Meet Glenn O’Farrell.
For O’Farrell, two words have played an important part in his life – innovation and creativity.
Creativity is the art of coming up with big ideas. Innovation is about executing them.
The two are intertwined, much like Frank Sinatra’s song – Love and Marriage – you can’t have one without the other.
The lyrics say it all – Try, try, try to separate them, it’s an illusion.
And O’Farrell is under no illusion.
For 30 years plus this corporate honcho has been directing, executing, meeting, devising, objectives, in a variety of corporate roles.
His main efforts in the world of media – broadcasting.
For 11 years O’Farrell worked at Global Television, controlled by one of Canada’s most iconic swashbuckling entrepreneurs, the late Izzy Asper.
In Global’s executive suite – senior vice-president – he was tasked with looking after the company’s legal and regulatory affairs, establishing its television network in Quebec and responsible for launching six new national speciality services.
Those were heady days for broadcasters – especially Global.
Global reigned supreme on Canada’s television landscape – it’s programming, numero uno for eons.
It was awash with big profits, big audiences, big attitude.
But the heady days didn’t last forever.
Global’s competitor, CTV ended up being number one in the ratings.
A major tsunami-like wave of disruption – digitization, was lurking.
Digitization meant new, nimble, agile, competitors entering the marketplace by meeting ever-changing consumer tastes and demands.
But digitization was more than new technical equipment and delivery systems
– it meant corporate behemoths would require a digital transformation.
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon said it best:
“In Today’s era of volatility, there is no other way but to re-invent. The only sustainable advantage you can have over others is agility, that’s it. Because nothing else is sustainable, everything else you create, somebody else will replicate.”
But digital transformation for media was easier said than done.
Global was no exception.
Its top leaders did not fully grasp the enormity of what digital transformation really entailed. Instead there was turmoil in the executive suite – an endless array of new top honcho’s trying to restore the company to its former financial glory.
None of it worked.
So after 10 years – 20001 – at Global O’Farrell left to become the president of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters in Ottawa, the lobbying arm for most of Canada’s radio and television operators.
In 2009 Canwest, Global’s owner filed for bankruptcy protection.
Being president of an association requires the patience of Mother Theresa, the diplomatic skills of Henry Kissinger. Every member of any association wants their interests to be served, they all think they can do the job better than the incumbent, the list is endless. As president a key part of your job is akin to corralling a motley crew of wild horses into one cohesive and unified band.
The fact that he helmed the CAB for seven years is testimony to his corralling skills.
In 2009 he left the CAB – did some consulting for a while and in 2010 he got a new gig, testing his knowledge of the digital revolution that was well underway in Canada’s media sector.
For nine years he was the president of Ontario’s Groupe Media TFO, the province’s public, educational French language media organization.
When he arrived at TFO it was a declining, small-scale, minority-language broadcaster.
Under O’Farrell that changed dramatically.
He executed a comprehensive digital revitalization strategy to position TFO to respond to the rapidly changing media landscape and media consumption by consumers in Canada.
TFO ended up being a leading broadcaster, exporting French-language programs all over the world and winning endless awards.
The channels digital audience footprint zoomed from zero to one billion views.
Revenues doubled and what once was a single programming channel ended up being a multi channel – all primed to garner their share of an ever finicky and demanding audience.
He left TFO in 2019 to become the head of an insurance resolution dispute organization in Toronto, OHLI.
OHLI offers a free, impartial, mediation, information, service, to Canadian consumers, holding, life, health, insurance products and services.
Last year his life-long love of music entered a new phase.
“Growing up, music was a big part of our family. My mother played the piano beautifully, my father loved to sing and my brothers have music cursing through their veins. When he was 10 years old, my brother Kevin went off and took a couple of guitar lessons. He came home and taught me the three chords he learned and we’ve been playing ever since.”
“Over the years, I have found great pleasure in music, jamming with friends, playing in small-time bands and so on. I have also enjoyed writing music and lyrics but have always done so only as a private and discreet endeavour with no other ambition nor purpose.”
Eleven months ago he took his love for music to another level – wrote a song, Brand New Start.
“I felt a need to give voice to personal sentiments that had been simmering for quite some time. This is a composition of secular and civic vocation, intended as an overture to us all.”
And he sent it to a friend – Steve Barakatt, internationally acclaimed, musician, performer and producer.
“When Steve heard my song, he enthusiastically encouraged me to record it. What I wasn’t expecting was his generous offer to play on it and and produce it! In late June, we got together in a fabulous studio in Québec City and recorded – Brand New Start.
It’s a song about hope and opportunities – especially relevant says Glenn as the world slowly is coming out of the grips of the tenacious Covid-19 pandemic.
Being bilingual, having spent a fair bit of time in Quebec it comes as no surprise that he is a big Montreal Canadiens fan.
Glenn’s life perspective and philosophy has stood him well.
“I believe in never standing still, constantly finding new things to learn and carefully listening to the wisdom of others.”
Words we all can live by.
Every Wednesday, veteran journalist, George Froehlich, gets personal – sharing with you, his amazing travel destinations, his wonderful recipes, art he loves, music he enjoys.
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