Tuesday, 22 May 2012

"What does Racing mean to you?" Robert Lavigne has asked this question before. Today, he answers his own question for you.

Sponsorship is one thing. But what about Mosport?
For the 2012 Victoria Day weekend, we spent our time at our favourite track, Mosport. However, Mosport is no more, or is it? Since it's 50th Anniversary, Mosport has been sold to new owners, secured a long term sponsor for the track, and has made major improvements to the motorsport park.

Would my cherished track be the same as I remember it? Yes, Yes, Yes and No.

Mosport International Speedway has a special place in my heart. It is at Mosport that I learned to track my Porsche 951. Recently, it has been my primary source of material for my Motorsport Documentary (now in it's 3rd season). Mosport has a deep rooted history in Canadian racing and must live on to tell its complete story. #TDGv Racing will continue to tell it's story in this new era.

While I was at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, I collected footage for Season 3 of #TDGv Racing: A Motorsport Social Novel. While having been referred to as "the camper invading the media room", I managed to get some pretty good racing footage. In addition, I interviewed key personalities associated with the track to get their thoughts on the shift from Mosport International Raceway to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

What did they make of the new bridges in corner 2 and 7? What about the new tunnel at 9 capable of fitting two semi-trailers and still having room for two pedestrian walkways? What about all of the landscaping work being done to facilitate and accommodate more campers? What about the plans for the new Media Centre and VIP booths? What questions would I ask?

When all was said and done, I asked them all one very simple question,

In the process of asking this question over and over, I got to hear answers from various groups associated with the racing community. I heard from racers, organizers, reporters, and fans alike expressing how inter-twined racing is with their life.

After a long day of interviews, we found a suitable spot for our campsite and claimed it as our cottage for our race weekend. It was during our overnight stay camping at the bottom of corner 2, that I had to think hard about answering the question "What does Racing mean to me?"

From Humble Beginnings a Community will Grow
What does Racing mean to me? Racing is at the core of my belief that for a business to thrive, it must maintain an innovative spirit. Nothing to me says innovation more than racing. The very concept of racing is to find the limits, test them and push them. Through this process you, as an individual, become stronger and better. Your momentum, as an organization, is carried through an innovative spirit to be smoother and faster.

Many people think that racing is all about speed. If this was the case, we would be watching racing in an empty vacuum. Racing is more than just about speed. Racing is about smoothness, grip, mechanical issues, team work, sponsorship, competition, collaboration, and chaos. Racing comprises every aspect of your life and your business. In racing, the perfect work/life balance exists to those who call it their domain and their passion. To someone in the racing community, there is no work/life balance, there is simply balance (inspired by Mitch Joel).

While Mosport had a history, Canadian Tire does as well.
Let's now address my thoughts on Mosport International Raceway, now being called Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. First and foremost, recognize that the Mayor of Mosport himself Ron Fellows is part of the new ownership team. This is like Wayne Gretzky joining your team as a hockey coach. The is no denying the passion and experience that Ron Fellows brings to the table. Ron Fellows has seen probably every track in the world. He knows what has been missing at Mosport and now has the funds to deliver on his vision. The question is, do the other owners and the sponsors share in Ron Fellow's vision for what was formerly called Mosport International Speedway?

What is Ron Fellows' vision for Canadian Tire Motorsports Park? Well, based on what I saw so far, It is all about giving back to the campers, the media, and the sponsors. Numerous improvements to the grading and landscaping have been undertaken in the winter months. There is no doubt that campers are part of their growth strategy. This means future improvements will be made to washrooms and guest facilities.  Personally, I think they should build a few 2-4 people sized cabins at the bottom of Corner Two.

Bridges connect Sponsors and Community
From our newly claimed spot at the bottom of Corner Two, we watched a community re-establish itself at their Motorsport Park. From our vantage point, we watched fires being built across the diverse landscape. As the night progressed, the fires grew in size. Where small fires burned, often a larger fire would emerge as the group joined around a common fire. Where large fires raged, smaller fires would spawn as arguments arose. The sound of fireworks made way to the sound of laughter and cursing. Everything was reminiscent of watching a time-lapse of a new settlement being formed. The question forever remained fully unanswered, "What does Racing mean to them?"

