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A Q&A with Tony McGinn

For over 33 years, Tony McGinn OAM has taken the world of media sales head on. From founding the MCM Entertainment Group at age 22,, he has worked at a global level with multi-national enterprise clients such as Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Philips and Universal, and worked with all media, most ad agencies and an extensive number national marketers in Australia. He is also the founder and Chair of Australia’s premiere fundraiser, The Million Dollar Lunch for The Children’s Cancer Foundation. Tony launched The McGinn Partnership in November 2017 and now works to transform performance and align executives to their CEO’s ambition whilst empowering salespeople with the expertise and protocol for success. He also recently became the facilitator of RCSA’s new initiative, the Talent Executive Network (TEN). We spoke to Tony about his fascinating career and why a platform like TEN is so valuable in these challenging times.

The McGinn Partnership services B2B SMEs transforming sales and business development capability and performance. Can you explain this to us and why it is so important for optimum business performance?

Sales & Business Development are mission-critical for any B2B organisation. If Sales or Business Development underperform or worse, fail, the business will underperform or fail.

Sales and Business Development is also the least productive part of most businesses. They spend more time with prospects who do not want or need their service or product than those who do. The mentality needs to change to ‘select’ rather than ‘sell’. This approach turns the engagement to a pull rather than push conversation, which enables non-buyers to qualify themselves out, leaving space for the buyers to command the attention of the seller.

To achieve the required productivity, organisations need to tune a Performance Protocol™ for their industry and business and then let that Protocol both support and demand the required behaviours and outcomes. The organisation and its Protocol is the first project; then the team is educated and skilled on how to execute that Protocol.

What is performance reinforcement and why is it essential for every sales team?

It is ‘Skills Practicing’ which is very common across so many professions—simulating in the office the conversations that you need to control in the market, to ensure much better outcomes. 

Selling is the one vocation where people practice on the prospects and customers, which is not ideal at all. Just like with a sports team, pilots, lawyers, engineers, chemists, accountants, marketers, and so many other professions, ‘skills practising’ is done in house, not in the market.

Can you talk about your experience in running your own business at 22, then transitioning into a different career as a CEO and business owner/coach?

I launched my media and entertainment business in 1983, aged 22 years. We grew that business over three decades to its peak where we operated in the US, Europe, and Asia with around 150 people. We listed in an IPO on the ASX in 2007. The global digital platforms have massively disrupted media and entertainment over the last 15 years, and in 2016 we decided to sell the business.

After three and a half decades in media and entertainment, I was keen for a change and new challenges in new industries. As a founder, business builder and a CEO of a private and then a public company, I had much to offer other leaders. Learning to coach rather than lead was a valuable transformation for me, and I continue to learn more about how to improve my coaching every day. I love helping others grow.

What advice would you give to people looking to advance in their field?

Know what you are passionate about and why! Know what you can be great at and get out there and work super hard at it – be persistent. 

What are the benefits of having a coach or mentor in the sales industry?

Sales and Businesses Development is almost always an incidental career because there is no tertiary pathway like there is for so many other professions. Selling is not taught well or at all; selling

skills are developed by an individual’s trial and error in the market.

There is a better way than this where everyone wins; the salesperson, the customer and the business. Why wouldn’t you upskill the company and your team if this is achievable? The most significant payoffs are productivity and ambition alignment.

You worked at a global level with various multi-national enterprise clients including Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Disney, Samsung and many more. What was it like working with such highly recognised companies? And what key lessons did you take away from the experiences?

Leaders in enterprises take more risks because it is not their money. An SME or a family business will often operate more cautiously because they do not have the financial depth to make big bets; large enterprises do and will. Their bets do not always pay off; however, if more do than don’t – and they learn from their mistakes – they get growth. So, we found that if we thought boldly when crafting client solutions, we could often get them to step up to the plate.

You are the facilitator of RCSA’s new initiative, the Talent Executive Network (TEN). Can you explain what TEN is and the benefits for people who partake in it?

So often in business, leaders are alone when making decisions, or they consult others who have a vested interest. To have confidential access to a group of non-competing leaders where you have relationships built on trust, a leader can get valuable options to consider before making important decisions. TEN is in effect a Peer Advisory Board comprising non-competing peers.

What do you hope to achieve and drive via TEN?

Trust, care and reciprocity need to come first; then we can deliver value for each member. That value could dramatically change the outcomes for members personally and their business.

Why is a platform like TEN so vital in these challenging times in business?

A leader is rarely right more than 50% of the time on average. Today with the added public health drama and the associated transformation of work and working, plus the growing economic and geopolitical challenges, maintaining a 50% hit ratio is a big ask. A platform like TEN facilitates a way for group members to ‘punch above their weight’ on making better decisions. Maybe that 50/50 becomes more like an 80/20.

Reflecting upon such a successful career in leadership, how important is it to have a solid network of individuals to share experience and business insights with?

To quote one of our past media client’s campaign lines – ‘priceless’. I was in a Peer Group for eight years when our company was growing at its fastest and achieving big ambitions. I put a lot of that value creation down to the Peer Group and how they helped me.

Can you tell us about your role as founding chairman of premier charity event The Million Dollar Lunch for the Children’s Cancer Foundation and how you have achieved such amazing results?

My first son was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2000 at age three. It was a five-year journey to cure him, and during that time, I saw much pain and many shortcomings in the system supporting children fighting cancer in Victoria. So, we set about changing that but quickly realised that no one listens unless you have money to back the cause.

So being in the entertainment industry and having experienced the Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy industry lunch in London several times, Sue Gudinski, Barry Bissell, and I set about staging an ambitious fundraising lunch in Melbourne. Advertising guru Scott Whybin suggested we call it the Million Dollar Lunch - build it, and they will come! Well, they did come and with their wallets. We raised over one million year one, and the event has raised a total of over $25 million over 16 years.

Even this year with no event, just a giving day on what would have been the event date the fantastic community and sponsors that support the Million Dollar Lunch still donated almost $700K.

The magical thing about the Million Dollar Lunch is we serve the best of everything and offer extraordinary prizes and auction items, and all of it is 100% donated. Even Crown donates the room and staff. It is a genuinely unique coming together of people and organisations to solve a problem. I am so proud to have been a part of building the event and being both Chair and Deputy Chair of the Charity organisation. We have overseen for 20 years the granting of funds to clinical projects, research and support services that have helped transform the treatment and care for Childhood Cancer in Victoria. As a result, we are saving many, many more young lives and seeing less collateral damage.

For more information about RCSA’s Talent Executive Network click here.

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