Aileen McManamon | 5T Sports

Aileen_Lions Mascot Shot resizedCultivating business and sport. Uplifting women in the process.

Aileen McManamon’s experience spans consumer activation in retail, events and community sports, campaign creation, marketing asset development, sponsorship acquisition and promotional campaign execution.

She has a particular jones for creating triple bottom line impact for professional sports teams and major events (economic, environmental and social returns).  She has worked with Minor League Baseball, Olympic teams, Major League Soccer, and the NFL, and with global brands including FIAT, Mercedes-Benz, Hewlett-Packard and EA Sports.

Throughout all of this, her mission is carried out through the successful negotiation and navigation of supplier diversity.

Aileen, can you please tell us more about your Mission, especially around women and supplier diversity?

Supplier Diversity is a proactive best practice in corporate and public procurement whereby traditionally under-represented businesses are cultivated as potential suppliers and contractors.   This typically refers to women-owned, minority-owned and disadvantaged companies.  The practice started over 50 years ago with the US federal government stipulating that to do business with them, large government contractors would need to show they were purchasing at least 5% from a diversity supplier.

As an American certified woman-owned business (now with roots in Canada), I have benefited significantly from supplier diversity initiatives.  After years of trying to work in an international business role in or with Russia, I kept hearing, ‘We don’t send women to Russia’.  Even though I had studied doing business with Russians and the Russian language, I kept seeing the opportunities go to less qualified male peers.  I had given up on this, when I was contacted by a group with a significant US government contract to do entrepreneur training in Russia, and they needed a diversity component.  The door to Russia that had long been closed was opened through this practice.

Today, my business is focused in sports which remains a very old-school, face-to-face relationship business.  To cultivate contracts, I need to visit with teams that are flung from Maine to California and Seattle to Miami.  Fortunately, Major League Baseball, has a strong supplier diversity policy, and runs an annual business-matchmaking conference, allowing me to meet with all 30 clubs as well as their technology company, Major League Baseball Advanced Media, in one location.  The NFL and NBA also have key initiatives that help me gain the necessary face time to build relationships and develop business.

In Canada, it’s possible to be ‘certified’ (verified by an independent reviewer), as a diversity supplier if you are 51% owned, managed and controlled by a woman, minority, aboriginal or LGBT individual.  The practice is roughly 10 years in development in Canada, but as there is no federal, provincial or municipal mandate to source from diversity suppliers, nor is the practice very widespread as of yet among corporations, I’m on a mission working with Women’s Enterprise Centre and the Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada, to drive the awareness and adoption of aggressive diversity procurement practices and open doors to business for others the way they have been opened for me.

What does your Mission look like at fruition?

Public procurement at all levels of government.  Diversity / social procurement policy embedded in word, in spirit and in practice.

Canada’s 100 largest corporations are tripping over each other to be recognized as Canada’s top diversity procurement champion.

[PH:  Love these clear goals!  Let’s do this!]

Biggest highlight in your career so far and why?

Getting hired to run a baseball club.  It was a dream I never thought I’d realize.

Best advice you ever received…

If you can’t afford what you really want, you can’t afford anything.

(Don’t fritter away your money/time on the small things – stay focused on the big picture.)

GF finish corral resizedYou’ve been in business for a number of years, creating your own entrepreneurial path that combines what you passionately believe in, with the talents and gifts you feel you naturally have to offer, along with where you feel there is a market or demand for your services.  For women just starting out, what would you say are the key factors or components necessary to move a Mission forward? What would be your Top #3?

1.  Aim High.

The worst thing someone can say is no, and in the process you may get some critically valuable feedback.  In my experience, it takes just as much effort to land a small client as a big one, so you might as well go for the big fish.

2.  Set Objectives.

What does success look like?  Is it securing a key client? Is it a revenue level? It can be very unsettling as an entrepreneur to not have a sense of whether your effort is actually being spent in the right place.  Pin your target(s) to a wall so your aim stays true to it.  For me, that’s a whiteboard that’s right in front of me – daily.

3.  Don’t toil in a vacuum.

Entrepreneurs must think about multiple facets of the business all at once – it can be like a pinball machine in your head some days.  Use professional advisors and take advantage of peer mentoring – and just plain group therapy – with other business owners.  They may not have the answer, but you’ll take comfort in not being alone in your challenges, and that will keep your confidence intact.

Aileen, one of your areas of expertise is in brand strategy.  That’s also something that we are very passionate about.  In fact, through PowHERtalks, it is our goal to help women focus on who they are, how they are unique, what the impact is there are looking to make, and why.  We believe that if more women could clearly and concisely communicate this information along with their ASK ~ what they need to move their Mission forward at this time (confidence, connections, capital, etc.) ~ they would move forward with their business and in their life in a very real and powHERful way.  What are your thoughts around this from your experience as a woman in business as well as a brand strategist?

 Know your mission.   Know your objectives.

These provide the confidence that is the foundation of everything you do.  And that confidence will lead to sound business execution – whether that is dealing with suppliers or employees, securing financing or winning customers.  Being grounded will enable you to weather the storms that come and make sound decisions at every stage of your company’s growth.  It’s critical to lay that foundation at the outset of your venture.  One very bright and successful entrepreneur I know goes on a strategic ‘retreat’ every year to re-examine where she is and what she wants to achieve in the coming year.  She is incredibly busy of course, but she never sacrifices that time to review, regroup and refine her plan for the coming year.

How do you balance between being a busy entrepreneur, a wife and mother without dodging your own personal growth and self-care?

SkiBobnBoys - resizedMy most effective way of ‘multi-tasking’ is to compartmentalize.  That may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s really depends on your time perspective.  During the course of a week, I am balancing my family and my work and ideally some solo interests as well, but I really can’t do all three in the course of an hour.

