General thoughts

Unlocking Commercial Advantage At Scale

Walking into the offices at the Ministry Of Sound in London was mind-blowing. The design and layout were super cool and the people wandering around inside were equally cool too. I was there because I’d been invited to come and speak with the founder and Chairman, and I didn’t know quite what to expect. I’d originally met some of the senior executives to discuss whether I could help the digital roadmap of the company, but the conversation escalated quite rapidly and I found myself in the main room, with the main guy, talking about the main thing.

Ministry had been extremely successful over the years. It was probably the largest independent record label when I arrived, and nobody would refute that the dance music scene had been fuelled by Ministry’s artists. Then there was the club (which actually was adjacent to the offices), which was an artefact of legend. There were challenges though and in a nutshell, those challenges were about how the company could keep up with the speed of change.

Several years earlier, I’d been the Chairman of the retail arm of the Music Industries Association, and I’d been fairly vocal about the rate and personality of change that was happening, especially in the music world. I’d been met with huge resistance at that stage, and perhaps ironically, my reason for being called into the top table at Ministry was because they were battling with the exact changes that the Music Industry had rejected as being “irrelevant” a few years earlier.

Ministry was brave though. They realised that digital music was significantly adjusting how people consumed content, they realised that online shopping carts had to be streamlined and that the brand needed to regenerate to be relevant in the modern age. I was really enthused that the willingness to investigate change was in place and that the owner of the company was curious enough to invest in new growth streams.

In my book “Powered By Change” I speak about this type of mindset, especially in the second section of the book with a particular focus on people. I can pretty much sense whether a company will succeed or fail once I’ve met the leader(s) and ascertained whether they have the willingness to test, learn and improve. If they don’t, then there isn’t much that can be done – regardless of how historically successful they have been.

This is something that should be prioritised across all organisations. Whilst many focus on sales figures and profit levels, the real action is happening in the hearts and minds of the people. If the people involved aren’t willing to try and experiment, then the speed of change will overtake them and the organisation will be in all kinds of pain. As Jack Welch (chairman and CEO of General Electric between 1981 and 2001) once said, “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.”

Ministry brought me in to help, support and accelerate their speed and breadth of innovation. I was honoured to be part of what kickstarted the company into a new era, with a franchised operation of clubs around the world (the most exciting being in Singapore), syndicated content (e.g. radio feeds), new physical products (e.g. fitness apparel) and a finely tuned online marketplace. All generated from having the willingness to invest in the future.

The 3 key takeaways I’d like to leave you with are:

1. Willingness is paramount to everything, including any existing core competencies.

2. Bravery is generated from willingness and is required when experimenting in new areas.

3. Remaining in a comfort zone gets increasingly uncomfortable as the speed of change accelerates, so the most comfortable mindset in the long-term is to break out of the comfort zone in the short-term.

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