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Geronimo Stone His Music, His Love, and the Mobile of Excellent Management


Craig A. Stevens and

Michael Moore

Llumina Press

Š 2006 Westbrook Stevens, LLC All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from both the copyright owner and the publisher. Requests for permission to make copies of any part of this work should be mailed to Permissions Department, Llumina Press, PO Box 772246, Coral Springs, FL 33077-2246 ISBN: 1-59526-571-6 PB 1-59526-572-4 HC 1-59526-573-2 E-book Printed in the United States of America by Llumina Press Library of Congress Control Number: 2006922127

Acknowledgements Hello, I’m Craig Stevens and I want to thank you for taking the time to review this book. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Over the years, many people have contributed to the development of these concepts and the writing of this book. I would like to thank the following people: Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who inspired us. Michael Moore helped to formulate many of the scenarios found in the story. He also provided much of the music industry color and details. A special thank you to Don Kammerer, friend, music business executive, and authority on the Blues for leading us up "Highway 61." My parents laid the foundation of excellence in showing me the proper way to care for their subordinates and provide quality to their customers. My wife Denise (our entertainment attorney) for helping add realism. And our four kids who make life interesting. Dr. Jerry Westbrook first introduced me to many of the concepts found here, (read more about the history of this model in the final chapter). Theresa Heflin author of the Love Letters From God series invested in the publishing and provided a great deal of encouragement. Read more about her books at – Dave Ott volunteered many hours of review and encouragement. Several dozen technical, editing, management professionals, clients, and mentors have read and critically reviewed several versions of this manuscript (Special thanks to Author Jeanie Gere, Janie Moyers from NASA, Dianne H. Nunez from TVA, Jill Baker from the University of Phoenix, Erin Anderson from Trevecca Nazarene University, Melinda Hagan from HCA, Dan Miller of 48Days, and Others from DOE and DOD.) Professors and fellow students from University of Alabama Engineering Management, Industrial, and Systems Engineering, PhD program helped to formulize some of the earlier concepts. Many of my students and colleagues from Vanderbilt University’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department, Management of Technology Program helped to perfect some of the research.

Many of my students and colleagues from Trevecca Nazarene University, Management of Human Relations Department helped to debate some of the issues related to the linked management models. Many of my students and colleagues from the University of Phoenix’s MBA program helped by debating the applications of the Mobile of Excellent Management. Many corporate and governmental professionals have invested time in learning the concepts and helping apply them. Colleagues from SAIC helped to introduce me to the real world of consulting. Contemporaries from The American Management Association (AMA) helped teach me better ways to explain these concepts, while I taught as one of their facilitators. The associates at Westbrook Stevens, LLC helped to perfect the application of these concepts ( Please contact us at if you have questions or comments.

Table of Contents Foreword


Chapter 1:

The Takeover


Chapter 2:

Confirmation or Confrontation


Chapter 3:



Chapter 4:

The Guiding Hand


Chapter 5:

Understanding the Guiding Hand


Chapter 6:

State of the Company


Chapter 7:

The Cable that Holds Us Together


Chapter 8:

It’s All About the Blues


Chapter 9:

Center of Focus


Chapter 10: Taking It to the People


Chapter 11: The Power behind the Company


Chapter 12: The STAR Wars


Chapter 13: The Team’s Tool Box


Chapter 14: Rader Ups the Ante


Chapter 15: Progress


Chapter 16: Continuous Progress


Chapter 17: A Measure of Success


Chapter 18: Bad News


Chapter 19: Missing


Chapter 20: Aftermath




It’s All About Change

Contact Information


About the Author


Endpage References


Foreword Geronimo Stone is a fast-paced story about the hostile takeover of a family-owned record company. Embedded in the story is a new model for moving any modern organization toward excellent management, called “The Mobile of Excellent Management.” This mobile is a graphical tool that illustrates the seven basic concepts that all organizations must master to stay competitive in our rapidly changing business environment. Our story begins as the founder and patriarch of Geronimo Stone Records dies from a mysterious illness, leaving his family with the choice of whether to rebuild the label or to sell the label to its largest competitor, Behemoth Records. They know that Behemoth only wants it as an imprint, and that they would dismantle those things that made it one of America’s artistic treasures. However, the family is not sure whether they have the resources to rebuild, or whether they would fail trying. It was Geronimo’s vision and with his death, they’re just not sure they can pull it off. That is, until they find the packages explaining this “Mobile” that Geronimo left them. The Mobile explains exactly how they can return Geronimo Stone Records to being the powerhouse it once was. Join Geronimo’s family and learn to master these Seven Attributes of Excellent Management.


Chapter 1

The Takeover


s a large man threw me against the wall, the words of my father echoed in my head. “Never let your emotions drive your actions, and never let your tongue dig a deeper hole.” Now I was in trouble. My uncle had told me not to leave the building without him, and now I knew why. I just had to get out; I wanted fresh air. The memory of my father overwhelmed me. I was trying to come to grips with his death. I didn’t want my uncle to see me cry; my father never cried. My emotions clouded my mind as my tears clouded my vision. I ran to escape the torment and never noticed the smell of marijuana or the woman rounding the corner. I knocked her down, and we both fell, hard. She scrambled to collect a number of small plastic packages. I tried to explain. “It was an accident. I’m sorry. Are you okay, lady? Here, I’ll help you.” I tried to help her up. Then a monster of a man grabbed me. “Boy, what are you doing on my street?” he demanded, as a roughlooking crowd gathered. He backhanded one of the boys from the crowd, who was about my age, “You know this boy?” The boy cowered and shook his head. Holding me tight by my heavy overcoat, he lifted me off the ground and slammed me into the wall. “I’ll teach you to mess with my business,” he snarled, as he pulled his fist back. I trembled with fear and braced for the impact. It never came. I slid down the wall and opened my eyes to see my uncle and Mr. Cooper. My uncle held the man’s fist with one hand and his throat with the other. “You have a problem with my young nephew?” “No, Mr. Geronimo, I—uh, I didn’t know he was your boy—” the words graveled out. Mr. Cooper held his gun on two men from the crowd as they reached toward their coats. “You know better than that!” he warned, with steely eyes and a low rumbling voice. 1

Craig Stevens Three men already on the ground backed away as Geronimo slowly pushed his captive over some garbage cans. I guess when you own someone’s Adam’s apple, he has to do whatever you want. My attacker lay there, gasping for air, not daring to make a move. The others just stood still. It all happened so fast; no one wanted to test his luck. “I’ll take point; you guard our rear,” Geronimo ordered as he pulled me down the street. Mr. Cooper followed, walking backward. “Mr. Stone.” “Mr. Stone.” “Mr. Stone!” Jill raised her voice from the doorway. “You okay? The president of Behemoth Records is on the phone.” “What? Who?” I snapped out of my daydream, and found myself staring out of my uncle’s office window. With all that had happened over the last month, I must have been having flashbacks from my youth. Jill, my uncle’s assistant, explained, “John Rader, the president of Behemoth Records. Behemoth Records—that’s the largest record company in the world. He wants to talk to you.” I answered the phone. “Tommy Stone.” After a split second of small talk, John Rader became aggressive. “Here’s the deal. It’s already hit the trades, Tommy Boy. Now that your uncle is gone, Geronimo Stone Records is in play. For the last thirty years, Geronimo enjoyed a steady stream of hits and huge numbers under Robert’s direction. He was the man, but now, he’s not—he’s dead.” John Rader controlled our conversation with a sarcastic edge and a know-it-all tone. Rader continued, “He was a business genius with golden ears. Nobody could pick artists or develop Blues records like Geronimo. You know it. He knew it. I even know it. However, nobody in this company ever made a single major decision without him. Face it, now that he’s gone, the best thing you can do for yourself, your family, and your employees is to sell the label to me while it still has value. “Think about it, Tommy Boy! Geronimo picked some hits, but even with him in charge, you guys haven’t had anything real in two years. And there’s nothing in the pipeline now that will generate the kind of numbers you’ll need to keep it going. You can’t live on catalog forever. Your big artists either are over the hill or have plans to move on to a major label. “Tommy, your uncle created a legendary company. He built a family with himself as the patriarch. He rewarded those who followed his 2

Geronimo Stone direction and punished those who didn’t. He took care of his own, but all the good people left as soon as they were trained. You know where they went? They came to me and other labels. Where do you think we got some of our best employees? Geronimo never could keep good people. “I liked and respected Geronimo—who wouldn’t? He got his start in a warehouse in a rough part of town and dragged his company through financial struggles until the hits started coming. Everyone thought he was crazy. He had a good roll! But it’s over. Geronimo,” he scoffed, “There’s no place in the business for renegades or independents, anymore. Your day in the sun is over. The ‘Big 5’ owns the market! We control the charts and the shelf-space. “With Geronimo Stone gone, I give you six months. All you’ve got left are some wannabees, some catalog, and a bunch of ‘yes’ people on staff. Geronimo did all the thinking and forced his will through every aspect of the company. I guess, being a battle-hardened soldier, he was always able to get his way. But he’s gone— “So, I’ll cut to the chase. You have no expertise in this business, but you do have my proposal. Give it up, before you get hurt. Take your inheritance, before it’s gone. Sell, and salvage the nest egg your uncle built for you. Retire, and you, your family, and his widow can live off the interest. Heck, we’ll even throw in a healthy early retirement package for your executives. “Trust me—you’ll never get a better deal! You and Brenda are the only beneficiaries, and you’re out of your element. You don’t even like the record business. If you did, you would have stuck around when you were a kid and had the chance. You had a once in a lifetime opportunity to mature in the business, but you gave that up fifteen years ago. You became a generalist, a consultant, instead. You’re nothing but a disgusting seagull. You fly into a company, eat all the food, and crap all over everything before you fly away to live off some other company’s hard work.” With those comments, the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. I wanted to strike back, but what I blurted out was, “Hey, wait a minute—” The voice on the other end ignored my snappy comeback and continued. “Now, here you are; Geronimo’s numbers have already started the nosedive. You were at 215 in gross against 175 net last year and this year, it’s already down by 40. That tell you something? You’re going to be known as the CEO who killed Geronimo Stone Records. At least 3

Craig Stevens we’ll keep the brand alive—as an imprint, of course. Fight me on this, Tommy Boy, and you’ll end up losing everything. I’ve given you two weeks to grieve; I’ll give you two more weeks to make up your mind.” The last thing John Rader said was, “Don’t mess this one up, Tommy. I was a friend of Geronimo’s. Your family needs the security, and you’re no Geronimo. Two weeks!” Rader punctuated that statement with a loud click. I thought, “The nerve of that guy! Who does he think he is? But then, maybe he’s right. I don’t even know the players here.” I even had to ask Jill to explain who this Rader guy was. I was so surprised by his directness; I wasn’t even able to say anything. I read the proposal, and the consultant in me thought he was making a reasonable offer. I’m an industrial engineer and a business consultant—a generalist. I knew a lot about business, but I didn’t know anything, anymore, about the music business. I was so far out of touch, I couldn’t see the fire, even though I was starting to feel the heat. Sure, I grew up doing everything around here, coached by my uncle, but that was a long time ago. How did Rader know it had been fifteen years? How did he know so much about our business? He had obviously been tracking our activity, but how did he know our numbers? But then I knew it was a close-knit industry, everybody talked, and everybody knew each other—except me. I dropped in from Neptune. If I were to quit my real job, move here to run the family business, and fail, I’d be out of work, my reputation shot, and my aunt would lose her inheritance. I’d lose my inheritance. He was right. If we took his offer, we could all retire—right now. Geronimo Stone. Whom was I kidding? I was no Geronimo Stone. Of all the medals and awards he received in Vietnam, my uncle liked the badge of comparison to the great Indian, Chief Geronimo, the best. He got it because he fearlessly jumped into the action, any action. Jumping into trouble was what he did! Geronimo! He liked the nickname and admired the strong Apache leader who fought to keep his people free. Robert “Geronimo” Stone had a passion for great music too. When he got out of the army, he founded a Blues label and called it Geronimo Stone Records. When I was growing up, Uncle Robert was my hero— bigger than life. I was still a boy when Uncle Robert came back from Southeast Asia. And even though my dad complained about why we were there, I could always get him to tell me amazing stories of battles that Uncle Robert wrote about in his letters home. Sometimes we heard stories from other people, as well. I loved to hear them talk about how 4

Geronimo Stone he had a nose for ambushes and booby traps. My uncle always praised his men and focused on their valor, but I heard from those men how often he saved them. According to them, he kept them alive, and they always accomplished their mission. It was his way, always to lead and take responsibility. Like so many real heroes, he was humble and modest. There was no boasting. He spoke with reverence about the boys on both sides. He said the toughest part was the waiting. The twenty percent of men who charged into battle had it easy compared to the eighty percent who supported them. He told me how most of the men had to wait behind a fence like caged animals—targets waiting for the enemy to strike. For too many, it was like being in jail, and he reasoned that this was why so many returned home with deep-seated psychological problems. Not Geronimo; he wanted action. He was a fierce competitor, too. He could take command of any situation and make it a winner, through his own sheer will and courage. He was a man with a wiry body, iron will, and steadfast determination. Not my style of management, at all. With Geronimo in charge, the company’s employees never had to fight for anything. Would they fight to keep this company alive? Like my uncle, I loved John Wayne movies. When the Duke died, the archetype hero like leader my uncle based his life on also died. Oh, I could fight with the best of them, Uncle Robert made sure of that; but if a company was to survive long in today’s world, everyone had to be in the battle, making decisions and taking action. I was no Geronimo Stone, and frankly, the whole idea was a little scary to me. I had too many responsibilities as it was. The senior executives had been here as long as Uncle Robert had, but all they wanted to do was retire. They were more interested in vacations and golf than turning a profit. Best I could tell they only stayed because of my uncle, and maybe because management is easier if someone else makes the hard decisions. Only those who did not want to make serious decisions stayed. I doubted whether the senior management would be much help putting the company back on its feet. Those guys were basically retired in place. My uncle and the junior-level people made this label thrive. However, as the new hires matured in understanding, the good ones wanted more responsibility and could only go so far before they had to leave to find better opportunities. Those who stayed just followed orders well. That was one of the reasons I left. I could have never worked for my uncle long term, even after he asked me to. 5

Craig Stevens Well, maybe selling was the best option, but what would I tell my wife? She thought this was our opportunity to make a difference, and my way to ensure Uncle Robert’s legacy. What would I tell Aunt Brenda? They were counting on me to make decisions and look out for their best interests, since I was Geronimo’s handpicked successor. I only had a short leave from my real job as it was, so I couldn’t goof around with this thing indefinitely. I could be fired. If we took the offer, I could retire, or just work when I want. Either way, I had to make a decision today. I leaned heavily on the desk, fisted hand propping up my chin. It was a moment of real doubt. I looked out the large picture windows of my uncle’s corner office, which was warm and welcoming, its heavy furnishings made of cherry and mahogany woods. The confident, masculine furniture was a proud extension of my uncle’s personality. I was almost too comfortable here. I had to be careful; it gave me a false sense of power and importance. It reminded me of the way I felt in college, when Uncle Robert would confide in me. He told me things he never told anyone else, except maybe Aunt Brenda. When Uncle Robert included me, I felt a grand sense of purpose, like my ideas mattered to him. It was as if my feedback might have meant the difference between Geronimo Stone Records’ launch of a legendary new artist, or another “good try,” soon forgotten. Of course, he made all the decisions, but back then, I never expected anything else. The sun shined through the windows and warmed my face as the world moved along without noticing my distress. Birds flew, cars came and went, people walked with friends and laughed. Life moved on. One funny thing about real estate—people and businesses come and go, but the building would be here for a while. It was a comforting, yet somehow disturbing, thought. I felt so insignificant. Uncle Robert had come and gone. The business people who owned this land before Geronimo had gone; the farmer, and his family, who owned this land before them had come and gone; all the men and women who had fought to live here through the ages had come and gone. My time was short. I looked out at Nashville. That reminded me. On the wall was the painting I had always liked—the Nashville skyline at night. He painted it, his first serious try at painting; maybe that’s why I liked it so much. Painting seemed out of character for the great Geronimo Stone. But like 6

Geronimo Stone everything he put effort into, he was good at it. Impressionism was his style of choice. But being the man’s man that he was, he felt embarrassed by his talent. If anyone asked Geronimo about his paintings, he always said, “I always liked using knives.” Then he would wait for a reaction, laugh, and add, “Pallet knives.” Painting was a hobby my aunt and uncle shared. They even used the same signature—“B. Stone.” I think he did that to hide the fact that he enjoyed painting. Most people would assume it was Aunt Brenda’s work. Light danced across the painting, and I followed it to the desk, where a beam of sunlight reflected off an unusual paperweight. It was a miniature mobile, which created dancing reflections of light. The device hung, precariously balanced, from a curved piece of metal mounted on a brass base. The metal curved out from the base and then up. On top, it curved back around forming an arm. The metal arm ended in the shape of a hand. The index finger of the metal hand pointed toward the door and the other fingers held a string made of finely twisted wires. The string or cable poked through a curved rod. At one end of the rod hung a sculpture of little metal people that counterbalanced three other oddly shaped objects on the other side. The slightest breeze set the mobile in motion. As I tapped it, the objects rose and fell, swung and turned, and sometimes made the faintest of chiming tones. An acronym was either engraved on or attached to each piece of the mobile. I found myself staring at the mobile, when from the intercom on the desk... “Mr. Stone!” “Yes, Jill!” “Your wife and Aunt Brenda just pulled into the parking lot.” “Thank you, Jill.” From the third floor, I saw Jan and Aunt Brenda get out of the car. They walked toward the building, arms around each other’s waists. It was good to see the happiness they derived from each other’s company. Maybe, after we sold the business, we could all live closer to each other. I heard them before I saw them. It was as if everyone in the building escorted them, Olympic-torch fashion. The office was full of excitement. Chatter, warm wishes, and laughter followed Aunt Brenda as she made lighthearted small talk. When she and Jan walked into the room, they were still smiling optimistically, as if they knew something I didn’t. 7

