew a camera operator named Steve Uhlmer.[Clem smiles a wide smile.] I said, “Hell yeah, I know Steve!” He was the person who got me into this industry, who got me my first job with LMG. I wrote about him in my book, Career Projection 101. When he was a camera operator for the Orlando Magic I was his Utility. He allowed me the opportunity to be a camera operator because he knew and trusted I’d do a good job. So now, I’m getting a phone call to vouch for him – the person who vouched for me back in 2002 when I first started in the industry. Of course I’m going to vouch for him because of that friendship, bond and relationship.

Cosette: What’s the difference between relationships and partnerships, or are they the same thing?

Clem: Hmmmmm.[Clem laughs, shakes his head and looks at the camera intently.] They’re not the same thing. [He looks down, then back up and leans in.] They’re not the same. You have a relationship with people – like a friendship where you know each other. You can relate when it comes to certain things. A partnership is someone who has your back – who knows what your dreams, goals and aspirations are. Someone who knows what your mission is and why you’re here. They believe in you. You believe in them. You’re bonded working together towards a common goal. That’s the difference. That’s the difference – they’re NOT one and the same. [Clem looks off into the distance.]

Cosette: What would you tell someone in your industry who’s looking to transition a relationship to a partnership?

Clem: Common ground. What’s that common ground that you believe in, what the other person believes in and what you’re looking to accomplish together? How can you build that familiarity, comfort and trust to know that, at the end of the day you have my best interest in mind? How do you know I have yours? So how to build that? By being honest, open, and transparent – having those H.O.T. conversations – about what it is you’re looking to accomplish. You can’t just partner with anyone – it’s a matter of finding that right person to work with together and building that trust from the beginning to know you’re moving forward in the right direction.

Cosette: What about a partnership that’s really important to you? Tell me about the hallmarks of it – why’s it important to you? What makes it the strong partnership it is?

Clem: One of the partnerships that changed my career is with TEK productions. They were people – Kari Hyatt – she was a person who believed in me. She believed in what I wanted to do and who I wanted to become and what I saw myself being able to do and accomplish. She gave me the opportunity – opportunity after opportunity, actually – and I continued to prove myself. First as a technician, then as a camera operator then as a video projectionist. I proved myself. Then from there, I wanted to bring others on and because they trusted me, my skills, work ethic and what I brought to the table, they knew they could trust who I brought on to do the work as well. Through that relationship and partnership my company was able to provide back-office support and perform billing services for independent contractors who worked for their company. That all started from me being a camera operator and them trusting what it was I said I wanted to do and what it was that I actually did. It continued to grow from there. 

From that relationship and partnership, it brought on another partnership with Performance Paradigm. During COVID, I’ve been able to not only support myself, but also grow my company and provide jobs and opportunities for other people. This is because of that trusted bond and relationship. It’s been about forming a partnership where we can move forward with the trust and understanding that we’re moving forward toward a common goal.

Cosette: Let’s transition back a little bit… let’s revisit networking. You’ve been in the industry for a long time – you have a lot of relationships. You know the ins and outs. What would you say to someone who’s just starting out and who doesn’t really know how to build and fortify their network?

Clem: [Clem closes his eyes and squints.] How to build and fortify a network. . . Go to a networking opportunity whether from a LinkedIn group or profile or Facebook group – there are networks that already exist. If you have an interest in something and you know you want to be a part of something and develop your skills, look to join that. I have a group I started – VPSG – Video Projectionist Support Group – which is a network of video projectionists around the world. I built it as an opportunity to connect with other video projectionists so we could learn from each other. I remember the first time someone from Dubai joined – it freaked me out! [Clem laughs.]

I remember thinking that there was someone on the other side of the world who is available and willing to assist other people. So, in that same mindset bringing other people into that same network is a way to grow that bond and relationship. You can look for groups and find those opportunities and put yourself out there. Be willing to be open about the desire to learn and share.

A network is a give and take – you can’t just go in looking to take. You need to go in looking to give as well. You shouldn’t just feed off of it, but you should also look to feed it. That’s a larger network. If we think about smaller networks – getting to know someone on a personal level is feeding into them and them feeding into you so you all can grow a larger network organically.