When I’m at work, I focus on work.  When I’m with family, I’m not available to clients.  And I work hard now to set those expectations with the respective peers, clients or family members.  Sometimes these veer out of whack…. if there’s an exceptionally hectic time at work or a long business trip, but I make a concerted effort to ‘re-balance’ by giving my family my full attention when I return.

I’ve also learned to not fill up my days.  You need to leave room for ‘life’ situations – an illness, helping a friend through crisis – so I’m careful to manage my projects in a way now that doesn’t make it an incredible stress on me to stop and help when and where I am needed most.  I used to over-commit and over-schedule myself.  Now I try to commit only about 80% of my time or my capacity.   And that leaves me with some personal breathing space – which in our now hyper-connected, always-on world – is really important.

How do you stay strong, positive, confident and grounded in your day-to-day life?  How do you stay powHERful and at that top of your game?

I try to stay connected to the people that matter most to me – no matter where they are in the world.  This is the upside of our hyper-connected world.  A quick note by text, a 10-minute Skype call make it easy to feel the support and love of friends who are 10 time zones away.  I prioritize my family, and I strictly impose a 3-hug a day minimum on my younger son, who is still at home.  Those are like super-charged power bars.  My advice, keep those who love you most very close – they’re like a permanent power charger.

What would you say are your Top 3 Excellence Habits (ie. habits that ensure your success)?

Patience. Wisdom. Courage.

This is more of a mantra than habits, but I think it applies.  Embracing these as habits will see you through pretty much anything.  I usually repeat these to myself when I’m headed into a tough situation, having a rough day or feeling a little uncertain.

Describe your Top 3 Time Management Tips as they relate to your Mission.

1. Manage expectations – especially with regard to response times.

2. Go into meetings with an agenda/objectives regarding outcomes & responsibility assignments.

3.  Work offline – though I work in sustainability, I will still print out documents or work longhand on paper at times.  It both provides focus on the subject for me, and more thoughtful contributions, and it eliminates little notifications popping up or the temptation to check email or social media and keeps me on task.

Describe collaboration and what the looks like/feels like on the ground – how does it show up in your life?

1+ 1 = 3.

That means both parties are looking past their own needs to how they can forward the partner’s agenda.  When each is looking at getting just their own needs met you have a ½ + ½ = 1.

Aileen_YankeesDugout resizedDescribe a favourite hobby or adventure.

Those who know me know that baseball is at the center of a lot of my life.  I’ve coached, run a league, run a Minor League team, I play Slo-Pitch and I’m a fan.  So I’d say playing or going to the ballpark are at the top of my ‘off-time’.   I have yet to do the iconic ‘ballpark roadtrip’ but that will come.  I also love skiing, and believe it or not, grew up skiing in Ohio – not exactly the groundwork for an Olympic career, but it seeded a love for the sport.

Favourite energy meal or snack (healthy).

Hmmmm….they say Guinness is good for you.  ; )

But if we’re being strict on the healthy thing, I’d say blueberries.

Favourite indulgence or treat.

Cheese – I can’t get enough of great cheese.  Prefer a cheese plate over chocolate for dessert.

Top 3 things on your Bucket List.

  • Bike trip from Amsterdam to Prague – or through Vietnam.
  • Celebrating a World Series win in Cleveland.
  • Celebrating my 50th wedding anniversary with my amazing husband, Eric.

The last time I felt complete exhilaration or joy was …

Standing on top of a mountain (Slieve More) in my family’s ancestral home in Ireland (Achill Island, Co. Mayo) with my husband and two sons.  I had wanted to show them that place for sooo long, and we were finally there.

Currently on your nightstand (book)…

Green Giants – about corporations who are the leading lights in sustainability.  These are firms like Unilever, UPS, Adidas and Heineken.

Current favourite app?

Major League Baseball’s ‘At Bat’ – keeps me connected to everything going on.

Ailee_MarcusTruffant_NFLPlay60 resizedWhat does giving back (fulfillment) look like to you?

Mentorship and Business Advisory work.  Helping others clarify the pathway to growth in their business.

I never leave home without my……..

This may sound nutty, but it’s a ‘Penal Times’ rosary from Ireland that my father gave me.  They are shortened rosaries that can be hidden easily when the English were suppressing Catholicism in Ireland.  I feel it reminds me of where I came from (I grew up in a very Irish Catholic neighborhood), it reminds me of my Dad (who passed in 2003 and was always one of my biggest supporters and encouraged me to go as high and far as I could), and it’s something of a ‘talisman’ to ground me wherever I travel and especially when I’m ‘flying solo’.  While I don’t say the rosary with it, it nonetheless brings me right to the simplest, most enduring truths and reminds me of the things that are most important – the people in my life.  Looking at it reminds me that everything beyond them is just ‘stuff’.

Your thoughts on mentoring young women?  What do you feel your most valuable lessons to pass on are?

Thoughts I try to leave them with are these:

  • Fortune favors the bold.
  • Nothing is given, it must be earned.
  • You can never be over-dressed or too courteous.
  • Respect people’s time – it is their most precious asset.  Yours is never more important than another’s no matter what your role or position.

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Charlene SanJenko

Charlene SanJenko

Charlene SanJenko is the Founder and CEO of PowHERhouse, a social impact organization utilizing a multi-media platform to build strong women. A vibrant entrepreneur who embodies lifestyle + leadership, Charlene finds her greatest joy bringing together powHERful women ready to make an impact and change the world, powHERfully - one woman, one family and one community at a time. "We recognize that the change our world needs is us, and we're stepping up, speaking up and showing up to take action, together. We recognize the importance of integrating lifestyle + leadership. PowHERful women require strength, energy, confidence and connections to realize and sustain their dreams."

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