TrivWorks CEO Notes: The 5 Work Modes I’m In at Any Given Time trivia game show

A little while back, I wrote a blog post describing a typical day in the life of a corporate entertainment & team building vendor CEO, which you can read here. I think that post did a good job giving a brief overview of how I spend my time, which I shall provide an even briefer summary of here:

  • Wake up at crack of dawn
  • Work until late at night
  • Repeat

Since starting TrivWorks nearly nine years ago, and especially since taking it full time in 2012, I’ve never been bored or idle. I’ve always found myself with a full plate, very often overflowing. It’s one of the things which I pride myself upon the most, actually – staying busy, keeping focused, not slowing down and maintaining an unceasing work ethic.

As my own boss, it would be VERY easy for me to give in to the temptations of distraction, laziness and ennui, and not get anything done. I set my own schedule, after all. What’s to stop me from sleeping late, sitting on my couch, watching TV, playing around on social media or taking a nap every day? I’ve never even considered this. It’s a funny thing actually, being an entrepreneur: money doesn’t automatically appear in your bank account like when you are working for somebody else.

That’s a very good motivator, believe me.

So yes, my days are always VERY busy. I’m usually up at 5:30am, hit my desk by 6-6:30am, take the kids to school, then just work straight through until it’s time for the kids to come home. If I’m personally emceeing or producing a corporate trivia night somewhere (usually at night, anyway), tack on an extra 3-4 hours of travel and performance time on at the end. I’m definitely working at all times, make no mistake about it.

But what am I actually DOING when I work?

I’d say about 99% of my time working is spent in either one of five distinct work modes. I try to keep the modes separate, however there’s inevitable overlap, and I sometimes find myself multitasking between them over the course of the day. Here are, in no particular order, the five “modes” which I am in at any given moment while at the office.

Marketing Mode

I was once in the back seat of a taxi cab in Boston with Pat Kiernan, the NY1 morning news anchor and former host of VH1’s The World Series of Pop Culture whom I established a business partnership with about eight years ago. He and I were headed back to the train station after putting on one of our corporate conference game shows, and the conversation turned, of course, to trivia. He being a professional host, and me doing what I do, it’s only natural that people assume that we’re both passionate trivia enthusiasts.

In my case at least, this is wrong – I’m actually awful at trivia (if you don’t believe me, follow this link for another related article which explores this in greater detail). When Pat asked me about this, I responded that my job, my essence isn’t being a “trivia guy,” but rather, a marketer.

Marketing. It’s what I think about all the time, day and night. I don’t daydream about trivial minutia, I don’t use every free moment trying to come up with clever queries. This is the real world I live in, and unless people know about me, I’m not going to have a steady stream of qualified leads or sell any gigs to ask those clever trivia questions at (more on sales below – hang tight).

I’m basically in marketing mode all the time. What is marketing mode? To me, it’s anything I do which will:

  • Expand my brand’s reach
  • Increase my brand’s name recognition
  • Enhance my credibility in any way, shape or form
  • Put me in front of an audience of potential buyers
  • Drive traffic to my Website
  • Produce qualified leads
  • Make it easier to evangelize about my product

Marketing can take many forms, especially in the digital age. Since the beginning, I’ve focused on several key areas to boost my brand’s visibility such as search engine optimization, content marketing, pay-per-click ads and media coverage. I have a background in public relations, and have luckily been able to use that to generate a steady stream of coverage in both trade and consumer press. If you’re reading this, then you probably know I’ve also been a prolific blogger since 2011 – this is actually my 903rd blog post, if you can believe it!

Becoming an expert has also helped me to get the word out about my brand. In addition to giving expert interviews in the media, I’ve been able to parlay my unique background producing trivia nights for corporate groups into speaking opportunities at conferences. I love using social media such as Twitter to put out a constant stream of fun, brand-friendly content, and have long sought out partnerships with well-known & well-respected organizations such as The Economist, Gothamist and Science Friday, as well as beloved celebrities and media personalities like Pat Kiernan, Christian Finnegan, Ophira Eisenberg not just to expand my offerings, but to boost my credibility by association.

I’ll also file under “marketing mode” everything related to strategic planning: dreaming up new offerings & partnerships, developing new ways to deliver products and services, staying on top of the trivia trends by reading articles like this one, and coming up with ways to stay viable, relevant and ahead of the curve. It’s really its own thing, this “big picture” mode – but to keep things easy we’ll just put it here for now.

If I had to provide one “mode” which I’m in the most, far and away it’s marketing mode.

Sales Mode

Marketing mode, of course, is the precursor to the next – and arguably most-important – of my work modes, which is sales mode. A few years back, when I was gearing up to move across the country from New York City to Long Beach, CA, just South of Los Angeles, I made a solid effort to hire a freelance salesperson. I wanted somebody who could proactively knock on doors, cold call, identify and reach out to prospective clients and introduce them to my unique trivia team building game show offerings.

I failed.

Why? Not for lack of candidates, but because I couldn’t find anybody who could generate the passion and enthusiasm for what I’m selling that I can. I learned what in my heart I’d already known since the beginning: I’m my own best salesman.

