The CEDIA Leadership Series Part One: A Recap

Ed Wenck | Nov 24, 2020

CEDIA’s initial Leadership Series event featured two guests that association members have come to know pretty well over the past several months: Linzi Boyd and Darren Shirlaw, the team behind “BoB,” short for “Business of Branding.” The pair delivered keynotes at this year’s virtual Expo Experience, and Boyd’s appeared on a pair of CEDIA podcasts as well.

Boyd and Shirlaw gave a tandem presentation out of the gate called “Unlearn to Relearn,” noting that the recession we’re currently in wasn’t a V-shape at all – Shirlaw, an economist, sees the pandemic economy as an “L.” We’ve fallen off a cliff.

“When recessions bite, and bite hard, fear is the first reaction,” he notes.

As we slowly begin recovery (which will accelerate as vaccines are approved and distributed), Boyd notes that the adrenaline rush of coping – dealing with the shock of a financial/health crisis and all its attendant traumas – will wane. And when that happens, as people begin to level-set, that’s when it’s time to really think about where your business is headed. “The recovery won’t be so much financial as societal,” she says. “After a trauma, you have to adjust.”

Boyd also notes that this is a time when employees could drift away. “There’s often a yearning for change; and that’s a time when people might be looking for new challenges.” One of her tips for staying connected to those employees: “More – and smaller – communications. Reach out to your people often, but keep the big picture, grand communications on hold for a bit.”

Brand DNA

That comms advice is one tidbit among many that leads into Boyd’s second presentation of the day, which addresses what she calls “Brand DNA,” the absolute stuff of which your brand is created. When a CEO or principal zooms out to really look at what their “brand” is built around, and what it can become, the end result is nothing short of startling.

A concrete example of this is Jamie Oliver. “If you’re a restaurant owner, and you say, ‘We need to grow the business,’ what do you do? Increase sales? Get more butts in seats? Once you’ve got them in their seats, how do you sell them more stuff and improve your margins?” But there’s another way to look at all of this: Oliver isn’t in the restaurant business anymore. He figured out that HE was the brand, and now is in the television production business. “He still has restaurants – they’re one of his products – bu he’s figured out that he himself is the actual ‘brand.’” It’s an example of what Boyd calls “B2P” – not B2C or B2B, but a Business-to-People model that connects with purpose and authenticity.

The Coming Boom

Boyd’s presentations bookended a presentation on the housing market by David Brown and Kimberly Byrum of the firm Zonda. Darren Shirlaw had already outlined his recovery timeline – roughly ten years of solid growth likely beginning in September of 2021 – and that long-term optimism seemed to be borne out by the raw data the Zonda team has generated.

“What’s surprising is how even the housing market has been,” notes Brown. The reasons: low interest rates, a shift in spending away from things such as travel and meals out (which means more disposable income that can be funneled into the home), and the desire to improve one’s surroundings in a work-from-home universe.

“Buyers are moving away from places that are more expensive, and are more densely populated,” notes Brown, cautioning that there’s no singular housing market, but a vast patchwork of mini- and micro-economies. But while Sacramento’s gains are San Francisco’s losses, for example, demand remains high. “Builders are going into 2021 with some of the biggest backlogs they’ve ever seen,” says Brown.

The first Leadership event is available as a recording, the next in the series are slated for December 9, 2020, and January 27, 2021. https://cedia.net/leadershipseries

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