By Marshall Ogen, Vice President of Business Strategy at CannabisBPO
Reflecting upon my career, I can point to several individuals that have populated my professional life, some of whom I can only aspire to be like, and others whom I do my best never to emulate. All our journeys possess the polarity of positive and negative role models, and role modeling is a great tactic in improving your skillset.
However, if you truly strive for self-improvement, enlightenment even, you should seek out a mentor, or become one. First, it’s important to identify the difference between a networking contact and a mentor. A contact is somebody in your network whom you may connect with on various topics, but it’s mostly transactional, although very important in life and business. A mentor is that one person who can steer you, assist you, takes a true interest in your success, and nurtures your career aspirations. A mentor is not transactional, if you are lucky it’s a lifelong relationship. Most importantly, mentors have regular meetings with their mentees versus the drive-by assistance of a contact.
Fortune has shown me incredible mentors, but the one who made the biggest impact appeared at a crossroads in my journey. I was providing customer experience consulting, when I was introduced to Dan Berman, CEO of CannabisBPO and PharmaCentra, regarding a sister company he also owns called Concentra Solutions. Dan asked me to come on board to Concentra Solutions. He sensed my hesitation, as I was contemplating migrating to full time consulting. With this in mind, Dan asked me to have dinner with his business partner and mentor, Larry Latimer.
Larry and I agreed to meet for dinner at a hotel near the Philadelphia airport, as he was lodging in Delaware for a client engagement. After fifteen minutes into our dinner, I realized I’d never met anyone like Larry. How many high school dropouts have you met that conquered a severe stutter then became a motivational speaker, a golden glove boxer, a platinum-selling, award-winning music writer (responsible for one of the most played jukebox songs of all time), and one of the creators of the infomercial industry, as well as being an advertising mad man by writing the slogan for one of the world’s most recognized brands?
Of course, he did not share all of this during our dinner. It was the way he spoke, how he drew you into a conversation, and showed there were many different paths, perspectives, in which to see the world. After a boisterous dinner upon which we discussed innumerable topics, he paid for the check by signing a room number, and we left the restaurant. I knew he was not staying at this hotel, was this a test? I was young, but as we walked to the lobby, I was conflicted. I needed to say something, but I did not want to poison the well either. Fortunately for me, the server rushed into the lobby and informed Larry that the floor he wrote down was higher than the floors of the hotel. With a straight face, but joking Larry asked the server if he was absolutely certain, and after some debate, and a lot of laughter, Larry apologized profusely and paid. I never imagined the most important mentor in my life would be the absent-minded professor type.
Larry taught me how to negotiate deals that were the best for all parties, how to convey difficult news, and how to bring out the best in others and within myself. He always had lines that boiled down complex conversations into simple soundbites. One of my favorite sayings was the line “Without profit, it isn’t business. It’s just work.” Larry taught me the art of conversation, specifically listening. He taught me how to hone-in on the creative process and find places to brainstorm. He taught about the nuances of business language with another one of his lines, “the written and spoken words are not the same languages, so don’t treat them the same.”
Sadly, Larry passed away in 2007, but his lessons help me daily. More importantly, his mentorship provides the basis for my own mentoring. A good mentor like Larry is more than a teacher imparting wisdom, they are somebody to help your problem solve, network, strategize, rationalize, and vet ideas and issues. But a mentor does not need to be a one-to-one relationship with an individual. As mentioned earlier, Larry was also a mentor to Dan Berman, CEO of CannabisBPO. The lessons that Larry taught both Dan and I helped forge an incredible friendship and business relationship. To this day, Dan and I play the mentor/mentee role for each other, often still using the lessons of Larry.
There is also another type of mentor in the corporate world. In essence, an advisory board is a form of mentorship for a business. In our contact center practice at CannabisBPO, we focus on the “Three E’s”; Educate, Engage, and Empower. We focus on these three E’s, both internally and externally. Therefore, when we set out in the cannabis space, we focused first on our education. While we came to the table with pharmaceutical, customer expertise, and compliance expertise via CannabisBPO’s sister companies PharmaCentra and Concentra Solutions, we wanted a deeper cannabis education. To get to the root of it, we started at the ground level, literally. We met with growers, both newer generation growers, and multi-generational growers, who have been perfecting the craft for decades. Then we engaged with individuals and companies that interacted with the cannabis sector from multiple touchpoints from branding, science, valuation, CPG, packaging, legislation, extraction, government, and many more.
With a thirst for institutional knowledge, we sought out and engaged a plethora of experts in the space. We used this exercise to create the CannabisBPO advisory board and empowered them to help our company, our clients, and the cannabis industry as a whole. Advisory boards are mentors. Larry Latimer was a mentor and helped me navigate my corporate journey and discover my personal brand. The CannabisBPO board does the same for our organization. Our goal was to find individuals who have a track record of measurable success and the ability to collaborate with others around a common goal.
We are honored to have some amazing minds helping to steer the CannabisBPO organization to be a best-in-class provider of contact center services for the cannabis industry. They have helped our organization and our client partners to maximize their customer journey goals, brand perception, and financial objectives. If you want to learn more about our advisors, please visit https://www.cannabisbpo.com/advisory-board/.
Mentors like Larry Latimer and the CannabisBPO Advisory board can be the catalyst for an amazing business journey. Seek out mentors, and remember when you partner with CannabisBPO our mentors become yours too.
CannabisBPO is a specialty provider of contact center services for the cannabis industry. With locations in Canada and the US, the company offers outbound and inbound contact center services in a 24/7 setting. The company’s core service channels are text, email, mail, phone, chat, and social media for customer service, sales, and technical support projects. CannabisBPO helps cannabis companies drive revenue and mitigate risks. For more information, visit https://cannabisbpo.com. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
Marshall Ogen is the Vice President of Business Strategy at CannabisBPO and has over 25 years of experience in outsourced contact centers, quality assurance, having consulted with many of the world’s most recognizable brands to ensure successful customer engagement activities. He is a strategic advisor to the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association, a member of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) Marketing and Advertising Committee, and the co-chair of the Mid-Atlantic Professional Association of Customer Experience (PACE).