Today we had the opportunity to interview Clarence Paller. Clarence is the CO Founder of Russian Heritage Network. He possesses a dynamic skill set with a relentless drive for excellence and a natural ability to network and foster relationships. He has expertise in communications, management and innovation, with a B.A. in Communications from Simon Fraser University and a post-graduate certificate in Strategic Human Resources Management from York University. He has worked with global brands and some of the biggest names in the sports world from the NHL, UFC, WBO, and the PGA, earning him a trusted and respected reputation globally.
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Table of Contents
Tell us a little bit about your current projects. What exciting milestone would you like to share with our readers? (Don’t hesitate to delve into your achievements, they will inspire the audience)
Clarence Paller: I am the Co-Founder of Russian Heritage Network (RHN) in the NHL along with my partner, Alexander Braverman. RHN is a very important celebration of the Russian contribution to the growth of the game of Hockey. From the early Soviet pioneers who had to break away to come to North America to today the first-ever Russian captain Alexander Ovechkin winning the Stanley Cup. Today more than ever Russian players are being drafted to the NHL and playing leading roles on their teams. Russian Heritage Network aims to bring together the Russian community with the Russian players and show to everyone that Russian culture is very warm, friendly, and full of art, history, and beauty. Russian Heritage Network is a celebration for everyone to be a part of and enjoy. The actual event called Russian Heritage Night takes place on NHL teams and includes a cultural element and a group photo post-game. In addition, there is a kids skate component with a retired NHL player where the player does a master-class for kids in the community. The idea behind the kids skate is to spark an interest in the kids to discover their roots and connect with other kids to establish new friendships through their love of sport.
The Russian Heritage Night began as one game founded in South Florida in 2018 by, Alexander Braverman. From the night’s success, Alex realized that he was on to something huge. Through divine timing he found me through my writing with the Professional Hockey Players’ Association, from an article I did with a then Florida Panthers player, Evgeniy Dadonov. Alex read the article and reached out to me. He told me the concept and asked if I wanted to be a part of it. I said, “Yes, of course”. We right away grew to five RHN nights in 2018/2019 season and the following season 2019/2020 we grew it to 10 games. It was supposed to be 12 but we had to cancel two due to the onset of the pandemic. The events grew in popularity all over North America and really struck a chord with the Russian speaking people throughout the world. Other athletes and celebrities learned about what we were doing and started to support us. The highlighting of Russian sport, art and culture and breaking down stereo-types paved the way to the exciting projects and growth we are experiencing today. As we speak we are working on a project to commemorate the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the former Soviet Union as well as a 10 year remembrance for the tragic Lokomotiv plane crash. Our goal is hockey diplomacy to bring people together and show people have way more in common then not. This is why we branded it Russian Heritage Network because it is so much bigger than a night and through our work we can build diplomatic bridges as well as help brands connect with the Russian diaspora around the world. This demographic is a tremendous economic opportunity for brands to target. In North America, there are over 4 million Russian speakers alone. We create strategic marketing campaigns that connect brands to Russian speaking people who have disposable income. Every campaign is story-lined to resonate with the audience and, we leverage our connections in sport, business, and show business to champion these campaigns.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up?
Clarence Paller: To make these events are very hard because it is all based on enthusiasm and passion from myself and Alex. We don’t get paid to put on all these events, market the events and actually fly out to these events. Often we put our own finances to make these events possible or we land a deal and use those finances to fund what we are trying to do.
It is a difficult movement to establish because what we are trying to do is not just a theme night for teams to sell extra tickets. It is much deeper than that, what we are trying to do is establish around the league RHN nights to highlight the significance Russian hockey has had on the growth of the game, whilst providing the Russian speaking players and fans a chance to have their spotlight and share their culture with others.
