Welcome to Bootsy Business School, a wholly owned subsidiary of Famous Flames Academy. Professors John Starks and Bootsy recall Dean James Brown’s Unique Selling Proposition.
I’ve heard a hearty handful of terms in marketing literature for Unique Selling Proposition — why a product is unique and the benefits that will accrue to the user if they buy it. The terms are all pretty much the same, and you can trace them back past marketing to the term raison d’etre. Don’t forget your reason for being. If you can’t explain your reason for being, you’re not going to attract others to your vision — you don’t have one.
It’s very difficult to figure out your reason for being in the first place. Most businessmen never do. It’s the reason most businesses fail. Most people first look outside themselves for input. They get cacophony. Everyone is an idea person when they’re not in charge, or when they’re in charge but don’t suffer for their mistakes.Guys like James Brown attracted the best and brightest, and every one probably thought they were more talented and smarter than JB. They bristled under his ironhanded direction quite a bit. Look at what Bootsy became after he left Brown’s band. His talent didn’t diminish. It was diffused and diluted and became inchoate. He was lots of fun, and he made a living, but he never once had that one defiining thing that made him important. He substituted funny glasses and a wild getup for more substantial things. Maybe the circus pays better than being a sideman; I dunno.
The real trick to “The One,” that one big idea that carried James Brown, is that it’s all about serving the audience — the consumer. I’ll bet he had to tell his sidemen over and over to put a sock in it and get back to his one big idea. The person in charge has to be the champion of the consumer, not for the employees. The manager has to treat his employees well, in treasure or self-actualization, but he is not on their team. People who work in an organization tend to forget there’s anyone outside the building, or in tertiary stages of the disease, outside their own cubicle. The customers are an annoyance, their directors are nazis. If only everyone would allow them to amuse themselves, the world would be a better place.
The world doesn’t work that way. Look at the people foaming at the mouth in Wisconsin, demanding that their managers ignore the customers and take their side against those customers. They can’t even remember who their customers are, never mind how they’re supposed to serve them. They have made the mistake common to people working in large organizations: The employees think they are the customers, and demand all sorts of things like a fussy purchaser might. They compound their mistake by thinking that the product is them, too, and point out that the product will be very bad indeed if they decide to throw their sabot into the gears because their managers won’t let them do whatever they feel like. On the other side of the coin, I doubt the new regime thinks they are reforming the school system, really; I imagine they figure that the product is so bad and the process for producing it is so byzantine that it might as well cost less, because gobs of money had no discernible salutary effect on it.
If management and labor collude against the customer, they better have a monopoly. But monopolies are by definition inflexible, so even a monopoly can’t last forever, and fails spectacularly when it does go.(Hello Blockbuster!) In a flurry of recrimination and chanting, sometimes; in soaped-over windows in an empty strip mall in the dreaded private sector.
Get your own “The One,” and once you find it, beat that drum, brothers and sisters. It’s a funky good time to be successful. At least I think it would be. How would I know?