The Power of “I Can”
CEO & Founder
Coffee Lunch Coffee
President & Owner
Throughout his career, Rob Adams, president and owner of Bishop McCann, has been motivated by one rule: nothing is impossible. Hear how this motto guided his professional journey and helped him achieve entrepreneurial and personal goals.
“A lot of my career was based upon the premise of proving. When someone would say, “You can't do something, it's impossible.” That became the drive of why I wanted to do things.”
Alana Muller 00:10
Welcome to Enterprise.ing, a podcast from Enterprise Bank & Trust that's empowering business leaders one conversation at a time. Each week, we'll hear from top business professionals about lessons on leadership and entrepreneurship that they've learned along the way. I'm your host, Alana Muller, an entrepreneurial executive leader whose primary focus is to connect, inspire and empower community. We at Enterprise Bank & Trust thank you for tuning in to another episode.
Alana Muller 00:42
Hello, listeners, welcome back to Enterprise.ing podcast. Rob Adams is a thought leader in sales, marketing and leadership. With more than 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur and proven leader, Rob sets strategic direction for Bishop McCann and joined the company as president and 2014 at its Kansas City headquarters location. Rob Adams, welcome to Enterprise.ing podcast.
Rob Adams 01:04
Thanks for having me.
Alana Muller 01:05
I'm so glad you're here. I want to actually kick off our conversation by learning more about your career journey. It's my understanding that you started your career as an entrepreneur when you launched a donut franchise in Las Vegas. So it already sounds like a delicious journey. I can't wait to hear about it. And I know that you grew that business into a multi-unit operation. And in fact, rumor has it that tennis star Andre Agassi was a fan and bought the business from you. So tell us more.
Rob Adams 01:32
Oh, my gosh, there is a lot there in just that question alone. But yeah, it's true. So I'll give you a bit of background on that. So I'm actually from Kansas City. I moved away after graduating from high school. So I was, what 19? And I originally thought that I wanted to go into law. And of course the thing that I always love asking people is if you thought you were going to be doing this 20 years ago, what you're currently doing, the answer is always no, the same is true for me. So what happened was, I was in Las Vegas. And one of my very good friends was from Greenwich, Connecticut. And I should say I'm from Raytown, Missouri. So let's just say that our backgrounds were a little diverse.
Alana Muller 02:24
Slightly different. But you both ended up in Las Vegas.
Rob Adams 02:27
We did, we did. And we just loved talking about our background, because it was so different. And there was such a respect for how we thought about things, how we thought about business. And at the time, Krispy Kreme had just gone public. And my friend had made a comment that no one would be able to compete with Krispy Kreme donuts.
Rob Adams 02:54
And that all of these stores in Las Vegas were going to be closing down. And I just made a general comment that a company, a donut company, would come into Las Vegas and we would compete. With just the basic premise that if you have a better product, and you have a better location, that there's always good competition. And I said unfortunately, I don't think that's the case, that money always wins. You're saying someone like me, a kid from Raytown wanting to open up a donut store, you're saying that I couldn't do it?
Rob Adams 03:31
He said, "Well Rob, I mean, not to be disrespectful, but no, probably not." So again, being 23 back then, I was so mad that he was saying that someone like myself couldn't do it because I didn't have the resources. And so, oh my gosh, think about whoever my banker was at that time. It was financed by $300,000 in credit cards. What happened was, I approached Ray Lamar. And I told Ray I had this idea that I want to turn donuts into these high-end donut stores. And Ray loved the idea and Ray actually taught me how to make donuts. And so I came to Kansas City for, gosh, almost a month. And started LaMar’s Donuts in Las Vegas.
Rob Adams 04:23
And my very first customers were Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf. And they were looking to invest in, at that time, Krispy Kreme. One of the reasons why they were so successful is they had so many celebrities right behind the brand and Andre wanted to be a part of LaMar's. At the time, I was very stubborn and wasn't looking for an investor, but years later when I was looking for somebody to transition the business to, he literally was in my store that Sunday, and four days later, I sold it to Andre Agassi. That is true.
Alana Muller 04:59
That's amazing. So okay, so, so many questions for you. But what I'll say is, I too, grew up in Kansas City and on LaMar's Donuts, so I would say delicious products. So, great choice. But what I really want to know is for you, what was it like from a career point of view, how did that experience shape who you are and shape your career journey?
