With the official announcement that NBC is killing the Jay Leno in prime time “experiment,” I’m reminded of the post I wrote questioning the decision and I can’t help but notice some important lessons we should all learn from it.
- NBC focused on its needs while ignoring its customer’s needs, then rationalized that what is good for NBC is good for its customers. Had they considered the world from their viewers’ perspective, their affiliates’ perspective or even their advertisers’ perspective they would have made a different decision.
- NBC kept calling it an experiment and then went all in. As I wrote in my previous post, Jay Leno one, even two days a week, may not have been so bad. Had Jay done well one night, they could have added a second and so on. If they made the change incrementally, a) it would have had a better chance of working, and b) NBC wouldn’t be in the bind that they are, with virtually no programming to fill the five hours. I see businesses do this all the time. They allocate critical resources from their core business on “experiments” and end up weaker all around.
- NBC viewed the world from their competitor’s eyes and were more worried about what they could lose than strengthening what they had. The original move was made more than five years ago, when NBC was worried they’d “lose” Conan O’Brien. They put Leno in prime time, not because it was part of a strengthening strategy, but because, having contractually promised The Tonight Show to O’Brien, NBC was afraid they would “lose” Leno. Strategy and growth are all about making and managing trade-offs. When you try to keep it all, you often times lose it all. I see this happen when businesses keep ineffective employees, especially salespeople, because they’re afraid the person may go to the competition.
- The entire rationale that was announced was one about managing weakness, as opposed to becoming stronger. NBC insists that Leno’s performance from a ratings and corporate perspective are what they expected. That even though the ratings are down by more than 30%, the show was still more profitable because it was cheaper to produce. That’s the attitude of a growth business – not! Businesses are acting this way every time they use the recession as a reason to cut or “control,” rather than to become stronger. The only way to get stronger is to focus on growth.
So what do you think? How can you apply these lessons to your business?
I don’t typically get jealous of people. We all have our own stories, but I have to admit I’m jealous of Seth Godin. I’ve always admired his thinking – both in style and outcomes. Even more, I enjoy his witty way of communicating very complicated ideas in extraordinarily simple fashion.
Well, today Seth topped himself. In 5 (very) short paragraphs Seth nailed the key to winning competitive business. The gist is that you don’t take business from a competitor by being “better”, you doing it by focusing on the things that matter to the buyer, that are being focused on by the competitor.
Netlfix is a darling. Their customers love them, and so does Wall Street. In the last five years, their stock has more than doubled, while the S&P 500 has gone nowhere. But let’s face it – Netflix should not have succeeded – Blockbuster should have. Blockbuster had every advantage – they had the relationships, the cash and the marketing budget. However, while Netflix has doubled, Blockbuster stock is worth less than 1/10th of what it was worth just 5 years ago.
How did Netflix win. After reviewing the presentation below, I’m more convinced than ever that Netflix won because of the culture they have built on purpose. The presentation below has 128 pages to it, but every one is worth reviewing.
Innovation is important. Strategy is critical. Tactics matter. But give me the culture that allows great people to be great and expels people who aren’t – and I have no worries.
I finally had some time to catch up on some reading and I finished one of my favorite annual publications – Warren Buffet’s annual letter to shareholders. I realize that much has already been written about his letter and I’m not writing to reiterate any of what has been written about the letter.
Interestingly, the most insightful, important insight (IMHO) for business owners got not comment (at least that I saw). In the letter, Buffet shared his four prong focus:
In good years and bad, Charlie and I simply focus on four goals:
- maintaining Berkshire’s Gibraltar-like financial position, which features huge amounts of excess liquidity, near-term obligations that are modest, and dozens of sources of earnings and cash;
- widening the “moats” around our operating businesses that give them durable competitive advantages;
- acquiring and developing new and varied streams of earnings; expanding and
- nurturing the cadre of outstanding operating managers who, over the years, have delivered Berkshire exceptional results.
With the possible exception of point 3, I can’t think of a more succinct, direct and effective filter for management decision-making. (My isssue with point 3 is that it is easily misunderstood by businesses and causes them to diversify their business focus, Berkshire Hathaway is a holding company that owns 60+ highly focused businesses).