Craig Stevens “You two are definitely up to no good.” “We just agreed that it would be good to get to work and take our minds off the funeral and all we’ve been through during the last few months,” responded Aunt Brenda. I hugged my aunt. “Losing Uncle Robert has been hard on all of us. It’s nice to see you in good spirits again. Thanks for getting here on time. If you’re ready to get down to business, our nine o’clock is about to begin. But I don’t think we should announce the sale until we’ve had more time to think it through, run forecasts, consider alternatives.” “Sell?” Aunt Brenda asked, agitated. “What do you mean, ‘sell?’ I thought you were here to turn this boat around! And I told you I’d help.” “Aunt Brenda, everyone likes you, but you have always been behind the scenes. You have little experience with the music business. As I recall, you wanted it that way. You’re like a mom to everyone here. They all call you Aunt Brenda. All through college, I wondered why you guys never told me I had so many cousins. When we sell the business, you’ll be able to travel and take time for yourself—be with family and friends. Jan and I even considered moving to Nashville. We don’t need the hassle of salvaging this business. Besides, most of the executives are more interested in driving golf balls than driving records up the charts.” Brenda looked at me with fiery eyes, and said, “You may be right, but let’s not wimp out just yet. I know your position at Westbrook Stevens is secure; you make a decent living, and this is a big risk for you. The safe route may be to sell, but as Robert used to say, ‘Life is either a great adventure, or nothing at all.’1 I’m not ready to stop living just yet.” “Helen Keller said that,” I corrected. “Well, so did Robert. So, let’s start the adventure.” Before our conversation continued, there was an interruption. “Mr. Stone.” “Yes, Jill.” “The department heads are here for your nine o’clock.” “Thank you.” Brenda jumped in. “Tell them we’ll be there in a second.” Jill answered, “Will do, sweetie.” “‘Will do, sweetie?’ That’s what I mean. How can you lead people, much less stage a turnaround, if your people think of you as ‘sweetie’?” “How can you manage anything if they don’t? Anyway, that’s ‘Aunt Sweetie’ to you, Tommy.” 8

Geronimo Stone “Great. My first day here, and we switch from Geronimo Stone Records to Sweetie Records.” “You’re not Robert; you’re his nephew. If you try to play the role of Geronimo Stone, you will certainly fail. But then again, if Robert were more like you, maybe we wouldn’t be in this mess. That’s why he wanted you here; he knew that to move this company forward, an evolution would have to take place. Your uncle had a revelation when he found out he only had six months to live. You might say he ‘came to Jesus’ about a lot of things! “He realized no one was ready to take over where he left off. He respected the way you held your ground with him. He wouldn’t admit it, but he valued your opinion. He wondered why soft issues were important to you. He watched you at your consulting firm. You had the people skills he lacked. You helped lots of companies go through changes. You have an impressive track record. Plus, you grew up here, and you know the business. You’re not Geronimo Stone, but you are like him in many ways that count.” “But that was a long time ago,” I reminded her. Brenda ignored my objections. “Near the end, he started delegating responsibilities—planning, measuring results, doing all the things you’ve talked about. He saw the wisdom in your advice and wanted you here very badly. He knew you wouldn’t make the same mistakes he did. This is your opportunity to continue what he started and make a name for yourself at the same time! I’ll only be here a short time myself, so let’s have an adventure. I want to see you make your own mistakes before I’m gone.” What could I say to that? Was this a vote of confidence, or was I being railroaded? I did the only thing I could do—I opened the door and led my new partners into the conference room. We passed the redfaced, eavesdropping Jill Wong, Geronimo’s executive assistant, who tried not to show her delight in my aunt’s remarks. Turning the corner, I thought to myself, “Did I hear a high-five behind me? No, that was two high-fives.” I turned my head, expecting to catch a smirk on my aunt’s face. To my surprise, Jan, my own wife, was the one smirking.


Chapter 2

Confirmation or Confrontation


s we walked through Geronimo’s hall of gold and platinum records, Aunt Brenda’s eyes were on fire. There was a sense of urgency about the meeting, and she seemed braced for combat. We entered the elegant conference room at nine AM, expecting to see all of the executives assembled. There were only three people, counting Mr. Cooper the head of facilities. I hadn’t seen the room in a while. Looking around the mahogany-paneled executive conference room, I couldn’t help but wonder where the money came from to support this place. The cherry conference table was thicker than my hand was wide. The royal burgundy captain’s chairs enveloped you in luxury and comfort. Original oil paintings hung on the walls. Well, at least they got a deal on the paintings, all being signed B. Stone. I felt intimidated as I took my place at the head of the table. At 9:15, there were still only three of the ten executives and managers present. It would have been unusual where I came from, and Geronimo would have been furious. He expected everything and everyone to be ten minutes early. Brenda took command, and before we sat down, she began the introductions, “John Wayne Cooper.” No relation to John Wayne or Gary Cooper, but you couldn’t tell by his looks. He reminded me of Tom Selleck on Magnum PI, but a little older and grittier. “John is in charge of security and the facilities manager.” John Cooper really didn’t need to be at these meetings, but my aunt insisted on his presence. I knew John pretty well. Of all those at the company, he was probably the most loyal. Aunt Brenda helped save his marriage at one time, and John and his wife had been regulars at the Stone house, ever since. There are pictures of Uncle Robert and John 11

Craig Stevens all over my aunt’s house, stretching back to their tour in Vietnam. The pictures were all of my uncle and John doing exciting, dangerous things together. He was a lot like my Uncle Robert, but at least ten years his junior. Brenda continued, “Ivan Smith is our newest executive, a computer guru. He’s going to take us, kicking and screaming, into the future.” “I.S. for I.T.—that should help you to remember. I.S. is the I.T. manager,” Ivan blurted. Among the senior staff, he looked the most out of place. Although I didn’t know it at first, he was the most willing to blaze new trails and the most eager to please. He was a new hire from California; he hadn’t known what he was getting into when he took the job. I understood from earlier conversations with my aunt that the general manager, who hadn’t yet arrived, had promised him all kinds of freedom; otherwise he never would have come. He had relocated from Silicon Valley, where he had been a victim of the layoffs during the great crash of 2000. He had worked for high-tech companies and was ready for a change. He was not happy with our antiquated systems and would soon leave, unless we allowed him to work his magic and drag this place into the 21st century. “This guy is a technology whiz,” continued my aunt. “He can make the code, the network, and all the other computer thingies sing.” I thought, “Sing. If only we can find talent to sing, as well.” “You know Doc,” said Brenda, interrupting my musings, “he’s the senior V.P. of A&R.” Dr. Steven Baldridge Demmings III, “Doc,” was one of Uncle Robert’s closest friends and confidants. I turned to Jan and explained, “A&R stands for artists and repertoire. Doc discovers the artists, develops them, and matches them with songs, publishers, producers, supporting musicians, and cowriters, to create the best possible recordings. Over the years, Doc discovered and developed many of America’s leading secondgeneration Blues artists, including Catfish Houston, Morton Walker, and Franklin Soul.” He was Geronimo’s first employee, thirty years ago. As a boy, he had always looked old to me. It’s funny. Now, he looks the same age. Brenda interjected, “Doc is a student of the latest concepts in business management. He has a lot in common with you, Tommy. For three years, he inspired your uncle to consider making some of the improvements you may have noticed.” 12

Geronimo Stone I thought to myself, “He might be the ‘most valuable player’ in the company, but unfortunately, he was also the one most interested in retirement.” My aunt credited him with much of my uncle’s philosophical turnaround. She had talked about him over dinner, just last night. He’d been ready to retire for twenty years, but just couldn’t bring himself to do it. After Doc’s wife died, he immersed himself in his work. He had six kids; all married with kids of their own. Doc probably had as many degrees. I could not help but notice that his eyes looked very sad. Maybe it was too many years of putting work before family, or the recent death of Uncle Robert. For an old guy, he sure knew what was hot. Aunt Brenda said he was so good because of his team. He put together an awesome A&R department, which had begun to rejuvenate our sagging catalog and roster. His was the only department in the company that worked independently. They were well trained and had all come to Geronimo with a passion for the Blues—its history, its songs, and its players. They knew their stuff, and Doc gave them clearance and authority to do their jobs. His call to them was always the same—“Bring us compelling artists with personality.” Regarding repertoire, he told his songwriters, “Get to the chorus and don’t bore us.” Aunt Brenda finished her first round of introductions as four men and three women, the missing board members, entered the conference room. Each generated a round of inane small talk, which was, no doubt, duplicated daily with customers at the club and in bars and restaurants around town. Each had the firm “pastor’s handshake” and looked one in the eye with feigned sincerity. Each explained to me that the music business was “all about relationships,” as though the music itself was insignificant. Just after their entrance, a rather large fellow took hold of my chair, before noticing that I had already claimed it. I remembered him from when I used to visit my uncle as I came through town. He had reintroduced himself to me at the funeral. His name was Malcolm Bruebaker. Everyone called him “Brew.” He was the general manager of Geronimo Stone Records, charged with executing whatever Uncle Robert asked him to do. He was in his early 50s, retired in place, and still a party animal—hence the nickname. At the funeral, he told me not to worry about my aunt, or anything else. He assured me he had everything under control. Aunt Brenda looked strained as she reintroduced us. Clearly, something was not right between her and Bruebaker. She introduced him as 13

Craig Stevens the executive vice-president and general manager, then went around the table: “Roberta Hamblin, V.P. Marketing; Cindy O’Conner, V.P. Media Relations; Sherman Barnhard, Sr. V.P. National Sales; Bill Wynalot, V.P. Finance; Mike Miller, V.P and manager of the Heart of Geronimo Music Publishing; and Jupiter Lundeen, V.P. Promotion.” If I were going to be responsible for the company and my aunt’s interests, I needed these people to help lead us to success, or better yet, for them to decide to sell. As soon as everyone settled, Bruebaker opened the discussion. He clearly saw himself the leader here, but there was no discussion of how to turn the company around, any business strategy, or talk of the future, whatsoever. There was only gossip, rumors, and talk of sales down trending, rattled off in music business jargon. By 9:45, we had accomplished nothing. I had only been here a couple of hours, and I wanted to get a feel for individual personalities, but I was getting impatient. Being the “take charge” kind of guy I am, I had just decided to make my move from my position at the head of the table. Well there was that and then there was the fact that Aunt Brenda leaned over and whispered, “You gonna do something, or just sit there and look pretty?” I stood and attempted to call the meeting to order. People kept talking, but several started to sit up and take notice. Then, smirking at me and hitting the table with his fist, Bruebaker jumped in. “Okay, guys, let’s get this meeting over with.” The room became silent as all eyes turned to me. We’d had an agenda, but it was already shot. I started, “We are here today to decide the future of Geronimo Stone Records. It already isn’t a short meeting, and I don’t believe it will be ending quite so soon, Malcolm. We have an agenda and you have all had a chance to review it. So, I suggest we try to go through it as efficiently as possible. We will leave here today with either the first steps in a plan to start our turnaround, or a decision to sell. Before we start talking about where we are going, let’s look at where we are now. I’ve asked each of you to prepare a state-of-yourdepartment briefing.” “We are all taking care of business,” said Bruebaker, “and I think we all know what is going to happen. Geronimo died, and without him, Geronimo Stone Records is no longer competitive. We all put in our time, and no one wants to start over with a greenhorn at the helm. I would stay and guide the transition, but frankly, I have a better offer.” 14

Geronimo Stone This brought a round of laughter from some of the others. Bruebaker smiled, and before I could say anything, he continued. “We have too few people, turnover is high, and we haven’t had a hit in two years. The catalog is not generating enough revenue to keep us afloat, nor should we expect it to. With Robert gone, the best thing we can do is sell to one of the majors—say, the one we had an offer from today. Then we can all take early retirement and reconvene on the golf course. That’s all I have about the state-of-the-company.” This guy had really started to get on my nerves. I was already more than tired of Brew. I gave him a long cold look. Obviously, I was the greenhorn he’d referred to, but in order to maintain the flow of open and frank conversation, I held my tongue and allowed them all to talk. I was still feeling them out, learning whom I would be able to trust or not, in case we decided not to sell. There would be time to set the record straight, but at least he was in alignment with my own thoughts. For the time being, his boldness helped make my point. We didn’t need the hassle. We should sell. Bill Wynalot, V.P. Finance, picked up without losing a beat. “Per your request, I prepared a summary of our financial situation. Revenue from the sale of records year-to-date, as compared to last year’s numbers, cash flow and ongoing expenses, the P&L from the quarter just ended, and forecasts for the rest of this year. As you see, the numbers are not promising.” Bill continued, “Before Geronimo left,” clearing his throat, “he asked for an analysis and recommendation from our audit team at Anderson and Anderson. They suggest we sell stock to raise some capital. Our debt is low, so we’re in a position to borrow against our catalog and hard assets to bolster operating revenue, if we need to. Since we own a hundred percent of our stock in house, another way to cover operating expenses would be to take the company public. We would fill our war chest for the future if we offered an IPO.” I thought to myself, “Sure, I’ve seen that before. Offer an IPO, fill the war chest, and the executives fill their pockets with bonuses.” An IPO would give the illusion that we were making more money than we actually were. After the smoke cleared, the company would be left with more obligations, but no more revenue, and more people to account to. It introduced quarterly pressure and short-term thinking. No, thank you. Hadn’t we learned anything from the crash? Bill said, “If I may speak candidly, I agree with Brew. We do not need the hassle. John Rader at Behemoth Records has made a generous offer. Behemoth leads the industry in nearly every genre of music. 15

Craig Stevens However, they don’t have much in the way of Blues. They’re hungry to take over our assets, and I believe that with their deep pockets, they’ll do a good job of rebuilding Geronimo Stone Records into the powerhouse Blues brand that it was in the 80s and 90s.” I said, “Thank you, Bill, for preparing these numbers, and for your input.” Aunt Brenda added, “I think we’ve had one too many funerals, already. I’m not sure we’re quite ready to bury the label.” “Roberta,” I asked, “as head of marketing, how are our prospects for the three titles we’re working now? What about the advance music from the records in the pipeline?” Roberta Hamblin replied, “You want my honest opinion, or do you want a fairy tale?” “Hit me!” I said. “Here’s the problem,” Roberta began. “We’ve been cold now for well over a year. I’ve been in charge of marketing for twelve years, and I’ve seen us at our best. When you’re hot, you can leverage in-store positioning of the product, you get better ink in the media, and good things happen. But when you turn cold, the inverse happens, and for the last year, I’ve been beating my head against the wall for every tour slot, end-cap, and story in the Blues press. And forget mainstream consumer media.” “What would it take to get the buzz back?” asked Brenda. “We’d have to have either a breakthrough overnight success from a new artist, or a huge event record, like a blockbuster soundtrack or a duet album with one of the big rock acts, maybe a series of them. The problem is, we have no clout in the market right now, and even if we do put out a great record, the press ignores it, and the merchants want to charge us petrodollars to position it. “The wisdom of selling to Behemoth is that they have that clout— because they’re so hot with their teen machines right now. With their size, they don’t even need influence. They can just buy their way in, or leverage it through their hot artists. It’s a sick game, but that’s where we are. I have to agree with Bill and Brew. Let’s sell it. We’ll all get a bump, then I’d probably just go back to work for one of the majors.” Everything was leaning the way I wanted, and every speaker confirmed my opinion. Aunt Brenda should have been getting a clear picture of why we should sell. “Jupiter, what about radio?” I asked. Jupiter replied, “Basically, ditto what Roberta said. We’ve been cold for so long that rock radio has moved away from Blues; the few stations playing Blues aren’t interested in our new releases. I’m dead in the water.” 16

Geronimo Stone “What do you think, Sherman?” I asked. “Are things really this messed up?” Sherman Barnhard, Sr. V.P., sales, replied, “Worse! The whole time I’ve worked here, if we hit—great. If we were down, we had our killer catalog to carry us through to the next gravy train. That is no longer true! “I used to regulate our releases, just as Disney did their animated classics. I would release them, keep them out until sales fell off, and then yank them off the market. By rotating our classic stuff every few years, we kept churning demand. When we pulled an album out of the stores, demand went up. We’d wait awhile, ship it again, and bingo, another fifty thousand units, at very low cost to us. “If we repackaged it, or did a boxed set, we could go one hundred to two hundred thousand pieces. That’s three to five million greenbacks with each boxed set. However, now fans steal copies of songs through digital downloads and MP3 file sharing. The press even encourages it! It looks to me like the value of our catalog is about to collapse, and we should take Rader’s money and get out of Dodge, while the gettin’s good.” Mike Miller, Geronimo’s publishing guru chimed in. “Since Geronimo owns both the master recordings and the song publishing, if we’re going to sell the masters, let’s at least retain rights to the songs and keep ‘Heart of Geronimo’ Music Publishing out of the deal. Contrary to the dim view in the room, our publishing operation is very healthy right now. The market for our songs has never been stronger. My staff is constantly licensing our catalog for one use or another. I just signed a license for all of Catfish Houston’s songs to be used in a play on Broadway, and Dolores Figgins, from my staff, is talking to a TV producer who’s creating a weekly fictional television show called ‘Nashville Blues.’ If it goes, we may end up issuing a ton of licenses, or even a blanket license for an enormous amount of money over the next five years. I hate to see the masters go, but don’t mess with the publishing.” “Great news,” Aunt Brenda beamed. Then she asked, “Cindy, you talk to the media every day. What’s the press saying out there?” Cindy looked up and said, “My phone has been ringing nonstop for the last three days. Every trade magazine is calling to find out about ‘the sale,’ and now consumer print media and the TV entertainment magazine shows are calling. They are circling like buzzards, and I haven’t known what to tell them!” Bruebaker interrupted. “Tell them the truth. We’re discussing a sale to Behemoth.” Then he turned to me. “So now you’ve heard 17

