My Bosses along the way……
I was just doing the math. I graduated from college 25 years ago. I always said that I was never going to be one of those guys who talked about how long ago I graduated from college. So, I won’t do it here.
If you’ve read any of my previous pieces you know that I hate voicemail, don’t drink coffee anymore, and have the love affair with music (excluding Coldplay).
You’ll also know that I consider myself to be pretty lucky. I have a great life, a fun job, and lots of friends around the world. Some would define my career as a success.
I have gotten to where I am today for a few reasons. A positive attitude (I try anyway), working hard, the support of my wife and daughters, a little luck, and a number of people who have all had a profound impact on my life – my bosses.
I have had a few bosses along the way. I liked some of them better than others. A few of them were not very nice people. But, all of them taught me something. The things they taught me about life, work, leadership, teamwork, and friendship have all contributed to the person I am today – the husband, the father, the friend, the marketer, the writer.
Jim Dinkins – my first boss out of college, at Procter & Gamble. Jim and I have been friends for 25 years now. He stood at the alter with me when I married my wife Allie.
Jim taught me how to work and play hard. He also taught me how to sell, something I find myself doing every single day of my life. Whether its creating a TV commercial or getting a budget approved you have to know how to sell. Jim is the master at this. Jim also taught me that I wasn’t in college anymore and that work started at 7.30am. That was one of the tougher lessons I had to learn. I’d like to think that maybe I taught Jim a thing or two along the way as well but it isn’t anywhere close to the things he’s given me.
Steve Koonin – a truly creative genius. He used to run a department at Coke that to this day is still talked about. He assembled a team of smart, creative people and he let us run. Coming to Coke from P&G was quite an adjustment. P&G is all about structure, process, and method. They are the best at it. Coke is much more image driven and is constantly refreshing itself as it works to maintain relevancy to its consumer base. Steve understood how to creatively connect our brands to consumers. I was often in awe of him and his ability to create things from thin air. He once told me that there were only 8-10 original ideas in marketing and that everything that every single successful program is just some sort of adaptation or combination of those few ideas. I asked him to tell me what they were. He just laughed and shook his head. He let me figure it out for myself. Steve opened a side of my brain that I didn’t realize I had. Eleven years of process and method will convince you you’re not creative. Steve threw that out of the window my first week on the job. I sat in a meeting with about 7 people. They were talking about Coke and the NFL. Ideas were thrown around. I sat there, fresh out of P&G, and didn’t contribute any ideas. I was studying the room, trying to figure out how to survive in the new place. The meeting ended and as I was walking back to my office I said to Steve, “hey, I have an idea about the NFL….”. He turned on his heels, fire in his eyes, and asked me id I was not just in that meeting about the NFL with him. I said, of course I was in there. I sat right next to you. He then started yelling at me – literally yelling – that I wasn’t at P&G anymore and that if I had an idea that I better share it DURING the meeting, not after the fact. He said (and I will never forget these words) – “if you have a f’ing idea Geoff, come to me, tell me. If it’s a good one I will give you the money and you will make it happen…..that’s how we do things here!” In the end, Steve taught me that I had two sides of my brain….and he really helped to open up the creative side. I wouldn’t be here today had it not been for Steve. That was the only time he ever yelled at me. I could probably fill an entire book on all that Steve taught me. He had a big impact on me and I will never forget him.
Chuck Fruit – I became the head of Coke’s Entertainment Marketing team while working for Chuck. In fact, we created it. He was the ultimate senior statesman. A truly class act, one of a kind. One day I was in his office talking about music and the entertainment business. It was a personal interest of mine as I always wanted to run a record label. After talking to him he asked me to come back to his office after lunch. I walked in at 1pm sharp. He walked me from his office all the way across the Coke campus and up to the 25th floor executive offices. We walked into the CMO’s office (Steve Jones). Chuck then looked at me and said, “Geoff, talk to Steve about the things you were telling me earlier”. I started, a little confused. After 2 minutes he looked at Steve and smiled. Steve nodded his head. Chuck then said we let Steve get back to his meeting. As I got up Chuck patted me on the back and said “congratulations Geoff, you’re the new head of entertainment marketing at The Coca-Cola Company”. Chuck did nice things for me. He was a good man. When I heard the news that he passed away I cried. I have a tear in my eye as I type this right now. He gave me a big opportunity and it helped me on my journey. Chuck taught me to treat people with respect, to build relationships with people. He encouraged me along the way. He treated every single person he met exactly the same way – with dignity and respect. I try to live up to his legacy every single day. I miss Chuck.
