Many small business owners admire business giants like Bill Gates, Elon Musk or Richard Branson. Let me tell you about one of my business idols.

Warren Miller is considered by many to be the father of adventure films. After growing up poor during the depression and serving in the Navy, he lived in a tiny trailer in the parking lot of Sun Valley Idaho. He earned money as a ski instructor and began filming fellow instructors and skiers in order to critique and improve their technique. That winter a passion was ignited, a career launched and a legend soon followed.

The passion was for both film making and skiing in general. Miller said that guests at Sun Valley gave him money and in exchange he gave them freedom in the form of showing them how to turn a pair of skis. Although his career took him to the finest ski destinations around the world with some of the most talented and extreme skiers, Miller was definitely not snobbish. He clearly loved everything about skiing and the ski life. His films showed exotic places as well as small hills, experts and beginners, Olympic racers and physically-challenged skiers. He celebrated them all because he understood what they all had in common — the pure joy of being on skis. He made it OK to not wear the latest ski fashion and to have imperfect form. If you fell, just get back up again.

Business icons are sometimes idolized because they made a ton of money. I assume Warren Miller did, too. At least I hope so. That has nothing to do with why he’s an entrepreneurial hero to me. He found something he loved — skiing and making movies — and turned it into a great career. He didn’t follow anyone’s best practices because what he was doing had never been done before. He kept the quality of his work high because he never got tired of the job. He was always creative, clever, funny and inspiring. Even to people like me who are barely mediocre as a skier.

Warren Miller died last week at the age of 93. He always said that the stairs leading to heaven would be covered in snow. To paraphrase Miller, I suggest you watch one of his great movies this ski season because if you don’t you’ll be another year older when you do.

 

 

I like interesting people. I enjoy reading biographies and watching documentaries that chronicle the lives of people who have influenced history or cultutre. Sometimes the subjects are infamous or controversial. Then again, sometimes they are fun and inspiring — and that is what we celebrate on Good News Monday.

Today I want to introduce you to someone who has made every winter of my life more fun. His name is Warren Miller and he spent his life making movies about skiing. If the only thing we knew about him was his portfolio of work, he would still belong in Good News Monday, but there is much more to his story.
He’s a pioneer — a leader and not a follower. He had no example to follow in his career because he paved the way. He is considered the father of adventure sports cinematography. No one knew that a decent living could be made making ski movies because no one had ever tried it, but he followed his dream and lived in a trailer in the parking lot at Sun Valley, Idaho, in his early years. He’s more than a movie maker, he’s a gifted writer and philosopher who speaks about the feeling of freedom encountered on the slopes. He’s also very funny. His unique wit and distinctive voice are showcased in many of his movies. Until recently he was a columnist for SKI Magazine where he shared tales
of his ski adventures around the world. Whenever I read his words I hear them in his voice and it makes me smile. When I see silly things on the slopes, I again hear his voice and wonder how he’d describe the scene.

He is a legend in the ski industry and is rightfully in the Ski Hall of Fame. But wait, there’s more. Now that Mr. Miller is in the 80s and retired from making films, he started a non-profit foundation to help young people gain the skills they need to be successful entrepreneurs. Also, I heard recently that he was writing his autobiography. His only problem – in his words — is that he doesn’t know how it ends. Take your time, Warren. I look forward to the audio version.

I recently wrote about the difference between advertising
reach and advertising that reaches out
and grabs the consumer in a clever,
emotional and effective way. A vivid example showed up in my mailbox the other
day. Each Fall, SKI Magazine devotes an issue to ranking the top 50 resorts in
North America. I eagerly await this issue to learn what other readers say about the
ski areas, to recall my own memories of places I’ve visited and think about
what’s next on my list. As readers of this blog know, I also can’t help
scrutinizing the advertising.

Ski resort advertising is usually very good. For example,
there’s a full page for Keystone with the left side being an image of fresh
snow with s-shaped tracks through the powder. On the right half is a mess of
overlapping tracks going in all sorts of wacky directions. The headline: Kids
Always Ski Free. Even if they Can’t.
The ad makes a valuable offer an grabs your attention with an interesting photo.

A full page ad for Deer Valley features what appears
to be a father and son schussing down a slope, beautiful Utah mountains in the
background. The headline: A Perfect Time for Deeper Connections. A nice sentiment and a cool photo.

Steamboat had the guts to not even show skiers, slopes or
mountains. Their full page ad features a sweet photo of a father and his smiling daughter sharing a
moment. They are dressed in winter coats and hats as snowflakes fall through
the air. The headline: Don’t Blink or You’ll Miss Her. Their emotional ad talks
about the setting for creating memories.