Craig Stevens from the senior staff. We’re not interested in your half-baked ideas about a turnaround. Rader’s offer is a good one, and we’ll be selling our shares to him.” I thought, “That’s it, even I have some ego. He insulted me for the last time, he’s out of here!” I stood about halfway up, but Aunt Brenda and John grabbed my arms. John looked at me with a furrowed brow and a sympathetic look in his eyes. Then he motioned for me to sit. I sat back down, a little confused, but pointed my finger at Brew, and said, “I’ve had about all I’m going to take from you, Mr. Bruebaker.” Bruebaker looked at me in his arrogance and said, “Well, little man, I’ve talked to most everyone at this table, and we have the majority of the stock—sixty percent. The smartest move for you is to fly to New York, shake hands with Rader, sign a couple of papers, pack your stuff, and wait for your check to arrive.” Before I could say anything else, my aunt started to laugh. She was having a great time, either losing her mind or watching my temperature rise. I wasn’t the only one losing my temper, though. I looked at John Wayne Cooper, and his face was bright red. He was hot and about to explode. He didn’t appreciate Bruebaker’s condescending attitude, or his treatment of Geronimo’s family. Jan sat in the corner, wide-eyed, and as white as a sheep. I was used to high-level intrigue in my consulting work with major companies of late, but not only was this much too close to home for Jan, it bothered me as well. I resigned myself to the fact that we would have to sell. However, a hostile takeover wasn’t what I had planned. This had become personal with all of the insults from Brew. We had just buried my uncle. I expected something more satisfying. A plan that would reward long-time employees, take care of the family, and keep Geronimo moving forward as one of America’s premiere Blues labels. As it was, my ego had been stomped on, in front of my wife! I had given them their chance to speak; now it was my turn. Before I got a word out, my aunt stood and nodded at John Cooper. John was enraged. He had heard enough. He wanted to go through Brew, like a grizzly bear on salmon. Of course, he was too restrained and professional to physically hurt the man, but that’s where it stopped. He leaned over and leered at Bruebaker for a pregnant moment, then in a soft, low voice, used words I wasn’t accustomed to hearing. He surprised us all with his diatribe. Then, with the blood vessels in his neck swollen, John looked deep into Brew’s eyes, and said, “You really did 18

Geronimo Stone your homework. You’ve got this all figured out, don’t you? Before you head for the clubhouse, you should know that we’ve been doing our homework, too. We discovered a very interesting email correspondence between you and John Rader. Ivan, give me those messages.” Ivan lifted a briefcase off the floor, unlocked it, and pushed it toward John. Aunt Brenda walked over to John, picked up a number of files from the case, and said, “Brew, you have been the busiest guy here, other than Mr. Cooper, Ivan, and me. It says here that your offer from Rader is one hundred and fifty dollars a share. That should make you very rich.” The room exploded with nervous chatter. John brought order with an ear-splitting shout of choice words, ending with something about legal action against the co-conspirators if we didn’t settle this today. Eyes burned holes through people in every direction. Only Ivan and Doc kept their cool. Both tried noticeably not to be noticed. Brew jumped up and pounded the table with all his three hundred pounds. “You cannot do this,” he shouted. Cued with a nod from Cooper, two walking refrigerators in guard uniforms entered the room and stood on either side of Brew. Two plainclothes detectives also appeared and covered the door. Aunt Brenda continued, “Brew, from this correspondence, you would not only be well taken care of by the sale of stock, but you have a pretty neat package from Rader to join his company. You pick up some Behemoth stock, a great salary, a benefits package, and you’d be head of his overall operations. That makes you the big winner. Why didn’t you do so well negotiating everyone else’s deals? Mr. Wynalott, who gave you the authority to email confidential company financial statements to John Rader? Ms. Hamblin, you’ve been diverting sensitive Geronimo information. You’re clearing future marketing plans for our music directly with John Rader. A little premature, don’t you think?” Brenda paused to let her words sink in. “Brew agreed to Rader’s plan to pay you all ninety dollars a share and not hire you. Did you know that? According to this message from Rader to Bruebaker, he’s taking Brew, but won’t have room for the rest of you.” The table erupted again. Aunt Brenda continued her shocking revelations, “You’ve shown your true colors, Brew. What did you used to call our employees? Your ‘hand-picked staff’?” Fumes radiated from Brew. He didn’t like this at all, but he couldn’t move because of the half-ton of prime beef hovering over him. 19

Craig Stevens “Like Robert used to say,” continued Brenda, “‘Those who will lie for you will lie to you.’” I thought to myself, "Hey, that was one of my lines; I used it after a bad experience at a client’s company!" Everyone’s eyes were glued on Aunt Brenda as she continued, “Here’s a lesson for you, never trust anyone who cheats on their family or in business, even when they are cheating for you or with you. These emails tell the story of how Brew gets all the good stuff, and you guys get the shaft.” She shook her head and clicked her tongue, then said, “No job offers, lower stock prices, and so on.” She threw the papers down on the table and said, “You should read the nasty reviews. Ms. Hamblin, did you know how incompetent you are, according to Brew? We have other emails that don’t look so good, either, but we don’t want to rub salt in your wounds. You get the picture?” I knew it was going to happen. The counter-attack to the countercoup; Brew exploded, but this time, from a seated position, “You think you know everything, but that won’t change anything. The offers from Rader are fair. They’ve been accepted, signed, and delivered, and you have no recourse. If you think you can sue me, go ahead. We represent the majority of the stock, and you have been raided. The best thing for you to do is accept the offer and retire. “I’m not worried about your threats; everything has been properly papered. I’m not going to lose any sleep because this is the right action to take. It’s what’s best for you, for all of us. You would know that, if you weren’t so stupid. You should be thanking me. I’m looking out for your interest. There is nothing for me to feel guilty about, and if you think there is, Brenda, you’re dumber than you look.” I couldn’t believe my ears. Was it a done deal? I looked at Brew’s smug, rebellious face; saw the resignation in the eyes of most of the people in the room, and John’s confusion as he waited for Brenda’s response. For the first time, Aunt Brenda’s countenance changed. She looked at each of the executives, who all appeared to be siding with Brew. Her eyes lost their fire and seemed to plead for a change of heart. I felt bad for her; these were people Geronimo trusted, that she trusted. Aunt Brenda hated to see these people following Brew’s lead. The silence was agonizing as she looked into their eyes; one-by-one, they looked away or set their gaze in cold concrete. A couple of executives were visibly shaken by the revelation of Brew’s double-dealings, but no one came to Brenda’s rescue. No doubt, they feared Brew’s vindictive reputation more than they feared us. 20

Chapter 3



rew knew he had the upper hand. The power in his appearance and attitude started to build, and he looked hard at Aunt Brenda. She faced away from us, her back to the table. She looked out the boardroom window, took a deep breath, and wiped her eyes with her right hand. Brew cleared his voice and said, “Your move, Brenda. What do you and your impotent team have to say?” John exploded and charged forward, like a grizzly bear. I stood to try to stop him, and Brew winced from the sudden outburst. Aunt Brenda quickly held her hand up to her trusted friend and protector. He froze, still snarling; she lowered her head, walked sadly back to her chair, and stood behind it. She then looked to the door and motioned to a young, attractive, petite lady, who stepped up to the table. It was Sarah McIntosh, Geronimo’s attorney from Lockland and Moore. I guessed she had come in with the detectives. Just now, she was swiftly thumbing through papers. She found what she was looking for and passed out copies of signed agreements to every executive at the table. Then she spoke. “We found your agreements, some dating back to 1975. Several things are apparent. First, the Stones have the first right of purchase for any stocks being sold. Next, the stocks will be sold at the current market value, as determined by the company’s new public accounting and auditing firm, Simpson Connolly. You’ll find that figure on page four. You also signed non-disclosure agreements. Passing internal marketing plans, financial statements, or other such documents to Mr. Rader’s organization causes you to be in breach of contract and liable for damages, as spelled out on page twenty-five. In addition, there is the matter of criminal activities, which is why the detectives are here.” She paused and smiled cordially. “On behalf of my client, ‘Geronimo Stone Records, we are prepared to purchase all outstanding shares of stock from anyone who wishes to sell. Additionally, Geronimo’s family hereby exercises its option to purchase outstanding 21

Craig Stevens shares held by anyone Brenda Stone thinks can no longer be trusted to serve the best interest of Geronimo Stone Records, as spelled out on page twenty-six. To show my client’s good faith, all civil complaints will be dropped for those who agree to cooperate. You have two business days to execute the transfer documents, which you are welcome to have reviewed by your attorneys. We expect to receive your completed documents by 10:30, Tuesday morning.” Aunt Brenda circled the table, handing out stock transfer agreements. Five people signed immediately, and three others forms returned unsigned. She distributed checks to the five, along with their exit papers. Bruebaker kept his for further review. The checks were made out for the fair market value of the stocks: sixty-five dollars and twentyfive cents per share. The deals went down fast; I tried to process the sort of cash position Brenda’s move had put us in. She had probably handed out six to ten million dollars, and the company was already strapped. Where did the money come from? All we had going for us was the fact that we were debt free. Now what would we do? Was this money a loan? Was it coming from Aunt Brenda’s pocket? Did she have this much dough? John Cooper, Ivan, and Dr. Demmings gave back their exit agreements and checks; Aunt Brenda smiled and handed them to Ms. McIntosh. Brew collected his agreement, but pushed his check away. The others, still in shock, signed the agreements and pocketed their checks. It had gone too easily, they must have had a lot to hide. John asked one of the detectives and a guard to escort those accepting the offer to the front door. He explained that they could make appointments to retrieve their belongings later, which of course, we would pack for them. Then he turned his attention to Brew. “So, what will it be, Malcolm?” John asked. Malcolm Bruebaker stood and walked to the door. “I haven’t decided. But I won’t be selling my stock just yet.” John replied, “You have already sold it, you just don’t realize it!” Then, to the detectives, he grunted, “He’s all yours.” As Brew was escorted out of the building, he dialed numbers on his cell phone. John and a third guard, who was waiting in the hall, were about to secure the property and change entry codes, until he noticed Mike. No one had noticed until then, but Mike Miller, Geronimo’s publishing guru, sat quietly at the table. His head was down with his hands folded on the papers, as he considered signing. 22

Geronimo Stone Brenda walked over and said, “Mike, I thought you were going to sign the agreements.” Mike looked up with tears in his eyes, “Brenda, I don’t want to sign these. I want to continue to work for Geronimo Stone Records. Brew had us all believing we had no choice but to give up. I have a family to support and don't know what to do. However, if you still want me, I’d much rather fight it out with the competition.” Brenda looked at the rest of us—Dr. Steven, John, Jan, Ivan, and me. John said, “He’s a security risk. But he’s also family.” Then, turning to Mike, he said, “How can we trust you?” Mike looked up. “As long as I know I’m family, I’ll fight for the family.” Brenda looked at John. John shrugged, then she said, “Okay, Mike, welcome home.” Suddenly, the conference room went quiet. Those of us who remained were in shock, including Ms. McIntosh. For the first time, I noticed a faint tinkling sound. I looked up. “That’s strange,” I thought, “another mobile.” This one hung from the ceiling in the corner of the room behind me. It was almost the same design as the one on the desk in my uncle’s office, which I guessed was now my office. The design was simple. It had the same pointing index finger; the rest of the fingers clenched a string. From the string a rod was suspended, from the rod dangled four brass shapes. Every small breeze set the mobile in motion. It had probably been bouncing all over the place a few minutes before, with all the hot air flying through the room. However, I never noticed it until everything was quiet again. The more I thought about it, the more I realized there had been too much excitement and anger. None of this had had to happen. I came into the room, planning to sell the company; all we had to do was vote on it. We would have received the generous offer from Rader. I could have retired early. Aunt Brenda could have had some fun, and we would all have been better off. Now our stock would be worth less than ever before, and most of the board members had been escorted off the premises. That would hurt our reputation. It would just be a matter of time before the next round of attacks. Where did all that money come from? Could we still sell, or was the game over? Now we had to make the company work, or lose everything. Brenda cut the silence. “Okay, let’s stop for lunch and meet in Tommy’s office at two o’clock. Take some time to think about our next move. We have to understand where we are before we go on.” 23

Craig Stevens When we left the conference room, I grabbed Jan’s hand and headed to what was now my office, like it or not. We didn’t wait for Aunt Brenda. She was doing damage control, counseling and consoling the employees along the route to my office. The grapevine was at full capacity, and people were scared; you could see it in their eyes. As we turned the corner, Jill was on the phone, trying to get my attention. “John Rader’s assistant is on hold. She is waiting for me to patch you in to John on your return. What should I tell her?” “How’d he know our meeting was over?” I asked. “No, never mind. It’s obvious. Brew called him.” At least one of his calls must have been to John Rader. “Tell her I will not be talking to her or Mr. Rader today!” I snapped. I pushed Jan into the room and slammed the door a little too hard. I was hot. “It’s frustrating, isn’t it?” Jan asked. “Frustrating? Yes, frustrating. Yes, irritating. Yes, insulting. I’ve worked twenty years trying to break away from other people making decisions for me. At Westbrook Stevens, I’m comfortable, working on interesting projects with good people, and I’m starting to feel like my advice is valued. Now I’m at the helm of a ship that is floundering—no, sinking—and there are no life jackets.” “Nothing worthwhile is easy,” she said. “Easy? This is impossible! Don’t you understand? I am forty-five years old. I worked my whole life to become someone you would be proud of. I want to retire someday, myself.” I sighed, rubbed my head roughly. “If we sold the business, we could retire today, with more money than we ever imagined. If Aunt Brenda financed that little buyout, we’ll probably lose everything. Just because we are at the top and in charge doesn’t mean the story has a happy ending. If it doesn’t work out, where will we be? “We have four kids in private school, only about a hundred and fifty thousand in retirement, and a heavy mortgage. You have a job, I have a job, and we are just starting to make decent money. If we decide to try to save Geronimo Stone Records, there are no guarantees. We have lots to risk. The whole thing is an interruption in our lives.” “Is that what we dream about—safety and no risk?” Jan asked. “If we make this change and fail, do we give up on life, or is it a part of the journey that makes life interesting? I think that’s the way God works; 24

Geronimo Stone he interrupts our plans to give us opportunities. We see them or we don’t. Every time Jesus went on a journey, God interrupted it with an opportunity. Maybe the interruptions are the missions.” “I don’t know about all that, but hey, you’re the woman. You’re the one who’s supposed to want security. If I had no wife or kids, I would love a good fight. But I have responsibilities.” Jan looked at me and said, “Think of it this way—now you have the best of both worlds.” I stood there with my mouth open, not believing my ears. How could anyone enjoy a fight with the future of his family resting on the outcome? What is this supposed to be, a mission from God? Just then, Aunt Brenda walked into the room, carrying a large package. “Thank you for deciding our fate, Aunt Brenda. You should have at least filled me in on what was going to happen in there. If we are going to have a working relationship, I expect to be involved in the decisionmaking.” Aunt Brenda looked at the floor, then at me, and said, “I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen. But as Robert always used to say, “Never hit at all if it is honorably possible not to hit, but never hit soft.”2 “Teddy Roosevelt said that!” I yelled. “Well, Robert said it, too!” Brenda retorted, matching my tone, “These guys broke more than a couple of laws. They went behind our backs and tried to trick us into accepting a rotten deal. What would Robert have done?” “What would you do?” she asked, facing me. “Uncle Robert is no longer here, and I demand to have a say in what I do. From here on out, let’s decide what role I am to play. I will not have any more surprises. Either we agree to my role and responsibilities now, or I walk. Either I am in charge or you are! If you are, I’ll support you; if I am, you support me. In any case, I demand to have a say in things that affect my life.” Everything was quiet for a minute or two; it felt like an hour. Brenda winked at Jan. “That’s exactly what Robert would have said!” Then she looked at me and handed me a package with my name on it. “Tag. You’re it, tough guy,” she beamed.


