Starting a successful business is hard. Oddly enough, so is buying an already successful business -- especially when that means replacing a respected -- even beloved -- owner whose relationship with employees is both professional and personal.
Sure, the foundation for success is already there.
But how do you step into the shoes of an icon?
Good question, one FOX broadcaster Joe Davis is uniquely suited to answer. While strictly speaking not an entrepreneur -- although, like all of us, he ultimately is in the business of himself -- Davis knows exactly what that's like.
First he took over for long-term (by long-term, think 67 years) and recently deceased Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully. Widely considered the greatest broadcaster in baseball history, Scully is the definition of "iconic."
This year, Davis became the lead baseball play-by-play announcer for FOX, calling the network's signature Baseball Night in America games on Saturday nights, and will be the first person besides Joe Buck to call a World Series game on FOX in over 20 years. (Not to mention getting to call the second-ever MLB at Field of Dreams game on August 11, held at the site of the classic movie Field of Dreams.)
So, yeah: Davis knows a little about taking over from long-term, respected, and even beloved figures people have grown to rely on and trust.
Conventional wisdom says you don't want to be the person who takes over from a legend; you want to be the person who takes over from the person who followed the legend.
Everyone said, "Hey, are you sure?" But I looked at it the other way. Getting to be the person who followed a legend was one of the big reasons to take the job. Part of what makes the Dodger job special is who I was following. The greatest to ever do it was in the chair for 67 years. I saw it as an opportunity to fill a legendary seat.
The same is true for FOX. I grew up listening to Joe Buck.
In any field, the seat is defined by the people who sit in it.
What did you learn from following Vin?
It's tempting to try to "replace" the person: To talk like them, operate like them, or in a business owner's case, lead like them. That's human nature, but people can quickly tell when you're trying to be something you're not.
Instead -- and I know this is easier said than done -- just be yourself. That way you turn the external pressure you might feel into an internal sense of responsibility, which is much healthier.
It's good to pull from people you admire, but not to the extent that it changes who you are.
That requires a healthy degree of confidence, though.
True, but if you're buying a business, hopefully you've put in enough relatively low-pressure reps to make you feel you're ready.
In my case, that was calling minor league baseball. There was no better place to get reps every single day. I got to explore who I was, who I wanted to be, and settle into me.
But keep in mind, I don't think of it as developing a style. It's not an active thing; it's a passive thing where you allow yourself to come through ... as opposed to forcing a style.
The same is true for leaders; authenticity results from time and experience.
And from constantly trying to improve.
When I did minor league baseball, the next day I listened to every second of every broadcast. I critiqued every inning. I even transcribed some of it, assessing whether it was too flowery, too wordy, or on the other hand not thorough or descriptive enough. I obsessed over those details.
To a degree, I still do that. I'll go back every night and check the highlights. Once a week or so, I'll listen to a few innings. But at some point you should more or less know what you're doing, how to fine-tune where you're good and improve where you're not.
Put in enough reps and you should have a good feel for how you perform. If you don't, you probably shouldn't be in the job. [Laughs.]
Advice for someone who takes over a business from the company founder?
I have a plaque on my desk that says, "Work hard, be nice."
With a lot of things in life, we learn so much, but a lot of it still comes down to what we learned as kids. So really, that's it: Work hard. Be nice. And be you.
That extends beyond taking the place of someone who was respected and loved. Work hard and be nice, and people will respect you.
And will be a lot happier to work for you, or with you, or simply be around you.