Yesterday provided an interesting contrast in emotional experience management. In the space of a couple hours, I heard from the Savannah Bananas baseball club, a small group of professional business coaches assisting college entrepreneurs, and Linden Entertainment. Linden is a talent agency that represents a handful of actors.
The Bananas are owned by an innovative customer-centric showman named Jesse Cole. Jesse’s brand cultivates the relentless expansion of customer loyalty by keeping people front and center of every organizational interaction . I read his book (Find Your Yellow Tux) to better understand why his group is so good at what they do. Put simply, Jesse has become a city jewel by turning the Bananas into a benchmark of what is possible by blowing up a usually staid business and rebuilding it into fun entertainment for everyone who steps through the gate.
He exemplifies what my late friend Muhammad Ali was fond of saying. “Treat people like kings and kings like people,” Ali said, “and you’ll get along with everyone.”
To illustrate: Last summer I purchased a ticket to a game with the intention of flying to Savannah to witness his antics in person, and to discuss partnering with a future charity initiative. An unexpected illness disrupted life at home, so I contacted his ticket manager to free up my ticket so someone else could enjoy the game. Bananas games are instant sellouts, so the right thing to do was let another fan enjoy a night at the park.
A few days later a handwritten note from the ticket manager arrived in my mailbox, postage stamp and all. His scripted message was one of long-distance support for what we faced, brief but sincere. Jesse Cole knows, and all his people know, that audiences are nothing more than random assemblages of one human arriving after the next. I was touched by this personalized gesture, a random acts of kindness, and won’t ever forget it. The reason for yesterday’s contact was different. In my mailbox was a friendly reach-out letting me know in advance that tickets to a game in April will soon be released. If I want to try again, the club would be happy to see me.
The university video call I then logged onto dealt with helping aspiring entrepreneurs understand the keys to building a successful business. Five of us exchanged an hour’s worth of opinions and ideas, collaborating in advance of an upcoming event on campus similar to TV’s popular show, “Shark Tank.” Three of us will be coaches, the other two own the initiative. We talked about this same important concept — managing the emotional experience — as mission critical to anyone hoping to build a successful business or service.
After that came Linden Entertainment, a talent management company I was connected to (at my request) by a longtime friend. I was seeking advice and help. What I got was a backhanded mish-mash of dismissive disrespect. I am not new to Linden’s world — I have had five different books and screenplays optioned by scriptwriters and producers ten or more times — and am comfortable saying that the film industry is a weed-filled garden. There are good and beautiful people in there, upright and honest, but to find them you must weed the garden. Linden exists for one reason — to find big-money projects for its small stable of performers — and proved sadly inconsistent by failing to do what they said they would according to their own timelines. I was not surprised they were not interested in developing a series ill-matched to their limited roster, nor did I approach them with that request. What I wanted was advice and counsel. What I got after trying to deal with them was callous disrespect. All they cared about was whether or not my work fit their model. Once they knew their interests would not be met, they dismissed my ask with a backhand wave.
Whenever we talk about “respect,” it’s important to define the word. The best definition I’ve found is “worthy of one’s time.” Linden pretended to have read my work but, when pressed for a promised fifteen-minute debrief, reneged. It seemed obvious they never read it. More disconcerting was that this inconsistency was one of several. I left their business exists solely for personal gain, never the collective good, and what they say and do are radically different things.
Later in the day, word came out that one of Linden’s top stars was being awarded multiple “worst performance of the year” Razzies. These are the anti-Oscars, mean-spirited cheap shot that recognize truly bad performances. Often these cinematic white elephants arise from bad scripts, poor directing and/or editing, or a myriad of other torpedoes, any one of which can sink a project. Sometimes the actor is miscast, often so the project gets funded. Whatever went wrong, I’m sure the check cleared.
Money, of course, changes people; and in some regards my years of experience rocketing into and jettisoning out of Hollywood’s orbit remind me of life inside Washington D.C.’s I-495 capital beltway. People who live inside the beltway splash in a political jacuzzi and tend to emerge withered with myopic self-importance. People outside the beltway really don’t care.
In closing, Linden has a lot to learn from Jesse Cole and his entertaining band of baseball tub-thumpers. Give respect, get respect. It’s a good approach to business or life.
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