Rob Adams 05:23
Yeah. It's interesting because I think of how you think of your life, of being younger in your life versus how I think about my life today. When I say I was younger, but the truth is, I did LaMar's because someone said something's not possible. The second career that I had was with Microsoft. Even though I was with a big company, I always went into teams and wanted to be part of products that were underperforming. And the moment someone said that, “There's no way that that team is going to be successful,”— that's when I knew I wanted to do it. And that's actually my last role that I had in Microsoft was I was the GM of Microsoft Canada. The reason why I went there is because someone said it was a career killer. And no one could be successful. Like I, I want to go, I want to go to Canada.
Rob Adams 06:55
And I think that the kind of fast forward to me being here at Bishop McCann. I said, this is kind of how I think about my life today. I love seeing potential, potential in companies, but really potential in people. And as I think about my, the life that I've lived and bringing it to Bishop McCann, what it really has been about is everything that I've done is when I see potential in someone, and I can actually see that potential, actually see things that maybe people didn't think themselves were possible -- there's nothing that is better than that.
Rob Adams 07:16
And so I was on the board of Bishop McCann, and I saw the possibility of what the company could be based upon the leadership that was here and great clients and capabilities. And the other thing is that,sometimes in life, you give advice to others that you don't live by yourself. And I always used to tell people that when you're thinking about a career, the one thing you should never do is think about the job itself.
Alana Muller 07:41
Rob Adams 07:43
Focus on the things that will make you happy. And then you layer on the opportunities. And originally when Dan, who's the founder of the company, offered me to come be part of Bishop McCann I declined, because I'm like, “I'm, I'm not that.” Then of course, a friend of mine said, “But Rob, have you really gone through the exercise yourself about what you teach us?” And I think gosh, the things in my life that are most important are my family, here in Kansas City, right? Number two is that I have a little brother Jorge, for the Big Brother Big Sister program in Chicago and wanted to be closer to him. And, third was, still always wanting to feel like I could make an impact. And when I thought about Bishop McCann, versus the opportunities that were presented at Microsoft, I realized that it was a very easy choice to leave Canada and come back to my hometown.
Alana Muller 08:35
And, gosh, I love the people saying you can't. I can relate to this experience where somebody says you can't do it. And so you want to prove them wrong, or you love the challenge when you see that there's a potential problem, or somebody says, “It's something that can't be done,” you're like, “no, it can be, and I'm going to show you how.” And I just love that. I want to hear a little bit more though, about Bishop McCann itself. I know that the company is really differentiating itself, and you're helping to lead innovation across the meetings, events and incentives industry. Can you talk a little bit about what the company does and how it sort of plays out every day with its clients?
Rob Adams 09:17
Sure, Bishop McCann is in the meetings, events and incentive trip business. So if you think about the types of business that we do, when people are getting together for things like national sales meetings, we are what we call a full-service capabilities agencies that we do everything from we have an air team that will book your book, your trip, to all the logistics that you can think about that happen on on-sites, to all the things that happen when you're in the ballroom and all the production and entertainment. That's the business that we do on the meetings and events side and then on incentive trips. For companies that are looking to reward their employees.
Rob Adams 09:58
We also have another division that is around building incentive trips. When I think about our industry, and from my prior life of technology today, I think one of the reasons why I got excited about the industry is the amount of innovation. That is what is happening in our industry, and also loving the mission of the company. If we create joy, and we're kind of asking about the difference. How do we differentiate ourselves? I have to say the mission, even though it sounds like a marketing mission, there's actually neuroscience behind that mission.
Rob Adams 10:34
We met a neuroscientist by the name of Dr. Paul Zak years ago, who spent his entire life studying:What is joy? And what he came up with was a very long equation, and it became very simple. And he said that joy equals trust times purpose. And when you have trust and purpose in your life, it creates oxytocin, which ultimately creates happiness or joy. And so when we think about what does joy have to do with meetings and events? Well, it has a lot to do with it. Because when you go to a meeting or an event, your ultimate objective is we want to create a memorable experience. And we know that when people are happy, they become extreme brand advocates. So it's a fun business to be in the joy business, for sure.
Alana Muller 11:27
Well, okay, well, not to bring down the mood,but I know one thing about business is that it's tough, and not every endeavor is a great success. And perhaps it's not always as joy- filled as we would wish. Can you share an example of a disappointment or a failure that you, or the company, has faced and how you overcame the challenge?
Rob Adams 11:48
Yeah, a few years ago, and I am blanking out even the year, because it's COVID. I find myself, when I talk about that period of time, there's a blank for me, I feel like there's a couple of years in my head that are erased. But it was a time when we had just done an acquisition, we were at our staff retreat, we were celebrating as a company, all the success that we had over the last couple of years. And COVID, the announcements coming in with COVID. And I remember one of our meetings we had for 15,000 people, they had just canceled it. And I get a notification in my email every time a new meeting happens, or cancellation. And I will never forget the day that my email was just overloaded with all of the cancellations and 80% of our entire revenue had disappeared within one day. And I remember being in a room and we were looking at our cash flow for the business. And what was in front of me was saying that we were going to be out of business within six months.
