Home  › Marketing › Strategies

Nice Guys Finish Last

  |  November 12, 2001   |  Comments

No more Mr. Nice Guy? Sometimes that's the approach a marketer's gotta take, argues Chris. Maybe you won't win the personality contest, but you'll get the job done.

"Nice guys finish last."¹
--Leo "the Lip" Durocher, baseball player, manager, and Hall of Famer

Sometimes you have to be a bastard.

Most of us like to believe that virtue is its own reward, that the good guys will beat the bad guys, and that things will turn out fine in the end. Guess what? We're wrong.

That may work for the Disney Channel, but it doesn't work for business. Business can be dirty work. Sportsmanship doesn't count. If your opponent trips, don't help him up -- kick him while he's down. J.D. Rockefeller knew it, Henry Ford practiced it, and Bill Gates wrote about it in his email (OK, maybe that wasn't such a good idea!).

Sometimes you have to be a bastard, even in the supposedly more genteel world of sports. Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player of all time, due largely to the fact that he was one of the meanest basketball players of all time. Former Bull Scott Burrell was once asked why he was running hours of drills. "Because Michael said that he'd beat me up if I didn't." When asked why he, a grown, 218-pound elite athlete, feared such tired braggadocio, he replied, "because he's Michael Jordan, and I believed him."

Being a bastard to your competitors is fairly intuitive. What made Jordan great was his willingness to terrorize his own teammates -- when the occasion called for it.

I'm not recommending the yelling-and-screaming Bobby Knight approach to management. What I am recommending is having the guts to make unpopular decisions and force them through.

It's a given that your subordinates and colleagues (even your bosses) aren't always going to agree with what you do. If they did, you could simply replace them with robots. When a decision has been made, they must swallow their dissent and comply. And if they don't, you have to punish them or even fire them.

Let's say that you're preparing to launch a new product. It's Friday afternoon, and you've planned to launch on Monday morning. Suddenly, you discover that the Web site hasn't been changed to reflect the product launch. It'll take hours to draft and make the updates. Do you:

  1. Postpone the launch until Tuesday

  2. Yell at the person responsible for the gaffe and tell him he's not leaving until it's fixed

  3. Arrange for all the necessary parties -- including yourself -- to come in to work over the weekend to finish the job

If you picked A, you should start polishing your "Fifth Place" medal. The entire company has planned on a Monday launch. Marketing better not let the other divisions down.

If you picked B, congratulations on being named the head basketball coach at Texas Tech. Yes, you may get the work done, but do you think it'll be of the highest quality? How about the next time you need it done?

If you picked C, you understand that the person you have to be toughest on is yourself. Jordan spends more time practicing and working on his game than anyone, including the terrorized Burrell. So does Tiger Woods. So does Bill Gates, who often writes emails to his staff at 3 a.m.

It's easy to be a nice guy. Spending money is easy. Delaying product launches is easy. Going out of business is easy, too.



¹ Durocher's famous aphorism is argued to be a misquote. In 1946, a reporter asked Durocher about the Brooklyn Dodgers's World Series chances. The manager's answer was purportedly distilled down to the now-famous "Nice guys finish last." (I'm sure, however, that Durocher would have agreed with his famous misquote.)

ClickZ Live San Francisco This Year's Premier Digital Marketing Event is #CZLSF
ClickZ Live San Francisco (Aug 11-14) brings together the industry's leading practitioners and marketing strategists to deliver 4 days of educational sessions and training workshops. From Data-Driven Marketing to Social, Mobile, Display, Search and Email, this year's comprehensive agenda will help you maximize your marketing efforts and ROI. Register today!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chris Yeh Chris Yeh is a partner at Porthos Consulting, a sales and marketing consultancy that focuses on delivering measurable results in lead generation and telesales. Prior to joining Porthos Consulting, Chris helped start companies like TargetFirst, United Online Services, and Merrill Lynch's Intelligent Technologies Group.

Chris and his work have been featured in Fortune, the Financial Times, and the New York Times. He earned his MBA from Harvard Business School.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Marketing newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

Featured White Papers

BigDoor: The Marketers Guide to Customer Loyalty

The Marketer's Guide to Customer Loyalty
Customer loyalty is imperative to success, but fostering and maintaining loyalty takes a lot of work. This guide is here to help marketers build, execute, and maintain a successful loyalty initiative.

Marin Software: The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising

The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising
Latest research reveals 68% higher revenue per conversion for marketers who integrate their search & social advertising. In addition to the research results, this whitepaper also outlines 5 strategies and 15 tactics you can use to better integrate your search and social campaigns.

WEBINARS

    Information currently unavailable

Jobs

    • Interactive Product Manager
      Interactive Product Manager (Western Governors University) - Salt Lake CityWestern Governors University, one of the 20 largest universities...
    • SEO Senior Analyst
      SEO Senior Analyst (University of Phoenix (Apollo Education Group)) - San FranciscoSEO Senior Analyst   Position Summary...
    • SEM & Biddable Media Manager
      SEM & Biddable Media Manager (Kepler Group LLC) - New YorkAs an Optimization & Innovation Manager at Kepler Group, you will be on the bleeding...