Being a Russian immigrant or child of Russian immigrants is oftentimes not easy and by highlighting this night and giving Russian speaking people a chance to feel appreciated goes a long way. Often, it feels like an uphill battle to explain how much this night means to Russian speakers and why it warrants more attention from teams and the league as a whole. However, when these events happen and teams really embrace the night, the results are exceptional. People literally have tears of joy from enjoying a game and then meeting alumni or current players or having their kids skate with a former player. As this event grows with more teams and resources, there will be bigger and better events such as Russian concerts and expos. We are spear-heading something that means so much to so many people that it would be a shame to stop.
What are the most common mistakes you see entrepreneurs make and what would you suggest they do?
Clarence Paller: While I have a long way to go myself, I think a common mistake is just getting frustrated when things don’t go your way or not loving the process. It is in the process where you discover yourself, push yourself and learn about yourself. Even if the enterprise doesn’t work out in the long run, the experience, lessons and connections along the way are worth its weight in gold. People may chase instant success, money, fame, glory but that is not what entrepreneurship is about. Really it is all about being of service and creating some kind of value.
If what you do touches even one life, then that is a win that should be celebrated. The doors and opportunities you open by just doing something important to you will astound you.
Through RHN I have done things that I never thought were possible and it lights a zest of life for me. To dream is to live and to work towards the dream is such a rewarding feeling. I just encourage people to find what matters to them and explore it. We live in a world where everyone is put into some kind of box from a young age and it is really hard to step outside that box, the labels and comfort zones. However, I find everyone has some kind of entrepreneurship in them waiting to be discovered as it is through this path that one realizes who they are and what their true calling is. I suggest all entrepreneurs or people who aspire to be one, just take the time to write a true mission, vision and values statement that really resonates with them to the point that they are excited. The spark of excitement can lead to a person becoming a brilliant flame, inspiring and uplifting others.
You know what I am talking about because such people have this high level aura and it is a great feeling to be in their presence. We can all become these kinds of people. There is no need to play it small or have self-doubt etc.
Has the pandemic and transitioning into mostly online shopping affected your company positively or negatively?
Clarence Paller: The pandemic has forced us to become very creative because we can’t do in person events. However, that hasn’t stopped us one bit. We have grown our social media drastically and do digital marketing campaigns. We align players with brands and launch marketing campaigns as well as bring brands from Russia into Canada and the US and vice-versa.
To help myself and Alex, we have brought on board with us Steven Wong, an Ontario-based filmmaker, businessman and OJHL coach. Wong is also the chief operating officer of the synthetic ice company Can-Ice. Steven has over 30 years experience in films, commercials for huge global brands and holds a PHD in social media monetization. On top he is a blackbelt and respected coach for some of the world’s top athletes. The three of us have taken an event night and turned it into essentially a Russian niched marketing and P.R firm that can tap into every Country as there is a Russian diaspora all over the globe.
When you think of your company, 5 years from now, what do you see?
Clarence Paller: What we envision is RHN across all the NHL teams along with an agency where we can help players leverage their social media etc. We also see ourselves as the company that opens up the huge niche market for brands to tap into by understanding the Russian audience world wide and how big of a market that truly is. We see ourselves producing films, expos and even helping establish diplomatic relations between nations. Recently, we helped set up movie premiers for the film Captain Nemo about the Lokomotiv captain, Ivan Tkachenko and had movie screenings with the Russian Consulate in Israel and Washington with many dignitaries and diplomats in attendance.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success?
Clarence Paller: I think it is very simple, the character traits most important in my success are the same as I was taught from childhood. Those are honesty, integrity and leading by example. By following these values and living by them I feel harmony, peace and calm which gives me the clarity, energy and mindset that helps me make what seems impossible happen out of nothing. For example an idea coming to life, or attracting the right person to do business with because our values match. Being humble and having humility are super-powers. Ego is never an amigo. By understanding this, I am able to do my best work and put my best foot forward in life as a whole.
What have you learned about personal branding that you wish you had known earlier in your career?
