Dear Advisor Partners,
Back in 2008, our now-retired colleague, Deborah Kilcollins, sat with our designers. Big Five’s marketing was transitioning; the messaging wasn’t in line with who we were as a company. Deborah and I sat pondering ideas for hours, days, and weeks. Then, one day, I got a hold of this amazing book by a shirt designer, and it jumped out at me. In the sea of catalogs about high end dress shirts, this one grabbed my attention. The cover was not a model wearing the product, and it wasn’t a flashy cover, rather it was one photo of the founder. That’s it. At the time, I was in a business peer review group with the owner’s son, and he and I got to chat about the inspiration behind their book. I didn’t even have to open the book, though I was even more impressed when I did. It wasn’t a sensory overload or 50 pages about the company; it was a story where I got to choose where my narrative started.
“That’s it,” I exclaimed to Deborah, startled as she looked at me like I had 3 eyeballs. “You startled me! Now what on earth are you talking about.” I showed her the book and repeated, that’s it! “You want our brochure to be a picture of a guy with grey hair and glasses?” No, no, no, I replied, look at the book. Less really is more. It was then that I realized that Big Five was becoming singular minded in our messaging for all the right reasons, and our collateral had to follow. It had to be unapologetically polarizing, either you understood it or you didn’t. The acronym, IYKYK, came to mind. Until this point, we designed brochures that followed the industry mold, passing a vanilla message when our company was anything but. This book was a bold step at a time in the travel industry when few were forward-thinking. As Deborah and I sat with our designers, a vision came together, Edition One, now known as Navigator Series®, was born. Deborah and I looked ahead to 2023 when we timed this book. “You know, if we get this right, edition V can be introduced when we begin our 5th decade of service.” What a brilliant idea, I said, and the vision was solidified.
Fast forward to 2009, the first edition was out and distributed to the market. In the early days, our advisor partners would call us and ask for our brochure. We would send Edition I, which would either elicit excitement or confusion. Was it a brochure or something more?.
I remember vividly attending a consortium conference in Toronto, test-driving the idea of edition I and showing it to a room full of owners and managers. As a force of habit, I called our masterpiece a brochure, to which the consortium head pulled me aside and sternly told me not to ever call our work of art a brochure again. He was right! So radical was the idea of Navigator Series® Edition I, that I lost count of the days of self-doubt, wondering if we had been too bold if we had gone too far to one side of the market.
A few months later, as our collateral circulated into the market, the calls changed from asking for a brochure to sending me pictures of our bold design sitting as a coffee table discussion piece in offices and homes. Again, my fears were unfounded, and those that understood the vision embraced our concept and wished others would follow. As you can tell, we are huge on first impressions, and in a time when brochures were being thinned out or cut back completely, ours was a lesson in forward thinking. Each edition that followed gained brand recognition and acceptance, carrying the message of Big Five that finally matched who we were as a visionary company.
As we enter 2023, Edition V, Deborah’s swan song for Big Five, is published and hot off the press. It is a proud achievement that started from a bold step, and one that serves as a platform for the next five editions.
Enjoy this week’s video and reserve your copy today.
Dear Advisor Partner,
Happy New Year to you and your families. 2022 reminded us that we have much to be grateful for and what we were truly capable of. We loved reaching new heights with you and appreciate your partnership, as it is vital to our success. Speaking of that, 2023 makes a major milestone for Big Five and one that makes me very proud, our 50th anniversary. In February 1973, in Nairobi Kenya, the dream of Big Five was born. My father, who many of you have met, was working at the front desk at a major hotel in Nairobi. While sitting at the hotel’s Big Five bar, he and his friends decided to partner up, and Big Five was born. Initially, Big Five was a transport company and Kenya DMC. Our US office opened in 1985, followed by operations in Latin America in 1989 and acquiring an Asia portfolio in 1997. We thought initially to list every major milestone along the way and present one of the timelines you always see in a car museum or corporate HQ lobby. Then we remembered life isn’t about winning or losing, it’s about the struggle, the journey, and your actions along the way. We decided to chronicle the struggle and the journey and let the timeline speak for itself.
Navigating those five decades has not been easy as anyone who has ever spoken to my mother or father about this has learned. There were days I watched my parents seriously debate giving up, and even remember the days I felt the same despair. There were days my parents thought perhaps their detractors were right and they would fail, but there were heroes who helped the dream move forward, my mother cardinal among them. As we pass 50 years, As we pass 50 years, I will continue to sit with my father to share short stories of Mahen’s Moments in Time, both before and during this historic journey. So, I thought this was appropriate as the first of his many stories dating to 1955:
“My father was a traveling salesman and when I was just 8, I started traveling occasionally with him. On one road trip, we saw herds of elephants on the road and occasionally some zebras and antelopes. Of course, cattle were in abundance and my father always said ‘These cattle have the right of way and when you see the wildlife, enjoy them until they pass to the other side of the road.’ He knew what distance we should keep from the wildlife. I was always amazed to see the size of elephants and sometimes cried thinking they will crush us.
Till today, I remember my father’s assurance ‘Look at them with love and they will love you back. Keep your distance, don’t bother them, and let them go about doing what they are doing, and they will leave you alone.’ This advice created my love for animals and always wanted to take advantage of looking out for them.”
Enjoy the special video we made for this moment. CLICK HERE
We invite you to share in celebrating 50 years together. If you have a story to share, please feel free to let me know, or if you want to just say hello to Mahen, I’m sure he would love to hear from you.