On April 22, Peter Guber was interviewed on Fox Financial’s After The Bell show. Peter, you know, is the author of Tell To Win, an entertainment industry expert, movie producer and mogul, and a sports entrepreneur – his group owns the L.A. Dodgers (MLB) and the Golden State Warriors (NBA). He is speaking at the GKIC Info-Summit* this year, and I believe he is an Absolute Must-See & Hear Speaker. He knows what he’s doing, by the way. The Dodgers were a mess when he got them, and L.A, has never really been a baseball town in the way New York or Beantown or the Midwest cities are. But this past year, the Dodgers sold out all 81 home games – in a year when most ballparks had as many empty seats as full ones. Of course, I live in Cleveland, where, sadly, we have no professional sports teams. The Indians couldn’t even sell out their home opener this year or the games during their brief flirtation with play-offs last season.
Anyway, here, I want to talk about something that Peter Guber is doing, different but not apart from storytelling, selling stories, or filling seats at ballparks or movie theaters. He and his group are building, for the Golden State Warriors, the first 100% private investor funded, brand new arena in this country in decades, within a privately funded sports and entertainment venues complex, on the San Francisco Bay, on land they acquired with their own money. Raising the Warriors’ seat capacity from 14,000 to 18,000 seats, incidentally. Note that just as L.A. isn’t a real baseball town, S.F. isn’t a basketball town in the way Boston or L.A. is.
This is the way all sports facilities should be funded. Why should rich sports team owners get their business facilities bought, built and even maintained for them with taxpayer dollars when you and I pay for ours out of our own incomes and savings? It’s ridiculous. Further, the owners get all this ‘corporate welfare’ by extortion. They should be in prison, where they could get to know many of their thug players, intimately. I can assure you, Mr. Guber could certainly have pointed a gun at the Bay Area’s taxpayers and demanded they buy land, build a megalopolis for his team, and commit to caring for it for 20 years and if they balked, stick up some other city that would rush to acquiesce. But he didn’t. Consider this in contrast, say, to Mr. Buffet and his ceaseless, deceptive whining about his secretary being in a higher tax bracket than he, or Mr. Obama chest-beating about income inequality and economic injustice, while he winds up paying just 20% federal tax on his $500,000 brought in – no law prohibits Buffet or Obama from voluntarily paying more. It’s easy to posture and lip off and be a blowhard and a bullshitter. It has to be hard to turn your back on free money to be had, and voluntarily, privately finance and own your sports team’s Taj Mahal. This is called: putting your money where your mouth is. Or: integrity.
This is a magnificent example of (a) applied personal and corporate responsibility, (b) self-reliance, and (c) bold entrepreneurial vision and success thinking – confidence that extremely valuable assets are being created so better to own them than have them supplied. It should inspire questions about your own, personal and business behavior, as well as about public policy and politics – and there are two vital elections coming up, possibly the last, best chances of dragging this nation back from the abyss of all-consuming socialism, represented by con artists like President Obama, Senator Elizabeth Warren (a very dangerous woman – one Ayn Rand would revile), and to slightly lesser degrees, Hillary Clinton, most of the U.S. Senate, and Jeb Bush. To your own behavior, the litmus test is excruciatingly simple: am I looking outward, for someone else to solve my problems, subsidize my existence, gift me largesse confiscated from others or otherwise raise me up or am I self-reliant and personally responsible? This is stark one or the other. No gray.
When I said Guber’s leadership decisions and bold actions in this case stand apart from his telling and selling of Story, that’s true but also false. You can – and should – see all of this within context of the narrative he has brilliantly created and put forward for himself, The Story of Peter Guber. There is also a story line he wants for his teams. In his interview, he said “The best business plan is culture.” Sure, X’s and O’s and dollars and cents matter, but they never drive success. They never propel. He wants there to be an us against the world, in this together, “they all laughed until”, up by our own bootstraps, winner (not dependent or co-dependant) culture enveloping proud fans, resilient coaches and players, responsible executives. This is a very powerful premise. Lots of executives yak about corporate culture. Many are idiotically creating welfare-dependency cultures, dispatching buses to bring their lil’ darlings to work, feeding them, getting their dry cleaning done for them, babying them – which, incidentally, the IRS has woken up to and is making noises about taxing. Be interesting to see how the Silicon Valley Millennial Workers like their cereal bar and chair massages when they get a #1099 for the retail value. Anyway, it’s just as easy to talk about culture as it is to talk about income injustice. Talk, as the saying goes, is dirt cheap. But what you see if you observe Guber is someone actually committed to creating and fostering a deliberately designed culture for insiders and customers alike. This is an entrepreneur and CEO to be congratulated and celebrated, and who is worth modeling.
One other thing from this interview. Guber was asked if he thought that the Dodgers or the Warriors or both had now “turned a corner” and would continue progressing and succeeding, essentially, on their own. He answered that in his businesses there are no corners. He said it’s a big circle and the minute you take your foot off the gas pedal, you stall, and slip backward down the curve – like a tiny, lightweight car on a steep, icy hill. So few businesspeople understand this. Real entrepreneurs do.
This is a reason you must keep acquiring and processing new and additional information, ideas and know-how, seeking and finding key vendors and supporters, being inspired, motivated and creatively challenged, associating and fraternizing with aggressive entrepreneurs and marketer, investigating different opportunities – doing anything less; thinking you’ve “learned it” is taking your foot off the gas pedal. This is why we’re here, in this together.
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