Rob Adams 13:05
And someone in the room had just looked at me and just kind of took my hand and said “I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry.” And that piece of me that's like “no, absolutely don't be sorry, we got to come up with a solution.” And I think that moment of knowing that there is some reality of what could happen, and the lesson of surrounding yourself with people, that first you really trust. And great advisors. And I have to say that one of the first people that I called was, my bank, and I remember I called Jeff Carson, and just the amount of empathy and care, and having a partner that was there every step of the way, but also just having friends in your life.
Rob Adams 14:02
And I think the other thing that is really important is when you're in a mode of trying to save a company, sometimes and you're having to make some tough decisions about reducing salaries, letting people go, knowing that the decisions that you're making are impacting people's life. You have to really search deep in yourself and ask the question, what is my intention? And making sure that everything that you say, everything that you do is related to your intention. I think that the lesson of all of that is in when you are in the most challenging of times and you can see failure in front of you, always know there's different paths, surround yourself with smart people, people that you trust. And I have to say the third thing is, it may seem soft, but the power of belief. Just believing that with the right intent and trying to the best you can, the good things can happen.
Alana Muller 15:07
Sure, I couldn't agree with you more. I think that, sort of, the optimistic outlook, that there's gotta be another way. I think it really does pull people through. I mean, in a sense, we've kind of come full circle from my first question to you about how being the donut dude sort of shaped your career and then brought you to the place that you are now and "I can't" was not is not the answer. Right? It's, "I can" and we're gonna figure out how. I love the belief in yourself, the belief in the company, the belief in the people you surround yourself with, is really what pulls you through. So that's, that's a great story,
Rob Adams 15:46
I think that the best part of that time is seeing the people that were here, and that they believed.
Alana Muller 15:56
Rob Adams 15:56
Right? I remember the call that I had with one of my employees, and I was just thanking her, for all the work that she had done during a very difficult time. And she said, “Rob, you know why we're all doing this, right? And why? Because we know we're saving a company. And we know, and we believe.” And yet, I just remember that moment, it was just a very, it was a very touching moment, because I thought gosh, that's what it is all about is having that belief, belief in yourself and knowing that's part of a bigger impact.
Alana Muller 16:33
So great, great story. So I know you talked about Jeff Carson, who is the leader of the Kansas City region for Enterprise Bank & Trust, talk about other professional advisors. And who do you surround yourself with? So you talked a lot about the people on your team, how have your personal advisors shaped and helped you to develop yourself and your business?
Rob Adams 16:52
Yeah, I, when I think about the network that I have. My network of mentors, friends — I think one of the things that has been super helpful for me is surrounding myself with not only people that definitely have similar thinking to mine, but actually the majority of them don't. And different views, different perspectives. You know? Making sure that you are intentional and unintentional, and what I mean by that, is there's times when you're very intentional about making sure obviously, you want to make sure that you are surrounding yourself with people, like having a great relationship with your bank, right? Making sure that you've got great legal advice, financial advice.
Rob Adams 17:38
But there's also times…I’m involved in an organization called YPO, Young Professionals Organization. And I consider them to be an extension of my family. Now, these are people that I can say anything to and there's no judgment. And there's only the want to do everything they can to help you. And so I think that, I think that the network, friends, everyone I have in my life, the one common element of all of those people is just going back to that word: trust. Trust has been something that has been consistent with the people that I have in my life.
Alana Muller 18:18
That's really cool. So given all these fabulous friends, people, advisors, what's the best piece of business advice that you've received?
Rob Adams 18:28
Ah, gosh, I've had so many guides, so much great advice. I think that some advice, in fact I was actually saying this to someone last week, to one of our leaders here. Is that when I got into leadership, someone said to me, “There's something you need to know about leadership. And that is that leadership can be a lonely place.” And I said, "What do you mean by that?" And they said that, "You just need to know that when you go into leadership, don't expect, don't go into it for the kudos any longer. Because you're probably not gonna get it. You have to be thinking about the bigger impact.”
Rob Adams 19:06
And so thinking about, like I said earlier, about things, like the things that you do, knowing that you have an impact, the possibility of seeing potential in someone that they may not see. And then seeing the impact that not only that they do, the collective team does, that that's why you do it. And I tell that often to people that are going into leadership is making sure that you've got to be really anchored in that when you make that decision to go to leadership.
