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Farewell to the Bandit

He may not have known it, but Burt Reynolds inspired a movement

When reports began circulating on Thursday that Burt Reynolds had passed away at the age of 82, few people would likely expect that for a Vancouver based tech company, this event held deep meaning. In the 70’s and early 80’s, Reynolds was the biggest name in the American film industry. The 1977 film Smokey and the Bandit, is a cult classic and the 1977 Pontiac Trans Am driven by the Bandit in the film is a cultural icon. The car is featured in an annual event called The Bandit Run, where a fleet of Trans Am owners recreate the route from the film, driving from Texarkana to Jonesboro, Georgia. And yet, Reynolds’ film inspired another road trip – one with an altogether different purpose.

The Bandit Tour for Good

As North America’s largest dedicated Salesforce implementation partner, Traction on Demand is an annual fixture at Salesforce’s megaconference, Dreamforce. Held each year in San Francisco, Dreamforce created a logistical challenge for Traction, still a fledgeling company just six years ago. Traction needed a way to transport the team to San Francisco and the most creative minds in the Salesforce ecosystem settled on a road trip.

For CEO Greg Malpass and CMO Chris Peacock, this immediately brought to mind images of a black Trans Am racing down the highway. While there’s no shortage of Tractionites who enjoy a crisp Coors Banquet, bootlegging a truck full of beer wasn’t a fit with Traction’s culture. Instead, the team realized that they had an opportunity to do some good.

To Chris, offering pro bono Salesforce services to non-profit organizations on a five day road trip really wasn’t much of a departure from the tradition of Smokey and the Bandit. “When I was growing up, your car was your identity,” he says. “Today, it’s more of a tool to get you from Point A to Point B. When we first started the Bandit Tour for Good, the challenge lay in how to infuse our identity into the simple task of getting from Point A to Point B.”

In just two weeks, the Bandit Tour for Good will be setting off for the sixth year running. Leading the convoy will be Traction’s 1977 Pontiac Trans Am, followed not by a semi-truck full of bootlegged beer but an Airstream trailer filled with talented individuals excited to give back and have fun doing it.

 

The Bandit Spirit

Jessica Langelaan has never seen Smokey and the Bandit, but the Bandit Tour was one of the main reasons she joined Traction. “Michelle [Malpass] told me that Greg bought the Trans Am and they were going to do a week of pro bono work on this road trip. I just thought that really spoke to the company’s core values,” says Jessica, now Traction’s resident subject matter expert for its non-profit practice. For Jessica, a two-time Bandit, getting the chance to visit West Coast non-profits on the ground has helped her feel the impact of the work she does every day. “Visiting these local groups like Friends of the Dunes in Coos Bay – getting your hands dirty and helping them pull out invasive species – it makes things real and builds connections with people and causes.”

In truth, Smokey and the Bandit, isn’t a favourite for every Bandit. The film is more than forty years old and the average Tractionite is under 35, so it’s fair to say that most haven’t even seen it. But while the film itself may hold a special place in the hearts of just a few Traction Bandits, the homage is less about the content of Smokey and the Bandit, than its spirit.

“Bandits are badass fun-makers,” says John Pettifor, Traction GM and Bandit veteran. “They have fun and bend the rules, but don’t hurt people or situations.”

Jessica Demos will be joining this year’s Bandits, and she’s eager to hit the highway, though she’s never seen the seminal film. “I grew up with road trips. It’s so fun being stuck with people in a car for hours on end – you’re really forced to bond. The Bandit Tour is about adventure and friendship, but it’s also about giving back.”

 

Sparking a Movement

“I wish I could go on it every year,” says Brand Manager Nicole Milkovich of the Bandit Tour. “You start out with a big crew on this long road trip and create incredible connections along the way. Every place you stop – from Coos Bay to San Francisco – you bring people closer together and find individuals outside Traction who share that Bandit spirit. You don’t want it to end. You wish the road would go on forever and you could just keep finding more unforgettable people.”

Forever is a long time, but have no fear, the Bandit Tour is here for good. Last year, iATS Payments and Salesforce.org joined the Bandits and this year there will be another contingent from Salesforce.org. Those who have witnessed the evolution of the Bandit Tour have recognized that the road trip is quickly evolving into a movement.

“I hope the story of the Bandit Tour reaches other people and other companies and they consider doing the same thing,” says upcoming Bandit Christopher Karpyszyn. “I think the Bandit Tour has the potential to have a ripple effect that can make the world better.”

The Bandit Tour is proof that actions have far-reaching and unexpected consequences. In 1977 Burt Reynolds starred in a film that would leave indelible marks on the young minds of future Tractionites like burnt rubber on pavement. He probably wouldn’t have guessed that in 2018, the spirit of the Bandit and his Trans Am would be bringing people along the West Coast closer together, hitting the road with smiles and good deeds. As we watch the original Bandit disappear over the horizon, we wanted to share a heartfelt thank you and our take on one of his famous lines.

“For the money good, for the glory and for the fun… mostly for the money good.”

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