Darryl Cobbin – DC taught me how to build a brand. Darryl is the guy who is known for building the Sprite brand to the global brand it is today. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work for DC. He always encouraged me no matter what I was doing. He taught me how to market but he also taught me how to be a better man. DC is a natural born leader. People lined up behind him and ran through walls to get the job done. DC cared equally for the “what” and the “how”. He taught me that you don’t need to be mean to people along the way to get what you want. We were surrounded by people who would stab you in the chest (yeah, more direct than in the back) to get what they wanted. DC never carried a knife or a iron fist. He built consensus, enrolled people along the way, and stood back and watched his people do great things. His leadership example is something that I have always tried to live up to. DC is also responsible for the name of my blog – yogmoney. He used to always walk into my office and say, “YO G-MONEY, what’s up?” He always made me smile when he did that. I miss hearing my old friend saying that as he walked down the hall. I recently saw him at an event we put on. He yelled it across the gym. It was a special moment for me.
Katie J. Bayne – KJB, as she is known by many, is one of the smartest marketers I have ever known. She used to be the CMO of Coke North America. She is on her way to even bigger and better things at Coke and will someday probably run it. Katie taught me how to hold my own in a room of people far more senior than I was at the time. She was always prepared. She knew her business well and had a point of view on things. She was actively engaged in every meeting she was in. Although I often fail to be as prepared or detailed oriented as KJB, I strive to be. KJB taught me how to survive and thrive in a major corporation. KJB was the first person I met at Coke when I joined the company. She was always a supporter of mine and helped me move along through the world of Coca-Cola in a productive way while I was there. Katie should be considered a role model to young women everywhere. We need more leaders like KJB.
Ken Lombard – well, this is a tough one for me. I had an unusual relationship with Ken. He was a hard driving boss – always pushing for perfection. Some looked at Ken as a bully. AT 6’6” (I think that is his height, lets just call him tall, ok?) he can be a little bit intimidating. He knew it and used it to his advantage when necessary. When I left Starbucks I was kind of angry; disappointed in the working experience I had while I was there. I never felt like I really fit into the culture there. Ken’s management style was different than mine and we had our battles. One day during my performance review (where I was fully expecting to get my tail handed to me) Ken gave me the highest rating you could get – Exceptional. He said, “I’ve been tough on you because you have talent and I want you to succeed….i’m pushing you because I know you can take it”. I was floored because he had been so tough on me all year. I never really got to thank Ken when I left Starbucks. He was living in LA when I decided to leave Seattle. We exchanged notes but I never got to say goodbye in person. I regret that. As painful as some of those days were – it was the single best professional experience of my life. I grew up. If I had not had Ken pushing me as hard as he did I am sure that I would not have enjoyed the success I have to date at Converse. I have a lot to thank Ken for.
Howard Schultz – while I never reported directly to Howard, I did have the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time with him. Howard is the boss at Starbucks. Never have I met a person who cares as deeply about his business as Howard. He is the most passionate, motivating person I have ever met – bar none. He can walk into a room and spin your head with his inspiring presentation. He has a presence about him that is Obama-like.
Howard taught me about passion, about caring, about having soul. Howard is a perfectionist when it comes to Starbucks. Everything needs to be right for the consumers. When a store isn’t right he addresses it right away. He lives in the moment and he fixes things. He can get pretty upset when things aren’t right. I think that sometimes he can be a little too hard on folks but I now understand why he is the way he is. He cares, deeply. That’s a pretty special quality to have – to truly care (in your soul) about what you’re doing. I am in a position now where I truly love what I do. I have a lot to thank Howard for. As a result of my time at Starbucks I am a better leader of people. Instead of using fear, I try to inspire people to be the best they can be. I learned that from Howard Schultz.
So, if someday you find yourself reading another piece like this from some other professional and I am lucky enough to be mentioned as someone who had a positive impact on them you will know why. It is because of these people – Jim Dinkins, Steve Koonin, Chuck Fruit, Darryl Cobbin, Katie Bayne, Ken Lombard, and Howard Schultz. They lifted me up to where I am today. I officially thank each and every one of them for all they taught me along the way.
NOTE : I decided it wasn’t appropriate to comment on my boss at Converse. He’s amazing though.