The Key Factor Found In People Running Successful Events & Festivals = PASSION! - 12 Habits of Really Successful People (Mad Men Edition)

By Paul Birdwell (

We here at the Roaring Fork Agency talk to events and festivals all over America about working with them to find corporate sponsorship and if there is one piece of advice we could give to people considering the idea of starting an event or festival it is the thought detailed in a recent Asheville Citizen-Times newspaper story on Asheville, North Carolina area festivals which we here at RFA are taking to heart as we move into the event management business:

Asheville festival success tied to mission, not money, Carol Motsinger, Asheville Citizen-Times

“For Jennifer Pickering, success is a once-shy young musician playing trumpet on stage in front of his beaming parents.

One of Laura Hope-Gill's proudest moments came after a webcast reading, when she saw that people in 18 nations had tuned in. Matthew Kern's achievement metric? The number of hugs he received from thrilled festival-goers.

All three are event organizers who produced large-scale festivals when the economy flourished — and when it failed. Under sunny and stormy skies.

Each of these events slated for May is vastly different: Pickering has produced the arts-filled Lake Eden Arts Festival for 19 years; Hope-Gill, a local poet, directs the seventh annual Asheville Wordfest; while Kern and four close friends have produced the music- and outdoors-focused French Broad River Festival for 17 years.

These myriad activities, ranging from rhyming to rafting, are connected by motivation: Each event is designed around mission — not money. Since 2013, six major Asheville entertainment events and festivals, from decades-old block parties to zombie walks, have been put on pause or canceled outright. Many organizers cited money woes or unendurable infrastructure and planning limitations as reasons for the struggles.

"We don't do it for the money," said Kern. "If all of sudden we started making money, that would be a great thing. If you are in it for the money, I think that's why a lot of (festivals) don't make it. I don't blame them for that, if someone gets fed up because they are not making money and quit. We just all have altruistic bones in our bodies."”

What was that again?

“We don’t do it for the money!”

Amen to that Matthew Kern who has been involved in running the French Broad River Festival for 17 years.

What we have picked-up over the years in the sponsorship business is that the most successful events and festivals regardless of whether they have strong corporate support or not is that the events and festivals that are run by people that have a…


…for what they are doing will inevitably when we get these PASSIONATE people in front of potential corporate sponsors display their love for what they are doing so strongly that often the company is ready to write a check to sponsor the event on the spot!

What then is the Essential Lesson that people running events and festivals should know about above all else?

Have PASSION for what you are doing in life and especially have a PASSION for the event or festival you are running!

With the above in mind Inc. Magazine has some great advice that is a fun read drawn from the television show Mad Men:

12 Habits of Really Successful People (Mad Men Edition), Bill Murphy, Jr., Inc. Magazine

“Years go by, fashion changes, but the things that really successful people do each day are timeless.

Here's a case in point: Mad Men, the hit television show about the partners and employees in a 1960s advertising agency, now entering its seventh season. I've written before about how the real star of the program isn't Don Draper or Peggy Olson but the advertising agency itself. More than that, if you take notes, you'll see that the plot lines and characters offer great examples of how to get ahead every single day--and how not to.

1. Trust your creative side.
Series protagonist Draper's title is "creative director," which has to be one of the most apt job descriptions ever, given his penchant for reinvention. However, he does seem to understand how his creative mind works. Among his practices, he'll spend a lot of time thinking about a creative challenge, then forget it, allowing his subconscious mind to do the heavy lifting.

2. Fake it until you make it.
Draper is secretly living another man's life, and with the development of another character, Bob Benson, it looks as though he's not the only one. When the firm was small, it would go out of its way to try to look bigger and more accomplished. You don't want to be dishonest or disingenuous, but you do want to visualize what success would look like and behave as if you already fit the part.

3. Get ahead of your customers.
Here's the key to advertising. Dealing with people effectively is about finding a way to help them get what they want. The challenge is that so few people are truly self-aware. Thus, your mission is to figure it out for them and find a solution to a problem they didn't even know about.

4. Think bigger.
Olson rose from secretary to creative director. Joan Holloway is now a partner bringing in new accounts. Both characters have reached higher levels than they originally dreamed of, only to find that the prize for climbing a mountain is often another bigger mountain. Plans change, goals shift, but it's the people who are willing to dream bigger who actually accomplish things.

5. Plan ahead.
Mad Men opened years ago with its characters facing a professional challenge. The U.S. government was about to start cracking down on cigarette advertisers, and the firm needed to find both a new way to pitch its tobacco clients and a new direction to find more clients. This required long-term thinking that didn't exactly come naturally to all of the characters.

6. Don't be afraid to quit.
The show is about beginnings and endings, over and over and over--fired clients; fired employees; marriages, business deals, and client engagements that the characters walk away from because they're not working out. From the destruction each time comes a new opportunity.

7.  Have fun.
The show is known for its unflinching look at a kind of 1960s debauchery, with all kinds of drinking, sleeping around, and drug experimentation. It's a really unhealthy way to live your life, but it also seems to be the way that the characters blow off steam--and they've got a lot of steam. Don't become an alcoholic philanderer, but be sure to have fun (in healthier ways, I hope).”

That last piece of advice to HAVE FUN is especially important in today's challenging business world and below is a link to the other 5 Habits of Really Successful People (Mad Men Edition) from Inc. Magazine:

12 Habits of Really Successful People (Mad Men Edition), Bill Murphy, Jr., Inc. Magazine

Explore Asheville –

Lake Eden Arts Festival –

Asheville Wordfest –

French Broad River Festival –

Inc. Magazine –

Mad Men – AMC-TV –

If you have any questions about event sponsorship or venue naming rights contact the Roaring Fork Agency at:

If you have any questions about event sponsorship or venue naming rights contact the Roaring Fork Agency at:

San Francisco, California – 415 730 – 4854

Seattle, Washington – 206 940 – 3934

Bend, Oregon – 541 640 – 2221

Twitter - @RoaringForkAgcy