Chapter 4

The Guiding Hand


t was a large green envelope, addressed to me, from Uncle Robert. On the outside was a penciled sketch of a hand and the letters “GHL.” I looked in the package, which contained an odd collection of things: A Far Side cartoon with a message on the back, a metal cutout of a hand, a number of Post-it notes, a couple of phone numbers and addresses, four books, a video tape, and a to-do list. “Oh great, homework!” I thought. “And a mystery to boot! As if we don’t have enough on our plate, already.” “Your uncle only had a few months to live when he started assembling packages for you,” reflected Brenda. “He did the best he could. I understand some of it, but I don’t know the whole story. He was confident your consulting experience would help you figure out his plan. He did not think you would have much of a struggle.” “Struggle? I don’t want any struggle. This isn’t a game” Jan broke in. “We don’t have a choice. If we are going to preserve your uncle’s legacy, your aunt’s future, and our dreams, not to mention our future inheritance, we have to make this work. So let’s get started!” “As Robert would have said,” continued Brenda, “A ship may be safe in the harbor, but that’s not what the ship was made for.” “I give up! That’s a Greek saying.” “Your uncle was partly Greek.” Brenda cleared the table and carefully poured the items out, meticulously keeping everything in the same order as in the package. “Robert put everything in order,” she explained. On top was a metal cutout of a hand, embossed with the letters GHL. The hand looked familiar, the letters I’d seen before. “That’s the same hand and set of letters on the mobile,” I remembered. I grabbed the mobile off the desk and set it on the table. The hand from the package matched the style of the hand holding the mobile. 27

Craig Stevens Then I asked, “GHL? What does it mean? The package said ‘GH of L.’” “Robert kept saying something about a ‘guiding hand,’” interjected Aunt Brenda. “GHL—maybe it’s the ‘guiding hand of the Lord,’” mused Jan. “True,” Brenda whispered, “that is what many of Robert’s last days were like. When he found out he was dying, he wanted to get right with God. But I don’t think that’s what’s on the hand. You see, the hand cutout came before he started talking about God.” Jan noticed something. “What’s that on the back of the hand?” On the back of the metal hand was a yellow Post-it note. It had a phone number, an address on it, and a name on it—Reverend Tom Monday. A short message read, “First, call Reverend Monday, and then watch the video tape.” Jan said, “You see? The guiding hand of the Lord! Let’s call him.” Before we knew it, Jan was on the phone, asking to speak to Reverend Tom Monday. Over the speakerphone, the minister told us that Geronimo had wanted him to give his nephew a copy of his sermon on love. “The Guiding Hand of Love?” asked Jan, excitedly. We explained about the package, the hand, and the letters. The minister said he remembered Geronimo specifically talked about his mistakes in leadership and said that his sermon reminded him of what he was reading about leadership. Aunt Brenda shouted from the table, “That makes sense; the next item is a Far Side cartoon showing bison traveling in a herd of hundreds. They stretch as far as the eye can see, and then one looks at another—” She continued in a deeper voice, “‘As if we know where we’re going.’ Robert always liked The Far Side. Under the caption, the word ‘leadership’ is penciled in.” “Where are you, Reverend Monday, and how can I pick up a copy of the sermon?” The minister, in a deep, rich, southern accent, explained that he lived in Atlanta, but we did not have to drive down to pick it up. “Can you fax or email it?” “Even easier,” Reverend Monday replied. “You can pull it off the church’s website. It’s in archived sermons, for January 21, 2001.” I guess I remembered the church of my past, because this sounded odd coming from a minister in the Deep South. Of course, I hadn’t been to church in a while. We exchanged email addresses and the website URL; within seconds, Jan had the sermon online. 28

Geronimo Stone The minister explained, “The sermon has a graphic with it, a layered, step-by-step progression of love.”3 “What does it have to do with leadership?” I wondered aloud. “We read the points about reaching ‘agape’ love; explained as a Christ-like or God-like love far beyond what most people ever achieve. It was a truly sacrificial love. The graph showed layers of relationships. It started at the lowest level of acquaintances that led to friendships, friendships led to the best of human love, and then a God-like ‘agape’ love.” He explained that it took time for people to build love, and if we skipped the progression required to have true love, we ended up with less than we wanted and needed. God-like love was at the top, and that was what we strived for. “Your uncle was traveling through Atlanta several months ago, when he stopped at my church one Sunday. I noticed him because he came down front before I was ready for him. He was in a hurry and told me he did not belong to a church, but thought he should find one. He told me he was just passing through and wanted to sit in on our service. After church, he took my wife and me out to lunch. He wanted to talk about the message of love, mainly how the concept worked for leadership.” I asked, “You mean God-like leadership?” “No. We were talking more of a layered, time-dependent approach to empowerment. We drew a couple of graphs out on a white cloth napkin. He paid the waiter for it, but still—a white cloth napkin! It made me feel funny, as if we were destroying property. He paid for it, though, so it was okay. He didn’t care about the money; the idea was more important to him. He left the waiter a great tip, and my church a nice donation. Your uncle was very excited about our conversation. He made me promise to talk to you. I bet you have it there.” “Have what here?” “Look in the package you told me about for a white cloth napkin with some drawings on it.” “Here it is!” Aunt Brenda announced. She pulled from the pile on the table a white napkin with spots on it. She held it tightly for a second, then passed it to me, and said, “Let me guess—you were eating spaghetti that day.” The minister laughed. “That’s the one. We were at a new place, Baraonda, an authentic wood-brick oven pizzeria and café, located in midtown on the corner of Peachtree and 3rd Street, near the Fox Theatre. I had wanted to go there; I love Italian food.”4 29

Craig Stevens We laid out the napkin and found the graphs. We looked at the first one, labeled “First Graph,” and read it aloud so the minister could hear. “‘Graph one, The Soft Side of Incubating Leaders.’5 That doesn’t sound much like Geronimo Stone to me,” I said. “That was my contribution,” beamed the pastor. Figure 1. The Soft Side of Incubating Leaders6


Geronimo Stone Both graphs were drawn in the same style as the minister’s but used different words. The first graph’s vertical axis was labeled “Leadership and Communication.” The horizontal axis was labeled “Time.” On the graph, as time went on, layers were added. The more layers, the higher the rating became on the vertical leadership scale. The minister explained. “In that package, you should also have some of the books I gave him: ‘Built to Last7,’ ‘The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership8,’ ‘Zapp!: The Lightning of Empowerment9,’ and ‘Lincoln on Leadership.’”10 “Should we send them back to you?” Jan inquired. “No. Your uncle more than paid for them with his donation, and I have already replaced them. Let me explain the graph.” He took a deep breath. “Your uncle and I built a long distance relationship after that lunch. He explained what you were going to have to deal with and told me about his regrets in failing to train and empower his employees. “He realized too late that he could not expect to find the perfect person to replace a legend. In your package, the book ‘Built to Last,’ by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras, explains that companies that have had lasting impacts have certain things in common.11 One of the authors’ points is that companies ‘built-to-last’ are organized to prosper, even as leaders change. They use the concept of not being based on ‘time tellers’ but rather ‘clock builders.’ These organizations are not reliant on great leaders who have all the answers. Like the ‘time teller’ who could miraculously tell time with one hundred percent accuracy, day or night, just by looking at the sky. Rather, they empower organizational structures that lead the company to success. More like clocks that can tell time long after the time teller is gone. The better choice is for a leader to be a ‘clock builder.’ “Your uncle wanted to help you understand how to manage his company. Therefore, to define good, or better yet, excellent management, we must start with excellent leadership.” “You know us consultants. Just like authors, we are always dividing things up and redefining concepts. So we can market them to companies and make a little money,” I explained. “We have created cottage industries, dividing concepts like leadership and management, or customers and clients, and we have had great success. We have convinced people that leadership is more important than management and that you can’t manage people. I think it has caused confusion for companies. Some people now want to be known as project leaders instead of project managers.” 31

Craig Stevens “Your uncle and I looked at a specific model on excellent management, developed by—oh, I don’t remember the name.12 Based on that model, to have excellent management you must first start with excellent leadership. It is the first step. Don’t worry about anything else until you have this. Oh, I know the term is over-used but think ‘outside of the box’ and define leadership broadly. The leaders are more than just the few people at the top or only the natural charismatic people in charge, like your uncle. Leadership should be a part of every employee’s job. “One of our members here told me about a speaker from Johnson City, Tennessee that he met. The speaker was the quality manager at Tennessee Eastman. He said, ‘our company used to have fourteen thousand people, but only four hundred were paid to think. Our goal now is to have fourteen thousand people paid to think.’13 “That is one of the biggest problems at our church, also. The great commission was for everyone, not just the leaders at the top. It is not easy to build a competent, empowered team of leaders. Especially with the cliques that form naturally. “Your uncle told me he was always the time teller. He did the thinking; for that reason, he knew you were going to have trouble. He discovered his mistake too late. This is why you are there now, instead of someone else. Your uncle knew you had the ability to lead, and you understand that everyone in the company has to be involved in the company’s success. He admired you and bragged about you often. He said you always tried to tell him that a single leader in charge of everything no longer worked.” We heard a knock on the pastor’s door and muffled voices. The pastor excused himself for a moment. When Reverend Monday came back, in and said, “Let’s get back to the first graph, and then I have to take care of some business. “When developing excellent managers and leaders,” he said, “one must think of incubation, as suggested in the title of the graph. Building leaders takes time and a step-by-step layering approach. First, there has to be commitment. Managers must understand their employees, but understanding takes time. It will only occur with perseverance. I cannot take someone off the street, bring him to Georgia Tech14 or Vanderbilt University,15 and make him a good engineer or minister. I cannot force anyone to get an education. This is where many organizations fail. Likewise, you cannot force someone to become a leader. You cannot empower someone without commitment and you also cannot give someone commitment. Commitment is not only a desire, it is also the 32

Geronimo Stone willingness to make the required sacrifices. Accordingly, in the graph, the first step is commitment to becoming a leader. The commitment must be from both the company and the people and will grow with time, if handled properly. “After commitment, you start building understanding. You must try to understand the people on your team, and they must try to understand the requirements of their jobs, as well as what it takes to succeed. This happens only after all parties have demonstrated commitment to the hard work of learning what is required of them. When people start understanding, they become sensitive to the political, personal, and technical issues related to others and the work they do.” I broke in, “Sensitive? That doesn’t sound like my uncle, either.” “Right, but sensitivity helps to build respect for people and the requirements of individual jobs. For example, a single mother has issues related to time. If you disregard her time issues, no one wins. An immature person never gets past his or her own selfish point of view. The younger and less experienced a person is, the less able they are to be sensitive to the needs of others or to understand how issues affect estimations of schedules, cost, quality, or productivity. However, respect can be a two-edged sword. When people understand political issues associated with company decisions, respect can quickly become disrespect. And of course, patience only comes after respect. Well, that’s all I have time for right now; I’m late for a committee meeting. Call me in a couple of days, if you like, and let me know where you are in this process. I’m interested.” Jan broke in, “But what about the other graph?” “I never really had much to say about the other one. Your uncle came up with that one by himself, based on our conversations. But keep in touch. We’ll talk later.” Two raps at our door punctuated the click of the minister hanging up the phone.


Chapter 5

Understanding the Guiding Hand


opened the door, “Hello, Ivan, Mike, and Dr. Steven Baldridge Demmings III.” I liked saying that. Dr. Demmings looked at me for a long moment, and replied, “Stick with Steven, that’s what people call me.” “Sorry about that, Dr. Steven.” He shook his head and replied, “You’ve had lunch?” “No, we haven’t. We’ve been busy in here. A lot to do.” Ivan broke in. “That’s why we brought this.” Ivan went to the door and brought in three large bags of food from the Tin Angel.16 “What’s in there?” I asked. “That’s the pasta Mediterranean, tossed with sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts. If you don’t want that, there are other things. I got an assortment.” “Jan loves artichokes.” The food was a welcome sight to all of us. Although this was my first day at Geronimo Stone Records, it had already been a rough one, and we had much work yet to do. The business and management issues would soon be a soap opera. Before we could make changes, we had to learn the secrets of the mobile. For my uncle to have gone through all this trouble, it had to have been important to him, and therefore, helpful to us. Uncle Robert had been a practical man, and he would not have asked us to run rabbit trails that led us away from our goals. As we ate, we explained the package and filled the newcomers in on the latest developments. “Which brings us to the second graph,” I said. Dr. Steven explained, “Your uncle and I created the second graph based on the first one. It does make sense. You see, after a person transitions through the first graph, as you explained it, he, or she, would be 35

Craig Stevens more mature and better able to implement leadership skills. That would allow them to deal more effectively with people, and start getting more mileage from their teammates. The second graph explains how to achieve results. “Your uncle knew that in order to get results, someone would have to build a team approach to leadership. We decided you would be the one to empower everyone. Those who would commit to the process would become the leaders. It’s a big deal. You see, he realized, too late, that unless someone changed our method and style of leadership, the company would become another historical footnote.” “What about those who don’t commit?” I asked. “That’s a good question. You’ll have to think about that one.” “You mean, we will have to think about that one.” “No, I’m too old to play ‘wait and see’ games. Not only that, but also what happened in this mornings meeting really hurt. Those are my friends. At least, I thought they were. That whole thing was a big shock. But you do have the right idea; the only way a company can thrive in today’s fast-paced world is for everyone to participate in the leadership efforts. “There’s a new book called ‘Good to Great.17’ Read it. What you are talking about is in there. You have to get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus, or at least in different seats. No one person in a bureaucratic hierarchy can react fast enough to make a difference. In a fast-paced, innovative, or creative environment, the chain of command interferes with competition, but that doesn’t let you off the hook. You’re the top dog now. You’ll have to paint the vision and keep everyone heading in the right direction.” Dr. Steven went to the books on the table that we’d removed from the package and picked up one. “Here! Here is one of my favorite books on leadership—John Maxwell’s ‘The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.’ He says it all in this book. Your uncle introduced this book to me.” He thumbed through the book, looking for a page. “Listen to this: ‘law number 20, The Law of Explosive Growth…To add growth, lead followers – To multiply, lead leaders.’ We need to multiply our efforts; we need everyone to become leaders in what they do best.18 Let me draw it out for you on the white board.” Dr. Steven went to the board and drew a hierarchical goals tree.19


Geronimo Stone Figure 2. The Goals Tree20

He explained that all goals had to connect to the highest company goals. The entire company had to make sure every goal connected to the goal tree. If any personal or divisional goals did not connect to the top goal, we would look there to make changes. “At the same time,” Dr. Steven continued, “we need to include plans that don’t seem to fit but are possible improvements to our own plans. If an ill-conforming goal works better than what we have, the entire system may need to be adjusted. Of course, it is possible that by doing this the entire company will benefit from new ideas.” 37

Craig Stevens Dr. Steven went on to explain the second graph. “In the first graph, you explained how leadership develops over time, as people-centeredmaturity is gained. In the second graph, the leader/manager is ready to deal with people, and we build on leadership maturity to get better results. This graph shows us that getting results requires a step-by-step process, similar to the first graph. Leadership maturity is the foundation of the second graph. When the person is mature enough to listen to ideas, and respected enough to be heard, the young leader is ready to participate in the communication of information, goals, and expectations. Figure 3. Manager’s Keys to Results21

With an open flow of information comes trust. Just as you don’t trust someone who hides information from you, your employees likewise won’t trust a company that withholds information from them. We build trust on the free flow of honest information. Next comes education and training .” I expressed my agreement. “This all makes sense. It is exactly what I used to tell my uncle all the time. I have seen this a hundred times. Companies send their people to training programs to learn the best way to do something, but when they get back, they don’t have enough clout 38

Geronimo Stone to implement their training. Or they don’t trust that the company will listen to new concepts, so they don’t pay attention, and the training is wasted. Everyone knows being trained in the best way to do something is no guarantee it will work back at the office, so everyone loses. The training just does not stick.” “Great!” agreed Dr. Steven. “Only after the leader is trained should the person be empowered. You don’t hand the keys of your new car over to your fifteen-year-old son. You should never just empower newer or untrained people to make decisions.” “This is great. I kept explaining the need for empowerment to my uncle, and he kept saying it would never work. This means he finally understood.” “Yes, but mostly, he just ran out of options,” said Dr. Steven. I continued, “Whenever I talk about empowerment to managers of other companies they always say, ‘We tried that, and our employees just took advantage of it.’ The layered approach solves the empowerment problem. We want people to be empowered, but we also have to enforce the rules of the company and the laws of the land. Empowerment only comes after leadership maturity, the correct and required company information is shared, and after we build trust between all parties.” “Right,” said Dr. Steven. “After one is trained, empowerment is possible—which brings us to ownership and cooperation in the decision-making process. After empowerment, ownership and cooperation can be expected. We would not give full reign to a manager without the skills needed to manage, and we shouldn’t empower workers until they are ready and understand the rules. Then comes evaluation. Evaluations should occur only after this point. We cannot expect people to do well until they mature, are trusted with the correct information, and then empowered to make a difference. After all this comes recognition. Positive recognition should follow achievement and good effort. However, if evaluations show a need for improvements, very private negative recognition is appropriate. Just remember that positive recognition is very important; use it whenever possible.” Walking around the table, I said, “That all makes sense. Hey, I almost forgot. Uncle Robert wanted us to watch the videotape after we talked to the reverend.” I looked around the room, Mike, Ivan, and Brenda were sitting around, watching Steven and I interact, as if we were entertainment. John never did come in, but that was to be expected. He had to attend to 39

Craig Stevens security issues. Jan looked for the videotape. She found it, stuck it into the VCR, and pushed a button or two. Almost immediately—nothing happened. It needed rewinding. That gave everyone a chance to take a break. Minutes later, we were back, and Jan started the VCR. On the tape, Uncle Robert sat at his desk; someone held the camera as he talked. It had been a couple of years since I’d seen him. The man on the tape did not look like the uncle I remembered. He seemed smaller—paler and grayer than I remembered. My aunt said he had been sick when he made the tape. He still had that military bearing, a very correct posture. His voice was strong and commanding. If it weren’t for the obviously weakened appearance, I would not have recognized that he was under great stress. “Hello, Tom,” Geronimo began. “By this time, you have taken charge. I congratulate you. You were my first choice, and I believe you can do this. You have always been smart and strong. Now you will have to use your education and training and all those ideas you used to bug me with. This opportunity is full of threats and risks. By now, you have the first package of seven that you will receive. They contain rough notes and symbols of what I think you should know before you start leading Geronimo Stone Records. At least, that’s my plan.” At that moment, Geronimo started coughing, and the camera lens moved down until it showed the feet of the person taping; whoever it was wore a pair of men’s boots—large pale snakeskin boots. Then the video went black for a second, before restarting. Uncle Robert spoke again, without missing a beat. “By now, if you followed my instructions, you should have figured out the first two graphs. Leadership takes everyone’s participation. Start the empowerment process as soon as you finish this tape. I never figured it out until I got sick. If it had not been for my current weakness, I would still be traveling the same trail. I would still be driving this company farther into the ground by running off the best and brightest. I thought I had plenty of time to find someone to run the company. The world has changed, but Brew and I would have selected the right person in a couple of years, if you were not interested. Now, you are that person.” He paused. “I told you that you have seven packages,” he continued. “You will get each new package as you finish the one that came before it. If you read the books in the first package, you will understand more. Your 40

