Thursday, October 27, 2011

Leadership Insights Video Series - Rick Routhier on Picking Talent

In the second part of my interview with Rick Routhier, we discuss the topic of talent picking and why some managers get it right, and some don't.  Additionally, Rick provides his thoughts on what new recruits should look for when identifying a good manager, and reflects on what he likes most about visiting Tuck.

You can also access here the first part of our interview.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Same Question, Different Answer - Reflecting on Recent Interview with J. Crew's CEO

I recently read an interview in the Financial Times with J. Crew’s CEO, Mickey Drexler.  This interview was of particular interest given the reporter’s focus on one question she asked Mickey - “ What was your biggest mistake?”  As Mickey would say, "Love that question!"

Back when I interviewed Mickey at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, I asked him this very question.  Although I don’t think it’s unusual for executives to be asked similar questions by various interviewers, I did find it interesting how differently Mickey answered this question in these two separate instances.

During my interview with Mickey, although he took a few pauses or moments to reflect during the actual taping of the interview, he did eventually answer the question.  He described his greatest career mistake as when he tried to change something too quickly or when clothing items were redesigned too aggressively.   More recently, he recounted his greatest mistake to be when J. Crew a few seasons ago lost its way creatively, getting too trendy and swaying from its core designs.

However, the answer Mickey provided – to the same question – was drastically different when talking to the Financial Times.  Maybe it’s a coincidence, but after reportedly reading the news about Gap closing a bunch of stores in the US, he told the FT reporter his biggest mistake was not fighting the board hard enough to stop the increase in real estate - a move Mickey opposed, but went along with.

Does a mistake only become a mistake when your executive decision at the time is later reversed?


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

O.N. - "Occupy Netflix"

Boy oh boy is Netflix in a pickle.  Following Strategy 101 – create a separate organizational unit for an emerging business that has the potential to disrupt (e.g., destroy) the core business (thereby protecting the new from the old) – has now led to a customer revolt.  I guess the problem is not so much that anyone is occupying Netflix, but that they're not!

Netflix is facing what I like to call, with only some irony, the "Blockbuster Problem."  When you are the top dog in a business segment, not only is it easy to get complacent about who got you there in the first place – your customers – but you also draw the attention of everyone else in the wider business environment.  That means copycats, more competition for key resources, and more difficulty differentiating your offering from others.  Groupon has yet to solve this very same dilemma.  For Netflix, this translates into much higher acquisition prices for content, more attention paid by DISH, Direct TV, Comcast, Time Warner, and company, and less of that magical "We're the underdog, so entrepreneurial, and cool" that has characterized rocket growth from Nike to Starbucks.

Isn't love so ephemeral?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

New Leadership Insights Video: Interview with Rick Routhier

For the next installment of my Leadership Insights series, I sat down with Rick Routhier, Senior Director, Spencer Stuart and Associates.  Rick and I covered so much in our interview that I had to break it up into two parts.  The first part – which I’m sharing today - features Rick and I discussing some top-of-mind questions related to leadership, including talent recruitment and top leadership development companies.  You can watch the video here.

If you haven’t already, be sure to watch the first video interview in my Leadership Insights series – a great one-on-one conversation with the CEO of J. Crew, Mickey Drexler.

Follow me on twitter @sydfinkelstein

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hulu: Too Many Owners Spoil the Broth?

The company has a promising technology, one that has the potential to significantly alter the competitive landscape of the industry.  The big guys know this, and they smartly invest in the startup to make sure that if it actually works, they'll have a piece of the action.  Call it a hedge, and on the face of it, what's not to like?

Well, there is something not to like: the owners!  At Hulu, which just stepped away from a sale that would have enabled lots of people to monetize their investments and sweat equity, major shareholders like News Corp., Walt Disney Co., and Comcast nixed all sorts of exit options.  Holding onto their stake, just in case – the hedge – makes sense, but the real risk when the boardroom is loaded with interested parties is that they'll vote the interests of their own business, and not the start-up's.

For business history buffs, take a look at General Magic, a company I recounted in my book Why Smart Executives FailAs you might remember, it was once Apple Computer’s top-secret company designed to attack the PDA market.  Just five years before the company’s 1995 IPO, General Magic had raised $90 million in venture capital from top consumer electronic and telecommunication companies.  The Apple connection opened the door for other investors, which included Sony, Motorola and AT&T.  Although the PDA market was crowded, General Magic had the best and the brightest, but in the end turmoil and conflicts of interest among board members/investors derailed the company and it folded in 2002.

Will this happen at Hulu?  Hu knows?  But News Corp. et al. may look back on their decision not to sell and rue the day.