Why Don’t We Drink Bourbon in the Office Like J.R. Ewing Did?

Larry Hagman, also known as J.R. Ewing on the 1980’s primetime television show Dallas, passed away recently. J.R. was one of the great, original characters on a groundbreaking show – the real, original primetime soap opera. Dallas was the story of a Texas oil wildcatting family and J.R. was the ruthless tycoon.  If you’ve never seen it, go get it on DVD or on demand.

What made J.R. so compelling?  After all, he cheated his business rivals. He lied to his family about his deals, even though they were all owners in the company, Ewing Oil. He’d do things like strong-arm banks into financing risky foreign oil deals and then pull the plug with a shrug. “I had no ‘ah-dea’ that would happen,” he’d drawl. He slept with every woman he came in contact with – skirt or no, breathing or maybe not. He wore his ten gallon cowboy hat driving a Mercedes S-Class at a time when most of us didn’t even know what the hell that car was. He was a mean, big brother to Bobby, the good and kind Ewing (played by Patrick Duffy). You just wanted to see him get shot or punched in the mush, both of which happened on the show (although, not at the same time).

OK, notwithstanding the above, here is why he was so cool:

  • He did ‘BIDNESS.’ Most of us in Startupland talk about transactions, sales, growth rates, etc. Not that these aren’t important, but J.R. did DEALS. He swung for the fence. He thought big and he always made money for his partners. In person, on the phone, face to face or voice to voice, he connected with his partners. THOSE things we can copy, even today, and should.
  • J.R. never talked back to his momma and daddy, Miss Ellie and Jock Ewing.  I’m guessing Jock would have given him a smack down if he did. But he learned his business from Jock and wanted to pass it onto his (also apparently twisted) son.  A lot of you have reseller or integrator businesses where your family or younger employees may be involved – passing knowledge and expertise, and CUSTOMER TOUCH along to the next generation is a great thing, again what we can and should emulate.  I know, this is a blog post. But, we can still pick up the damn phone every now and then, right?
  • He poured himself (and anyone in the office) a couple of fingers of whiskey at any time of the day {Bourbon and Branch, to be specific), whether he won a deal, lost a deal, or was plotting about how best to screw over someone. The point is that he never changed what he know would work – we need to have that kind of patience, as well.  In Startupland, it’s easy to whipsaw the strategy back and forth if it doesn’t work in one month or quarter.  Do what you know will work and stick with it – customers will appreciate that they know where you are coming from.

Look, I’m not saying be inflexible.  That’s just stupid in Startupland (or VAR or SI-land as well). You have to be able to adjust to the @#$% that you KNOW will go sideways, as it always does.  You know what to do and what will work – stick with it (at least until you are damn sure it ain’t).

Anyway, drink what you like, stay with the personal customer touch, transfer knowledge and stick to your ‘bid-ness’ guns.

In future posts, we will talk a lot about launching innovative technologies, from the go-to-market side of the house, salesmanship in the current context, customer approach and stuff like that.  I could use a drink now, so we’ll talk soon.



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