Monday, 7 May 2012

The Grandelicious Entrepreneurs of Brantford are Revitalizing the Economy with #Brantastic Food, Wine and Entertainment

Karen Thomson and Robert Lavigne Cheesing It Up at Grandelicious
On May 4, 2012, Karen and I were invited to attend the VIP Gala of Grandelicious in Brantford. It would mark the launch of the three day weekend event showcasing Food, Wine and Entertainment available in the Brant and Grand River region. The event would see thousands of people attending over the weekend, due in part by Lynn Crawford of the Food Network gracing the stage.

Honoured Dignitaries, Trevor Cherewka and Jamie Stephens (Organizers)
The first innaugural Grandelicious Food and Wine Show is the brainchild of two local event organizers and emerging community leaders. Trevor Cherewka, best known for his highly successful Tweetstock Social Media conference, joined forces with Jamie Stephens, best known for organizing the Brantford Comedy Festival. Having had the honour of being a guest panelist for Tweetstock in the past, I knew going into the event that this would be a top notch effort on both their parts.

Chris Friel, Mayor of Brantford and David McKee, Brantford Town Crier
The VIP Gala started with Municipal, Provincial and Federal dignitaries extolling praise for what Trevor and Jamie were spearheading in the region. After the formal announcements, I caught up with Chris Friel (Mayor of Brantford), Jan Vanderstelt (Brantford City Council), and Phil McColeman (MP - Brant) to capture their insights on this event. David McKee (Brantford Town Crier) even graced me with a secondary reading of his speech from the opening ceremony.

What earmarked this as a successful event to me, was not the 4500 in attendance, the 35000 samples given out, the 34 vendors, the 44 booths, or the 8 musicians. For me, it was the fact that as I walked up and down the isles, I recognized the majority of the vendors, participants, attendees and volunteers. The fact that I have lived in Brantford for just shy of a year speaks volumes to the fact that it doesn't take long to see that there is an emergence of community leaders in Brantford. There is a new generation spawning multiple generations coming together to redefine what it means to live the Brantford lifestyle.

Brantford has been hard hit by the economic realities of a small town on the outskirts of a metropolitan mega city. One of the reasons I moved from Toronto to Brantford is to help this city redefine itself for the twenty-first century. It is events like this that remind me that I am not alone in this venture. Events such as the Grandelicious Food and Wine Show are a reminder that it only takes the will of a few to redefine the will of many.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Potted Potter (#PottedPotterTO) Premiere Interviews by Robert Lavigne - Cast and Production Team

Today, the production team behind Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience – A Parody by Dan and Jeff, announced that the Toronto run would be extended until April 8, 2012.
Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience – A Parody by Dan and Jeff  breaks records with ticket sales 
Producers announce final extension of Toronto run until April 8
This does not surprise me in the least. I was witness to the Toronto Premiere of Potted Potter. The show was a profitable mix of low production costs with high production value. It is no wonder that the show is being extended.

Think about it.

The cost of the production is two guys (Dan and Jeff), five major stage props, a variety of wigs, brooms, and dollar store items. Yet, the show is breaking ticket sales records in Toronto. The producers clearly know a winning equation when they see it.

What you see is what you get. Low Cost. High Revenue. Great Value.
This is the very nature of putting all of your costs into what matters. A great cast, a great laugh, a great concept, and a great production team. There is no reason to suspect that Potted Potter could very much be the most profitable limited run show in Toronto in 2012.

At the premiere after party, I was fortunate to sit down with Daniel Clarkson and Jeff Turner. The energy they share on stage is naturally extended to their off stage personality. It is further extended to their banter and engagement on Twitter.

It is also not a surprise that the producers of the show (Corey Ross and James Seabright) are excited about the Toronto run. During my interview with them, it was clear to me that they already had aspirations of bringing this show to the United States. The fact that the show has been extended already is a clear sign that this is not the last we will see of Potted Potter in North America.

To compliment the shows run in Toronto, a special mention also has to go out to Associate Producer, Marcello Cabezas. I have seen nobody more engaged with this brand on Twitter than Marcello. His feed and his time have been dedicated to this venture. I am sure he is above the moon right now with the announcement of this extension.

In the later part of my interview with Marcello, he outlines why it is so important to bring shows like this to Toronto. Heck, I was willing to drive in from Brantford to see it. A great time at a great value will always draw a crowd. Potted Potter is no exception to this rule. More so, they have the profit equation figured out.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Mackenzie Chiu, The Fuel House (@FuelHouseTO) - Interview by Robert Lavigne

As mentioned in a previous entry, I enjoyed a great Valentine's Day meal at the Fuel House in Toronto. The evening was part of a larger trip to Toronto from Brantford to see the premiere of Potted Potter at the Panasonic Theatre.

