He died before he would release an inferior product!

When we commit ourselves to a purpose, something very special happens.

I’m listening to Rory Gallagher’s Notes from San Francisco and reading the liner notes. (If you don’t know who he is, check him out online. He’s a blues guitar player of some distinction). This album was recorded in 1978, but not released until now, in 2011. I think it’s stunning, Rory patently didn’t agree …

I am reminded through the narrative in the liner notes just how crucial it is to decide when the work we do is just not good enough!

Artists like Gallagher typically set (impossibly high) standards around their work – Tchaikovsky, to name another celebrated musician, felt that most of his compositions were rubbish – which is something we often label as ‘integrity’* (see Johnny Marr quote below).

In the case of Gallagher’s album, he disliked the work so much that he wouldn’t even let his manager play it to the record company that had ploughed $150,000 into its creation! So it never got released until now, 16 years after Gallagher’s death in 1995.

But how does this relate to your business? Well perhaps in the same way that it relates to Richard Branson’s business!

But before I talk about the Virgin Atlantic story, let me ask you this: If you had invested $150,000 in a business idea, a campaign or a new initiative, how easy would you find it to write it off if it didn’t come up to scratch?

But sometimes, that’s exactly what we should do in order to protect our brand, our reputation and our long-term future.

A costly mistake for Branson

So back to Sir Richard:

In 2000, when Virgin Atlantic came up with their innovative Upper Class seat, they thought they had it made. But before they knew it, or rather before they had it made, they found that they had been out-innovated by British Airways. The reason was that a) they had taken too long to produce the seat, and b) their plans had leaked and British Airways had even got a copy of them.

With a superior product, British Airways had stolen the lead from Virgin and Virgin was suffering as a result.

So the question was, ‘do we dump the seats at a cost of £100million and create another one which would become simply the best Business Class seat in the world, or do we keep them and make do?

Well, Branson, like the winner we know him to be, dumped the seats, produced their superior replacement, and the Virgin Brand held onto its position with all the associated benefits both long and shorter-term.

There are many morals in this article, but to me, the most important is about being true to your own standards of quality, integrity, honesty and your willingness to do what you know in your heart is right, whatever the cost.

Thank you for supporting my blog.
Please do comment on this article. Your views will be valued not just by me, but by other business owners who hold themselves to the same standards that you do and that you might like to connect with.

ABOUT RORY GALLAGHER (one of the artists who inspired me as a young man and to this day)

*”What he [Rory] stood for was integrity; it ran through everything he did. Integrity and following your music”….. Johnny Marr

“Always the same guy, never became starry. Only had an ambition to play – the purest kind of musician he was. And I don’t know if this sounds trite or corny or whatever but it’s the absolute truth – I never met anybody like him – never. He taught me humility and dedication and I supposed reinforced my belief that this really was a proper job”…. Brian May

– and, by the way, if you’re going to the Branson Event at ExCel on 2-4 July, I’d love to meet up with you there, do let me know. Thanks. QJ.


Posted on June 22, 2011, in Be Inspired, Get The Results You Want, Have Fun with Your Business, Music Business and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. QJ – This blog highlights the point when we last spoke and I was talking about Agile delivery. Here there are products that are held onto and never released becuase they are deemed never ready. Where as the better approach is to release a basic product (what does X need to do as minimum to tackle the problem) and consitanly add and refine to it over time to deliver improvements and additional value. That way something gets realeased and projects never encounter delay.

  2. Absolutely Matt. And Branson did put the first seats into his aircraft. It was just pretty quickly that he had to ditch them and replace with better!

  3. QJ I love your statement that you “think it’s stunning, Rory patently didn’t agree” as it will keep me amused on so many levels. Slightly cynically I cannot help but wonder who will benefit from the $150k investment that was probably written off some three decades ago? There was me thinking that most artists are just insecure. /p Matt makes an excellent point about timing added to which, to seek to achieve absolute perfection and universal truth are commendable values. With judicious and careful combination we can justify complete inactivity and still hang on to the high moral ground and so escape detection. /p Having been certified as confused I offer these observations without malice or mischief.

  4. Most student fail exams because they aim to answer every question perfectly – resulting in too much time spent on first couple of questions while not attempting some at all. I often advise youngsters to attemp atleast 80% of entire paper and get 70% of the answer correct. This would result in an overall 56% performance, good enough to pass most exams.

    You are probably thinking what has the above example got to do with the article; well, it is all about persuit of perfection, isn’t it. It is not a perfect world and audience / customers usually never know what perfection is. If it is good enough for the purpose and at a right price, it will sell. So why sweat over perfection.

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