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Mike Benz talks a bit about making the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame a reality
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Mike Benz talks a bit about making the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame a reality
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more about Mike, his thoughts on success and perhaps his secrets, and how to effectively get things done even when the odds are against you. Mike. Welcome to the Success wave show. Thanks, Pat. It's great to be here. Great to hear your voice. Well, Mike, let's get right into it. As I mentioned, your career is earmarked with some really notable accomplishments and successes. Do you have one of those that really stand out the most you're most proud of? And why? I guess it would be the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame only because its impact for people and the community both not only here but worldwide, is being felt even more now today than when we first did it. So I guess that that highlights it. At the end of the day, though, I'm pretty proud of helping people at the United Way, And I'm also very proud of working with small business people at Cozy, so it's pretty hard. But rock and roll is the one that you know is kind of world class and that I spent two lifetimes at Yeah, I bet. And Mike, it wasn't easy at the beginning, was it? I mean, there were a lot of naysayers back in the in the nineties whether this thing was ever going to come to fruition. Yeah. I mean, back when we came up with the idea which we kept subterranean at first, uh, in 1985 I had a group of people we didn't even know about New York. And then when the story broke in August of that year that we were actually interested in being and we found out about New York's efforts, we literally all of a sudden had 18 competitors around the United States that wanted to be the location of the Rock Hall. So the first effort was win the rights, and that took almost a year to win the rights, to build it and be the home of the rock hall. And then, uh, the effort with that was unbelievable. Cleveland Ear's and people from all over jumped in the game and everything from surveys and phone phone in deals. USA Today I mean, it was crazy. And finally, after a year's effort, literally, because I saw the first idea in April of 1985 and we actually announced being the site of the Rock Hall in May 5th of 1986. So it was crazy after we won. It's kind of like the dog chasing the car, and then when he catches it, everybody goes Okay, now what do we do? And back in the day? I mean, things aren't easy in any municipality getting things done right. But back then, my recollection is, in the late eighties and the nineties, it wasn't easy at all. And whether it's Northeast while or wherever the concept building this thing, raising the money quite a challenge, right? In terms of everybody's involvement, Yeah, I mean, you know, the first step of winning it. We had to beat out every city that you could name cities like New York and Philadelphia and Detroit and Seattle. And you know, of course, Memphis and on and on and on and on. Everybody thought they should be the site. So after you get through a year of competition and the tears are in your eyes, when you finally get the phone call on April 30th that we won, then the job is taking all of the pledges and ideas and creating something that there was no recipe book for because at the end of the day, sure, there was a country hall of Fame and there's other halls of fame and museums. But there really is no recipe for this place. And so I hired the first Staff. And then I went back to my regular job and six years went on where they tried to raise the money and they tried to, you know, have a relationship with New York, etcetera, etcetera. And that's what some of you all remember is you know, all the difficulty and, you know, six years after we won the rights, I mean, I got an infamous phone call and they said, Hey, we'd like you to go back And it was the leadership of the community, and at first I turned it down, and then they kind of put an emotional gun to my head and said, You know, we really need you to do this again. So then I became the director of the Rock Hall and thank God for a lot of people. He raised $93 million so, you know, through bond issues in philanthropy, but it was crazy. I mean, I went back and it was like a bunker mentality. Community didn't know if we could pull it off. People were giving up. The business community had kind of backed away a little bit, certainly government and backed away. And so, you know, like the movie. I put the band back together. We put the Blues Brothers back together. That's what we did. We brought the community back together. We brought the leadership back together, and you know, when you don't have control by a paycheck, you got to do it with, you know, vision and and a lot of people. Every year when the induction ceremony comes up, they call me and say So you know, what was your favorite song and what's your favorite group and all that and my favorite song pretty much typifies what not only I have done, but we have done. And my favorite song is a little help from My Friends by the Beatles, because that's how most things get done on a collaborative, shared leadership basis. Even with the most difficult problems. I grew up with the Beach Boys and help stage one of their concerts and got to meet him, but my favorite song is you know a little help from my friends, and that's how we did it. And I guess that little help from your friends was essential in winning the rights to the Rock Hall. Let's just spend one more minute on the Rock Hall because it's such a fascinating story. Why do you think Cleveland wanted? I do remember all the competition. I remember major cities, and I think we can even throw San Francisco into the end of the end of the mix. Everybody wanted it all of a sudden. Why did Cleveland emerge as the winner? I'd love to say it was because of me. I think I think the truth is that and what I mentioned about the song is we made sure that this was a Cleveland Northeast