Geronimo Stone aunt has learned a lot about this business during the last few years. Trust her and your staff—Brew, Steven, and the others. They will help you through this.” The mention of Brew stunned us all as the tape went blank. Looking at my aunt, I asked, “Didn’t he know Brew’s character?” Aunt Brenda answered, “I think Brew had us all convinced of his loyalty. We don’t need him. Brew would have only gotten in the way. He never bought into this ‘changing world’ stuff. He still thinks he’s in charge of an army. He’s very chain-of-command-oriented. Anyway,” Brenda continued, “Brew has gone off the deep end. He’s self-centered and convinced of his own importance. He wasn’t always that way. His whole life was about sacrifice and placing the company and his family first. That was before he divorced Lucy and started living with that gold digger from New York. That shameless hussy taught him that power, money, prestige, and material goods are how people judge your success. She was too young, beautiful, and talented for her own good. Too young for him anyway. They started hanging out after he heard her sing, and he fell for her eyes and her lies. Watch out for her. She’s a beauty on the surface, but when she removes her makeup at night, she’s pure rattlesnake. But don’t worry too much; I don’t think we’ll be seeing her around here.” My aunt took the whole thing very personally. She and Lucy had been close friends, and she never forgave Brew for the lost friendship. To get the meeting back on track, I suggested we plan to empower everyone we could. We had to change the entire way the company made decisions. The process would take some time. But how much did we have? We spent the next hour planning. Suddenly, John Wayne Cooper burst into the room. “We have a problem. People are panicking. Some of the managers have started turning in letters of resignation. A couple of people have left the building with boxes, and others are crying. I talked to Jim, from production. He said he received a call from Brew, offering him a position and a raise if he would come to John Rader’s company. Jim said Brew told him that Geronimo Stone Records was about to go bankrupt, and this was his only chance to get out.” “Ivan,” John said, “We need you to shut down email. I think people have tried to transfer files. I asked your people to stop outgoing emails, but they need your help.” I have my people posted at the doors now,” said John, “They’ll stop anyone from removing papers or boxes.” 41

Craig Stevens As Ivan left, Jill looked in, and said, “I have your phone hooked into the intercom, so everyone should be able to hear you when you’re ready. I also turned off the phone system. No calls are coming in or going out. Anyone calling gets our nighttime message to call tomorrow, during regular business hours. That should buy you time with the newspapers. We can turn on outgoing calls after your announcement. Right now, the only calls coming in or going out are on cell phones.” Jill was always a step ahead, but my thoughts now were—what do we do next? I did ask Jill to turn the phones back on, but also to divert all incoming and outgoing calls through the switchboard. “Have the front desk explain that our system will be down for an hour.”


Chapter 6

State of the Company


veryone in the room stared at me. “Okay, people, it’s four PM, and the exodus is starting. Jill, you get on the intercom and announce that there will be a state-of-the-company address in ten minutes. That should keep everyone hanging around. Have the talent people, public relations, and marketing meet me in the conference room at five. Ask the managers to meet me at five-thirty. I want damage assessments. Let’s all meet back here at six. Jan, you and Brenda write three to five points we need to address. We have five minutes to speak.” They nodded. “Dr. Steven,” I said, looking at him, “I need you to help me decide how to handle this. John, go back out and make sure everything is under control. Be gentle; tell whomever you see that we would like them to hang around until after the message. Check with Ivan, in case he needs support.” Before we knew it, it was show time. Jan and Brenda came up with five points, Dr. Steven and I decided to tell as much of the story as we could, but only address the basics, so not to overwhelm anyone. We would keep it simple. People actually returned to the building to hear the address. Jill stuck her head in the door and said, “You’re on. You’re on—for the—state-of-the-company address!” I cleared my voice and winked at my wife, who took my free hand. I picked up the phone and started to talk. “Hello, this is Tommy Stone; I’m the new CEO of Geronimo Stone Records. Most of you do not know me yet, but that will change very soon. Monday, we will have an all-hands meeting to explain what is happening at Geronimo Stone Records. We will answer questions, expose rumors, and show you our vision of our future. “What you need to know as you go home for the weekend is: No one has bought us out; no one is going to buy us out—that is, as long as I can count on each of you to help make this company successful. We 43

Craig Stevens have had offers, but they will not be accepted. Let me make this clear: the only way we will accept any future offer is if we decide jointly, as a company. What we have decided to do is to expand your control over the work you each perform and to give you more voice in things that affect your work. “Second: we are not going bankrupt. We are not close to filing for bankruptcy, and with your help, we never will. Geronimo Stone Records will remain our company. “Third: there will be no layoffs in the foreseeable future. With Geronimo’s passing, you are all needed more than ever. The only people who have left were those who wanted to, or who hurt the interests of Geronimo Stone Records. They did not have our customers’ interests, your interests, or the company’s interests on their agendas. If we all work together, everyone who wants to participate in the success of this company will get a shot. The payroll is safe. Everyone will continue to get paychecks. We will have no trouble meeting any outstanding commitments. “Fourth: we are going to change the way we do business. We have talented people, and we will continue to survive as a company. There will be major changes, but to make these changes possible, we need each of you to help lead us into a more competitive position in the market. We need you to help make us the best. Come back on Monday with your sleeves rolled up and bring your ideas for improvement. Bring questions. Bring complaints. We are going to do more than survive; we are going to be the best. I’ll see you Monday. Here’s Brenda Stone to say a few words.” Brenda grabbed the phone and said, “Hi—this is Brenda. Tommy, my nephew, has asked me to say a few words, but before I do that, I want to thank all of you for the support you’ve given me over the last couple of months. I greatly appreciate it. Geronimo was very proud of you for helping so much while he was sick. It is my deepest desire to repay the loyalty you showed me with my personal loyalty to you. “This morning, we bought out the executives who never worked much, anyway. We don’t need them, do we? We know how the work is done, don’t we? This has affected the power structure of the entire company. Now is your chance to show us what you have. We are going to make mistakes, but so did they and so did Robert and I. Believe me; we are going to make this work. I think most of you will be pleased with what we have planned. Play hard this weekend, go to church Sun44

Geronimo Stone day, and sleep well Sunday night. I’ll see you, bright and early, Monday morning. As Robert used to say, “We have not yet begun to fight!”22 I rolled my eyes and said softly to Brenda as she handed me the phone, “Churchill said that.” She pushed me back, shrugged, and smiled. “So?” We heard a muffled roar. “Is that the ‘We Will Rock You’ beat?”23 I looked around the room; everyone was smiling. “Well, Mrs. Churchill, we have bought ourselves some time.” Brenda hugged me close and whispered, “Actually, it was John Paul Jones who said, ‘I have not yet begun to fight.’”24 I was shocked. “No—could it all be an act?” I wondered. “I better pull myself together; we only have ten minutes to prepare for the marketing meeting.” I expected little trouble from this group. Dr. Steven handpicked these people, but even then, his top A&R performer did not show up. Jim “Elvis” Franks had decided to leave and cash in with Brew. That would hurt. They called him “Little Elvis,” or sometimes “Star Hanger.” He had brought in two of the last five successes we had. In addition, the top two marketing guys were absent. We told those present the whole story and asked them to come prepared for action on Monday. “I want a plan that we can start implementing Monday,” I said. They were all professionals, and because of Dr. Steven’s forwardthinking management style, they were possibly the only group in the building who had had practice making decisions. Even with the missing players, I expected good things to happen Monday. Jill looked in and said, “Round two. The managers are lining up.” As the first group left, I explained, “We need three plans, one for the public, one for our loyal customers, and one for the talent. Prepare the media releases tonight and email them to me!” The managers filed in. This was the worst-case scenario. According to Dr. Steven, less than half of the managers had stayed with us, the greenest—the ones who were just getting started; some were just out of college. Jeanine Wallace, the senior manager, took Dr. Steven into the hall and said, “A lot of people, including myself, have been offered positions by Brew. He’s convinced them that Geronimo is finished. He said you would try to convince us it wasn’t, but you had already received an offer from John Rader, and it would soon be a done deal.” 45

Craig Stevens I only caught part of the conversation, but ushered them inside to include the rest of the group in the discussion. I knew from experience that rumors soon become worse than the truth. Jeanine, caught off guard, stumbled to find the right words. She viewed information as power, and she had the information. When I asked her to explain to the group the phone conversations with Brew, she reluctantly and slowly recounted what she knew. I asked Jeanine why she decided not to go with Brew. Jeanine explained, “To be honest, I haven’t yet. I have been here a long time, and it hasn’t always been fun. I work hard, and I know the business, but I have never felt I had any say in decisions that matter. If I left with that sleazebag, I would be walking into a situation where I would retire a paper manager. I would work just as hard, but end up in a more bureaucratic company, with less to show for my work. Here, well—I think I’ll be needed. “Brew and his crew kept the lines of communication closed. They wanted the power it gave them. With all the decision-makers gone, the only way we are going to survive is to open the lines. I’m not sure I like that idea; I kind of like having power, for a change. With all due respect, you can never know everything about this business. Heck, you could never know everything I know about my part in this business without spending the time I spend doing it. I feel it’s my turn to do what I do best—make things happen and manage my area of expertise. I want to make things happen with power for a while. If I go to work with Brew, I’ll be even farther down on the food chain.” She stopped, looked hard at me, and said, “I’ll do my part.” Raising a finger, she added, “Don’t let me down!” Aunt Brenda had been quiet up to this point. “We are going to do things differently from now on. We are going to empower everyone in this company to lead. Everyone has to be in control of his or her own work. There will be no one-person bottlenecks for power or communications. Can you live with that, Jeanine?” “Well,” Jeanine responded. “I want to be in control. I don’t know if I like this talk about empowerment. My production facilities are my business, and no one messes with them. If I’m not in control, I may as well go with the next opportunity for more money.” The meeting became louder as pent-up frustrations flowed out of the under-appreciated managers. In the past, they had just followed orders and never had any say. The executives liked it that way. Geronimo liked it that way. Power was a big deal. Most of these people hung 46

Geronimo Stone around because they liked not having to make a decision, needed the money and were afraid to leave, or expected to replace the executives above them soon. After all, the board members were getting older. Many managers in the room expected to be the new power brokers. They saw this as an opportunity to gain power and control. I explained that the changes we were going to implement would include empowering the entire workforce. Dr. Steven explained the graphs and how research had shown that in a fast-paced changing, creative, and innovative environment, companies that move the fastest have an advantage. I also explained that we needed everyone ready to lead, for us to be flexible and move fast. That meant that those doing the work should have control over their work. Brenda added, “The more you need your managers, supervisors, or leaders, the less they need you.” She looked at me, winked, and said, “I read that one somewhere.” I added, “The second half of that is—those who don’t ask for help create the biggest problems. We have to make it safe for people to ask for help. Even the janitors are going to have to manage their own work. This is not about power; it is about surviving and thriving—being the best and competing with the rest. This is why we have had such a high turnover—too many power brokers.” The meeting went on longer than expected; when I left, I wasn’t sure who would return on Monday. I told Aunt Brenda, “We have to know who’s with us and who’s not. If we are going to build a different culture around here, then everyone has to participate. It takes a long time to change a culture but we don’t have that luxury. They’ll either buy in or sell out, but we need to start the process today.” I looked at my watch. “We’re out of time. The vision and mission will have to be addressed on Monday to the entire staff.” There was one good sign; everyone seemed ready to accept the required changes. If this had been a less open or more established group, we would have undoubtedly seen more resistance and would have heard complaints about theory vs. real life. Experience has taught me that you can always tell a person who is flying by the seat of their pants or threatened by new ideas, by their words. They often use the word theory to try to discredit the ideas of others. But since this group was fairly well educated in management theory, they understood the principles related to knowledge workers. During the following executive meeting, we decided to spend the weekend preparing for Monday. Our situation was not hopeless, but it would require a lot of effort. 47

Craig Stevens Jan and I were staying at Aunt Brenda’s house and it seemed a long drive back that night. She lived on a three hundred-acre horse farm in Brentwood, Tennessee, with an upscale collection of neighbors consisting of retired executives turned gentlemen farmers, recording artists, songwriters, and Nashville’s who’s who of stars and industry executives. When we got there, I remembered how big it was. It had been in Brenda’s family for years. The original two hundred-year-old mansion was still in use, but it was more of a party house now. Concerts for friends and family were often held there. Industry bigwigs from New York and LA often spent the night. Many of the rooms served as museums for the recording industry. Old electronic wonders were displayed in most of the rooms. The walls were covered with pictures of stars, audiences, engineers, and cameramen in the Grand Ole Opry or recording studios. There were gold and platinum records, cassette tapes, CDs and even, to Jan’s surprise, eight-track tapes and reels. Often, people visiting spent hours sitting and remembering how the industry had started. The entire estate could have served as both a museum and art gallery. All the artwork was from either Uncle Robert or Aunt Brenda. As we walked in the front entrance, Uncle Robert’s paintings of the Legends Golf Course25 were the first pieces of art you saw. Our suite was in the newer section of the house, on the same floor and wing as Aunt Brenda’s master bedroom. She and Uncle Robert had had the rest of the mansion updated and restored before he fell ill. It was very spacious, full of windows looking out in all directions. One could view the sunrise while running on a treadmill and eat breakfast while watching the flowers grow in the gardens. During lunch, we could look out the big picture windows, or sit on one of the decks. One could see and hear spring water flowing into a sparkling pool surrounded by fountains and watch horses run in the fields. The rooms had marble walls that made you feel as if you were in Italy. At dinner, we could watch the sunset, framed by tree-rich mountains. We could spend the whole day outside without ever leaving the house, and at night, we could fall asleep viewing the stars as we lay in bed looking through a skylight, which had electronically retractable drapes. Friday night, we did just that. In the morning, I awoke to a ray of sunlight warming my cheek. Squinting, I got up to adjust the drapes. While at the window, I heard voices, and looked out the floor to ceiling window, down onto the long, tree-lined driveway. A large white van from Fine Art Auctions had 48

Geronimo Stone pulled up next to the front door, and a man in a green sports coat and tie walked around with a clipboard. Two other men in hunter green jumpsuits were carefully loading pieces of art and antiques. Aunt Brenda stood with her hands on her hips, giving orders to the movers, pointing from items to clipboard and back again as the man with the tie took notes. I woke Jan, threw on my clothes, hurried down the steps to the main foyer, and rushed to the front door. As I reached the door, Aunt Brenda was coming in. “You city boys sure do sleep late.” She smiled. “What’s the deal with the movers?” I asked. Brenda answered, “How did you think we were going to finance our turnaround? I don’t believe in debt; Dave Ramsey wouldn’t like that. I used my savings, sold my stock, and made deals with a couple of art galleries and museums. The farm is safe for now, but a lot of the junk will have to go. You better get busy, boy, if you want to hang around this place, or you might be sold as junk.” “We should have accepted the offer,” I grunted. “Okay, mister, you’re starting to get on my last nerve. Do you think I want these things to outlast me? Do you think I take pleasure from a bunch of stuff that will have to be divided up when I’m gone? You need to get your priorities in order; we are here to help others. I know my purpose; you had better find yours. I never liked living in a museum, anyway. Robert was the collector. It entertained clients and preserved history.” “Yeah, but what about his artwork?” She looked at me with understanding eyes, then said, “Where do you think he would want to see them hanging? I’m giving it—no, I’m selling it—to places where more people can enjoy it. It’s part of his legacy. In the bargain, I buy time to rebuild Geronimo Stone Records. I think it’s a good deal. I still own the image. We will be reproducing the paintings as Giclees26 and might even make a little money. “Tommy, you had better start counting your blessings. No one lives forever, and the people at our company have families and lives, too. Now, make yourself useful and get ready for that meeting at noon. Make me proud.” Just then, Jan walked in and grabbed my waist. “Care for some breakfast, Tommy?” she asked, as she ushered me into the kitchen, where she had already started to cook. Jan always knew when to step in to keep me out of trouble. We sat, ate, and talked about our next steps while Brenda badgered the movers. 49

Chapter 7

The Cable that Holds Us Together


y wife Jan is very smart and very good with numbers. As a consultant, she designed, developed, and implemented accounting and bookkeeping systems for several different companies over the last fifteen years. At this stage of our lives, she was able to spend more of her time with our kids, but she still worked hard on her clients’ books. It was a good thing it was summer. The kids were spending a month with her mother in California, giving Jan and me time to plan. We needed Jan’s expertise; the entire accounting and financial department had turned in their two-week notices or had simply left. “I guess you’re our new CFO, Jan,” I said. Jan rolled her eyes and said, “Great, another troubled company, but this time there’s no support. Piece of cake. We are going to need some help. I’ll call my old company and ask them to send us a couple of accountants and bookkeepers, and we’ll run a couple of ads and find replacements. However, we’re talking about at least three months before we start gaining control of the books. Maybe we should sub this out—after all, it isn’t one of the core competencies; it isn’t what we want to be the best in the world at.” “Hey, y'all.” John’s wife, Tracy, an attractive, well-dressed, slender lady, in her fifties, entered the room and grabbed Jan in a bear hug. “You look great, sweetie. John’s out in the jeep gathering stuff for your meeting, and we honked at Steven down the road getting gas. He should be here in a couple of minutes.” Brenda came into the room, slapped a green package to my midsection, and said, “Here’s the next one, sweetie pie.” I grabbed the package and flipped it over; it was addressed to me and labeled with the acronym “CSHUT.” We’ve only scanned the material from the first package. But there were no great surprises. I’ve 51