Then, it broke my heart to find a full-page ad for a
resort that I won’t name (but I have visited), with a headline: There’s a Lot
Going On Here. Don’t Miss It!
Seriously, you have got to be kidding me. A
full-page ad in SKI Magazine must cost a small fortune and this is what that
resort chose to say? Tourism advertising – including ski resort advertising –
needs to be creative and compelling. I’m not saying that it’s not easy to produce
consistently great ideas. I am saying that it’s a fairly simple concept to
grasp that lame ideas do not get the job done.

It’s rare for me to be stricken with a case of agency envy. You know, that feeling advertising professionals get when they see creative work and think, “I wish my firm had done that.” I have a case of the envies right now, thanks to the State of Montana, which just launched an awesome Shaped by Winter campaign.

I saw a simple but beautiful full-page ad in SKI Magazine yesterday and found two 60-second radio spots on the internet. Indeed, they make me want to pack up and head to Montana right now!

Two main reasons for my jealousy:

1.  I would love to have a client in the ski industry. I think our creative team here at Inprint is really good at selling travel experiences. I know we would do a kick-butt job of selling the ski life.

2.  The opportunity to sit at a conference room table and talk with the great Warren Miller. He’s a skiing legend, an icon, a genuine one-of-a-kind folk hero who found a way to make a living doing what he enjoyed. His love for skiing and his sense of humor came through loud and clear in his work.

Congrats to the State of Montana for producing a great campaign.

Way back in 1988, a writer/minister/modern-day philosopher named Robert Fulghum wrote a great book called All I need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. It was a collection of essays that took its title from the first essay about life lessons learned as a child. It was a mega-bestseller that seemed to touch every corner of popular culture at the time, including, I might add, an original theatrical production developed right here in Roanoke, Virginia, making its debut at Mill Mountain Theatre.

 Over the past couple of weeks I have been finalizing the details of my annual ski trip. That got me reflecting on the lessons that skiing has to offer — lessons about life, business, relationships and more. So, here is my summary of All I Need to Know I Learned on the Ski Slopes:

• You will fall down. Everyone does. It’s OK, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. The important thing is that you get right up, brush yourself off, and get moving again. It’s a bonus if you learn something from the fall and become a better skier.

• There’s a reason they rate and mark all the trails and the off-limits terrain.  No one can be expected to know and master everything in life or business. It’s important to figure out what you can do and what is off-limits. Sometimes you can take a lesson to learn new things, other times you need to delegate tasks to specialists who have skills that you don’t have.

• The vast majority of people on the slopes are friendly and personable folks who are just as happy as you are to be spending the day doing something fun. Once in a while, however, you will encounter an inconsiderate jerk — the kind that cuts in on a lift line or goes way too fast in a congested area or smokes and uses foul language on the chairlift when children are around. Life and business also include run-ins with ill-mannered and even unscrupulous people. Don’t let them ruin your day and don’t ever descend to their level.

• You have to be prepared for whatever the mountain throws at you. Don’t skimp on certain gear, like good gloves, ski pants, goggles, and boots that fit just right or you’ll end up cold, miserable and sore. Likewise, it’s important to prepare for big decisions in life by doing your homework, knowing the facts, reflecting carefully on your options, seeking guidance when appropriate and making good choices.

• Go at your own pace. Some skiers stop to rest more often. Some ski fast. Others go slow and carve more turns in the snow. Some like to get out early for first tracks in the powder. Some sleep later and stay out until they close down the lifts. If you’re part of a group that includes all of the above, don’t try too hard to keep up with someone and definitely don’t hold someone else back. This is what diversity and tolerance are all about. We can all meet up later for social hour. That’s what Apres Ski is all about.

• Enjoy the views and treasure every turn. Life is short. You should love what you’re doing and do what you love.

Last week we were in the middle of a heat wave here in
Roanoke where the daytime temps were flirting with 100 degrees. You might think
that would make it difficult to focus our thoughts on an ad for skiing. Not at
all. In fact, it was wonderfully refreshing to think about a blue sky and
powder day, imagining the wind on my face and the burn starting to build in my
legs. If you called one day last week and I didn’t answer my phone, now you
know why. I was in Colorado in my daydreams for a little while anyway.

My friend Linda called to ask if Inprint would create an ad for the Roanoke Ski Club. When we tackle advertising projects, I
think our creative team is very good at capturing the full experience of what
our client has to offer (look for a video blog soon on this subject). We take
it beyond just sharing facts and figures to make ads more powerful and emotional. When Linda called I knew we could
have fun promoting the experience of skiing.

Once we got down to work on this ad, it became clear that we weren’t
simply selling the experience of skiing. We needed to sell the
experience of being part of the Roanoke Ski Club. It’s a mix of the joy of
being on the slopes and the social pleasure of sharing good times with like-minded
people. The result: a very cool half-page ad that through its design, tone, words and images truly projects the enthusiasm and sense of humor the club members share.

Now if you’ll excuse me, in my ongoing daydream the
chairlift is almost at the summit and I want to get in a couple of more runs before lunch.

540.774.9932

6 Walnut Avenue • Vinton, Virginia 24179

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