Monday, January 28, 2008



Went to a big book store looking for an old title. I couldn't believe how many books there were about the secrets of marketing and success. In scanning through a few of them, many of them struck me as ego trips for the writers...or simply nonsense akin to a Sunday morning Informercial. Few addressed common sense or judgement...or the basics. Way too many voodoo and "keys to success" books. Of course there are some great ones too, like Jim Citrin’s books. I had a problem finding the long out of print book I wanted so I went home and ordered it about five minutes. DIY.

Do It yourself is often where it’s at. Quite a change from the service oriented “we do it for you” era. Remember buying an airline ticket? Go to a travel agent and they do the work. Other than some specialty trip or big corporate ticketing, who wants the hassle of using a travel agent? Travelocity is SO much better. Same thing with…just about everything. Then there are things you just DON’T want to do yourself. That’s where there’s a big opportunity and I’m amazed at how companies are blowing it. If you’re in a service area—better serve. I’m amazed at how difficult it was to get a returned call from a PLUMBER…or how you can actually get bad service in a restaurant…or bad service ANYwhere. All part of the massive “re-think” that’s required to succeed in the 21st Century. Re-thinking and AFDI’ing what is essential is what defines the blueprint for success.

Back to the Plumber: First the lies. Yellow pages full of “24 Hour Service”…yeah right! Just try to call one on a Sunday. I got four unreturned messages, two guys pissed off because we called them on a weekend, two guys who could be here midweek. Then the attitude that they’re doing you a favor. Then the exorbitant bill.
,, and we STILL couldn’t get someone here on a Sunday. If there was a DIY plumbing thing. I’d DIY.

How about Airlines? It is an absurdly complicated and expensive business, compounded by bad fuel prices, labor problems and an angry press. Just like plumbers: The lies: Been delayed? Whenever anyone at XM gets delayed, they usually e-mail me so I can find out what’s REALLY going on. I do, and it’s always totally different from what passengers are being told. Then the attitude…pissed off employees…and it shows. I’m fortunate enough to have a plane. I DIY.

Selecting a car, making a record, shopping…DIY

My point is—if you are supposed to provide service, provide it-- or people will DIY. Take XM. We HAVE to provide interesting music, or people will DIY. TV stations have to provide killer programming or people will DIY (as in rent movies). Newspapers have to evolve or people will DIY (the internet). Companies forget that in today’s environment, it’s easier and easier to DIY if you aren’t at the absolute top of your game.

Sometimes it’s about getting out of your space to get a better grasp on thinking about your mission. I’m going on ten years here at XM, and I remember early on, XM was a United Nations of careers. We had guys from cable, hardware, aerospace, rocket science, military, etc…all mixing it up. It was a positive challenge. If I came up with some “radio” idea—it would be quickly challenged. Sure, a few radio things are timeless and I had to explain that…but SO many were nothing more than “radio ideas” that I was conditioned to doing, but weren’t necessarily valid. You can see ‘out of your space’ thinking happening in other areas. Richard Branson starting an airline? Steve Jobs running the music Industry. Sometimes it takes people out of their space to force successful change.

Flew up to White Plains New York a few days ago. Went with Rob Johnston from our research team and Kenyon Crouch on our marketing team. Kenyon Crouch. In the 60’s a station would have paid a ton to use that name for their News Director. What a classic Radio News name. His Dad was an astronaut! That’s kind of cool. Once we landed at the freezing White Plains airport, we were picked up by Dwight Douglas who invited us up for a lunch. Dwight was an associate at the old Burkhart/Abrams. He needs a manager to sort out his ideas. He’s working as a VP at RCS, a music software leader, but went on and on about how he has written 17 screenplays, 5 books, 9 sitcoms and a play. In fact when I worked with him, he seemed to write a book a week. Needs a manager.

The flight was great. I love flying in and out of New York. Tests your abilities mixing it up with planes that have crews. The controllers have NO patience and god forbid you should sound amateur. Rob was hoping we’d run into ice so he could see my Cirrus’ de-icing equipment work. No ice. That’s good. Ice is bad stuff on airplanes. My plane and most new generation planes have a wide array of equipment geared to keep you OUT of it. Big jets can climb in and out of it pretty fast, but a piston plane often toils around for a long time at those icy altitudes. I have XM Weather onboard which is possibly the most important piece of safety equipment in the last 30 years. It provides a pilot with an arsenal of information to help decision making while airborne, then if you get yourself into an icing situation, there’s a back-up called TKS. The leading edges of the wings and tail section have metal strips with about 800 holes per square inch. Called a weeping wing. When ice happens, flick a switch and the holes bleed out a fluid that melts the ice and creates a protection on the entire wing and elevator surface as the fluid lows backwards onto the airfoil. Then, you ask ATC for a different altitude or route to get you out of the nasty stuff.