Craig Stevens already read most of the books and reviewed enough to remember the major points. So we agreed to go though the material as quickly as we could and formulate plans as we went. I led the group to the dining room table and emptied the contents of the second package. Like the first package, we made sure not to disrupt the order of things as they fell onto the table. The second set of clues was a collection of cartoons, a piece of string, some drawings, a videotape, used Post-it notes, and a stack of papers stapled together. “What’s this string for?” Jan asked, as she picked up the piece of string. Brenda went into the other room and returned, carrying an exact copy of the paperweight mobile from my uncle’s home office. At that moment, Steven and John walked into the room, having stopped in the kitchen for coffee. “How many of those things did he have?” John asked, with his mouth half-full of a ham and biscuit sandwich he’d thrown together in the kitchen. “More than you know,” answered Brenda. “You remember how he liked to collect junk.” A label with the letters “CSHUT” was attached by a piece of tape to both the string connected to the mobile and the string we found in the package. Jan picked up a drawing and said, “This must be our next clue.” She pulled out a drawing of a string or cable that unwound into several strands. Uncle Robert labeled the ends of each strand with different words. Jan explained, “The drawing is entitled: CSHUT! That would be, Culture: the String that Holds Us Together.” Steven gave Jan a pat on the back. “Pretty good, Jan.” Aunt Brenda inserted the videotape into the VCR, then said, “I know what comes next; this will save us some time.” On the videotape, Robert was again sitting behind his desk. It must have been recorded soon after the first tape; his appearance hadn’t changed much. You could tell he wasn’t feeling any better, but at least he didn’t look any worse. He wasn’t quite as stiff as in the first tape. Again, someone was taping the message for him. “Hello, Tommy. I trust you have everything under control. I am sure Steven and Brew have been of great help to you. By now, I know you’ve figured out that the mobile is important to understanding the message I am trying to leave you. I like to call it my ‘Mobile of Excellent Management.’27 Actually, the mobile was not my idea. I took it from a man I met a couple of years ago. 52

Geronimo Stone “The hand at the top of the mobile represents leadership. Leadership is the first step in excellent management. The materials in the first package should help you understand what it takes to be a good leader, but now, back to the mobile. It hangs in perfect balance; so should excellent management. If you have a mobile hanging in the room, the only way that it becomes ‘mobile’ is if someone grabs it and carries it where it needs to go. Symbolically, grabbing the mobile and moving it within our organization is leadership. Nothing else matters if leadership is not present. If leadership is not excellent, nothing else will be. Therefore, leadership is the first step. “I realize that my leadership was not ideal. The responsibility of leadership has to be shared with all of the people doing the work. If it is not, you will be sorry. Someone will leave, creating a vacuum, and that will cause problems for the organization. Obviously, empowerment is important. “The cable represents the second step of the process. The hand is no more important than the cable; it just comes before the string. The cable represents culture. Leadership is no more important than culture; it just has to improve before culture can improve. Therefore, an organization’s ‘culture’ is the next attribute in the Mobile of Excellent Management. “We compare culture to the string on which the mobile hangs, because without the string, the mobile falls apart. Likewise, without a working culture, an organization falls apart. I explained this to Brew; he understands it. Because I never empowered our workforce, empowered leadership is not a part of our culture. No program can be successful if a good working culture is not addressed and developed. It is equivalent to cutting the string holding up the elements of the mobile. “Tommy, you and your staff have to keep the culture together. If the string breaks, the organization will fall apart. It will take you some time to change the culture, but it has to be done. I am afraid I have not allowed the culture to be flexible enough for my—I mean, our company to survive my passing. It is going to take the whole staff to move Geronimo Stone Records forward. “Steven studied these cultural issues; have him explain them to you. Brew will help you implement them. He is a master manipulator. If he can’t make the organization do what he wants, no one can.” “No one but me,” Aunt Brenda added. “Be sure to give Jan and those kids of yours a big hug, and pinch Brenda for me. You have your work cut out for you.” 53

Craig Stevens Before the tape went blank, the camera moved away, and we heard Robert say, in a muffled voice, “How did I do?” A female voice responded, “Fine. Now take your medicine.” “He sure believed in Brew,” I said. “He expected everyone to be a part of this effort. I wonder what he would say now. Who was that lady’s voice, anyway?” “I don’t know, but that sure was odd, and somebody else filmed the first one,” said Brenda. Her face was etched with concern. “Well, Dr. Steven, you’re up. He said you understand all this ‘culture’ stuff.” Dr. Steven looked at the drawing and went to a white board that he’d brought in with him. He started by saying, “This is good stuff. Your uncle was very creative. I liked the mobile idea from the start.” “Do you know what all this mobile stuff means?” I asked. “Most of it, but I promised not to reveal it until you were ready. I will explain one package at a time. Pay attention. Organizational culture issues are important. For example, before a company can benefit from programs like Total Quality Management (or TQM), continuous improvement, Six Sigma, Quality Standards (like ISO), quality management, or any other system or process, people have to accept them first. They have to be ready to develop, implement, and use the program. Like the man said, ‘When the cultural string is cut, the program will fall apart.’ Many programs fail because no one considers the difficulty of creating an accepting or outwardly competitive culture. An organization’s people must be ready to use the program they are trying to implement. “In the literary searches I have done, authors use certain words and concepts when talking about an organization’s culture. One may read words and phrases such as ‘employee’s internal environment,’ ‘values, and ethics,’ ‘supporting partnerships and communication.’ You may read about the focus of the company. For example, the company may focus on quality or safety, or something else entirely. They may refer to having a ‘quality mind-set’ or ‘quality orientation.’ You may read about companies embracing change or valuing employee satisfaction. You may hear about celebrating successes or supporting training and education. Culture could be defined as having high standards and expectations or supporting empowerment and employee participation.” 54

Geronimo Stone Figure 4. The Cable of Culture28

I asked Steven, “So what about this drawing?” “Geronimo liked these concepts,” Steven continued. “He saw these as strands, or as Geronimo would say, ‘cables, of the string of culture.’ Of all the issues important to the success of any organization, he insisted that values were the most important. If you look at the problems in the world today, many have a lot to do with values. Economic problems often come from people not following the rules. I added, “As an industrial and systems engineer, we say the systems only work when people follow the rules.” “In the commercial environment we live in, companies use shock techniques to grab attention. Geronimo never advertised or supported things he knew were going to come back and bite him. He reasoned that if you tried to justify the unruly, disrespectful image of music groups for money, one day that culture would be part of your organization. I think it is deeper than that. For example, I believe if you break women down into sex objects, one day that set of values will hurt someone you love. Your daughter and granddaughter have to live in the society you help create. I have seen this repeatedly in my lifetime. It all boils down to money, or maybe the justification of a deviant behavior. 55

Craig Stevens Corporate culture helps cause this problem by capitalizing on the lowest common denominator. Geronimo hated unruly, undisciplined lifestyles. He thought that we accepted way too much crap in the lives of our leaders. He used to say people in power seemed to be out for what was best for them and what they could get out of other people. He would have hated to see Brew do what he did.” “Robert always said, ‘you can judge the character of a man by the way he treats those who can do nothing for him,’”29 beamed Brenda. “He said the only way to select the leader is to find someone with high values. At least that way, you know the decisions they make will be based on the values they have. He said the smartest person in the world, if he had poor values, would make the worst decisions for everyone, except maybe himself. But even that is unlikely.” “The worldview is important to culture,” continued Steven. “If you have a religious worldview, you act in accordance with that religion. When I was growing up, it was hard to find anyone who worked Sunday. In different parts of the world, people fear demons and give offerings to gods. Some believe in no god, and their religion is faith in no god. A worldview could also include political beliefs, democracy, communism, totalitarianism, and so on. Some peoples’ worldviews comes from positions of poverty and helplessness. The worldview is important in organizational structure; it can bring people together or keep them apart. Other cultural issues are based on the language used by the employees and management. Sometimes technological terms, business codes, or acronyms segregate people. “People tend to divide themselves into subcultures. Blacks may go to lunch with other blacks; whites and Hispanics may talk bad about each other, and so on. Other subcultures exist based on education, religion, political leanings, even function—such as accountants vs. engineers vs. labor. Each subculture may work against the company’s interests. “Patterns of behavior are part of culture. They may be associated with the time people come to work, the way people work, or the way they solve problems. “Basic underlying assumptions are how one feels about certain subjects. In our business, we assume people want to hear a certain style of music. People assume things about whole groups. “Artifacts and symbols are things like parking places with names on them, executive dining areas, and—”30 56

Geronimo Stone I broke in, “I was once at a government facility, working on a process improvement project. For the entire year, a high-level staff manager had a mission to search out and find all pieces of wooden furniture. I’m sure he had other things to do, but once a week memos and emails were sent out, instructing people to look for wooden furniture. Reports tracked the progress of these searches. Audit teams searched every square foot of a complex of two hundred buildings, to find and report on the wooden furniture project. Only management used wooden furniture, and no one who wasn’t management was allowed to set their butts on a wooden chair or behind a wooden desk. This sent the message that there was a class difference between managers and laborers. In that environment, it was very common for the laborers to be highly educated engineers and scientist. Many times, they were more educated than the managers. In today’s world, that’s becoming the norm. We are surrounded by knowledge workers who may and should know more than their managers about a specific subject. You will kill motivation, productivity, and profits if you build these kinds of walls.” Steven nodded. “That’s an excellent example. Symbols and artifacts can build walls between people or rally an army, as in the case of a flag. I’ve always had problems watching old movies where the flag bearer falls in battle, only to have someone drop their weapon, pick up the flag, and continue to charge the hill. Robert explained to me that the flag was a symbol that people would die to protect. That one man made a bigger impact carrying the flag than he could have ever made with his weapon.” We spent the rest of the evening talking about leadership and culture. We planned for and made calls about our big surprise for Monday. We joked about life and talked about Geronimo, had lunch, and later, dinner. Finally, it was time for everyone to retire for the evening. Steven was the first to leave. John’s wife, Tracy, Jan, Jill, and Brenda were all saying their goodbyes when John grabbed my arm and headed for the door. “Excuse us, ladies,” John smiled. “Tommy Boy and I have some male bonding to do. I know just the place—the Bluebird.31 You need a lesson in the Geronimo Stone Records culture. A couple of our old songwriters are playing tonight. You girls stay here, or go home and knit, or something.” Aunt Brenda slapped him hard on the arm, Tracy kicked him in the pants, and Jan threw a bottle of water at me. We ducked and ran for 57

Craig Stevens John’s Jeep. I was innocent, a victim of the company that chose me. And what was with all this “Tommy Boy” stuff, all of a sudden? Someone said, “You boys better run! Get out of here. We have our own plans; you’ll just get in the way.”


Chapter 8

It’s All About the Blues


hat night, we reminisced as John with the skill of a master storyteller, explained his version of the history of Geronimo. We sat on the steps in the parking lot of the world famous Bluebird Café32 and never made it through the doors. Between hushed tones, shouts of excitement, muffled rhythmic beats of music, and tears of grief, he told me the story of Robert “Geronimo” Stone and his creation of Geronimo Stone Records. He explained, “Geronimo owned the label, The Heart of Geronimo Publishing, and Geronimo Recording Studios, complete with mastering lab. It was unusual for a label to have its own mastering facility, but Geronimo brought it in-house, because every time he sent a tape out to be mastered, the engineer marked it with a smooth, polished, professional sound he didn’t like. He wanted Geronimo’s records to have a live, raw, dangerous quality. It became characteristic of the early Geronimo sound. The facilities were soon filled with expensive recording equipment, master tapes, demo tapes, artist contracts, and other non-replaceable and proprietary valuables. Employees, artists, and guests were in and out at all hours of the day and night.” He went on to tell me how Uncle Robert brought in his right-hand man from the jungles of Vietnam to be the facilities manager. Enter John Wayne Cooper. He designed a low profile, high-tech security system to keep track of studio assets and visitors without intimidating guests and oversaw the physical plant. As John told me, “Geronimo was always in a tug-of-war with his engineers to reach a sensible budget for studio equipment. It was common in the 80s and 90s to spend a cool million or more on a new tracking room. That’s a heck of a lot of green in today’s dollars. I was a gear-head and had a knack for cost-benefit analysis and return on investments. I made sure the studios were always state of the industry, without being money pits. I think I did a good job at it, if I do say so myself. Even though the studio was in a rough area of town, musicians, producers, and guests felt safe, be59

Craig Stevens cause everyone knew I kept an eye on things.” He laughed. “It was sorta like being on sentry duty.” Geronimo thought John Wayne Cooper was his best insurance policy. John stopped, listened to the music coming through the doors, and said, “It is all about the Blues.” He paused, and then continued, but he wasn’t talking music anymore. “Vietnam was not pleasant for Geronimo, but it determined the course of his life, the way it did so many other young men of the 60s and 70s—the way it did me. Robert was a Green Beret first lieutenant. He and I were imbedded in a ranger battalion with some fighters from The Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). Geronimo led his mixed platoon of seasoned fighters and young recruits on reconnaissance patrols. We were sometimes joined with Kit Carson Scouts. These soldiers were from our former adversaries, the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army. They sometimes actually fought alongside us against their former units and comrades. “We would helicopter into an LZ, often deep in enemy territory, and begin searching for the V.C. -- the Viet Cong. Often, the enemy found us first. We encountered snipers, booby traps, mortar fire, and sometimes, entire enemy encampments. The Viet Cong fought the war from tunnels that crisscrossed the jungle in unpredictable patterns. They blended in with villagers. Skirmishes were frequent, and Geronimo’s platoon suffered frequent casualties, but that’s a whole other story. “There was one recruit, PFC William Davis, from Jackson, Mississippi. Willie was a skinny, wiry kid, who brought a contagious, can-do spirit to Geronimo’s platoon. He was always cracking jokes and keeping what might have been a somber mood light—even in the worst circumstances. Willie was the first to call Robert ‘Geronimo.’ He was the ultimate optimist, encouraging the men and helping Geronimo keep them focused and aware, even when they were hot, sleep-deprived, and ready to go home. He was different, too; he didn’t believe in drinking or smoking anything. He stayed away from the wilder side of military life. He had the strongest moral outlook of anyone I ever met. Willie always joked that his old man would beat him half to death if he ever found out he was bein’ a foulup. “Willie entertained everyone with his knowledge of Blues music. His family always sent him the latest Blues, Jazz, and R&B records, and he played them at full volume whenever we were on base. Willie often wailed the Blues on his harmonica and made up songs about the struggle to stay alive and be appreciated in the awful jobs we all had. 60

Geronimo Stone “One patrol, Willie was walking point, when POP!—One round from a sniper on the edge of a field took him down. He died instantly. We stormed the rice paddy in a rage, firing where we thought the shot came from, but never found that dirty—” John raised his big arms, grabbed the back of his head, closed his eyes, leaned back, and grimaced. With a heavy sigh, he continued. “We tried to revive Willie, but he was gone. He wasn’t the only boy we lost, but the whole platoon was different after that—more committed, but somber. We still played Willie’s records at base, but they didn’t bring the same joy. Without Willie to explain who the players were, and the stories behind the songs and the singers, something was lost. Willie’s good-natured excitement was what brought most of us to the music. “When Geronimo’s hitch was up, he decided not to reenlist. When he said his goodbyes to the rest of us, we gave him Willie’s records, because we knew how much Willie and his music meant to Geronimo. Geronimo had had a special relationship with Willie. I was his platoon sergeant and best friend, but Willie and Geronimo connected on a deeper level. I never really understood it, but it was almost as if they were soul brothers or something. It went against military regulations, but even though Geronimo was the officer, Willie was the teacher. Geronimo wasn’t supposed to get that close to enlisted men, but Willie was different. Geronimo seemed fascinated by him. “A month after Geronimo’s discharge from the army, he drove to Jackson and found the ‘Little House of Love’ that Willie had talked so much about. He took the flag that the platoon had saluted Willie with when they prepared his body for the trip home and some of Willie’s personal effects. He’d planned on delivering them personally, because he didn’t want them just showing up in the mail. He took the records— thirty albums and about seventy 45s. Some of them were warped from the heat of the South Vietnamese jungle, but most were still in good shape. He knocked on the door of Tom and Velma Davis’ house, and Velma answered the door. He’d called the day before, so he was expected. She greeted him with a warm, knowing smile and offered him sweet tea. Robert said he felt the same warmth and caring that Willie radiated right away. Before Robert could share his condolences, he heard an old Ford pickup crunch to a stop on the gravel turnout at the edge of their front lawn. It was Willie’s father, Tom. “Good timing!” Velma hollered, as Tom noticed the stranger at the door and the car blocking the driveway. “This here is Geronimo!” 61

Craig Stevens John paused before he continued. “It was a family reunion, though they’d all just met,” he said. “It was five-thirty, and Tom was just getting home from his job driving a delivery van. Geronimo smiled as he noticed that Willie had been the spitting image of his dad, only smaller. Tom walked up, and Robert reached out to shake his hand and tried to introduce himself, but got a frog in his throat and nothing came out. Tom grabbed his hand pulled him into a bear hug that Geronimo used to say nearly broke his back. They both broke down, releasing a year of pent-up grief. There wasn’t a dry eye in that little house of love. He never told anyone else, but Robert confided in me that they all cried like babies. Loud, too.” John, stopped, buried his head in his hands, and breathed hard for a few minutes. We both were choked up. John looked at me, wiped his sleeve across his eyes, and said, “The whole family were good people.” John continued, after a while. “Robert used to joke that two or three hours later, they walked through the living room into the kitchen, where Velma had set out three iced teas and a large glass picture. Robert gave a tip of the glass to both of Willie’s parents, and proceeded to guzzle the three glasses down. He never told anyone but me, but up to that point in his life, he had had a real drinking problem from the stress and guilt of fighting a dirty, unpopular war. He told me that he had been a little drunk when he showed up at the Davis house, but he never had another drop after that visit. He used to say, ‘Dad,’—Willie’s dad— ‘would beat me half to death if I ever drank again.’ “Robert told the Davises how much Willie meant to him and the platoon and about the contribution he’d made to his country. Tom and Velma shot gunned questions at Robert. They wanted to learn as much as they could about Willie’s last year. Velma cooked a scrumptious dinner of catfish, corn fritters, and fried okra, and they ate and talked into the night. By the time they started yawning and looked up, the clock read three-thirty AM. Robert asked where he could find a hotel, but Tom and Velma fixed him up in their extra room—Willie’s room. Late Saturday morning, Robert woke to the smell of bacon, eggs, grits, and coffee. He freshened up and came into the kitchen, where Tom already had the paper open. Velma was doting over him. “Mr. Davis, with a smile, said, ‘You city boys get up kinda late, don’t ya?’” When John recalled that, I couldn’t help but think how Mr. and Mrs. Davis’ personalities must have rubbed off on Uncle Robert and Aunt Brenda. 62