Ohio deal, meaning that it was big. It was like having, you know, sports franchise, like the Browns or the Indians of the calves, that that this was a test of our very existence to win it. And so we treated it from the very get go as a big deal instead of just another development opportunity. We made it. We made sure that Cleveland Ear's had it on their agenda not just Mike, and, you know, it's very man is a happy band of men and women. We had everybody had a on their agenda that it was a test of Cleveland by involving everybody and making it very transparent and inclusive and surveys and petition drives and phone in calls where people would spend 50 cents to call and say, you know, with the U. S. A survey. We want this thing. I think we made it a big deal where the other cities just kind of said, Oh, yeah, I would be really cool to have it And they, you know, they showed some things, but we went to work. We had a committee, a civic committee, that we could ask them anything and they would produce it, whether it's money or jets to fly, the New Yorkers here. Or, you know, I had Michael Stanley creates songs. I had all kinds of people doing all kinds of things. It was a universal. We got to get this done. The day May 5th, which brings a tear to my eye. We were in in New York City, at Atlantic Records in Rockefeller Center and Ahmet Ertegun, restless soul stood up at the microphone and said, Ladies and gentlemen, I'm pleased to announce because he's from Turkey. His father was the ambassador from Turkey to the United States, one of the most revered diplomats in the history of our country. He stood up with his accent and said, I am proud to announce that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is going to Cleveland, Ohio, and if you want to know what won it for Cleveland, it was Cleveland Ear's. Wow. Okay, so I think two things. One we had a game plan to. We took it serious and everybody took it serious. And three people participated. I mean, literally people signed petitions. People made phone calls. Businesses let us their planes. People, you know. I mean, it was like everybody was pulling on the same store and we kept it going, you know, because you gotta have staying power. This was a year long effort that we kept on meeting. I mean, even New York told us at one point. Look, we get the message. You want to be in the finals, don't do anything more mhm, and I'm sitting in the conference room, and I you know I put the group together and I chaired it. And, you know, we're talking now. We had been to the first ever induction ceremony and they said, Don't do anything more And it was February, actually, about right now, and we're sitting in the conference room at the Greater Cleveland Growth Association, which is today the partnership. We said we'd been warned off. Don't do anything more. We got the message. Somebody raised their hand. A good friend of mine who is still a good friend of mine, Norman Knight, who just came out with a book. Norm, who was a DJ in New York. But he's from Cleveland, raised his hand, he says, Do you all know what happened on March 21st? 1953 And all of us like, No, we don't know. And he said, Well, that was the day that and we decided that was the day that rock and roll was born, and what I mean by that is it was the first rock concert called the Moon Dog. Coronation Ball was supposed to be aimed at the black community because it was mostly African American black music and 2500 tickets were sold at the Old Arena by Alan Freed, who did the Moon Dog coronate, or Moon Dog Show on WJW and the day of the Concert. They had the first rock and roll riot because people of mixed backgrounds young, old, black, white, ethnic you name it men, women. Everybody showed up. 25,000 people breaking the doors in the police had to come. So it was the day that the confluence of all of this music history of hill music and country music and rhythm and blues and street music all of that came together at that moment in time and was broadly recognized as rock and roll. And so when Norman told us the story in this conference room in 1986 early 86 he we said, Well, let's restage the moon dog coronation ball. And so in March, in a cold, wintry weather, we restaged in like 25 locations across Cleveland, a rock and roll concert, and we had it at old Brooklyn High School and we had at the terminal tower. I mean, it was crazy. We had a B C. I have pictures, and I have the actual video recording of us on ABC Good Morning America, on top of City Hall after staging or restaging the Moon Dog coronation ball. And then I got an infamous call from New York and said, We get it. Don't you dare do anything more. You know we'll call you in April when we have our board meeting. And so they did April 30th. There was a signal that Susan Evans said, Look, I'll call you and I'll give you a signal. I promise you'll be the first No, outside that boardroom, whether you want our laws. And so on April 30th, I'm sitting in my office about five o'clock. The phone rings and I pick it up and she goes. Mike and Susan Evans wink, wink and hung up the phone, and at that moment I knew. And then I got a call from the mayor and the governor and and Norman sequentially. And they said, But you got to keep it quiet for another five days, which I knew it would never happen. But it broke the next morning. This was a Wednesday. It broke Thursday morning across the world that Cleveland was going to be the site of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. What a what a great story. And you know what's interesting about that, Mike, is that when you take a look at all the things over the last 34 decades relative to the accomplishments of the region, that same formula seems to have emanated. Whether it's the Rock Hall, whether it was bringing the Republican National Convention here, whether it's bringing the NFL draft here in April, it seems that northeast Ohio does a great job of just wanting it more than others, which is, you know, for the listeners. That's you know, it's one of the lessons to be pulled out of this, right? If you really want to go after something, you just got to You got to want it more. So