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How can Whistler get its mojo back?

There’s no magic bullet, but following Dr. Seuss’s advice may help



Whistler’s history over the last 15 years can be illustrated in a couple of quotes from Dr. Seuss’s Oh the places you’ll go : "You won’t lag behind because you’ll have the speed. You’ll pass the whole gang and soon take the lead. Wherever you fly you’ll be the best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest."

Sounds like an accurate description of the mood and success Whistler enjoyed between 1990 and 2000, but five years into the new millennium and the following verse may seem more appropriate: "… and when you’re in a slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping your self is not easily done."

Since 2000, we have become a society plagued by crisis. From Enron to WorldCom, from SARS to mad cow, and to the already heightened anxiety felt because of the constant threat of terrorist attacks on western targets. These factors leave many longing for a simpler time. Like Mike Myers’s famous character, Austin Powers, we would like to go back in time to recover our vitality, but we don’t have a time machine. Moreover, what has made us successful in the past may not make us successful in the future. It should be obvious that conventional practices are of little use in coping with or confronting the major issues that shape our current reality. Indeed, conventional methods may largely be to blame for many of our problems.

Whistler seems to be caught between Scylla and Charybdis. The shortcomings of a bad recovery strategy are usually painfully obvious, but only in hindsight, and even good strategies sometimes fail. Clearly, good planning and execution are of importance but what is obscure is the action plan. On what strategy should we be focused and what kind of leadership is required to turn strategy into results?

Something needs to emerge quickly as four consecutive years of declining tourism numbers have had many in Whistler wondering how we’re going to get our mojo back.

Emerging from crisis

The August issue of Fast Company magazine included an article entitled Brand Revivers that highlighted brands that have recently re-emerged after difficult circumstances. Their conclusion was this: "The only thing harder than developing a hot brand is turning around a once-popular one."

The Brand Revivers represented industries from fashion to hi-tech, including cool consumer brands like Vespa and Lacoste; some had been purchased by larger brands or were recovering from bankruptcy protection. In every example, change was initiated by focusing on passionate advocates of their brands. There were no magic bullets, just a lot of grass roots examples of people talking about their product. It was usually a viral, word-of-mouth initiative that proved to be the catalyst for turnaround. People telling the stories that set trends, and while keeping up with trends can be difficult, the alternative is not very appealing.