A Three Course Meal on Valentine's Day

I enjoyed the meal so much, I interviewed Mackenzie Chiu, the owner of the Fuel House, for this installment of The Other Side of Forty-Two. In the interview below, Mackenzie talks about his niche restaurant located in a Victorian House in the Little Italy district of Toronto.

What impressed me the most about Mackenzie Chiu and the Fuel House, apart from the food and ambience, was their keen integration with Social Media. While many restaurants have registered themselves on foursquare, very few have fully populated their entry with their address, phone number, twitter account, and web site. All aspects of these contact details are easily visible via the Fuel House foursquare page.
Make sure you check in to the Fuel House while in Toronto
Taking it one step further, the Fuel House makes use of foursquare check-in specials. By creating a "Newbie Special", the Fuel House is inviting their customers to engage on foursquare. This results in not only an increase in check-ins, but an increase in photos being shared, tips being posted, lists being curated and overall visibility across the social graph.
Take advantage of the Newbie Special upon your 1st check-in
All this is standard fare for a well developed foursquare presence. However, none of this matters if the company does not engage with those who check-in. This is where the Fuel House impressed me greatly.

Prior to my arrival, I tweeted that I was heading into Toronto and making a point of eating at the Fuel House. Upon my arrival, I checked-in to their location on foursquare and acquired the Newbie Special. As Mackenzie Chiu came out from the kitchen to take my order, he commented on my twitter mention and how someone from Brantford had requested him to drop by and say hello to a customer clearly willing to promote his restaurant.

The morale of this story?

You can have the best food, the best location, the best buzz, but nothing will impress a customer as much as that contextual touch when you cater to them as a human being. Those that understand that, warrant a mention on this blog and my return engagement.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

A Three Course Meal on Valentine's Day: Fuel House, Potted Potter and Toronto

On July 2011, I moved out of Metropolitan Toronto and took up residence in the small town of Brantford, Ontario. Saying goodbye to Toronto was one of the hardest decisions I have made in my professional and personal life. I blame that decision on three people: Kevin Smith, Walter Gretzky, and Karen Thomson.
Robert Lavigne says farewell to Toronto and the Big City Lifestyle
Before leaving Toronto, I attended one last "Epic" party, the Epic Meal Time 1,000,000 Subscriber Celebration. For those not familiar with Epic Meal Time, think Bacon meets Jersey Shore with a splash of Jack Daniels. This was a fitting way to say farewell to the big city lights of Toronto.
Yes, that is indeed a Bacon Volcano worthy of Epic Meal Time lore
Catering for that event was my friend Mackenzie Chiu. Now this was no small feat given the reputation of bacon infused chaos that is the Epic Meal Time fan base. Mackenzie and his team did not disappoint providing a main course of a roasted pig stuffed with four birds, aka a Turducken in a Pig.
EAT or DIE! - Mackenzie Chiu and Robert Lavigne
Which brings us to my brief return to Toronto to celebrate Valentine's Day 2012. Since my departure, Mackenzie Chiu established a new restaurant in Toronto called the Fuel House. I could not think of any other place I would want to have this celebratory dinner with Karen.
Much to her chagrin, this picture received over 30 likes on Facebook
Normally the Fuel House serves up pub-style food and sandwiches. However for Valentine's Day, Mackenzie Chiu offered a special Prix Fixe Menu, specially put together by Peter Pietruniak, to celebrate this special occasion.

Karen enjoyed a Shrimp and Citrus Salad appetizer followed by a Salmon + Lemon Herb Butter + Basmati Rice + Sauteed Vegetables main course. As for myself, I savoured a Cream of Spinach Soup with a main entree consisting of Grilled Flank Steak + Chimichurri Sauce + Casava Fries. For dessert, we both selected the Coffee Crème Brulee.
Pan Seared Salmon Filet and Steak Frites with two glasses of champagne 
I enjoyed the food so much, I pulled Mackenzie Chiu aside and did a quick interview for this blog. I will be sharing that video and my insights on the Fuel House with you in a follow up post. Until then, I can honestly say the Victorian atmosphere was a perfect match for the meal selection. The place was buzzing with activity and they are gearing up for the expected summer growth spurt.