Cosette: Then how would you advise other ways for people to leverage social media? Maybe posting, creating content, establishing oneself as an expert in the industry? 

Clem: Different platforms should be used in different ways. LinkedIn is different from Facebook and Facebook is different from TikTok and Twitter. One of the best things to do is to find out how you choose to communicate. I’m an Instagram person. I’m visual and I like to tell stories on that platform through imagery. Understanding who you are and your communication style is important – start where you feel most comfortable. Start doing what you like and are good at and put that out there. If you like making videos, create some and put that out there. If you like writing, but only like short characters, you can leverage Twitter to put your opinions out there. It’s good to get on a schedule and find a rhythm, looking to constantly feed the network. If you’re looking to do that, the network will feed you. People will start to notice, start to observe and consume your content, and start to get to know the inner workings of your heart and methodology.  Some will not be attracted to that, but some will and they’ll like and comment. If you continuously engage with them that’s how you’ll start to grow your network.

Cosette: Talk to me a little bit about one of the ways that you engage your network via social media

Clem: I definitely feed it. [Clem laughs.] What I’ve done is started taking what I’ve learned, felt and heard from people and tried to provide the information and resources that people may not openly say they need, want or are in search of. I also think about what I wanted and searched for and needed when I was younger in the industry. As a more seasoned professional now, I can look back at what I didn’t have and what I wish I had. Now I’m in the mindset about others thinking, “You don’t know you need this – but I know you need this and there are other seasoned professionals who know that you need this.” I’m trying to be on the forefront of feeding people the meals, content – things they may not even know they need yet. If I can give it to them in bites when they are searching, it’ll be available. Whether it’s through a video on YouTube, a newsletter like this, a social media post, a Twitter [Clem waves his hand back and forth] – a tweet [We share a laugh.] – yeah, I’m on that mission. I just can’t stop. Can’t stop, won’t stop. As Diddy would say, “Take that, take that…” [Clem gives a small smile and looks over his left shoulder at the camera.]

Networking is important and it’s only the beginning to continued success as a freelancer, independent contractor or small business owner. Part of Clem’s continued success is because of his relationships and the knowledge around how to leverage his vast network. Join me next month as Clem will share his best practices for letting a network work for you as you search for the next opportunity.

FOCUS INWARD TO CONTINUE TO PROGRESS

By Cosette Strong

In this edition of our interview feature series conducted monthly, I will give you a window into chats with Clem as he shares his thoughts about a number of things, namely 2020s continued impact on our present and how getting to know ourselves and our gifting is a vital component of working in this industry. Clem requested that I watch this video in preparation for our chat. It will be the subject of our interview, which took place via a virtual video chat while I was home in Ohio and Clem was in Florida.

Cosette: So, talk to me a little bit about the background of the video and what it means to you.

Clem: Watching videos like that and learning some of that mindset as a child and even when I was in college was realizing that we all serve a purpose. We all have this thing, this talent, this gift inside of us and it’s meant to serve a purpose to affect change, the world and society. For me, finding that was a part of my mission. With that, the video reinforced that there’s no way I can fail with the understanding that this is my gift, mission and what I’m supposed to do. If I stay to my mission, if I’m not distracted and if I stay focused and understand who I am and what I’m meant to do, I can keep moving forward through whatever obstacle comes my way.

[Clem pauses for a beat.]

Cosette: How?

Clem: There’s that belief that there’s no stopping. There’s no barrier too great. It’s just a matter of being persistent. You must keep moving forward. I know not everybody has the belief and faith and willpower but if there’s any way that I can encourage someone else that they’ll find it for themselves, then as they continue working through things, they can push beyond their comfort zone and keep pushing to find that place of discovery. It’s really about knowing that you can. [Clem looks away for a second then back at the screen.] You can do. You can be.

Cosette: If you were to share this with someone looking to find their gift, what would you want them to get out of this?