Do you want more growth? Give yourself a grade on these three critical pieces to success:
- Improving your financial strength;
- Creating and reinforcing a sustainable, unfair competitive advantage; and
- Recruiting, retaining and recreating great people to support great process.
Now, write down the most important action you can take in the next 90 days, and the next year to improve your grade in each area (or to sustain ‘A’ performance for areas where you gave yourself an ‘A’).
So tell me, what are you going to do?
Okay, I think the world is beginning to take itself too seriously. It’s time to relax, let up, turn off the TV, play, and have some fun. If you’re not feeling the type of forward momentum you would like, here’s an idea that will get it started: do something dramatically different. Change it up.
I’ve been on a couple of calls with clients and prospects discussing how to charge their pipelines. The most frequent complaint for an idea – “Well, we’ve never really done that here.” Right – that’s the point.
The second more frequent complaint – “How do we know that will work in this environment?” We don’t know, but we do know that what you’re doing isn’t working.
Not to sound off a rant, but I feel as though we need to be reminded of three critical quotes (the first two from Albert Einstein, the last from Thomas Edison):
- The definition of insanity is to do the same thing again and again and expect a different result.
- We cannot solve the problems we have at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.
- I did not fail – I successfully found 2,000 ways that did not work (in response to failed attempts on creating a filament lightbulb).
What’s the point? Stop thinking, moaning, or analyzing. Get out there and do something fun, exciting – and different! Who knows, even if it doesn’t work, you may just get the breakthrough you were looking for.
The week between Christmas and New Year’s is a great time of reflection for me. I get a chance to relax, watch my kids do increasingly insane things, think, read, and review old material that I’ve saved. One of my favorite pieces of literature of all time is the Saint Crispin’s Day speech in Shakespeare’s Henry V. With all of the challenges people are talking about today, I thought I’d share it:
What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
A news story quotes Jeff Zucker, NBC’s CEO, as questioning whether NBC could continue to program a full 22 hours per week of prime time. Another story announces that NBC has signed Jay Leno to do a nightly show from 10-11pm (I guess that reduces NBC’s need for programming to 17 hours). Also, news came out that the Tribune company has declared bankruptcy.
Wow! How the mighty have fallen. I understand that there are multiple causes for this, and I certainly don’t want to be guilty of throwing too simple of an explanation for such failures, but I can’t help but draw the conclusion that at the heart of all of these challenges is the failure to create any relevant value.
I remember when NBC epitomized “Must See TV.” NBC used to be innovative – they brought us Cheers, The Cosby Show, LA Law, Hill Street Blues and ER. They had the patience to allow Seinfeld to find an audience and the wherewithal to cut Hill Street Blues and LA Law when they were losing their plot. Today, they bring us two hour specials of Celebrity Apprentice, they’ve allowed ER to go beyond stupid to sublime and their idea of creative programming is to let Deal or No Deal run 3 – 5 times a week. Now, they’re going to turn over their 10 o’clock hour (the hour where NBC used to be its most creative) to Jay Leno.
No offense to Jay Leno (one night a week might even be very entertaining), but where’s the creativity and originality? Where’s the imagination that GE brags about in their advertising? Where’s the focus on customers (viewers)? The same can be said of the newspaper business – they’ve utterly failed to embrace the world the way their customers want it.
The more I read about businesses that are struggling, and the more I work with businesses that are thriving, the more I realize that if you just make sure that you solve a unique problem your customers are facing and stay focused on them, then you can bypass these things we call “recessions.” Take some positive action today and find a new problem you can begin to solve for your customers.
I know I’m late to this, but I just got turned on to Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture. For those not familiar, Pausch is a computer sciences professor at Carnegie Mellon University, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given 90 days to live. He gave his “last lecture” to a group at Carnegie Mellon about achieving childhood dreams. The video has received more than two million views.
I encourage you to watch it. It’s an hour and a half long – make sure you watch the whole thing. The greatness of the lecture comes at the very end, but you won’t get the greatness if you don’t watch it all.
As for the reward, check out this news.
Readers of this blog probably know that I’m a big fan of Dan Sullivan, and his company, The Strategic Coach. Dan has always had an uncanny ability to understand what’s going on in the world and to translate that into actions for entrepreneurs. He just wrote an article that everyone should read, Simplifying Complexity. He refers to this talent (and I agree with him) as “the single most important skill any entrepreneur can have in the 21st century. Check it out.
