April 23, 2016
さようなら – Sayonora
Today’s post will be my last. I have decided it is time to pull back from my career and focus on family and quality-of-life in the few good years I have left. If I include time spent at the dealership, I have been with Yamaha for well over 30 years. And for those of you who have alluded to me having a ‘dream job’ – you’re correct; it’s been one helluva good run. I can’t imagine another uneducated, country boy with little more than a great love for motorcycles and sleds, slipping past the regulated HR qualification process now. Yamaha gave me ‘my shot’ and for that, I am most grateful.
This blog in itself is testament to the visionary management this company maintains. When we launched in the winter of 2007, there was a lot of trepidation around letting an individual employee go on-line, representing the company with no formal set of rules or policies to fetter and control the ‘conversation’. At the time, no one in our industry had a corporate blog; Twitter had not been born, My Space was bigger than Facebook and ‘social media’ was a new buzz-word companies were struggling to understand (many still are). At the time I was communicating on the sled forums and got singled out by a fellow, hiding behind his key-board, challenging everyone and everything to stroke his own ego. It was frustrating to post legitimate information only to have it discredited as bull-spit . I figured there had to be a better way for me to play!
One individual was extremely instrumental in getting Sled Talk past the corporate goalie: Maggie Fox. I met Maggie at a trade show in 2006 where she was speaking on this new thing called ‘social media’. Sensing some opportunity, I attended her ‘lunch and learn’ on corporate blogging. Fortunately, as things turned out, I was the only one who showed up and received her undivided attention. This was a new venture for Maggie and she was motivated to see this blog get up and running under the Yamaha brand. After several meetings here, it was her compelling presentation to corporate that I believe, broke down the final barriers of risk, putting many of our fears at ease. Maggie’s career since has been a turbo-charged success story. First expanding her former company (SMG) from a family consulting business to a highly successful social media agency with locations in Toronto and Vancouver; then leapfrogging into the corporate sphere to head up Ford Motor Companies global digital marketing operations. I’ve lost touch with her but understand she is now the senior VP of digital marketing for software giant SAP. She once told me, having the Yamaha shingle hanging on the office wall went a long ways to opening those early doors. Well, without her guidance, I would not be writing this ten years later.
Once we established the ‘rules of engagement’ – I was trusted to use common sense and turned loose to talk about Yamaha snowmobiles openly as the ‘lucky guy’ speaking from the inner sanctum trying to ‘tell it like it is’. Truth be known, I have ‘stepped in it’ on more than one occasion. Actually, according to my boss, defending my rhetoric and shielding my ego from criticism has become a fairly regular occurrence for him. On the flip side, his guard has allowed me to write 275 articles and personally respond to nearly 3,500 comments. I’m not really known for sugar coating my delivery so the odds of me peeing on somebodies Cheerios really are not all that surprising. I’m just glad I didn’t have to respond personally.
Today there are upwards to 14,000 unique visitors a month coming here seeking nuggets of information on our sleds. One thing has amazed me from day one. Not one of you has ever gone on ‘the attack’. The comments I receive have always been thoughtful and respectful of the position regardless of whether the author agreed or liked what I had to say. I have approved every comment except one and only because it was basically spam. Nothing I have ever written here has been taken and used against me or Yamaha in any way and for that I am so thankful. Maggie once told me – ‘stay honest and transparent, your audience will grow and rise to your defense if threatened’ – so true!
And to be clear, comments offered here have been referred to many times in various meetings, in emails and sometimes over beers. It’s been said we don’t listen, that what is being talked about on forums never gets to the boardrooms. I have often used Sled Talk (and TY) to reference or support a point. This site has had an impact on our business and our sleds.
Well; there it is. What started off as an experiment to add some ‘ballast’ on the forums has ended up in a decades worth of conversations with many of you, some I’ve met, others I feel I know from your regular comments here. And you should know, it has been your interaction and feedback that has kept me motivated, to write. I want to say a special thanks to Tom and all the admins at Totallyamaha. You guys rock! Many of us here at Yamaha realize and appreciate what a great service you provide for our customers. TY sets the bar very high regarding QDR standards for the motor-sports forums.
I don’t know at the time of this writing, what is going to happen to this site and the archives it contains when I’m gone. It would be sad to see the articles on specific model development disappear. They are records of our history with very few, if any people left that can recount first hand. I have recognized many individuals in my stories who mean a lot to me and who contributed to many of our snowmobiles in many different ways. In my mind, they are the most important of all to preserve. Yamaha is made up of people – the brand and the products are a result of their passion. They are the real creators of our ‘Kando’ and should not be forgotten. I hope somehow Sled Talk will live on as a resource for no other reason than this.
May 5th is my last day as an employee of Yamaha. It’s a bitter sweet feeling as I’m going to miss so many of the people I have worked with over the years, many of whom I consider close friends. I’m also going to miss opening Sled Talk to see if someone has left a question or comment for me. On the other hand, I am finally going to finish some projects like my Phazer ‘trials’ sled and am looking so forward to being there for my family every day, even if that means holding the end of the dock down on a Muskoka chair while they enjoy our ‘cottage life’.
Guys, it’s been a great ride and I sincerely hope you have enjoyed this space. I have – I am truly a lucky guy!