Clem: I’d ask them what they love to do, what they’re good at. What’s something you’ll wake up wanting to do or something you’ll push into the wee hours doing without even realizing you’re doing it? As they describe that, I’d say that’s something to explore and to look into. It’s the thing that makes you different. Now if you can take that thing that makes youyou and learn how to monetize it – find a way to provide that gift, talent, those services for someone – then you can not work and just be. It’s not an easy journey to turn inward and think about that but if you take the time, you can find it. I’d ask, “Are you willing to find that which lies within?”

Cosette: And – getting back to the video – for you, this was an instructional tool or a motivational one?

Clem: For me, it was a motivational tool. For me it was the reflective piece I needed. Then from that motivational video it was the eye-opening experience of listening to others or hearing from others or beginning to search for other ways to progress and move forward in my career and my life. This video, for me, was a spark.

Cosette: If someone is looking to figure out their gifting and how to progress in knowledge of that, what other resources would you point them to? 

Clem: I’d point them toward my book or another book. I’d point them toward trying to find a Coach, someone they can connect with to help them find what’s inside if they can’t find it themselves. There are plenty of resources out there to help them find their gift but also to create that structure around themselves to support that as well.

Cosette: What about those who see this as a job, a means to an end, and don’t feel like the gifting part needs to be included?

Clem: [Clem thinks for a moment.] If that’s the case, make doing the job the most impactful thing it can be. A person’s job doesn’t have to be the mission – it could just be what you do to help someone else or inspire someone else, to educate or help or love someone else. 

Cosette: And for those who see what they do as a job – that means to an end – what would you tell them about their personal brand? 

Clem: Your personal brand is what people see – what they remember and recognize when your name is mentioned or when your skill is mentioned and when you walk into a room. That impression that you make on someone is part of what opens the door for another person. If your gift or talent or way you interact with others is part of your brand, it’s about making each moment or interaction stand out and mean something so you’re able to bring life to each person. For me that can be through operating a camera, being a video projectionist, through processing payroll so people get paid on time or building a relationship to extend to another person. All of that is part of understanding my gift and understanding how I can be of service to others. Once you find your gift you can show the world how special you are, and you can help others discover their gift as well.

Finding your gift, as Clem said, is really about turning inward so you can lean into self-discovery. Discovery of your talent. Discovery of your gift. Discovery of your present. As we continue to recover from 2020 and seek our motivation, we’ll need to transition so we can focus on what’s outside of ourselves: our people. During our next segment, join me as I chat with Clem about how we can use our relationships and partnerships to strengthen one another through these times.

HEALTH, WELL-BEING AND THE IMPACT 2020 CONTINUES TO HAVE

By Cosette Strong

In this edition of our interview feature series conducted monthly across a virtual platform, I will give you a window into chats with Clem as he shares his thoughts about a number of things, namely 2020s impact on our mental, emotional and physical well-being and the ways we can continue to exercise self-care. This interview took place via a virtual video chat while I was in Pickerington, Ohio and Clem was in Florida.

Cosette: With the mental and emotional and even physical wear and tear that 2020 brought about, how much more important do you feel it is for everyone to take care of their own health and well-being while navigating these uncertain times?

Clem: Well. . . It was always important, you know, to think about. But – it wasn’t something that was on the forefront of my mind when we were busy. [laughs] I would use going to work as my gym time: pushing cases, lifting projectors, flipping them…  Or when I was still shooting games, sitting on the court with that camera – that 30-pound weight on my shoulder – that was my core exercise time. That was the only time when I was intentional or dedicated to working out. On the road, others would build in that time and be intentional about prioritizing it.

Cosette: But you didn’t?

Clem: [looks briefly at the screen] No… no, I didn’t. I wasn’t working out the way I wanted but I realized I needed to shift my mindset. But – COVID happened – we’re not going out; we’re not doing things. I still knew I needed to do something. I started doing these virtual workouts with a personal trainer, Coach Dee. (smiles) We kind of collaborated on creating these virtual workouts. We’d do them on Facebook every Wednesday morning. I would set up the computer, stream it live on Instagram and Facebook and there I was, like… so vulnerable. [Clem’s eyes meet mine and we share a laugh] I was dripping in sweat, out of breath, but like, pushing through. I had to create an avenue for someone else to be able to be exposed to this opportunity. 

