Dear John,

I've heard from reliable sources (The Wall Street Journal, among others) that you're considering taking over the job as CEO of the We Company. At the moment, I have no idea how serious you are about it, but you like to present yourself as an unpredictable guy--cussing up a storm one day; hamming it up as host of your own cooking show another (usually Sunday). Listen, man, I get it: You're not just another stuffed suit content to sit back and earn your $67 million: You play by your own rules. You're a fun guy. You're a cool guy. Which is exactly why I feel the need to write to you and offer you some advice as you contemplate taking over the scorched earth that is We World.

Don't get me wrong: I think becoming CEO of a unicorn (and, yes, We is still considered a unicorn despite its dramatic write-down and postponed IPO) would be a rad fourth or fifth act for you. The shoot-from-the-hip, shock-and-awe approach you've perfected at T-Mobile would translate nicely to We, which has always offered more flash than substance. While your hair is less lush than that of outgoing co-founder and CEO Adam Neumann, you've got your own rock 'n' roll executive thing going. (And, hey, at least you've got hair, which is more than Jeff Bezos or I can say, right?)

Frankly, taking over a deeply distressed asset like We would let you keep your scrappy, outsider's pose, a difficult act to cultivate if the T-Mobile and Sprint merger goes through and risks turning your carrier into one of those duopolies you're always carrying on about on Twitter. It's pretty rock 'n' roll--hell, it's pretty freakin' punk rock--to take a stage dive into a mess like We and maybe, maybe turn it around! How many 61-year-old executives get to do that? Pull this one off, and they'll change your name to John Legend, which has a really nice ring to it, and that Twitter handle has more than double your followers.

But now I feel like I need to offer you some suggestions that might kill your buzz a little but could make potentially transitioning into this role a little better for you:

Be Boring

I cannot stress this one enough, John. Like a lot of us, you probably read about Adam Neumann's antics with a mix of disdain and envy. Why did he get to have all the fun?! Here was a guy who went from selling padded baby pants to flying around the world in hot-boxed private jets and nominating himself President of the World. It's natural for you to want to be a little bit as wild as that guy, but it's just not going to fly with your team or your benefactors at SoftBank.

To put this in an idiom a dude your age will understand intuitively: You are taking over as lead singer for Van Halen from David Lee Roth. Accept being Sammy Hagar: steady, professional, and way less interesting than Diamond Dave. Does the overall band suffer from a deficiency of razzle-dazzle showmanship? Sure. But does the band stay a band? It does. If you start to think you can be as wild as the last guy--if you call yourself the Red Rocker, for instance--you will screw this one up and find yourself replaced by a Gary Cherone type. Who's that, you ask? Exactly.

Do Not Have an Office 

This one speaks to perception but also cost-savings: I think it's imperative that you do not have a private office. Among the many scandalizing details that The Wall Street Journal's hard-hitting We coverage revealed was that Neumann's personal office suite included "a sauna and an ice-bath plunge." After Neumann was ousted, these amenities disappeared as well. That's a good thing. If you want to make it clear that the new boss is nothing like the old boss, sit yourself at one of We's desks ("The desk Steve Jobs wished he designed," as you may recall) and get to work. Besides, you're (potentially!) taking over WeWork. You know, the company that turned kibbutz-style communalism into corporate cool: You gotta show you're a communard too. Plunge in your ice pool on your own time.

No More Jets

This is similar to the suggestion about your office, but equally important in its own way. The last guy was known for his love of flying around among his six or so homes on private jets, often smoking weed at the same time, which allegedly created an unsafe environment for pregnant staffers. Nothing suggests excess like your own plane, so I'd recommend flying commercial. Yes, you can keep flying first class (you're not a loser after all), but you should see this not as a downgrade but as a chance for you to feel like one of your customers. You know, a regular person who might appreciate the lower overhead of a shared office (as well as all-you-can-drink coffee) as they bootstrap their company into existence. You could even turn this whole flying commercial (though still first class!) thing into a Zuckerberg-style "listening tour." There you are, among the regular folks in first class, listening to how they're building their American dreams. Imagine the positive Instagram posts and tweets that would create.

Cut Your Hair

This one is gonna hurt, I know: To do this job properly, you're gonna have to cut your hair. As others have noted, you transformed yourself from a more buttoned-down, slicked-back Gordon Gekko-style executive into a (sometimes magenta-colored) longhair in leather and sneakers to run your cool, disruptive company. That worked to brand you as a different sort of executive in the staid world of mobile telecoms, but now that you may be operating in the tech (well, tech-adjacent) space, you're going to look a bit like a tool. Nothing is less cool than a middle-aged dude joining the party by asking, "How do you do, fellow kids?" If SoftBank taps you to take over for Neumann, it will be an explicit rebuke of his style and you will be looked to as the vaunted "adult in the room." Time to start looking like one, sir. 

Don't Do It

Finally, this may be the best advice I can give you. Run away. The FCC just cleared the way for T-Mobile's merger with Sprint, and while there are still some hurdles for you to jump (in your cool CEO sneakers), you're in the catbird seat to run one of the biggest telecom companies in the world. Why would you work so hard to make that a reality only to jump into the uncanny valley of We World? News of your flirtation with We has already hurt T-Mobile's (and Sprint's) stock. Need I remind you that that's also stock in you? We is such a mess, its brand so deeply dragged through the dirt, that nothing short of a complete turnaround could make this decision look like the right one for you. Even if you manage to make We profitable and realize Adam Neumann's dream of being elected President of the World, you may come to regret this.

So, John, if SoftBank really is calling you, do what most of your customers do when their phones ring: Let it go to voice mail and keep doing what you're doing. We don't need you to do this, even if We might.

Published on: Nov 12, 2019