The key to safe flying is not only the equipment…but JUDGEMENT. The public would think that most general aviation accidents are things like the engine quitting over the mountains. In fact, it’s almost always stupid pilot tricks. Some form of BAD JUDGEMENT.

I’ve lost about 50 pounds or so. Quincy Jones once told me—“There’s a reason you don’t see many fat 70 year olds”. I’m far from 70, but he made a real good point there. This has put a serious re-think into my weekly Lunch flights where I grab a bunch of victims from XM to test out regional food favorites. Fortunately, I have a plan. Pre check the menus at the famous and figure out the least dangerous items ahead of time. Seems to work. Funny about losing weight: It’s EASY, and there’s ways to do it that are completely sensible. Plus, I get an extra 3 knots out of my plane with the reduced load.

Would someone tell Obama and Hillary to stop bickering? It’s SO bad, that it’s being positioned as comedy. Looks like the Dems might yet find ANOTHER way to lose. Sure seems that if either took a more “I’m bigger than this nonsense” position, it would resonate and make the other candidate look like a bozo. Common Sense 101.

Then there’s Ralph Nader threatening to run. Why?! Is his ego SO out of control that he can’t just write books and bust big companies? I assume he’s a super liberal, so guess what—His entry as an independent will suck over liberal votes and clear the way for a conservative. Not that that’s bad…though I can’t see any of them currently running having the vision to save a Country having a nervous breakdown. Another tip: Learn Spanish—and use it.

So they are building a giant monument to Martin Luther King here in DC. About time. Of course now there’s an uproar because a Chinese person is sculpting it. This guy is probably the world’s greatest sculptor. Ah…wouldn’t Martin want it to be the best sculptor? Instead you hear “A Chinaman!!—This is terrible!!”. I really wish the Political Correct era would end. Bring on THE COMMON SENSE ERA!

Good Judgement and Common sense...seems pretty simple.


At 10:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with you Lee. The "Common Sense Era" would be most welcomed. And, yes, there is a huge service problem with private and chain businesses.

I've been enjoying your blog for a while now and always look forward to the next posting.


At 12:36 PM, Anonymous Ed Graham said...

Common sense according to Einstein is, "...a collection of prejudices acquired by age 18."

But I still agree with you. Einstein didn't have to deal with phony PC.

I hope Dwight Douglas can still make a great Egg Roll.

Ed Graham

At 1:12 PM, Anonymous SlumLandLord said...

Your words on flying, the NYC airspace, and judgement reminds me of JFK, Jr. The media continues to speak of the Kennedys as risk takers but what does the media know. Dating hollywood actresses, playling football on a downhill ski slope at night, ditching your girlfriend in a pond, and flying VFR at the end of a New York Friday, into the night with little experience is not risk taking. It is just plain and simple. The Kennedys suffer from bad judgement.

At 1:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You sure do blog good...
Some excellent points.
If we could only get Hillary and Barack go out and DYI their own election with out the help of their flunkies, staffers and dealers.

I have a great idea for a DYI book for the Career Coaching plagued, epidemic, trend, whatever...
"Growing a Career in the Ashes of The Broken Glass Ceiling"

As a headhunter for two whole decades, in the rock n roll world of Information technology (I got nerds laid), amongst the fluidity of the ever changing world of technology, very few people can manage their own careers.
They need help from gurus, network groups and peers that have 'been there' and 'done that'.
But it is like you discuss, as long as we have someone charting the waters, we can do anything.
Be it in a book or on TV.
I remodeled my house this year.
My neighbors said that they didn't think I was so handy.
I told them, "It was a thousand hours of television."

The mind absorbs information and processes data all they time.
But thanks to the wonderful folks on Madison Ave, we wont take a shit without someone telling us how and when and where and why and of course, for how much?

Yet, we walk around like we are so independent.
It just creeps me out some times and I think if more people took the basic initiative and addressed life one problem at a time, small wins.
A plus sign here or there. Not every one flies and not everyone flies themselves...I that proper english?
Like I care.

So, good blog.
Like your thinking.
Glad to hear guys like you are out there pushing and promoting the 'Merican Dream.



At 7:02 PM, Anonymous Bryen said...

Lee -

Doesn't your entire DYI theme translate into why people would rather load up and iPod and forget the personalities, the surprise of the next song, and are more willing to buy their own collection than listen to someone else's?

My point is this - XM seems to have gotten so far from my iPod and so close to my FM that DYI indeed is what I prefer and I find myself listening to my iPod more than my XM.

But after reading your blog - I have a better understanding of why DYI is better.


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