Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Charlotte Jones Anderson Advances Cowboys Star

Hublot is the Swiss luxury watchmakers, and as Charlotte Jones Anderson points out, its brand partnership is a win-win proposition:  Hublot wants to penetrate the US market, while the Cowboys wants to extend its brand internationally.  In a more impassioned way, Jean-Claude Biver echoes that complementarity:  The Cowboys are a prestigious, successful brand, and these are the magic words for Hublot.  But clearly what galvanizes these two brands isn't something that will appear in the balance sheet: Both Biver and his counterpart Jerry Jones are live-on-the-edge kind of guys, and the Jones family is the unique value proposition for Hublot.

Jones has proven himself to be quite a savvy, successful businessman, if something of an intrusive owner in direct football affairs.  The fact that his Cowboys haven't been a Super Bowl team in 20 years doesn't matter, according to Biver.  In fact, because Ferrari is such a strong brand, it too doesn't need to win a Grand Prix in order to be successful.  It may be a shocking reality for any football aficionado to recognize, but it's a fact that winning on the field doesn't quite equate to market value or business profitability. Consider an even more dramatic, arguably ludicrous disconnect between the two:  Under Donald Sterling, who purchased the team for $12.5 million in 1981, the longstanding laughingstock of the NBA that is the Clippers just sold for $2 billion. That's an ROI of a very tall order over 33 years. 

Curiously Forbes flashed this graphic, as Anderson spoke about what the Cowboys have always been about.  The stereotype may be about western culture, like cowboys and rodeos.  But the team is about the glitz and the glamor and the hope for the future.  The graphic is not what she is talking about, because the team's glory days are firmly ensconced in the past.  Even when she says, not surprisingly, that what happens on the football field is the most important thing, I say, that's just not it, either.  It's what they've done with the football team off the field that is in fact of utmost importance.  The brand, she emphasizes, has always been built on tradition and competition, on entertainment, innovation and business.

The life course of any leader is probably as unique as that proverbial snowflake.  For Anderson, it's wonderful to know what she went through.  A young woman may not know what she has to do, but she comes to know at the university that medicine isn't her cup of tea.  Her formal entry into the Cowboys was a series of initially amusing, but ultimately weighty incidents.  Just having bought the team, Jones didn't know a stitch about cheerleading and not that much more about football apparently.  But he needed people around him he could trust to do the right things, such as his daughter.  Anderson's leadership success had to do with the fact that she could, and would, deliver on his needs and expectations: (a) find a way to stop losing money, and (b) don't tarnish the Cowboys star (logo).  In other words, she had the requisite capability to start with, and the potential to learn, develop and grow into top leadership.  Plus, she had the commitment and ethics to follow through on what she had to follow through on. 

Tolerance for ambiguity was a particular lesson Anderson learned from her father.  It's a very difficult thing for Western CEOs and managers to adopt.  Their (our) culture is founded on clarity, certainty and predictability.  It is founded on the scientific principles of rigor, empiricism and rationality.  But clearly for Jones, Anderson & Co., the Cowboys had to depart from this culture and these principles in order to break new ground.  It's that old saying:  For us to sail to exciting far off places, we must be willing to lose sight of our own shorelines.  Clearly both father and daughter were comfortable enough to manage the initial unknowns of running a football team and also smart and capable enough to figure it out and make it happen along the way.  So with Hublot joined at the hip, along with Carnival Cruise Lines, the Cowboys look out into the horizon and see the skies as the limit. 

(image credit)

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