Sales mode for me, then, is when I take off the marketer’s cap, and try to convert a prospective buyer into a client. Leads come in a variety of ways, as a result of my above marketing efforts: Website inquiries, phone calls, word-of-mouth referrals, even social media (yes, I have indeed gotten inquiries from people who discovered me on Twitter or Facebook!).

When the lead comes in, I switch modes immediately – in fact, virtually whatever mode I’m currently in comes to a halt, and I focus on tying to close the all-important sale which is critical to any business, let alone a corporate trivia event entertainment supplier such as TrivWorks. Because I’ve been doing this for so long, I’ve got my telephone pitch down pat; smooth, polished, and reflexive – but most importantly, passionate. True, honest passion, because I really do believe in my product!  

From the phone, I then switch to producing the written proposal. I’ve designed the proposal to be an extension of the Website, as well as the phone pitch: slick, easy to follow, and quickly projecting how much fun these team trivia events are. Like my games themselves, I customize each proposal to the specific client, including their industry, event type and goal. I’ll also follow up, provide additional information, answer questions as needed, and speak with whomever else wishes to speak with me before a decision is made.

I love sales mode, because if I’m in it, it means I’ve done something right through marketing mode. The two are inextricably linked, as every sale leads to a new client, which can lead to great marketing in the form of favorable testimonials, word of mouth, or other means.

Production Mode

I’ve marketed my heart out, which has resulted in a lead and, eventually a sale. Wonderful! Now, I switch gears yet again: it’s time to put my money where my mouth is, and to deliver the experience I’ve put so much time, energy and passion into selling.

Prepping each gig is an entire job unto itself. Every event starts with a customization call, which typically lasts no more than 10-15 minutes, but has at times gone on for as long as 30-45 minutes, if the client wants to talk (if they do, I can assure you I will listen). I carefully type up notes from the call into a recap Email (a client service habit I picked up while working in the PR world), then get to work.

There’s trivia questions which must be researched and written, customized PowerPoint decks to be built, emcees and other staff to assign. I must always maintain the open flow of communication between my clients and my staff, to ensure that critical information is passed along. As part of my service, I also offer ongoing counsel to clients on all aspects of the event: team sizes and breakdown, prize ideas, venue liaison, making myself readily available to answer any and all questions the client has about our upcoming event.

If I’m personally producing a gig, I add on to everything above the hands-on stuff such as printing & stapling answer packets, securing pens & prizes, testing & packing equipment such as portable amps, microphones, my tablet computer, and my digital music device – which I’ve had to load with customized music for both background as well as the “name that tune” round. All of it goes into my gear bag, along with other stuff I need (or may need) like extension cords, gaffers tape, raffle tickets, etc.

I should also throw in “get to gig” under production, since my staff and I can’t produce events without getting there. This would include time and effort surrounding driving or Ubering, arranging flights/hotels, etc.

Production – it’s no joke. 

Emcee Mode

If the gig is being hosted by somebody else, my job pretty much ends after the last bit of information & material has been shared with the staff, and the final check-in with the client is complete. However, if I’m the emcee, things are only just beginning.

When I’m the emcee, after preparing for the gig I have to show up nice and early, to familiarize myself with the venue, stage setup and A/V situation. I may possibly also need to participate in a technical run-through. Once the audience arrives, it’s time to switch from my other businesses-oriented modes – marketing, sales and production – and into performance mode.

I’ve got years and years of experience in event programming, planning and production, as well as sales and marketing – however, emceeing is an entirely different skill altogether. It’s something I’ve developed over a long, long period of time, and after personally hosting something like 900 or 1,000 public and corporate trivia parties and company team building game shows (more on that here:

I’ve got it down pat – but it’s still work.

During those 1-2 hours I’m onstage, I’m thinking about nothing other than delivering the greatest experience I possibly can for the people in that room. No marketing, no sales, no nothing; just giving them the best show with the most laughs, the most engagement and the greatest impact I can. It really is a mental shift to go from almost always being in other business-oriented modes, to performance mode. But I’ve got the experience to make that transition seamless, and to do it well.

Administrative Mode

There’s one more distinct work mode which takes up my time during the day, and it’s the one which holds the other four together. I’m talking about admin mode.

Admin is all of the other “stuff” that needs to be done, so that I can operate my business and execute the other modes. What is this “stuff?” It includes:

  • Writing, reading & filing Emails
  • Maintaining my schedule & calendar items
  • Drafting & scanning service contracts & invoices
  • Paying bills, emcee/staff fees & taxes
  • Accounting
  • Website maintenance & security
  • Equipment maintenance & upkeep
  • Restocking office & event supplies
  • Keeping the workspace clean & orderly
  • Dealing with attorneys, CPAs, insurance brokers & other professional service providers

Basically, it’s everything I have to do to in order to keep things at TrivWorks humming along smoothly. I’ll be honest, I hate admin. Every minute spent doing one of the above tasks is a minute I could have spent doing something like marketing or sales, which can grown my business. But it all has to be done, and guess what? I’m the guy who has to do it.

Of course, I’m not living in a vacuum here – these are all just my work modes. As a husband and father to young children, I’m also in “family mode” every day as well, which really is all day, every day. But as far as how I spend my time at work, these above “modes” really do sum it up rather well.

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