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Alive and Healthy in Vancouver

When Alive Publishing Group’s Ryan Benn reached out to me with an invitation to speak at the Alive Executive Summit, he had me at hello.

Alive is a publication (and soon-to-be media conglomerate) I’ve been reading for years given my interest in the health and wellness space. And the Summit, hosting dozens of brands specifically focused on this sphere, was being held in Vancouver, my second fave city in Canada—sorry Montreal, I love you… but your winters!

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I set off with Malina Kaija, AHAA Living’s Content & Community Manager (and fellow active lifestyle nut), revved up for a week of learning and adventure.

The event began with a fabulous reception and dinner at the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel, featuring social entrepreneur Mark Brand as kick-off keynote. Mark inspired us with this story of investing in one of the harshest social environments in Canada: the infamous Vancouver Downtown Eastside.

Mark has deliberately built his growing stable of companies—from The Diamond to Persephone Brewing—with built-in mechanisms to directly impact the lives of those most in need, with no judgment, just compassion. His self-proclaimed best idea? Developing a for-purchase token, good for a free sandwich at his flagship store, Save on Meats, which can be given to someone in need.

Day one started with early morning yoga – so very Vancouver! After breakfast, I took the stage and spoke about how we can build brands through storytelling. I used examples from my agency’s own client base to illustrate how powerful great storytelling can be, not only from a brand-building perspective, but also from a business-building POV.

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After lunch we had a fantastic eco-walk atop Grouse Mountain where we learned about the unique ecosystem of the second-largest rainforest in the world and were introduced to Squamish culture by a First Nations elder and teacher.

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Day two featured a panel of local digital experts (they don’t call it Silicon Valley North for nothing) including Jeanette Gibson from HootSuite, Pete Smyth from iamota, and Andew Reid from Vision Critical.

The audience had a chance to pepper the panel with questions about online polling, Facebook forcing brands to pay to promote, paying SEO penalties for non-responsive websites, the value of brand ambassadors (twice as likely to promote your brand than a consumer) and consumer intelligence through big data.

The day wrapped up with management guru Verne Harnish. As a CEO myself, I found his simple yet strategic insights invigorating:

a)    Don’t be a boss, be a coach.

b)   Treat your business like a sports event: Let everyone know what the score is in real time, and where the finish line is.

When we all said goodbye at an outdoor event at the Tap and Barrel overlooking beautiful Burrard Inlet that evening, the Summit attendees all agreed on one key takeaway: As companies invested in the health, wellness and sustainability space, we’re all in this together.

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