After our Valentine's Day meal at the Fuel House, it was off to the Panasonic Theatre to attend the premiere of Potted Potter in Toronto. I had been looking forward to this new production for over a month. As Karen had never read any of the Harry Potter books nor seen any of the movies, this would be a great way for her to experience all seven books in only 70 minutes.
Chalkboard drawings adorned every stairwell asking guest for comments
For those not familiar with Potted Potter, the show is the creation of Daniel Clarkson and Jeff Turner. The term "potted" is defined as "briefly and superficially summarized", it is also slang for being sloshed/hammered. I would not be surprised if Dan and Jeff came up for the idea for Potted Potter while frequenting local pubs in their native United Kingdom. The gist of Potted Potter is that Jeff plays Harry Potter and Dan plays literally everyone else in the seven books, all within 70 minutes.
Two actors, limited stage props and seventy minutes of hijinks ensued
On Valentine's Day, Potted Potter was making its North American debut in Toronto with a limited run that ends on March 25, 2012 (ticket info). After attending their four out of four star debut, I would not be surprised to see that run extended in Toronto or be transplanted to New York later in the year. Both Jeff and Dan were regularly engaging with the audience making for an interactive experience. I would look over at Karen throughout the show to consistently see a grin on her face, she clearly was enjoying Potted Potter.

After the premiere, we were delighted to be invited to the after show party by Associate Producer Marcello Cabezas. I am not normally one to attend after show parties, but this made for a fitting conclusion to this Valentine's Day in Toronto. We both got to meet and chat with Dan and Jeff and hear about their excursion to Canada. Both Dan and Jeff are as funny off stage as they are on stage.
 Daniel Clarkson, Robert Lavigne and Jeff Turner - Potted Potter
Given that we were at the after party, I used the opportunity to interview not only Dan and Jeff, but the show's producers. I will be sharing these video interviews in subsequent blog entries over the coming weeks. The level of excitement shared by the entire production crew after the premiere was very apparent. This was clearly a successful launch of Potted Potter in North America and well deserved at that.

So after a three course of the Fuel House, Potted Potter and Toronto, Karen and I trekked back to Brantford. While I miss Toronto greatly, there is no denying that I have found a new home in Brantford. However, it is events and food like we enjoyed this Valentine's Day in Toronto that will always bring me back for limited engagements.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Yet Another Blog

I have lost count of the number blogs I have created.

I already have one blog on Blogger.
I already have one blog on Posterous.
I already have three blogs on Tumblr.
I already have four blogs on Wordpress.
So why should I create Yet Another Blog?

Each blog has a goal.

Each site has a purpose.

Each idea has a home.

However, for this Blog to Prosper another Blog has to Wither.

On this day, I am announcing that

rlavigne42.wordpress.com is no longer available.

On March 2009, I started My Thoughts Enclosed on Wordpress as a way of documenting my research into the fields of Enterprise 2.0, Social CRM, Social Media and Personal Branding.

The site contained numerous of my original articles based on the research I was doing at the time.

More importantly, the site contained nearly all of my tweets aggregated and published as The @RLavigne42 Tweet Round-Up.

As I was learning, I was sharing.

Not only could others follow my research, but it provided me an archive of all my research.

Each entry was tagged with the twitter handles of those I collected knowledge from.

I could quite literally pull up what I learned on any given day and know the source of this insight.

The goal was to use My Thoughts Enclosed as a reference base and fully indexed compendium for Life@42.

Well after nearly 3 years and over 1,000 posts, WordPress decided to suspend My Thoughts Enclosed.

I have since submitted a request to reactivate the My Thoughts Enclosed.

I have explained the real nature of the over 20,000 research tweets archived as part of this blog.

I have exported the content of the blog for archive purposes and may self-host it myself one day.

While the site may be re-activated by WordPress, my active contributions to that blog will now cease.

Deep Reflections was a pre-cursor to  "We are at the Intersection of Social Media and YOUR Business".

The @RLavigne42 Rear View Mirror was a pre-cursor to Innovation at the Speed of Thought.

My Thoughts Enclosed..., however, was a companion to Life@42: A Leadership Social Novel.

 #TDGv Studios:A Collaborative Digital Agency @TDGv has a companion in #TDGv Racing: Season Two (2011).

Life@42 is still very much in need of a companion.

Deep ReflectionsThe @RLavigne42 Rear View Mirror and My Thoughts Enclosed... are now inactive.

Life@42: A Leadership Social Novel will continue to focus on the leadership side of Robert Lavigne.

The Other Side of Forty-Two (A Life@42 Companion) will now focus on the social side of Robert Lavigne.