Remember all of those “Roaring 20’s” parties that brought us into this new decade? You might have been at one of them. I have to admit that I found them more than a bit ironic, as it appears our version of the “Roaring 20’s” stalled pretty quickly out of the gate. The previous generation got nine pretty good years out of their decade until the crash of 1929. Sure… they may have been grateful for surviving the H1N1 outbreak that started in 1918, which was reason to party. Maybe—on the other side of COVID-19, which is hitting us 100 years later—we will find that we have been given an extraordinary opportunity to deeply examine what needs to be fixed here at home. If this is indeed the outcome, then I’ll buy the party hats on the other side of this pandemic event.

Until that time comes, we have been given an opportunity to evaluate what’s important to us—both professionally and personally. For m4, here’s what that means as our organization looks into the back half of 2020 and into 2021:

4mul8 2020 Meetings are now 4mul8 2021 Meetings

With many more questions than answers about COVID-19, m4 has taken steps to move our community meetings from 2020 to 2021. We will still be hosting around the same timeframes and in the same cities scheduled for this year—Austin in July & Jackson Hole in October. Do we do this begrudgingly, and does this decision temporarily sting financially? You bet we do—and yes, it does. Keeping this community active is a foundational part of what we’re about. But… m4 also knows that putting the wellbeing of each of you above organizing these meetings is the right decision given what’s going on right now. The questions that remain are how do we come out of this event as better businesses, and what do we do to keep things moving as science battles COVID-19?

For those of you confirmed for a 4mul8 2020 experience, you have a couple of options:

  • Take a 100% credit for your paid meeting(s) into 2021, and we’ll joyfully see you next year (until then, stay safe & let a family member or friend know that you love them)

Or…

  • Apply dollars already paid and credited to the 2020 4mul8 experiences against our new service offerings detailed later in this letter

If you have a package that includes advisory services in addition to paid seats for the 4mul8 2020 meetings, then we kindly ask that you leverage those services in this current contract year. Those do not credit over to 2021, but you may opt to apply the value of these services (along with any meeting credit values) against the new options below. This is a strange year for all of us, so m4 is here to work with you to deliver the best value for your money both in 2020 and 2021. We thank you for the continued support of this executive community.

As we look to the future for 4mul8, I do believe m4’s approach is well built for the world that emerges as we learn to live with COVID-19 as a global disease. We are in the business of building trust with key executives, and we realized a long time ago that most decisions in this industry are controlled by a small number of people. These truths act as the foundation upon which great things get built in the healthcare and insurance industries, and they don’t require an assembly of thousands to create momentum.

We will continue on with 4mul8 because we believe molding trust still requires in-person experiences. This is how human nature works. Our strategy has never been complex, but what it takes to implement this model is pretty hard to do well. The tradeoffs required to do real community building aren’t appealing to most. You have to be willing to go deeper with key partners to help them grow. That takes a lot more grit than constructing an exhibit hall or writing a blog. It also takes living with the fact that these growth efforts will be uneven. Learning to find that next tier of growth also means dealing with the messiness of the market at a different scale. This brings learnings that what worked before will no longer cut it as you level up or move into a new space. Plus, there are lots of shitty companies and narcissistic (my-brand-first) executives out there. m4 weeds most of these orgs and execs out, but even our process doesn’t come with a 100% guarantee.

About some of those real tradeoffs we make here… we don’t bring in traditional sponsorship revenues. Nor do we achieve a scaling effect. Why not? We have a charter that mandates that all of our groups’ sizes are capped at no more than 150 from now until the end of time (so, there’s no incremental margin for each extra seat added above a baseline cost… and, 150 people at one of our meetings is very rare… so rare that we’ve never done it… our go-to size is 50… and, there’s a scientific reasoning behind this that we’ll talk about later). We often host in more expensive & unique settings. Our quality controls & extreme preparations that go into each master-planned experience have become legendary—and most underestimate how resource and time intensive this is. We don’t compensate thought leaders for their time & expenses. This is because we don’t promote “speakers” as a marketing tool. Big conferences need to bring in known names to market to fill big conference centers. We are free of that pressure. The thought leadership we bring in complements the problems identified that each cohort wants to solve.

We emphasize that at 4mul8 we’re about building the right community. Your participation is part of a cohort of diverse thinkers that m4 has curated—and that is the star attraction. We also work very hard for 4mul8 to not be considered a conference brand. 4mul8 fees have always been a very small portion of our total revenues at m4 (& virtually none of our margin). Our aim has always been to curate a community, and then go build great things because of this. The value is in the “building” for select partners and m4.