Right before the pandemic when things were slower, I did have a gym membership – I’d go at 5:30 in the morning and then things shut down, I still wanted to stay in that habit. It became a thing, people started joining in – maybe not calling in and working out live with us – but some people were actually watching on Facebook and working out with us. That was really cool.

[Clem stops for a full 30 seconds, reflecting. Then he continues.]

Clem: I guess it was really about trying to be there for people – thinking… we may be depressed in our current situations and have to give up the financial side of a gym membership but here’s something we can do together. We can move together and take our minds off of the chaos happening outside of our four walls, or even within our four walls.

It’s just about building that community one way or another… It started with me figuring out how to take care of myself, and it evolved into me trying to help take care of others and help them figure out how to take care of themselves.

Cosette: [nods] Ok, but what about the mental and emotional lift? What were/are you doing to maintain that well-being in your life? What would you advise others to lean into?

Clem: I’ve always liked to connect with other people and talk through my emotions. Not everybody is able to do that or wants to do that. If that’s not you, it’s fine. Isolate yourself and take the time to do that to manage it. If you want to talk it out, that’s fine too. Find that trusted person to talk it out and confide in. 

[FLASHBACK | May 2020: 

As news continued to swirl about what COVID-19 was and what it wasn’t, I found my mental and emotional health and well-being taking a toll. In addition to deciding to take some action and obtain my Coaching certification, I also decided to seek some assistance from a mental health practitioner. I needed to sort through my emotions, and I needed to progress. I knew I couldn’t do it on my own. Deciding to get help was hard because I had to admit that I couldn’t do it myself, but it was truly one of the best things I did during the pandemic.]

Clem: There are many ways I try to deal with it… going for a walk, opening my mind to nature, listening to music… focusing on the words and the rhythm. I encourage everyone to find that for themselves – find that inspiration, motivation whether in yourself or reading someone else’s story and connecting with that. [pauses] It’s really about knowing you can be that for yourself as well as for others.

Cosette: What would you tell the person who doesn’t have intrinsic motivation and drive? What about the person who’s still experiencing the strong fallout of 2020 – someone who’s lost and struggling to find what that balance looks like?

Clem: [looks squarely at the screen.] Ask for help. Find a resource. [sighs] I mean… you can go to www.CLEMCO.net and try to connect with someone. Find a relative, someone to confide in. Some people write. Find a way to sit still and search, find the peace. I know sometimes it’s hard because it takes work, and the thing is. . .  no one can explain that to you. You have to find the answer for yourself – you have to find what works for you. I truly believe that if you take the time, you’ll realize the answer lies within you. 

Cosette: What was that process like for you?

Clem: It started when I got tired of failing. [shakes his head] I got tired of feeling like a failure. There was an isolation period I went through when I was traveling on the road and doing shows. I started connecting and listening to others and confiding in them. We’d sit and talk and laugh and enjoy each other’s company, but I also took moments to dig a little bit and find the answers I needed. It took a long time, probably about a year … and then after curating all of the information, I took time to begin to just understand and look at myself – that information and my process helped me realize I wasn’t going along the path I wanted to go down. That’s what helped me understand the path I needed to create. That’s what helped me move forward. 

Cosette: And how long did you navigate that road?

Clem: I’d say another year. Now, as we come up on this year – a full year of being in a global pandemic – I have been thinking about what I’ve done with my time. I hope to be out of this soon, but thinking about what to take from this experience to align, re-align, create, re-create my life on the other end of this.

Cosette: [nods] OK, I get that. So, now that you’re on the other side of this, what words would you use to describe the before and the after?

Clem: I’d tell myself this shit is hard, but I’m determined to make it through. 

If I’m in it I’d tell myself this is hard. If I’m going into it, I’d say this is going to be hard.

If I’m halfway through, I’d tell myself I’m gonna make it, or I’d say we’re gonna make it. 

Lastly, if I’m on the other side, I’d say we made it! I’d say look at what we’ve done! I’d say let’s keep moving forward!

