Friday, June 6, 2014

Shaq as the Terminator and Bambi of Fun

The NBA legend is on the road to being a billionaire.
Actor.  Rapper.  Entrepreneur.   Analyst.  Comedian.  Designer.  Doctor.  Shaquille O'Neal has more than just parlayed his basketball super-stardom into business success.  He has positioned his innate talent to blossom in truly multiple ways.  It's one thing to wear different hats, for example, but it's another thing to have a keen mind inside the head that wears those hats.
General Eisenhower said, "The greatest of leaders are the ones smart enough to hire people smarter than them."
 Besides this crucial lesson learned, O'Neal took it upon himself to think about his post-basketball years, well before his actual retirement.  Of course, it helped that his mother often prompted him in this vein.  Tennis superstar Maria Sharapova understands that very well, too.

But back to that Eisenhower lesson, not many leaders, I think, are secure or confident enough to surround themselves with staff who know more than they.  That is inevitably their fatal flaw.  Instead of advancing knowledge and skills, so crucial for innovation and execution, they erect direct and indirect roadblocks.  My colleagues and I call them "bottlenecks," like roadways that narrow traffic from two lanes into one lane.

I am also intrigued by how Perry Rogers and Colin Smeeton conceived of Shaq Inc.  The stunning looker of a model on Sports Illustrated a couple of decades ago - Kathy Ireland - was on the cover of Forbes one time, and the two PR men were stunned at the thousands of products she had on offer and the millions in revenue that she raked in.  She was the voice of busy Moms, and her messages spoke to them.

So what was Shaq's message, and more importantly to whom?  Rogers and Smeeton saw that he didn't just appeal to one segment, but to wide range of segments, for example for ages 9 to 90.  But regardless, his message was fun.  They carved a business around fun, which meant that they weren't just chasing after endorsements (i.e., reactively) but that they were in a position to command deals and partnerships (i.e., proactively).

It was evident that Rogers and Smeeton didn't have an overnight insight into Shaq Inc.  Rather, it took a lot of conversation between them and a lot of thinking, weighing and trying things out.  This is an important lesson for CEOs and their pursuit of innovation, growth and success.
It's a touchable brand.  It's a brand that people can relate to. 
I'm the Terminator on the outside, Bambi on the inside.
It's appealing quotable stuff like that really he's been spouting off throughout his breathtaking basketball career.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

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