Moving forward, we are adding a grō @ 4mul8 service that helps key members go deeper on a question of interest to their businesses. This will happen in parallel with the 4mul8 experience to create a lattice effect (what’s this… think of the Vegas Strip… you go there to stay at one resort, but the driving force for going is knowing you’ll get much more out of the experience than one hotel can offer). The intent is to unlock market alignment around a specific issue for key partner executives looking for answers and potential partnerships. The benefit for those that are sourced to help with this effort is that they get access to more thinking than just the single problem (& wider networking, too). Check out the virtual grō option available in the fall (detailed below) to get a better idea of how this will work going forward in-person.  

What you are left with is a small-format community of executives that are treated equally. There is not a vendor-buyer dynamic at 4mul8—just problems to be solved. m4 understands the name of the game is to find ways to grow businesses—whether that’s an idea, a new partnership or a future investment. That’s why we prefer working almost exclusively with business/P&L owners and investors. Our philosophy to help with growth is to accelerate the environment for this to happen through mutual problem solving. Key executives are seeking alignment with one another. Most of the P&L executives that get things done are not begging for another sales pitch or 40,000-foot, PR-crafted, brand-building, keynote moment. That approach has its place, but it’s not the right model for 4mul8. To thrive in our community, it takes candor, authenticity and (at times) Bourbon to build credibility. Things get built when that credibility is gained, which happens when executives mutually align around a market opportunity.

The healthcare and insurance segments are full of skeptical executives. It has taken m4 years to hammer out a fully private model that helps to chip away at the barriers executives often carry with them. Building trust takes time—even with us. We don’t do a lot of promotion for 4mul8. It has thrived over the years because of the word-of-mouth stories from those who have benefitted from being there. It’s the passion and support demonstrated by each of you that continues to hold the future make-up of this group’s work in your hands.  

Why am I confident about the future of the 4mul8 model? I’ll let what Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Airlines, said during his company’s Q2-2020 earnings call make my point when he was asked where the demand for business travel will be:

“…it’s going to be trips that are focused on relationship-building, interacting, whether it’s with your customers, conventions, new contacts, reviewing performance on a global scale. Those are going to stay.  I just don’t see… a substitute for that over time.

m4 agrees. We believe our small-format, high-impact model will be one of the reasons executives in our industry will interact again in 2021. Even if meeting means dealing with proximity monitors, pre-arrival virus “cleared” tags, gas masks, latex gloves and sanitation misting stations. Just kidding. Sort of. The bottom line is that the desire to move things forward will eventually be reasoned against being homebound riding out the virus (which may take another 3-4 years of scientific work for real progress to be made).

So…

What do we do about the balance of 2020 and Q1-2021? m4 sees the models below as creative ways for this community to continue to interact together during these unprecedented times.

Introducing the Q4-2020 through Q1-2021 virtual options for your consideration

m4 will be hosting a series of six virtual open forums beginning on October 22nd. These will run on Thursdays at 1:30p CT for 90 minutes through March 25, 2021.

These open forums are not designed to fully mirror the 4mul8 experience. Looking at your Dell monitor is not a substitute for gazing at the magnificence of the Tetons (nor does it compete with life experiences like running into a brown bear on the Wildflower Trail, which happened to several Jackson Hole members in 2019). Our 4mul8 model has been honed to get an assist from nature to bring out your best self (yes, we like science here). Crooked lines against brilliant skies stir things inside of us that the lighting from a monitor cannot. Replicating that type of experience virtually doesn’t translate, so we aren’t going to try.

These virtual forums have been constructed to do three things:

  • Not take up too much of your time (90 minutes total per forum)
  • Bring you a moderated, 30-minute Q&A session with some great thought leaders to elevate your thinking
  • Give you a private forum for 60 minutes to talk about whatever you want with around 50 diverse thinkers that we’ll have curated for each date

And… yep, we’re sticking to our guns. We aren’t going to “market” any of our participating thought leaders for these forums. Show up. Try us out. Then, you can decide if the totality of the experience is worth it to you.

Below, we are happy to detail the differences between service offerings to help you decide the right path to engage with m4 and the community. One more thing… our process does require an application to join us. m4 will be curating the makeup of these forums.

You can dig in for more information on membership opportunities here, learn more about the virtual open forums schedule here, and apply to join the community here. For more detail than you’ll get on these pages on the site, please keep reading.

Single Forum Seat – $200 per forum per executive

This is just how it sounds. You get access to one forum of your choosing (subject to availability).