Cosette: If you could go back is there anything you’d do differently?

Clem: [Clem answers without hesitation.] No, because I wouldn’t be where I am today if I did. I wouldn’t be connected to the people I’m connected to. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Over this last year, we’ve been building. Building patience. Building resilience. Building strength. Building courage. And it’s important that we continue to build and care for ourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally so that we’re prepared for what’s coming next, and so we can be strong as we leverage our gifts to face future challenges. Join me next month as Clem and I chat about gifting and how knowing what your gifts are can help with being fulfilled in work and in life.

GOING BACK TO GO FORWARD

By Cosette Strong

In this edition of our interview feature series conducted monthly across a virtual platform, I will give you a window into chats with Clem as he shares his thoughts about a number of things, namely 2020s impact on his industry of Live Event Production and where we need to go from here. This interview took place via a virtual video chat while I was in Pickerington, Ohio, and Clem was in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Cosette: Last month we talked about 2020 – its impact, its chaos and its disruption. That CTRL + ALT + DEL that paralyzed some people but compelled you to progress. Speaking of progress, let’s talk about how we humans progress, and most notably, your pattern for progress. Sometimes in order to go forward, we have to go back. What does that mean to you? 

Clem: [pauses and looks at the blue, cloudless sky] Well, with the industry, life halted. Everything just stopped. One day there was a game… an event… a concert… and then the next day there was nothing. It was cancelled. Then another and another and another. Cancelled. Gone.

There was the hope we would hold onto something… the hope of future events, but then those, too, were cancelled. We experienced exponential growth and progress in 2018 and 2019, but then the pandemic happened and we were forced to take a beat, a pause, and for some a step back.

[FLASHBACK | March 2020:

I was preparing for a number of things: an epic birthday trip with my daughter, an immersive training production that I helped design and support as Production Manager, and several opportunities to work with clients doing purpose-driven work that motivated and inspired me. There was so much I was looking forward to. Like many others, I was expecting an amazing 2020. Like many others, COVID-19 was not something I expected. It was challenging to adjust professionally and personally. There was no precedent, no project plan, no blueprint or template to follow to navigate through the challenges the pandemic brought. 

Cosette: OK… but didn’t that occur with many industries, and certainly to a lot of people? How does what you’re saying relate not only to the pandemic at-large but also narrows focus to independent contractors aligned with your industry in particular? 

Clem: [looks at the sky, considering] So… sometimes it’s not always a pandemic – it can be any situation that impacts your life. Maybe it’s an injury, a death, a relocation, a birth, a new whatever it is that affects the way you once did things. That affects the way you once did life.

Through that transition and that adjustment period, you have to understand what it took for you to make it to that point in life in the first place. What it took for you to be that “successful”. Now, that beat, that pause, that step back is your moment to reflect, analyze, and understand how you reached your peak performance level, and what it is about your true skill, your true sense of self, your holistic you that allowed for that growth to happen. You have to understand it, so you can repeat it. You have to believe in your true self’s ability to achieve the greatness you know you’re destined for.

Cosette: But preparing for 2020 – for the pandemic and the way everything just stopped – can we agree that no one could have prepared for that?

Clem: [laughs] Yeah… Of course… planning for a pandemic is something only a select few would prepare for. Those people probably have a fallout shelter or bunker somewhere overflowing with food and supplies. [laughs again] But seriously – there are ways that you can try to be ready for whatever’s coming, for whatever’s next around the corner. You have to understand the skills you possess as an individual – what makes you unique. Not the technical skills – but the life skills. [Clem leans in and looks at me, his face animated] What life skills do you possess that allowed you to get to this point, Cosette? Seriously!! Think about it! You need to understand the type of intangible equipment/tools you needed to be this successful. But, like I said, it’s not technical. It’s not the equipment – it’s YOU. 

It’s your understanding around how to navigate the equipment, your understanding around how to navigate the stress, and your understanding around how to navigate client expectations.

Once you understand that – the root of who you are, you can take that skill, that understanding and transfer it to whatever else it is you’re meant to do next in life.