April’s issue of Fast Company magazine has a great column by Made to Stick’s authors, Dan & Chip Heath. Polarize Me (subscription required) focuses on the idea, “if you want people to like you, [you must] first decide who needs to hate you.”
The Heath’s take on the fear of marketers to be disliked as this fear takes the edge off all communications and creates a dull-brand world. The column is well worth the read (it’s worth buying the magazine itself).
I’m still catching up on my reading. Today, on a train to New York City, I finally had an opportunity to read Warren Buffet’s letter to shareholders. Here are some of my favorite insights:
- A lesson on the dangers of commoditization and how prevalent it is — Here’s a telling fact: Of the ten non-oil companies having the largest marketing capitalization in 1965 (titans such as General Motors, Sears, DuPont and Eastman Kodak), only one made the 2006 list.
- An insight virtually any CEO could learn from — So I’ve taken the easy route, just sitting back and working through great managers who run their own shows. My only tasks are to cheer them on, sculpt and harden our corporate culture, and make major capital-allocation decisions.
- An insight on a purchase Berkshire made, and instructive of what value creation really is — It’s a business without magic except for that imparted by the people who run it…The result: ISCAR makes money because it enables its customers to make more money. There is no better recipe for continued success.
- Don’t miss the section where he talks about the trends impacting newspapers, it’s instructional for an executive or salesperson in any industry.
Check it out, it’s worth the time to read.
Peter Drucker often talked about the fact that a customer is everyone’s boss. Enlightened companies have been finding new ways to engage their customers and to build relationships with them. Frederick Reichheld has written about the impact loyalty can have on your growth.
With that in mind, I encourage you to read True Believers in Business Week’s SmallBiz Magazine. It focuses on several companies that have put their customers at the center of their growth plans. I can’t promise the companies will directly relate to yours. I can promise it will give you some good thoughts.
I can see that the carnival is picking up in popularity as the number of submissions and the breath of content is much greater than when we hosted it about 6 weeks ago. There are a lot of great stuff out there, and it was tough narrowing our selections. Last time, we only got a couple of submissions that we were comfortable setting out there. This time we got plenty. I decided to stick with the rule of no more than 7 posts to make it more manageable for the reader.
We selected five from the submissions and two wild cards that we felt were compelling and needed to be viewed.
Are product placements just traditional advertisements in disguise? Steven Silvers of Scatterbox thinks so. In The Inevitable Death of Product Placements Steven shows you why. Any marketer should read this to understand the dangers of fake authenticity.
That’s it for this week. Let me know what you think, just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, the carnival visits Influential Interactive Marketing. You can submit posts to rohit.bhargava at ogilvypr.com.
While I often times reference a book in this blog, it is not often that I actually recommend one. Today I do.
Dan Sullivan, founder of The Strategic Coach has just released his newest book, The Laws of Lifetime Growth . Dan is a friend of mine and a coach to me. This blog would not exist were it not for the thoughts, guidance, support and cheerleading that Dan has given me over the years.
I admit it. I’m a shill for Dan. Dan has dedicated his life to working with entrepreneurs of growth companies. An entreprenuer himself, there is no one who understands the issues that impact entreprenuers better than Dan.
This little book is Dan’s philosophy in 109 pages. Dan co-wrote it with Catherine Nomura, one of his Strategic Coach team members. Catherine’s touches make it an easy read, so there it is not one of those books that just ‘sits’ on your bookshelf. It’s easy to talk about, and it gives you a great structure for thinking about life and growth.
The 10 laws are:
Always Make Your Future Bigger Than Your Past (my favorite)
Always Make Your Learning Greater Than Your Experience
Always Make Your Contribution Bigger Than Your Reward
Always Make Your Performance Greater Than Your Applause
Always Make Your Gratitude Greater Than Your Success
Always Make Your Enjoyment Greater Than Your Effort
Always Make Your Cooperation Greater Than Your Status
Always Make Your Confidence Greater Than Your Comfort
Always Make Your Purpose Greater Than Your Money
Always Make Your Questions Bigger Than Your Answers
I encourage you to read the book share your favorites.