Hot Dog Leadership
My career began in radio and television; even though I was on the programming side of things, I became heavily involved in producing events. This was due to the fact that the talk show host I worked for, Eddie Andelman, was always coming up with some wild idea that listeners clung on to, and simply talking about the concept was just not enough. One of the events Eddie devised was a zany and wildly successful concept called the Hot Dog Safari. The Safari can’t be summed up in one sentence, but if I had to get to the point, I could quickly describe it as the search for the very best hot dog.
Although we were a sports show, we frequently veered off topic. Both being big foodies, Eddie and I talked about meals and food prior to the show and inevitably the conversation made its way to the airwaves. One day, Eddie began talking about the consummate sports fan’s food, the hot dog, and the show turned into a volley between Eddie and the listeners about where the best hot dog could be found. Eddie is the master of taking something as simple as a hot dog and turning it into a grand production. He jumped all over the idea that we should take a bus ride to Stratford, Connecticut to try out a place that many listeners described as the home of the best frankfurter anywhere: The Windmill Restaurant, which claimed to be “the best hot dog joint around.”
Just like that, Eddie took 200 listeners to the Windmill to sample their tube steaks, and everyone agreed that the place had one great wiener. The trip was fun and everyone loved it, but that wasn’t enough for Eddie. He wanted to take it to the next level; over the next ten years, we did just that. The Hot Dog Safari transformed from being a bus ride to one restaurant into having 10… 15… 20 different vendors bring their version of the hot dog to the Safari for sports fans to sample. The crowd grew from the original 200 into 30,000 people feasting on hot dogs and other treats throughout the day and experiencing fun entertainment. One year, we even took a trip to Frankfurt, Germany to promote the event. Year in and year out, the Hot Dog Safari was a very fun day and an unbelievably popular event that donated every dollar from admissions to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. It was a winner, or should I say wiener, all the way around. And as silly as it may seem, it’s the transformation of this event that provided me with many of the skills I needed to become an event marketer.
While Eddie and the listeners devised all these ideas to make the event bigger and better, someone had to bring it all together and make it come to life. The event budget was non-existent, so almost everything had to be donated. It was trial by fire, as Eddie put his complete trust in me to run with all the concepts to make things happen operationally. Eddie’s faith allowed me to believe I could get the job done, even though I had never done anything like it before. The empowerment was fuel for success. Every time he said on the air, “Yup, Lou, Lou, Lou can get that done,” it gave me that extra push to make sure it happened.
Each year, the event got bigger, better and more precise; by the time I left the station to move on to my next adventure, the Safari was a well-oiled machine. I wasn’t even needed any longer to make sure it came off well, but that didn’t stop Eddie. Although I was working elsewhere, Eddie called to ask me to oversee the Safari in its tenth year to ensure it ran smoothly. I did it because I wanted to make sure he was comfortable with the transition, however, the fact was that the event was stronger than ever. The annual Hot Dog Safari continues to strive today, decades later, with Eddie’s sons at the helm.
Eddie is a masterful mentor and a motivating leader. The secret to his success is that he empowers his people to get the job done and gives them the confidence in themselves that allows them to soar. Many times Eddie stated, “I can’t do that, but I know Lou can.” Now, I know Eddie was more than capable of getting it done himself, but that was his way of displaying his trust in me and helping to propel me to get the job done. Having confidence in your leaders is important, but it’s equally imperative to make sure those that you lead know you believe in them. Confidence has to go both ways if you want to maximize success. Eddie gets that fact, which is why he is a fabulous mentor and a successful top dog.
Lou Imbriano serves as President and CEO of TrinityOne, a marketing strategy and business advisory consultancy that works with organizations to turn around their marketing efforts and increase profitability through building stronger consumer ties and a more trustworthy brand. Although TrinityOne’s specialty is in sports, its methods have been very successful with organizations outside the sports industry. Imbriano’s track record in rebuilding the business side of an organization and positioning it for extreme growth is undefeated. His techniques address short-term concerns, while ensuring long-term sustainability.
Formerly the Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of the New England Patriots and Gillette Stadium for nine seasons and Chief Operating Officer for the New England Revolution for three seasons, Imbriano built powerful relationships that allowed the organization to achieve an increase in revenue by more than 600%.