[FLASHBACK | April 2020:

As I consumed news media, talked to colleagues, clients and friends and absorbed the shock waves COVID-19 was sending out worldwide, it leveled me for a bit. The world was paused. Everything had come to a stop. Like many, I was trying to manage my health and well-being and part of the churn in me was because I wasn’t sure what to do next. What I did know is I couldn’t stay stagnant. I knew that if I did, it would not turn out well. I knew that making progress in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges was a must. Deciding to obtain my Coaching certification was my way of leaning into the intangible attributes that make me who I am and was also a way for me to navigate my surroundings in a meaningful and productive way.

Cosette: [nods slowly] So… in going back to go forward – it’s about the basics. Understanding what you bring to the table will help you move forward in a significant way.

Clem: Exactly. So in what feels like a step back, it’s really just a settle. Think about baseball. I spent many years shooting MLB games for the Tampa Bay Rays, and even worked their 2008 World Series run against the Philadelphia Phillies. Before a batter hits that home run, he sees, observes and watches the ball heading towards him. He knows it’s coming, but then, what looks like a straight pitch takes a hard curve to the left. What does the batter do? He analyzes things, adjusts to the new obstacle, lifts the bat further off his shoulders, pulls it back, then gives it all he’s got to knock that ball out of the park. He took a beat and went backwards to go exponentially forward. Right?

If in your own life, you take one step back but two steps forward, aren’t you still moving forward?

Cosette: Interesting. I agree with you – forward progress, no matter how big or how small, is movement. So, going back to thinking about the pandemic – what do you say to the  independent contractor who feels like the little progress being made isn’t enough? 

Clem: I’d tell them about my time in college, and when I joined my fraternity. I became a part of a brotherhood that changed the trajectory of my life. There was a step we would do called the Ape Walk. It was done in either a line or a circle. 

[Clem’s eyes become wistful and his voice becomes nostalgic.]

Two steps forward one step back

Two steps forward one step back

Each brother had a unique and individual way of adding flair or flavor to their step, their process, and their way of life. Through our movements there was an undeniable rhythm, a heartbeat we, as members, felt.

When people watched us do this step at parties, step shows, or in the student union, they learned that, as an outsider, you don’t break the line or the circle. 

Once we started you were either stuck on the inside or on the outside, and you were there until it was done.

An important lesson I learned was that as Mic Checka Remix was playing and the brothers were stepping, we were moving together and flowing together. There was no stopping us.

Cosette: And how do we relate that to independent contractors?

Clem: From an industry standpoint, we were all forced to take that beat together – we were forced to stop, to pause together. But then we had to pick up and understand we’re still moving – maybe not at the pace we were used to or accustomed to – but we’re still moving. 

The point is, each brother stayed connected. And that’s what needs to be done now.

As independent contractors, it starts with putting our hand on our brother or sister’s shoulder, letting them know you’re there, and letting them know you’ve got their back. It has to start with staying connected and finding that inspiration so no one loses touch and falls to the wayside. We have to think as we did when we were on the road doing shows. We have to be exceptional. We have to accept that WE were exceptional. We have to make the impossible possible. We have to believe that through hard work and perseverance, we could do anything. We did it then, and we can do it NOW!

Now is the time to believe. Now is the time to create. Now is the time to execute. See it…Believe it… Achieve it! #Projection101

Two steps forward. One step back. Sometimes forward progress means backward movement. Sometimes, we have to accept that is what’s best so that we can move to what’s next. Look for my next connection point with Clem, as we talk about how having an agile business model so you can pivot in the face of challenges is essential to continuing on a forward path. 

WHY NOT?

By Cosette Strong

In this new interview series conducted monthly across a virtual platform, I will give you a window into chats with Clem as he shares his thoughts about a number of things: 2020’s impact on his industry of Live Event Production, the relevance of why CLEMCO is moving in a new direction, and lastly, where we should be directing our focus in 2021. 