Alana Muller 19:35
Yeah, so true. So true. So I want to shift gears a little bit. I know that you are very community-minded. So as much as you focus on your business, you're also very involved in the community. And you already mentioned Big Brothers Big Sisters and your Little, Jorge, who you've been, or he's been with you, or however that works, for I think, it's nine years now. Talk a little bit about how you made the choice to get involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters and what your relationship with Jorge has been like. How has it developed?
Rob Adams 20:06
Yeah, so I met Jorge when I was living in Chicago. And one of the things that, one regret that I have is that I don't have kids of my own. And I wanted to give back in some way. But I also, as I think about youth, and I also just think about my, the way I was raised, I was very fortunate that I had two very different types of parents. I had my dad, he was all about the work ethic. But I also had a mom who was very much about dreaming.
Rob Adams 20:35
And so, one of the things that she did when I was a kid is we would go in the car, and we would drive along Ward Parkway, and she would save money, and we would go to Houston's restaurants as a kid. I remember that was so awesome. But we'd go to art galleries, and she would show me culture. And I think I had the opportunity to understand what the possibilities in life could be like. And I think about the youth today, I think the one thing that causes so many kids that are not in quote unquote, "the right neighborhood," is they don't know what the possibilities can be.
Rob Adams 21:15
And so I wanted to get involved in the Big Brothers Big Sisters because I wanted to find someone in my life that I could, I could show what the possibilities in life could be like. And I always say, of all the things in my life, of any accomplishment in my life that I'm most proud of, it's Jorge, because he was someone in my life that didn't believe in himself. And fast forward, he's now going to be, he's now going to be working at Morgan Stanley.
Rob Adams 21:50
So I think that goes back to that conversation we had a moment ago. When he was so young, we were dreaming about "What do you want your life to be like?" And I remember, we were dreaming. And he said, “Rob, I can never do that.” And I said, “We have one rule. We have one rule. Don't ever tell me that something is not possible.” And, you know, to see someone like him that had so much fun dreaming together and some of those dreams are now becoming reality is something I'm very proud of.
Alana Muller 22:32
That's just, that's incredibly touching. And I love how this "I can't, I can't but I will" theme just keeps popping up in your life. It's really remarkable. I've loved learning from you and learning about that. I want to close out with a final fun question that I asked of every guest. And I am always sort of eager for the answer. So here's the question: If you could meet with anyone for a cup of coffee, who would it be and why? And I don't care if it's somebody living, not living, fictional, nonfictional, you get to choose.
Rob Adams 23:03
I love the question. But gosh, there's so many people that I'd want to like, go back and meet I think of, when I think about your question. You know, I went on a sabbatical about four years ago, and one of the things that I was really in search of is, where did I come from? And so I went to Ireland, and learned the story they tell you about your family, your family history. I mean, what I learned is, none of it is true, absolutely none of it, none of it. It's totally...
Rob Adams 23:38
So the story of what really happened is that I found out that we were really Vikings. And we went to Scotland and into Ireland, and then from Ireland, we then got on the boat and went to Quebec. And I actually found the birth certificate of my great, great, great grandfather, right? And I think if there's anyone that I could go back in time, is to be with him on that boat.
Rob Adams 24:11
In that moment in time when he made that decision in our family to get on the boat and other members of our family did not. What was he thinking? What did he see as the opportunity? What was it like to know that your family, as you're waving goodbye, you probably will never see them again? And all of the considerations that he had to make during that time. So I think that I would love to go back in time and have a conversation because I think it would give so much more… I don't know, context. I think it would, I think the word gratitude. I think of my ancestors anytime I think I'm having a tough, challenging day. It puts things in perspective when you think about your ancestors and the challenges they had during that time.
Alana Muller 25:09
It really does. But that's a good choice. I like that cup of coffee. That's very cool. I'd like to be the fly on the wall of that conversation. That's good. That's really good. Well, this has been just the most fun. So, I have been delighted to have you on Enterprise.ing. Rob Adams, where can our listeners go to learn a little bit more about you and about Bishop McCann?
Rob Adams 25:28
Sure. Go to our website, BishopMcCann.com. You can go to LinkedIn, you can always just reach out to me personally, it's [email protected].
Alana Muller 25:37
Fabulous. Rob Adams, thank you so much for being on Enterprise.ing podcast. Thanks for joining us this week on Enterprise.ing. Be sure to visit our website, enterprisebank.com/podcast, to subscribe so you'll never miss an episode. If you found value in today's program, please consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or telling a friend about us. Enterprise.ing, powering business leaders, one conversation at a time.
Alana Muller 26:07
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