Can you give your seat to a colleague if you can’t make it last minute? Yes, you can (as long as we approve the person replacing you). Can you get a refund? Nope. Can you transfer to a different date? Only if notify us more than 14 calendar days in advance. Why? Because we cap these forums and will need a reasonable opportunity to market your vacated seat for that date to someone else.  

All-forums Seat – $960 per executive

If you know you’re going to want to be at all six forums, then this is the deal for you. We’ve discounted this full package by 20% to say “thanks” for your support. This is for one executive.

You may elect this all-forums package option until November 18th (one day before the second forum). If you purchase this package by October 23rd, then pay the full $960. If you decide to jump in after October, then pay $850 for the remaining five forums. Wait, isn’t that just a 15% discount for the last five? Why yes, it is. Didn’t your mother teach you that there are consequences for being late. After we’ve completed two forums, the remaining four may only be attended by single forum members and our wonderful friends that opted for this package before then.

Can you transfer your seat for future forums to another colleague? Yep. Again, we’ll need to approve the person & make sure that they are from the same company. The other policies are the same as detailed above in the single forum section.

We are also adding a grō-level networking portal where all participants in our virtual forums can network with one another through the end of March next year. One more thing… you’ll also get access to our annual product and distribution survey as an added bonus by the end of 2020.

4mul8 Supporter – $1,500 per executive

Wait, what is this? Would you believe that when we were getting pre-launch feedback on the virtual open forums program that some of our most ardent 4mul8 supporters asked us to consider ways to keep that level of executives tied to the brand as we ride through the pandemic? That surprised us, but it also inspired the team. We decided to extend a few of the normal benefits you’d get as a 4mul8 member to anyone that wanted them during this weird year, which is where the 4mul8 supporter tier came about.

For this level, you still get access to all of the forums for one executive. You will need to sign up no later than November 18th for this level. If you decide to jump into this membership level between the first and second forums, then we’ll bill you $1,690.

Why is this level unique? You’ll gain access to the 4mul8-level networking portal. For 2020, we made some new enhancements to the portal that allow for a member to search for executives by cohorts where they participated, by last name and by company name. One of the cooler features that comes with portal access is that you can see everyone at your membership level and lower (single and all-forums seat members can be seen by you, but they can’t see you due to lack of access to this feature). The portal also gives you the ability to initiate and send a private 1:1 message to dialogue with any person in the portal at your level or below. For the networkers amongst us, this may just be your thing.

Other benefits include our branded winter gear (this is a fine quality item that supports a local Jackson Hole small business), a leather portfolio and a book of our choosing for your reading collection. We’ll mail this package where you tell us in November.

Finally, you’ll get access to our annual product & distribution survey findings (arriving by the end of 2020) and 2019 4mul8 case briefs. If you’ve never been to 4mul8, this presents an opportunity to read through previous business problems presented to the cohorts in Atlanta and Jackson Hole that year. We hope this will inch you even closer to buying that gas mask and joining us out in the wild in 2021. If you are tempted to become a full 4mul8 member for next year, we are throwing in a discount of 10% off the Austin rates and 5% off the Jackson Hole fees for our big-time supporters at this level. You’ll have to be fully paid no later than 3/31/2021 to get access to the discount(s).

Virtual Cocktail Hour – $4,700 per experience

Drinks and private conversations, anyone? Done virtual style… of course.

This service level includes everything already detailed from the lower-level memberships for one executive. What drives the fees at this level is time. m4 adds in a sourcing component where we will work with an executive to bring together three additional folks of interest for a virtual chat over drinks. We’ll also moderate the discussion to keep it flowing for an hour (shit… maybe more if it’s interesting). Pulling this off requires more than a couple of phone calls, so there’s more time involved than one might imagine if you don’t do this for a living. Thankfully, we do… and, we have a really good idea of exactly how much time this usually takes.

The cocktail hour approach is a good way to tiptoe into the problem-solving-through-smart-sourcing part of our business. It’s a lower-cost, lower-risk way to test the waters before deciding to work on bigger things with your m4 friends. “Is there a twist,” you might be thinking? Yes, there is. We’ll also work with each invited executive to procure a bottle of wine or spirits (& mixers) of her or his choosing to have delivered to a supplied address. The key is to make sure that each invitee doesn’t dip into the spoils before the virtual meeting. We’ll pop the top at an agreed-upon date and time and get going.

There is one more thing. We’ll give each invited guest a seat at one open forum of your choosing (to join you in the broader open dialogue this community is known for).