Cosette: So… you’ve been in this business for a while now. You have many ways for people to engage with you and for them to get information about the industry. If I wanted to learn about you and CLEMCO and all you’re doing, I could check out your blog or a podcast. I could connect with you on social media too. But – this newsletter is new, a bit of a departure from what you’ve done thus far. [I raise an eyebrow.] You know I have to ask: Why now?

[FLASHBACK | May 2020:

I started thinking back to the first time I officially met Clem. As a Learning Architect, Executive Consultant and Project Manager, I design and produce a number of Live Virtual Trainings (LVT) from a content perspective. Clem works on the technical side of these LVTs, and that’s how our paths crossed. Working together as part of a team during COVID, we first met while he was on the other side of the screen during a virtual training call. Small talk led to me asking him about his journey and his path to get where he is today. During our first time meeting in-person, Clem’s passion and positivity was inspiring! His natural coaching style is evident – I now understand why peers, clients and others in his industry come to him for coaching and consulting. He asked about my journey and my past freelance experience, as well as my current role and future aspirations. He talked with me about his mission, his vision, how he’s meeting this unique moment in time, and he also gave me some wisdom to help my own business thrive, not just survive.]

Clem: Why now? [Clem laughs.] I say, “Why not?” [Clem leans closer to the screen. His face lights up.] In 2019, just before the new year, I noticed that some people saw 2020 as a year to have or see a vision. I saw 2020 as the year to start to really execute my vision – not just seeing it and believing it, because I always say that, but to really start achieving it. [Clem looks away from the screen for a second, and off into the distance.] For me, 2020 was that hard reset – that CTRL+ALT+DEL, or Force Quit. That fresh start. [His eyes meet the screen again.] Executing on the plan was my way of taking advantage of that opportunity.

Cosette: [I nod slowly.] Okay, okay… Interesting. For a lot of people in 2020, the Force Quit that COVID created made them stop and stall. [I lean back in my chair and squarely face the screen and Clem’s eyes, considering.] But you – you went in a different direction – you did the opposite. When did you start planning to execute the vision?

Clem: [Clem looks up at the sky, then back at me] Really, in 2016. But, in 2019, I needed to plan to provide the framework for this big idea. You could say, I had the idea for a show in 2016, but I truly started the pre-production in 2019. Yeah, that was really the start – see the structure, then create the infrastructure. My big idea was to help people learn how to approach their whole selves – life, work, family – from a different perspective. [Clem puts his hands up and becomes more animated] But how? How do we do that? How do we build a strong foundation and go from there?

[FLASHBACK | June 2010:

My own entrepreneurial experience was, in a word, accidental. Personal circumstances found me creating full-scale culinary pieces: cakes that looked like shoes, purses and football stadiums, cupcake trees and wedding dessert buffets. What started out as a small hobby and love of dessert creation quickly bloomed into a full-scale business. All homegrown without formal business or culinary education. The lessons I learned from that time were valuable and remain with me even though I am no longer a culinary artist and business owner. Now that I know what I know, I often think it would have been nice to have a resource like Clem to assist me so I could have avoided some of the missteps and been more successful.]

Cosette: [I smile.] I love that idea. [I lean in, eyes level with his through the screen.] I’m going to ask again, though: Why?

Clem: Because it’s my mission. [Clem’s expression turns serious.] It’s what I have to do… my calling. It’s because of what I’ve been through as I’ve tried to navigate the life of an independent contractor/business owner. I’ve learned so much – learned from my wife, learned from people in my network, and learned from my own missteps. And I wanted – no, needed – to take this 20 years of professional working experience and use it to help others.

[FLASHBACK | November 2020:

After hearing this, I recall my initial in-person conversation with Clem again. At that time, he said something that stuck with me: “Don’t get caught flat-footed.” When he first said it, I laughed. My feet are actually very flat. But as he explained the meaning behind it, it resonated with me on a deeper level. Clem never stays put; he never rests. He’s always trying harder, bringing one more person along, and climbing higher to achieve greater. His energy is incessant and infectiousNot getting caught ‘flat-footed’ is part of his DNA.]

Cosette: And that dedication and passion – that resolve – you turned it into something tangible, how? Where did you start?