Geronimo Stone John continued, “Velma slapped Mr. Davis’ arm hard and said, with a wide morning smile at Geronimo, ‘How do you take your eggs, son?’ “After breakfast, Robert brought in all of Willie’s belongings from the trunk of his Olds ‘88. He gave them Willie’s fatigues, helmet, Zippo lighter, and the pocketknife that was used at one time or another by every man in the platoon. It was just a lot of ordinary stuff that hadn’t made it home in the first shipment. When Robert opened the box with Willie’s harmonica, Tom and Velma burst into tears all over again. “Robert told them Willie had played that thing well into the night, and that sometimes it was the last thing the platoon heard before falling asleep. He told how it soothed the men’s combat jitters. They’d always kidded him about it, but they all wanted to hear him when they were in camp. “Mr. Davis explained that when Willie was a child, his greatgrandfather had played that same harmonica for him. His grandfather had taught him how to play. He had died shortly after hearing about Willie’s death. Some said it was from grief, but Mr. Davis said he thought his daddy just wanted to be there to watch over Willie when he made it to heaven. They told Geronimo about Willie’s great-grandfather, who was their family’s first Blues musician, born during the Civil War. His life hadn’t improved much when Abe Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Their family had experienced, up close, the plight of poor blacks in the South during Reconstruction. Mr. Davis’ dad taught them all, Willie included, what the good book said about hard work and lovin’ your neighbor as you love yourself, and even lovin’ your enemies. He always said it was how they’d ‘get free.’ “Robert brought out the records that Velma and Tom had sent Willie, and he told them how much they had come to mean to the platoon. He told them that whenever they returned from a mission, Willie would crank up the stereo, and the music would transport them all to happier times and the hope of one day going home again. “Mr. Davis asked Robert, ‘Which are your favorites?’ “Robert rifled through and pulled ten albums and eighteen singles out and told stories about them, mostly related to Willie. “Willie’s dad said, ‘Take them. They mean as much to you as they do to us. We’ll just share these.’ “Then, just as Willie would have done, Tom told Robert more about the artists, and asked, ‘You heading up I-55, back to Memphis?’ “Robert replied, ‘Yeah. Is there another route?’ 63

Craig Stevens “‘Well,’ Tom Davis said, ‘If you’ve got a little extra time, there’s a U.S. highway that’ll also take you to Memphis. It parallels the Mississippi River and takes you through the cotton fields that inspired so much of the music we love. It’s the highway that carried many Jazz players up from New Orleans to Memphis and St. Louis, on their way to Chicago.’ “‘Oh man!’ Robert made the connection. ‘Is that Highway 61—that Bob Dylan sings about?’33 “‘Same one,’ said Tom. ‘I’ll mark a few places on the map. Look here. You head over on 20 to Vicksburg, catch 61, and go straight up from there. After about an hour, you’ll see signs to Greenville and Indianola. Indianola is where B.B. King and Albert King were born. Just outside of there is where they say Robert Johnson is buried, but nobody really knows where. There’s Nelson Street in Greenville, where a lot of Delta bluesmen cut their teeth. Up here in Cleveland, they say the Blues was invented on the Dockery Plantation by folks like Henry Sloan and Charley Patton. You probably know about Clarksdale, since it’s up near Memphis, but did you know it’s where John Lee Hooker, Ike Turner, and Sam Cooke are from? Muddy Waters jumped on an Illinois Central train in Clarksdale in the 40s, ‘cause he hoped to find better paying gigs in Chicago. And it’s where Bessie Smith died in a car accident, God rest her soul.’ “At around three in the afternoon, after more of Velma’s delicious home cookin’, Geronimo hugged Willie’s parents, gave them his address, and told them to stay with him whenever they came to Memphis. You know what? They became like Robert’s second family. He saw them every chance he got, including holidays. “He headed out north of Jackson on Highway 61, with notes from Tom on what to search for. He was on a mission: to find the Blues. “Robert was no stranger to the Blues. As a child of the 40s and 50s, growing up in Memphis, he was exposed to the roots of Blues, Gospel, Country, and Rockabilly at county fairs and the Blues clubs on Beale Street. As he drove winding old 61 back up to Memphis in the heat of the Mississippi afternoon, the windows of his Olds ‘88 rolled down, sweat pouring off his forehead, he listened to crackly local radio stations and found one playing some Blues. He cranked it up as he gazed out over the cotton fields. He thought about what it must have been like to hear sharecroppers and cotton-pickers sing in these hot, muggy fields. Geronimo picked cotton for extra nickels as a boy, and he knew the pain of shredded fingers from pickin’ cotton. Cotton-pickers sang to 64

Geronimo Stone break up the monotony and get their minds off the backbreaking work. Some of the songs ended up in honkytonks and juke joints. The same thing happened with the Gospel music from the fields, except it ended up in the local churches. Whether Gospel or Blues, the singers were always looking for the same thing, deliverance from a life of poverty, drudgery, and racism. “On his way home, Robert wondered what to do for a living. Should he go back to college or work in the boot factory owned by his father’s friend? He wasn’t sure. One of the places Tom had marked on his notes was an old juke joint called Bourbon Hall. It had been there since the 50s. He saw it coming up in a wide spot on the right side of the road, just outside of Bobo, so he pulled in for a cold ice tea. “The place wasn’t much, but the air conditioner was blasting. Robert plopped himself down right in front of it and ordered a glass of sweet tea. Some young men were in the back, rehearsing music they were to play that night, and Robert listened for a while. Electric guitar, dobro, bass, and drums. It was just what the doctor ordered. The guy on guitar was Johnny Stroud, a local kid, who, like Willie, grew up listening to and singing this music. His sister Sheila provided backup and lent a gospel wail to Johnny’s distinctive Blues approach to guitar and vocals. Robert didn’t know if it was the heat, the place, or the emotion of the day, but he found himself asking if they would like to record someday.” Just then, a patrol car drove into the parking lot and shined a light in our faces, pulling us back from the story. “You guys alright? You been sitting here for a while. It’s getting kinda late. Have you boys been drinking?” John looked up and said, “Billy? Billy is that you?” A large black officer looked hard at him and said, “Well, I’ll be. John Wayne Cooper. I haven’t seen you in—I don’t know, maybe five years. How’s that hot-tempered little wife of yours doing?" John replied, “Oh, she’s as mean as ever. How’s that Angel you ran off with? She tamed you yet?” Billy laughed with a big baritone rumble. He looked at his partner, slapped him on the back, and said, “These guys are all right. That’s John Wayne Cooper. John is the security officer at Geronimo Stone Records. I met him during a domestic disturbance call. His missus was beatin’ him black and blue with a rollin’ pin or somethin'.” 65

Craig Stevens “It was the antenna off my brand-spanking new 1988 Corvette Convertible,” John corrected. “I still have the marks on my forearms. They out-lived the Corvette.” He rolled up one sleeve to show a discolored mark. Both officers moaned and cringed, the moans turning to chuckles as one said, “I know that hadta hurt,” and the other said, “I know that’s right.” John added, “And even after I replaced the antenna, I never could get that radio to pick up worth a darn after that. It was a big joke for a while—a guy in the music business without a decent radio. You should remember that Billy—you’re the one who started hassling me about it. You started that joke.” Both of the officers laughed. “Billy saved my life that night,” John continued. “If it weren’t for Billy, I—well, I probably wouldn’t be married today, and I would never have made it without Tracy. She pulled me through some rough times. Billy took me to jail, just to let things calm down, and took me to Geronimo’s house at the end of his shift. He stayed with me for half the night while I licked my wounds. He didn’t know me from Adam, and still—” Officer Billy jumped in, “Well, we men have ta stick together— Nah, I just wanted to see the famous Geronimo Stone. Great guy! Sorry to hear ‘bout his passing. He let me play my guitar for him that night, and you know what he told me? I really sucked as a musician, but my singin'—well, it was worse.” Billy’s partner howled, “I’ve been telling you that for years.” “Yah, but who listens to you? You like that hard rock crap with all those skinny, druggy types. All that head knocking—you’d have to have something loose up there.” His friend corrected him. “Head banging.” Billy ignored him. “But anyway, I would have probably been on the street somewhere, without a dime to my name, if it weren’t for his straight talk. I thought I was hot stuff back then, and—” “Back then?” his friend butted in. “You think you’re hot stuff now, big boy. Oh, and I like classic rock. There’s a difference. You don’t know beans about good music.” Ignoring his friend, Billy continued, “I was thinking about quitting the force and jumping into my music with both feet. You know, ‘Geronimooo!’” he yelled, then stopped, looked at his partner, and snickered. 66

Geronimo Stone His partner just shook his head and clicked his tongue. “That’s not funny, Billy. Give the dead some respect.” Billy continued, “I called Angel that night, and she came with me to the Stone’s house. Man, I was in heaven! Mrs. Stone called that hottempered wife of John’s, the women folk went one way, us guys went another, and I think that’s when—” Billy pointed a finger at John. “You started shaping up, Big John.” “It took a couple more days, remember? You should remember that; you made it your mission to pull me through. Anyway, as I remember it, you started getting better with your music as I helped you.” “Better?” his partner butted in. “Man, you must have really been awful!” Billy rolled his eyes and licked his teeth, and John smiled and said, “Billy, why don’t ya stop by tomorrow after church? We got some catchin' up to do. Bring Angel, in case Tracy gets outta hand.” The police radio interrupted us with orders to check out a domestic disturbance, and Billy looked at John and just pointed with a playful warning. In the background, I heard Billy’s partner say, “Man, can’t people just be nice.” Billy yelled out the window as they drove off, “Good thing you got an alibi, big boy! See ya soon.” The car drove off, both men laughing and waving. Billy and his partner continued throwing insults at each other. “You embarrass me everywhere we go. I can’t take you nowhere. Didn’t your mama teach you any manners—?” “Music isn’t your life. You need a life for your music—” “At least I have a life—” I looked at John and pointed to his scar; he smirked back at me. “Don’t ask! That was back when I believed in everything in moderation—everything except fightin’, smokin’, drinkin’, and cussin’. Tracy’d just had enough. She’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I would have done anything to keep her. She just explained a few things to me in my native language, and I finally listened. As Ray Boltz sings, ‘I am a life that was changed.’”34 He stopped, looked down at the concrete for a moment, then said, “Come on, let’s get home. This concrete is killing my backside.”


Chapter 9

Center of Focus


he next day was a day of rest in the Stone house. Aunt Brenda made sure of that. She had everyone up early and in the car to take her to church. It’s funny how you have to get up early to have a day of rest. “You can never be effective in a time of stress, unless you take a day of rest,” she said. I looked at her and said, “Robert said that, right?” She ignored me until I wasn’t looking, and then slapped me in the back of the head as she pretended to reach for something. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves at Christ Church,35 on Old Hickory, off Highway 65. It was a non-denominational, spirit-filled church. My aunt called it a bapti-costal church. She explained, “It’s a Baptist church with a Pentecostal spirit, or a milder Pentecostal church with good biblical teachings. Anyway, you’ll like it. It has some of the best music in Nashville.” On the way to our seats, we walked under a brightly colored four by five-foot painting, in Aunt Brenda’s style, of Montelle’s View.36 It was the inside of Christ Church, as seen from over the shoulder of Montelle, the pastor’s wife. I pointed to it, and she said, “You like it? Your uncle painted it; I helped. It was for the church to enjoy and to honor Montelle—and the other mothers, too. We presented it on behalf of the men’s group, on Mother’s Day, a while back.” She looked at me and said, “We started painting together before he died. It gave us some fun moments.” She looked over at Jan, winked, and whispered, “We usually ended up flirting and fooling around a little.” The service started as a large curtain rose. The music minister waved his hands and danced in front of the choir as dynamic music filled the building. Associate pastors and the senior pastor poked fun at each other. 69

Craig Stevens The speaker preached a fiery sermon about doing more than just making a stand—about charging forward. He explained, “In the worst situations, you may only be able to stand and sometimes standing is good enough. Use that time to rest before the charge, but we are designed and commissioned to charge forward.” After the sermon, we ate at the Olive Garden37 on Old Hickory, where we polished off too many plates. Then we went home and slept the rest of the day. The last thing I remember thinking was, “I wonder if Angel and Billy ever met up with John and his hot-tempered wife.” We got up early enough the next day to arrive at the office a couple of hours before anyone else. Jill met Brenda, Jan, and me there. Aunt Brenda tossed me the next package and asked Jill to tell the executives to meet us in Geronimo’s office as soon as they came in. Aunt Brenda and Jan started planning the day at Jill’s desk, but left the door open so we could talk as needed. Their job was to go over the last-minute details and work on the schedules for the activities. I laid the contents of the new package out on the meeting table in my office so we could start the discovery process. I lined things up as we had with the other two packages, then went to the desk, picked up the mobile, and set it on the worktable. I arranged the other two packages on the tables in front of the windows to give us more room. Jill started with her marching orders as Dr. Steven and John, and Ivan entered the room. John and Ivan explained their plans for the day, and then Ivan excused himself and left. Michael came in, and the team was complete. Looking at the package on the table and rubbing his hands together, Dr. Steven said, “Let’s get started!” Displayed on the table was a rod, some cartoons, Post-it notes, a stack of papers, a book, and videotape. I picked up the rod, handed it to John, and said, “Here, Tracy may need this.” John rolled his eyes. Aunt Brenda hit me on the arm. As though choreographed, Steven and Jan raised their eyebrows, looked at each other, tilted their heads, and shrugged. I thought it was funny. I bet Billy would have laughed, too. After holding the rod for a second or two, John said, “Here, you need this back.” I smiled and held out my hand. Big mistake. John slapped the rod into my hand with a loud whack and whispered, “That’s for Tracy!” 70

Geronimo Stone “Ouch,” I laughed, shaking my hand. The slap of my hand symbolically demolished any remaining ice between John and me. From that point on, he felt free to be himself. John was a big, physical guy. Those he liked would find his arm around their shoulders in an encouraging, one-armed bear hug, or strong pats on the back, friendly controlled punches, and other manly-man stuff. As the feeling returned to my hand, I examined the rod and the mobile and found the letters CCF. Jan was getting good at this by now. She yelled out, “Customers— the center of focus!” Dr. Steven winked at her, and John gave Jan a high five. She mouthed to Steven, “I read it on the cartoon.” He winked at her and mouthed back, “I know.” Aunt Brenda interjected, “As Robert used to say, ‘You better know your customer. If you think you do not have a customer you are useless. You’re not needed at all. You might as well go home and work on your house; at least there, you know who your customers are.’” As if on cue, Jan picked up the videotape and put it into the VCR. “It looks like this is next.” As the videotape started, we saw the quick movement of a woman’s arm handing Robert a glass of liquid. Robert looked at the camera and took a drink. He looked very sick in this video. I noticed my aunt’s stance; she felt helpless. I grabbed her hand. She squeezed mine and then gently let it go. My uncle cleared his voice and said, “You better know your customer. If you think you do not have a customer you are useless. You are not needed at all. You might as well go home and work on your house; at least there, you know who your customers are.” We looked at Aunt Brenda, our mouths open. She took a bow, shrugged her shoulders, nodded her head, and smiled with an ‘I’m so good’ smile. Jan grabbed her arm, and they leaned on each other. Jill was watching with us at the door, from where she could see her desk. She laughed and said, “We have to listen to that again.” She ran in and quickly rewound it. We watched it again, and Aunt Brenda took another bow. I hadn’t noticed it then, but looking back, Jill had looked a little concerned. I think that was when she first suspected who the videographers might have been. Uncle Robert continued. “Tommy, this is obvious to those of us who directly deal with people buying our goods and services. However, many people in our organization are so far down the line that they 71

Craig Stevens never realize they have customers too. Oh, they may know that someone buys our records, but they never realize that they see customers daily. “When I started looking into customer service, I ran into all kinds of double talk relating to the definition of customers. People are always trying to categorize customers. They use words like ‘clients’ and say that clients are people who had a say in the outcome or development of a product. Some people say that the word ‘customer’ only means those who pay money for a product or service. I have heard executives and managers say employees can’t be customers because they don’t pay for anything. I say this is too much BS. Let’s simplify the matter. Someone once said, ‘Things should be kept as simple as possible, but no simpler.’”38 I leaned over to Aunt Brenda, poked her, and said, “Einstein said that.” Uncle Robert pointed his finger at the camera and said, “I say anyone who takes the work you do and relies on it in the way it was intended—anyone who uses the product or adds value to it—is your customer. The people downstream in the process are customers. If you go far enough along the stream, you reach the person paying for the product. People say the customer comes first. I say the customer comes third. Before the customer gets involved, two other things have to happen. As on our mobile, the leaders first must demonstrate that customers are important. Second, the organization’s culture must accept and buy into the concept of customer focus. Therefore, I say think of customer focus as the bar on which all your work hangs. If you remove the customer focus, you have no reason to go to work. Using the bar as a symbol, it means you have nothing on which to hang your work. If the culture is not properly developed, it is as if you’ve cut the string of the mobile. Everything falls apart. If the hand of leadership drops the string of culture, it does not matter, anyway. Like the mobile, your organization will fall apart. As a wise old friend, Mr. Davis, used to tell me, ‘Fish stink from the head first.’39 “Tommy, you are the man who can put all this together. You can do it! Geronimo Stone Records depends on you. Your future, and the future of your kids, is dependent upon your success.” He looked down for a second, cleared his throat, and continued, “We have missed you. I have missed you. Take care of your aunt and your family.” The tape went dim, and we all sat there, waiting for someone to break the silence. I looked around the room. Aunt Brenda stood with a 72