let's let's switch gears a little bit. So you know you like your Mr Success Okay, in Northeast, I mentioned your name in Northeast Ohio, and people would say, Well, in Webster's dictionary, you would find Mike Bent, and the definition would be success in one sentence. What's your personal? What's your personal definition of success and has that kind of one sentence definition? Has that changed over? You know, span of your life. Well, kind of reverse it and say I learned it over over my life. But the sentence would be trying to do the right things for the right reasons all the time and trying to make a difference, getting it done, leaving everything out on the field. That's kind of in my mantra, you know? And so I guess the sentence would be doing the right things for the right reasons all the time and making a difference and then getting it done formula seems to have worked for you, my friend, that's for sure. And so let's talk about Mike Ben's when when he was 21. If you could go back in time, which is always kind of fun to think about, if you could go back in time and talk to that 21 year old, what would you tell Mike Ben to 21? I guess, Uh, in fact, I just wrote an article, was funny for an international journal through my work through Julian Panicky and a thing called G I, uh, which is the Geneva Group? Uh, and the title was relationships. A contact sport. So I would I would say to the 21 year old relationships, Build relationships, relationships are everything and then communicate. I mean, be a high communicator and then get it done. You know, complete the task. You start, and that's hard. I mean, a lot of people talk a good game, but showing up a game time and backing up what you say and getting others you know, to be involved, I think that's that's what I would say it, you know, having an ego, Um, only works a little while, but getting the job done takes a lot of hands. And I don't care what we're talking about, whether it's the hospital involvement or rock hall or United Way or government. But I would tell them build relationships because relationships that I built way back I still interact with and then get it done. I mean be like a terrier. Don't let go. You know no is a temporary condition. Those relationships today, uh, perhaps are a little bit more challenging given technology, and let's take the pandemic out of it for a minute. Technology has had a huge impact in terms of how people develop those in person relationships that perhaps you and you and I built our early careers aren't correct. Yeah, that's right. Instead of meeting my clients once every two or three weeks in person, I'm on the line with them every week. Secondly, you gotta double down. If, if you want to build relationships, you can build relationships, or we can use it as an excuse. I think it's a different way. Yes, it's more difficult. That's something we're not used to. But I can tell you now, a year into this newer world. And while I hate covid and what it's done, the thing that it's also done in addition to locking us down is we found new ways to communicate. You just have to work it kind of like Vince Lombardi. There are no excuses. You either, do you either do or you don't. It's just a different technology or a different way instead alive. You've got to make it semi live. And while it's not the same as going to lunch, dinner, breakfast, you know, meeting them at their office or whatever, you gotta do it and you gotta double down. And that's what I tell I mentor. Some of the people at our firm uh, you know, it's the old guy with gray hair, and I say, Look, you've got to double down on your effort. Don't you know? You got to be proactive. You don't let don't be reactive. So I kind of I mean, I got a new clients from referrals, not only from the past, but you still have to work at it. And you have to use what you have available. If you make excuses, Um, you're not going to get it done. And so I don't I don't listen to that. I just If I can't be with you, I can be with you electronically, right? Right. Absolutely great advice, particularly in, you know, we're so much technology has overtaken and how we communicate. And as you mentioned, you know, the pandemic has certainly kind of surfaced new and different ways, and I think some of those are going to carry on Post Pandemic. So let's go a little bit further in terms of skill sets. So what you just provide in terms of advice, extraordinary, and I think practical and can be applied if you were to take a look at kind of the top three skill sets that everyone should have or could have to succeed in their career. What would those be? Top three skill sets, I think. Communication for sure. Written and oral. Mhm, I think the ability to build relationships, too. Uh, they don't necessarily to be friends, but to have a middle ground in the old saying that you get one mouth and two ears, do a lot of listening, you know, listening skill. It's not as easy as the talking skill. So I would I would learn really well to listen and but B a communicator as well as a relationship builder. And then I guess the other thing is which was not me early in my career. Be a planner. Think about it as an example. Um, some of the questions and, you know, you think about it ahead. So I think planning. I used to be a cowboy shoot from the hip that works. Sometimes most of the in a risk taker, you got to be a little risk taker. That doesn't mean expose everything. I had the privilege of going to the Citizen Academy for the FBI, and they teach it. You know, if you're if you're going to get into a risk situation. You can risk an arm and a leg, but don't risk a head or a body shot. Right? So I think the same thing with risk. You should take some risk. But you should really plan out to the degree that you can, because all these little quotes and quips and saying, you know, if you don't have a destination and Iraq will get you there. So I think now and I push really hard with my clients be planned fel and then execute the plan you create the plan that worked the plan and execution, meaning deliver is everything. So for the listeners out there, you just got a million dollars worth of advice