Clarence Paller: I have learned that personal branding means standing for something and not being afraid to speak one’s mind even if it goes against the flow. People resonate with people who have courage and free thought. Earlier in my career, I just tried to blend in, be under the radar and just blindly follow. When I felt I was cheating myself by being untrue to myself is when I learned that you have to speak up.
That is how I was able to create RHN because I felt there was a voice for the Russian community missing. By relating my experiences as a child of Russian speaking immigrants and seeing how my parents had to struggle, I was able to put myself into the shoes of others and create something that really resonates and does important work in bridging cultures and bringing people together. This is made possible by not being in-different but taking action to do something good. Taking action has grown my career in so many ways and more importantly grown my life. I feel that I am being a difference-maker in this world, not just a by-stander. Either one is at the effect of their life or one is the CEO of their life. That is a choice each and everyone has before us.
How would you define “leadership”?
Clarence Paller: Leadership is action simple. One can talk the talk but it means nothing if one doesn’t walk the walk. I have had some amazing mentors from Jayson Wyner, the CEO of the world renown sports supplements company, Nutrabolics, to Dmitry Touhkcher, the CEO of famous suit company, LGFG Fashion House all the way to Dan Milstein, the CEO of Gold Star Hockey, one of the biggest NHL agencies in the world. I have had amazing HR mentors such as Andrea Chan and a coach, Walt Agular and my first boss, Ted Townsend, communications Director from the City of Richmond, B.C.
All of these individuals are real leaders because they have done amazing things in their lines of works all from humble beginnings. The bridge between a dream and success is through massive action. A leader is someone who takes massive action and uplifts others to do the same. They still do the work even when they are at the top and at the same time they guide others to realize in themselves the leader within. A leader doesn’t sit back when they make it in life, instead they go into overdrive and help others make it and teach others about accountability, facing hard truths and digging deep. Leaders are those who can make others great and go through considerable lengths even if they don’t have to bring out the best in others which in turn has an effect on society and its betterment. We are all connected.
Do you think entrepreneurship is something that you’re born with or something that you can learn along the way?
Clarence Paller: I think it is something that exists in all of us. It is tied to the creative spark that maybe was dimmed throughout one’s life through the school system then into the workplace. I think the creative spark and drive to wake up in the morning doing something that one actually wants to do is the indicator that there is an entrepreneur within the person. People can choose to suppress this voice or take steps to follow the voice and connect with their creative spark. This can be a few hours on the weekend and evenings, volunteering with others in a field that interests you etc. I spent so much of my time doing stuff not for money but out of a genuine passion. I told my father as a teen, maybe I won’t make the NHL as a player but I will make it another way.
Through my communications education and passion for hockey, I started writing on evenings and weekends for years to build a name for myself. It was sacrifice and dedication over long periods of time, but as I look back, it was precisely this that paved the way for me co-founding RHN and working with many athletes, CEOs and celebrities in the world. To this day, I volunteer my time on things that resonate with me and when you do that, the universe has mysterious ways to open up for you. This is available to anyone. We all have this in us.
What’s your favorite “life lesson” quote and how has it affected your life?
Clarence Paller: I was fortunate to interview Bobby Lashley for the Nutrabolics magazine. Lashley is professional wrestler, mixed martial artist, and armed forces veteran. He is currently signed to WWE, where he performs on the Raw brand under the ring name Bobby Lashley, and is the current WWE Champion in his first reign.
He said to me a quote I’ll never forget. It goes like this, “A setback is a set up for a comeback”. This has profoundly affected my life because whenever I hit hardships, failures, rejections and disappointments I was able to rebound and learn from these events. That ties to another quote he said in that interview, “A winner is a loser, that got up one more time.” So really there is no such thing as failure as long as you can learn, assess and apply the lessons and don’t get discouraged. Just pick yourself up, brush yourself off and get back in the ring. That is the fun in life in reality. If things were always easy then there would be no self-discovery and feeling of wins no matter how big or small. So accepting and rolling with the punches has been a huge blessing in my life.
Rey Perez, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Clarence for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Clarence or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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