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Wednesday, June 01, 2011
Volume 17 | # 385
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Sometimes life is going to hit you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. » Steve Jobs

The Tommy and Gina Business

I smiled last week when a friend forwarded an article to me about a world-famous businessman. Granted, for most of his career he was known more for his hair than his business acumen.

The guy I'm talking about is Jon Bon Jovi. And, yes, when your band grosses $220 million on touring and merchandizing in a year, you're a business man.

I've been a fan for sometime. At least a little of that comes from being almost his age. When guys get to my age, we're happy to see other guys in our age range still doing cool things.

Bon Jovi recently came through our hometown of Houston. When we realized I was going to be away on business, we figured we'd be missing the concert. Then about a week before the show, my wife decided she'd take our sons.

The ever-frugal one used an online discount site to purchase 3 tickets without knowing where they'd be. When she later picked them up, she discovered they were behind the stage. She laughed, "Well, at least we'll hear the show."

When the show began, to my family's surprise, those seats were actually great. The sightlines were clean and the stage was designed such that Jon regularly walked around to face them.

I chuckled when I read in the article that this practice wasn't simply to be nice. Jon Bon Jovi specifically uses stage design and state-of-the-art video screens to be able to sell more seats.

In one instance, they were able to sell 5,500 more seats in an arena than a normal stage would allow.

He also insists on a lean touring operation. They use about half as many trucks as other "big" acts, and no one in the band has an entourage. Jon insists that band members still carry their own bags.

When discussing industry evolution with banker groups, the music industry is an example I always mention. Their product is now actually stolen (illegal downloads) more than it is purchased. Some players in the industry (like legacy record companies) are in a world of hurt.

But smart artists and bands are doing better than they ever have.

Reading about how one of the highest grossing bands in the world uses technology and design, along with constant focus on cost-control to improve profitability, made me smile.

The next time you're trying to convince your team to control costs, tell them you're just trying to make them rock stars.

Apple's Core

Over time, there have been few companies I've heard bankers reference as much as Apple when discussing "best practices." Typically, these comments are around product development, branding and design.

For the past few years, the Apple Stores have become many folks' benchmark for "cool" store design. I've lost track of how many bankers I've heard think out loud that they'd love to have branches as cutting edge as an Apple Store.

While catching up on some reading on a flight this week, I came across a story by Adam Lashinsky in Fortune magazine that interested me.

The simply titled, "Inside Apple" story did a nice job of describing the secretive side of one of America's best known and most respected companies.

With all of the Apple copying I've seen in the past, it was a parable that Steve Jobs uses with senior managers that I think is actually worth reflecting upon. Jobs is said to tell new VP's (of which there are amazingly few) that if he noticed that the garbage in his office was not being taken away, he'd ask the janitor to explain himself.

The janitor may state that the locks to the office were changed and he hadn't been given a new set. He explains that this is an acceptable excuse from someone who empties trash bins for a living.

Jobs states, "When you're the janitor, reasons matter. Somewhere between janitor and CEO, reasons stop mattering." In Jobs' mind, that line is crossed when you become VP.

When you have authority, you are responsible for your results. Reasons (excuses) are no longer acceptable.  Key to that philosophy being successful is the fact that managers are indeed given the freedom and authority to make things happen.

Job responsibilities within Apple are no secret. Lashinsky points out that part of "Applespeak" is "D.R.I." It stands for Directly Responsible Individual.

There is never confusion within the ranks as to who has the authority and responsibility to bring a project or task to completion.

Trying to totally replicate a company like Apple's culture is probably not possible (or even wise). But there are principles that most of us could benefit from borrowing. Who are the "D.R.I.'s" in your organization? What are you individually the D.R.I. on?

If you're not immediately sure, that's a conversation worth having with your boss or team.

Map out your future - but do it in pencil. The road ahead is as long as you make it. Make it worth the trip. » Jon Bon Jovi

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