Springsteen a CEO? I’d like to say he sets quite an example!

I attended my first Springsteen concert over 30 years ago, I went to my first NYYankee game over 40 years ago, and it would be fair to say I’m rather passionate about both.

But as I was driving home from Monday night’s “heart-stoppin’, pants-droppin’, earth-shockin’, hard-rockin’, booty-shakin’, earth-quakin’, love-makin’, Viagra-takin’, history-makin’, legendary E Street Band’s” concert at the Nassau Coliseum listening to the final few innings of another predictably mediocre Yankee game, I couldn’t help but think about how much I got for my $110 ticket and how little Yankee fans get by now paying as much as $2500 for their seat. Oh the new Yankee Stadium is spectacular and for $2500 you get parking privileges, free food & drink, and a rather luxurious seat while Rome’s Coliseum is in slightly better shape than Nassau’s. The NY Yankees—like so many other businesses—lost sight of their value proposition, what’s important, and how real brand loyalty is solidified.

The Boss—Springsteen, not Steinbrenner—is nearly 60 years old. Last night it looked like he was battling a cold, but neither age nor feeling a bit under the weather stopped him from putting out the high-energy, truly professional performance anyone who has ever seen him knows to expect. In the +30 years I’ve never seen a bad Springsteen show. In the month of April the Yanks have lost by scores of 11-2, 15-5, 10-2, 22-4, 16-11 (blowing a 6 run lead in the process!)…on 21 games played. Roughly 25% of the time they take their stage, these Yankees haven’t even competed.

Where Springsteen never miscalculates his audience and what they expect, the NY Yankees—like many other businesses—have miscalculated an awful lot. Like many businesses these Yankees blame some of their attendance/unsold luxury seat problems on “the economy”, as if they were poor, innocent victims of events they couldn’t control. Fact is, I’d more readily spend $2500 to see Bruce Springsteen and the East Street Band without free food and the like than I would pay $110 to see this Yankee team with all the trappings…just as I’ve paid much more to purchase the 3 Acura’s we own than the inferior product put out by GM, Ford or Chrysler.

Last week I spoke to a CEO for a roughly $50 million company in a highly competitive industry who was moaning about the margin compression in his field, how the tough economy was hurting his business, how distressed he was about the state of business affairs, and how disappointed he is in his poorly performing staff. When I asked him about his client interactions I was shocked but not surprised when he said “I’ve never met any of our customers”. Though these are difficult times, there are some high-performing companies across every business category and I find a very consistent correlation: executives that are deeply connected to the front lines and involved with the core elements of their business—starting with the customer—run companies that consistently achieve while those who insulate themselves from the action rise and fall by forces they neither understand nor control.

While NY Yankee executives sit in their fancy ownership box peering over a stadium with too many empty seats as the Red Sox beat their brains in one more time, Bruce Springsteen is working every corner of the stage, shaking hands with and making direct connections to his loyal fans.

Leave a Reply