there. Three top skill sets communication. But don't forget. Listen. Well, right, Mike, Relationship Building might talked a lot about that already. How important it networking building those relationships can be. And then to be a planner and to work the plan and take a little risk now and then that our challenge you a little bit right to stretch your mike. You've got to do it because if you don't, if you don't think about it ahead of time then you're not doing everything. And I I guess I would give another couple quotes just the way I think about things. There's a saying out there, and I'm going to apologize in advance to your listeners because there's one little off word. But I got to say it the way I think about it. A company had a great saying. Care enough to send the very best. I came up with my own phrase, and it has to do with planning. And it has to do with thinking. And that is the golden thread that runs through winners is a simple phrase. I care. I give a damn. And I think if people will do that, I think it comes out well, No kidding. Little empathy, little sincerity caring for others. That's real leadership these days, isn't it? Yep, it is. So, Mike, I'm gonna have some fun with you here. I'm going to be a genie for a few minutes. Found me on the beach, got me out of the, uh, got me out of the bottle. And you have three wishes that I can grant. What's your three wishes? Um, I think first out of boxes Health and happiness for my family. Secondly, is make a difference for all time and then the last one, which is typical me, you know? You know me, Pat. Have fun. Life's too short. Have fun. Always. So I guess those would be my three Happiness and health for my family. I could add my friends, but also make a difference and have fun. Well, my daughter gave me an answer once that she didn't need the other two. She only needs one wish. And she said I wish that all my other wishes will always come true. So Okay, you stumped me. So that was pretty good. I have fun asking this kind of final question of so many of my guests. And, uh, responses have been unique. Interesting impactful not to put any pressure on you or anything, But if you had a billboard Mike that everyone in the world could see at exactly the same time, what would you put on that billboard and why? Well, I was taught less is more with billboards because you only get a few milliseconds as you drive by. And so I guess I would think of it this way. Care about everything and everybody and underneath make a difference. That's what I would put up there. And I'll tell you that would catch people's attention, particularly these days. I'm hoping we're heading that way, Mike, kind of, you know, as we go over the next couple of decades and and perhaps this, uh, this last year and I'm guessing probably a year and a half to two years by time. Hopefully, we really hurt ourselves of this, uh, this virus and that is the so many people, perhaps are going to take more and more of what you just shared to heart. And let's hope that's the case. I hope so. You know, I mean, a little help from my friends and a little help from all of you. I think you know, if people always ask, Well, what can I do? What difference does it make? And I like to tell one quick, if I could if you have time. One quick story. Sure. So there's a grandfather and a granddaughter walking down the beach. And when somebody asked that question, What difference can you make? Uh, and particularly in today's times, I tell this story and they're walking down the beach hand in hand and 10 million starfish watch Wash up on the beach and the grandfather looks and he reaches down and he picks up one of the starfish and he walks to the to the ocean and he puts the starfish gently back into the sea, and his little granddaughter grabs him by the sleeve and grab a grandpa. Why would you do that? There's there's million starfish out here. What difference could that make? And the grandfather so wisely looked down and said, Honey, it made a difference to that starfish. I love that story, you know, And so I hope everybody will. I mean, it's a contact sport. Let's engage. Yeah, well said, like I appreciate being on. I want to remind everybody that we have been talking with Mike Ben's. He is a simply put in Northeast Ohio business and community icon, a true legend. Everybody, and in this interview has been packed with great content from Mike, and I encourage you to listen to it once, But maybe a couple of times there's some great nuggets of information that I think we can all apply to become a better and all that we do both in our personal and professional lives. Now everybody can follow Mike on LinkedIn. I would also encourage you to check out the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which we are also proud of, and you can go to the website at rock hall dot com. Simply r o c k h a l l dot com Mike, You're also, as we talked about before, a strategic advisor to tune in and panicky, and that website is C p dash advisors dot com that CP Dash a D v I s o r s dot com. Mike, Is there anything else that you would like to share with the listeners in terms of following social media promotion, anything. I hope they'll also look at the Lakeland Community College that I'm an executive in residence there. But no, I think, you know, just do your best to engage And, you know, if we happen to meet along the way, tell them you heard about it on Pat Perry's show. So you know, my friend, thank you for the opportunity. It's been fun to catch up. It has been our pleasure, and this podcast I will treat just like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a true treasure to be preserved and to be looked at many times over in the future. Mike, Thanks for everything. Thanks, partner. As always, look around surfers, and I hope you find a wave of success to ride today. And if you want some more information about my books or keynote presentations, check out perry biz dot com that p e r r y b i z dot com And don't forget to subscribe to Success Wave and thanks for listening. Have a good one. This has been another success. Wave production.
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