Clem: Well… it’s really a number of things. But where I started was writing in 2019. I published my first book, Career Projection 101, on April 3, 2020 at the start of the pandemic. The funny thing is – that wasn’t supposed to be the first book in the series, but [Clem laughs.] that’s how it turned out. I guess you could say it was something I feltled to do… Have you ever had that feeling? Something you can’t explain, but something you felt so driven to do that you were fearful of what would happen if you didn’t? That’s what I felt. I had to do my part to help others learn the things I wish I knew when I started in this industry as an independent contractor. It’s really about a small part of my holistic journey – what that has looked like – all in 9 chapters. But like I said, it’s only the first book of three.

Cosette: And your goal in writing those books – what role does this newsletter play? What will be the focal point?

Clem: This is my way to reach out and help people in the only way I know how – through my own experiences. I also want an opportunity to show others what we should all focus on to make success in this industry, shoot, in life, attainable, not just aspirational. It’s also a way to share important information – things that are needed to make thatsuccess possible from a business standpoint.  [Clem smiles and his eyes shine.] If you see it and believe it, you can achieve it! I say that all the time. My experience tells me it’s true.

Why now? Because it’s time. It’s past time. Time to learn from missteps, connect with and help others, and achieve success as independent contractors and small business owners, together. Look for my next connection point with Clem, as we talk about why it’s absolutely necessary that we pause and go back in order to go forward.

KNOW AND LIVE UBUNTU

By Clem Harrod

There is a Zulu word that Nelson Mandela often used to inspire the people of South Africa: Ubuntu. The most common translation for it is I am because we are. It is a philosophy for teamwork at a different level, one where everyone is being the best they can, for the greater good. If you happen to catch the interview with Coach Doc Rivers on the Netflix show, Playbook, you’ll hear him talk about how he and the Boston Celtics lived by the Ubuntu philosophy, in good times and bad.Ubuntu recognizes and celebrates each person’s uniqueness, their skills, their talents, and sees them as part of a universal effort. It’s about belonging to every person around you, and them belonging to you, so that you are collectively working to make the world a better place. Then by extension, we are all giving others grace in their humanity.Ironically, Doc Rivers was the head coach of the Orlando Magic when I first started working there. This philosophy took root in his coaching a few years later, but I have believed in Ubuntu from my first day in production. You have to. Many of us travel to work events, and on those trips, we inevitably build relationships and friendships with one another. Sometimes our home lives suffer, and sometimes we take our own frustrations out on people at work.When you come from a place of Ubuntu, you look at each other as not just a fellow technician or team member, but more so a brother or sister. With Ubuntu, your compassion for one another is immeasurable. “Where you may have fallen short, I will take on your load, and where I am falling short, I pray you will be my support.”When I was in college and pledged my fraternity, we had a ritual where we carried our line brothers on our back and ran across campus chanting, “He’s my brother; he’s not heavy!” This taught us to support one another, and that the load we carry is not our own. It is bearable because my brother is there with me.When we work an event, we all have a common goal to accomplish. We are going to do it together, and we should all look to do it with the best possible attitude. None of us can take this journey alone, and the more we support each other, the more we are supported in turn.No one in the audience knows the amount of work that went into creating the masterpiece they are experiencing. They can’t comprehend the hours of prep and labor that was put into that one event for that one client, and they don’t realize it was a massive team effort. There’s no way I could walk into a ballroom and build a complete show from audio, video, staging, rigging, and lighting by myself. Nor would I want to. We are all dependent upon one another for our individual success.When you understand that, you will approach and treat your job differently. People will then approach and treat you differently because they know you are going to do what it takes to help others succeed. You will find more satisfaction and pride in your craft, and every day you work, you will feel blessed.When you are in an industry that you love, and you feel passionate about your work, you will naturally execute everything to the best of your ability. When I got into this field, I had no idea how much money I could make. I was here because I was excited to use the gifts and talents God gave me. Because I was focused only on doing my best, serving others, and taking ownership of what mattered, the money followed. With every single job, I put my heart and soul into the work because the image on the screen is just as much a reflection of my love for this industry as it is for my client.