Psst… even at this fee level, this is a loss-leader for m4. The time equation calls for more than the amount we’re charging. Time is real money in the advisory biz. But we’re doing this setup as a good way for us to test newer relationships (& for those that know m4 and have been flirting with going deeper). Certainly, this level is all about having an eye looking toward bigger growth plays together.

Speaking of bigger things…

The Virtual grō Project – starting at $39,100 per experience

(And, are we almost done? It feels like I’ve been writing this post for weeks. Thanks for hanging in there to this point. It’s worth it.)

Let’s go back to the scientific reasoning that we used to organize this community. When the designers of social media platforms studied the way humans organize themselves, they found that we universally follow a 5-15-50-150-500 connectivity pattern. This science isn’t new. It dates all the way back to the Roman Army.

Effective decision making follows this networking pattern. If you are in the center, and you have an issue that needs to be solved, then there is a core group of five folks that you trust deeply that are going to be part of that decision process. The next decision layer involves 12-15 folks (the core five are in this count). These are people close enough to you that would make you emotional if they died. This 5-15 set of social rings is also where just about all big decisions get made. Again, because this is where your familiarity and trust are at the highest levels. It’s inside 15 folks where the opportunity to come together as a group to build & drive solutions is at its highest. This is very meaningful for what we do at m4.

At the 50-person social ring, this is where you can stay socially connected and know at least one personal thing about every person. In growing companies, this is the level when entrepreneurial CEOs have to start adapting to culture-based leadership. Above this level, it becomes difficult to maintain a meaningful personal relationship with everyone in the business.

The number 150 is the relationship-building boundary within our brain. This is where peer pressure begins to break down. Our connectivity to one another fractures above this level. You may have more connections than this, but none of them are very meaningful to your business or success. It becomes more about “branding,” “culture” and viral idea spreading at levels above 150 for big-time executives. What about the 500 level? I knew you were going to ask that. My response: “Who cares.” Ha! Ha!

So… back to the Roman Army… they split into groups of 150 because that was what kept them together. At m4, we have a cap written into our organizational statement that says “no more than 150” can be part of what we do virtually or in person. Ever. That’s the tradeoff that comes with community trust building. The reason that the numbers 4 & 8 are in 4mul8 should also trigger something in you. When we started the 4mul8 community in 2015, we wanted to organize a group of no more than 50. We still adhere to this approach for a lot of what we do.

What about the virtual grō project? It involves no more than 15 folks (including executives from your company). Now, you have a better understanding as to why.

The virtual grō project has been designed for you ROI warriors. This is a dose valued model that attacks a problem or market opportunity for a client. m4 works with you to define the problem as the first step. There is the option to bring a cinematic story telling element to the problem statement that we can use in the market to solicit wider feedback. We also head out into the market to recruit anywhere from six to eight executives to help bring an expanded opinion set to the problem.

The days of sitting in a room with insiders at your company dreaming up market solutions to your growth problems needs to be over. That’s like throwing darts in the dark. Yeah. Yeah. Your company has the smartest strategists in the game. I’ll admit that even my opinions can be interesting, but they don’t mean diddly until they can be connected to real revenue. That’s why we follow the simple equation of “Market Learnings > P&L Leader/Investor Opinions > Strategy Leader Opinions.” We believe grō is the right approach to help you get aligned in the right ways to get shit done.

As part of this effort, we also research and write a market-based paper to help build a baseline for the thinking amongst the recruited group. This group then gets together for a 2 to 2.5-hour moderated (virtual) session to hit at all of the angles of the problem. This begins the journey toward finding alignment on solutions that work in the market. After this session, we collectively turn to identifying market opportunities that will be the points of realization for these solutions. 

What we’re really building during these grō projects is trust through mutual problem solving. It is done in the hope that some of these executives will drive this aligned thinking further in the form of new partnerships, joint strategies and/or investments. And… this all wraps back through the client that brought this experience together.

This is a time-intensive project for m4. It involves consulting, research, filmmaking, sourcing, group moderation and growth planning. At the end of the project, there is another option to add a cinematic short film that opens up to the market based on the thinking from this group (which can also become a digital brand asset that the client takes away from this project… and to help keep the conversation going to get to those market realization moments). We have done the hard work by wrapping this all into one model.

As we look toward 2021/2022, the grō project model is anticipated to flow into the 4mul8 in-person experiences. We’re very excited about our future because of this approach. It has been a journey over two years in the making—soliciting feedback from 50 community members in the process.

You Made it to the End. Congratulations. 

What you see in the many, many words above are options. As an executive, you have more options to engage with the m4 community than at any time in our company’s history. No matter where you choose to begin your journey with us in 2020, we look forward to welcoming you into our community.