Geronimo Stone stiff upper lip, tears were rolling down Jan’s cheeks, and John’s eyes were red. Jill turned and went back to her desk. Dr. Steven broke the silence and said, “We have a lot to do today. Let’s get some coffee, and I’ll tell you what I remember about customer focus.” We were determined to make an impact from that day forward. It was just six AM, and Dr. Steven was already at the white board. He talked about customer relationships, management systems, leads databases, requirements documentation, classifications of customers, and the way people gather and absorb information. He talked about the way people treat others, both internally and externally, and how personal contact affected perceptions of professionalism. He even told us a fish story. He told us about a fish-packing house in Seattle.40 The personalities of its employees were valued even higher than the fish the customers came to buy. He boiled it down to an approach used by Ken Blanchard, in his book, ‘Raving Fans.41’ “Blanchard explains that having satisfied customers is not good enough,” said Dr. Steven. “We must have customers that are ‘raving fans.’ Bringing it back to how we get there, we use our mobile. “First, Blanchard says knowing what we want is the first step, everyone here has to know what the vision is. That is where leadership comes into play. We must have a vision of what we want as a company. What are our goals? How is our vision related to the products and services we provide? Next, culture comes into focus. Everyone has to buy into our goals as a company. We do not want or need to be all things to all people. After we know what we want to be good at, we must envision what we would expect as our own customers. This, of course, is based on what we want to be best at. Customer focus is next,” he continued. “We have to, as Blanchard would say, ‘Know what the customers want.’ We use whatever methods and systems we can to listen, document, and understand our customers. Knowing our customers’ requirements, needs, and wants is important. Finally, we have to deliver. As Blanchard says, ‘Deliver plus one percent.’ That is, deliver what the customer wants, plus one percent improvement, forever. And that, my friends, is what the rest of the mobile is all about—delivering and improving.” Dr. Steven punctuated his lecture with the words, “It’s all in your package, my friends, but now we’d better go over our plans, before people start arriving.” 73

Craig Stevens From earlier planning sessions over the weekend, we’d all decided to stand in the doorways, welcome everyone back from the weekend, remind them of our commitment, and the all-hands meeting at lunch. Jill would make sure the pizzas and drinks were ordered, and take care of any other arrangements. Many people had worked all weekend to set up the facilities and help ensure smooth operations during today’s meeting. Jill looked in the door and said, “It’s about time for everyone to start arriving.” We all took our places.


Chapter 10

Taking It to the People


e stood in front of our building, ready for the morning rush. As people started to arrive, Aunt Brenda and I shook their hands and thanked them for returning to work. Most everyone received the welcome with open arms. Brenda handed out hugs as though the Guinness Book of World Records was judging her—under the category Most Time Spent Hugging. They waited in line to hug the grandmotherly figure; everyone called her Aunt Brenda. She loved it. She commented on hair, lost weight, muscles, and perfume. People ate it up. A couple lingered, drinking it in. It was almost as if this was the only nice thing they would experience all week, and they expected a long, dry spell. When the employees got to their offices or workstations, they found Jill and the support staff handing out appreciation baskets full of fruit, CDs from company artists, and a new, next generation of chocolate from Givère,42 a local chocolate factory in the Cool Springs area of Nashville. That was Aunt Brenda’s personal choice. Aunt Brenda insisted that everything in the basket be healthy; even the chocolate had to meet her criteria. She said she got it from Wild Oaks,43 a health food grocery store in Green Hills. It contained only natural ingredients and actually lowered cholesterol. She said it was the “chocolate of the stars” and beat the larger companies in blind taste tests run by the Tennessean, the local Nashville paper .44 It contained protein and would not spike your insulin or blood sugar levels. She claimed even diabetics could eat it. Overall, it was a very neat basket. The support staff really enjoyed the taste testing, which, of course, had to be part of their deliveries. Jill especially took great delight in the task. I walked by her once, and the smile on her face, the dab of chocolate on her hand, and wrappers on her desk betrayed her indulgence. Colorful paper ribbons decorated the halls, and the sound of music from new artists added to the festivities. Today, we celebrated our past, present, and future. We had decided to show people why they worked so hard. The support staff, led by Jill, and Steven’s staff had spent all 75

Craig Stevens day Saturday working. Steven joined them Sunday, reassuring the artists. Jill and her team did a great job supervising the catering company. Most were happy to be part of a cause, and taking a stand against a hostile takeover. I told Aunt Brenda, “As Thomas Jefferson once said, ‘A little rebellion now and then is a good thing.’45 Or something like that.” She patted me on the back and said, “I know. Robert used to say that, too.” Between handshakes and hugs, I leaned over and asked her, “Where is all the money coming from to pay for this celebration?” Brenda waited until we were busy with handshakes and messages of support to tell me, in a low voice, “I sold the Porsche. It was Robert's toy. I never drove it, anyway.” “Great. I’m not getting any inheritance at all,” I said, only half joking. Then I added, under my breath, “I wasn’t thinking about you driving it.” At the next opportunity, she leaned over, with a sweet, encouraging smile on her face, and pinched me hard on my upper arm, above the elbow. “What was that for? That hurt!” Between her and John, I was feeling abused. As the last people walked in, we followed them inside. Aunt Brenda took my wounded arm, leaned into me, and whispered, “I can’t believe the way you treat your dear old auntie.” My morning was filled with calls to and from customers, suppliers, artists, and the media. Everyone wanted to know about the rumors and stories. Some were searching for opportunities to take advantage. Others wanted to be supportive and not lose a major customer. Action filled the morning. Most of the employees were more interested in making things work than complaining. Still, there were those that didn’t believe we could turn Geronimo Stone Records around and had negative attitudes. Before we knew it, it was time for the mandatory all-hands meeting. We met in the showcase hall on the fifth floor of the Geronimo Stone Records building—music business talk for the auditorium. Seventy-five in all returned. This was our chance to demonstrate our vision and remind everyone of the history of Geronimo Stone Records. We had to show our people why they were fighting. The building rocked with tradition. We hoped it would help give everyone a sense of the importance of his or her job. We wanted to create a sense of being a part of the Geronimo culture and the Geronimo future. 76

Geronimo Stone People lined the hallways, waiting to enter the showcase hall, but the doors remained closed to pique anticipation. As the doors opened, theater fog poured into the hallways, but the room remained dark. A few spotlights pierced through the fog and dimly illuminated the walkways to the tables and chairs. People filed into the room; those in back felt the excitement and stretched their necks to see what was going on in the front of the line. As the people began filing in— “One, two, three, four,” came from the speakers. A blast of music threw everyone into their chairs, heavy drums and bass filled the room. Pyrotechnics, lights, and a background screen showing slides of the history of Geronimo Stone Records set the stage. People scrambled to find seats. The music mirrored scenes in the background. The dark room, swirling lights, pulsing music, rewinding video clips, and slides of the past created an effect, as if we were all traveling back in time. Then it all stopped, and there was darkness and silence, as if we had all been dumped in the past. From the darkness, a slide came into focus, and the music, barely audible, gained volume. We saw Geronimo himself in uniform with all his friends. There was Willie, wearing the original pair of blues brothers’ sunglasses, soulfully holding his harmonica to his mouth. The live entertainers were amazing; they played their hearts out. They brought each slide to life. It sounded as if we were in the slides. The lights and fireworks mimicked the action on screen. Together, it accented the history playing out in front of us. I felt we were all playing parts in a movie of Greek gods, looking down through the clouds at the titans. There was John, well muscled, shirtless in the heat of Nam. He held a sandbag open and pointed like General Patton, while someone else filled it with a shovel full of sand and dirt. The women in the audience whistled their approval. Loud, booming drums and flashing lights gave way to softer, happier music as the screen left ‘Nam and traveled to the U.S. There we saw Geronimo and his Olds ‘88 standing in front of the Davis’ home. There was the picture of Tom and Velma Davis, with Mrs. Davis holding a big iron skillet of corn bread. Mr. Davis held a long willow switch behind his back and pointed a finger at the camera. In the next picture, Mr. Davis chased Geronimo around the Olds, the switch breaking the wind. Dr. Steven’s production assistant had added sound effects of laughing and gravel crunching. Someone in the room added short little “ouches.” The next scene showed Geronimo chasing Mr. Davis with the same switch. Then there was a slide of Mrs. Davis holding the switch, both her hands on her hips, tapping her foot. The 77

Craig Stevens men-folk were on their knees, cleaning up broken pottery and dirt from one of her prized flowers. Geronimo looked guilty and sheepishly smiled for the camera as he cleaned. John poked me in the ribs, leaned over, and said, “I took that one.” Everyone in the room hooted, yelled, and laughed as the slides progressed through the years. In each picture, the smiles seemed bigger than before. Later, there was a snapshot of me as a little kid on my uncle’s shoulders. Geronimo was rolling his eyes, and John was pointing at me and laughing while holding his nose. I looked at John, “How embarrassing. Who took that one?” Aunt Brenda leaned over, “That would have been me.” People seemed to enjoy that one. There were slides of a ragged Geronimo and scruffy-looking musicians with their arms over each other’s shoulders. That was Geronimo at his best, at a time when racism was out of control in the south—a time when Geronimo seemed to be the only one who truly was colorblind. Another slide showed glassy-eyed bar flies in smoke-filled rooms, the same band playing music. There was a slide or two with people dancing, while bikers and truckers eyed each other across smoke filled taverns. The music blared as more fog billowed along the floor. One of the scruffy guys in the picture was now playing in the band on stage, except he was older and wore all white, from his Mississippi river boat gambler’s hat to his eel skin boots. The music changed with the times and the scenes. I wondered how these guys had put this together in one weekend. People danced, pointed to the slides, laughed, and yelled short stories at each other. There was the picture of the run-down warehouse where it all started, then the old house on Music Row; in front was a middle-aged Dr. Steven Baldridge Demmings III, pointing down the street as a young and very studious looking Robert Stone, in his thirties, hung on every word. Next came news clips and album covers, plans for new buildings, new locations, fancy equipment, engineers, B. Stone paintings being painted, and beautiful décor. The spirits of people who made everything run, danced on screen in the form of pictures. People whistled, yelled, and gave catcalls as the pictures showed younger versions of their bosses on the screen. There I was, a young man full of rebellion. What an athletic figure I was! I even got a couple of whistles. However, no one received more of a response than Aunt Brenda did. People stood on chairs and jumped to 78

Geronimo Stone their feet as a picture of a young, sexy Brenda Stone flashed on the screen. She was leaning on the side of a red convertible, and had just pulled Robert into a long wet kiss. Those who had died through the years relived their glory days. There were photos of artists who had burned out too quickly, like shooting stars, and employees who, for one reason or another, hadn’t made it. Geronimo was the last of these, and held everyone’s attention until the picture faded, not into darkness, but a bright light, and then the montage moved into pictures of victories. Tears were replaced with stiff resolve as pictures of victories filled the screens. Artists, record covers, concerts, TV shows, gold and platinum records, eight tracks, Billboard chart numbers, cassette tapes, and CD awards, held by the teams of people who made them happen. Groups of people involved with each project stood and yelled as their effort was recognized. Music videos overlapped each other, showing the best we had to offer, then gave way to Geronimo’s picture, which faded into a bird’s eye view of the Geronimo Stone Records building. The view got smaller as the building shrank away; an aerial view of the city of Nashville replaced it, shrinking away until we saw the continental U.S., and then the world. The world rotated, then spun like a record, morphing into a CD, then slowing, as the picture on the CD came into focus. It was a shadow of an Indian head nickel carved out of stone, with the great warrior Geronimo on it—the logo of Geronimo Stone Records. Everyone jumped to their feet and applauded for what felt like five minutes. Then came the hard part. We had to address the people, the people who would either save us, or suffer with us. Cleve Bartley, voice of the nationally syndicated Blues World Radio introduced Geronimo’s widow: “Aunt Brenda, Mrs. Geronimo herself, Brenda Stone.” Everyone stood and applauded. I helped her climb the steps, and she moved to center stage, where she bowed. She gazed at the employees, extended her arms and started clapping, then turned to the band and gestured by extending her clapping hands. They took a bow and added a couple of musical punctuations. Then she looked into the sound booth and did the same thing. Everyone in the building clapped and hooted. She took the microphone and said, “How about the videographers? Let’s all give a hand to the people who put on this show.” Five people jumped up and the applause continued. She allowed the appreciation to fade a little, and then held her hands up for silence. She 79

Craig Stevens waited, and then began, “We’ve come a long way, haven’t we? We’ve made many mistakes, but we’ve had many successes. We put this show together so all could see where we came from. We wanted you to see what we have already accomplished so we can see what we will yet accomplish.” Applause exploded. “We are having tough times right now, but we are out of debt, we can still pay salaries, and we have talented people working with us. This show was put together over the weekend. Is this not talent?” More clapping, and a yell or two, ensued. I almost expected to hear someone shout amen. Then, there it was. “Amen! Preach it, sister!” “We lost people, but now, only the people who care are left. We don’t need anyone who doesn’t care about this company. You are the ones who have done all of the work, and our journey is not over!” Everyone stood and yelled and clapped. “Let us come together and figure out what needs to change. Let’s fix the problems. Let’s make our company better than before. Let’s change to meet the future. I know the man who will lead us. He has helped hundreds of other organizations recreate themselves, and he has grown up in this company. Geronimo respected him and listened to his advice—our president and CEO, Tom Stone.” I felt like I was at a revival meeting, and the preacher had just said I could walk on water. I couldn’t remember what I was going to say. I jumped up, taking two steps at a time, ran to center stage, and grabbed my microphone before the clapping died down. It might be the last time I heard it. Aunt Brenda began to leave, but I held her there, in case I needed her. “Brenda already recognized many of those who have helped. All of you helped build this company. I know this, and you know this. Now we have to roll up our sleeves and rebuild it. We have a number of breakout rooms set up, and I will ask each of you to join in the redesign. Before we do that, let’s tackle the rumors, your questions, worries, fears, and dreams for our future. First, let’s take a break while pizzas and drinks are brought in. We’ll meet back here, ready to work, in thirty minutes.” For the rest of the day, we worked hard. Everyone had doubts, and a few were able to put them into words. I pulled John, Michael, Ivan, and Steven to the stage, and we tried as best we could to answer every question honestly. We expressed our desires. We had the Q&As typed into the computer real-time and displayed on the overhead screens, so 80

Geronimo Stone as not to let anything fall through the cracks. We allowed people to enter private worries anonymously into laptop computers lined up against the wall. Each group went to their breakout room when they were satisfied with our group efforts. Much more work would be required, but we had made a good start. Each department had a private room in which to meet. Thanks to Brew, some were leaderless and required trained facilitators from Westbrook Stevens to direct the discussions. Others were almost intact. Brenda, Michael, John, Ivan, Steven, Jan, Jill, and I made the rounds, meeting with each group, sometimes more than once. We shuffled people around as we uncovered their desire to have input in other groups. We kept the conversations going. We helped them follow and change agendas. We helped with goals and the goal tree. We supported mission and organizational structure issues. We helped with planning and explained empowerment issues. We did damage assessments and made contingency plans. We looked for missing core competencies. We looked at flow charts and problem analysis tools, as explained by the facilitators and used by the groups. Overall, we had a fruitful day. We shocked people with our openness to their ideas and desires to change processes, roles and responsibilities, and even positions. We had nothing to lose. We would never make it unless these people became the brains of our company and took ownership of their own departments.


Chapter 11

The Power behind the Company


s the end of the day arrived, the meetings were just ending. Some stayed as late as nine PM, displaying excitement not often found in business. I watched an ‘Intra-preneurial’ spirit grow within them. Like an entrepreneur who takes personal risks on behalf of her own company. Intra-preneurs take personal risks on behalf of the company they work for. That just didn’t happen unless employees felt in charge and appreciated for taking a personal risk on behalf of their employer. The senior staff agreed that we would be the last ones to leave. Later that night, I went to my office, and Dr. Steven was asleep on the couch. The blinds rattled with the vibrations of his snores. I woke him. “Time to go home.” I gave him my coffee, which I had just poured seconds ago and went to the desk to collect my things. I never drank coffee, anyway. Steven sat up, yawned, and rubbed his eyes. I laughed. “You should see your hair.” He slowly stood, hands on his knees to give himself balance. He went to the hidden kitchenette built into the corner cabinets. “That’s funny,” I thought. “I never even knew that was there.” He picked up the silver-serving tray and used it and the mirror on the cabinet to look himself over. “I’ve looked better,” he said, as he tried to make his hair behave. “Dr. Steven, how did you end up here?” I asked him. “That is a long story, my boy, and people are waiting for you.” I replied, “Jan and Brenda went home. John took them. But you’re tired.” He looked at me, smiled, and said, “Sure, but sit down, and I’ll tell you, anyway.” I moved to the couch and put my feet on the coffee table as Dr. Steven continued to walk around the room, stopping only to yawn, stretch, rub his left knee, and mess with his hair in the mirror. 83

Craig Stevens “Before it occurred to your Uncle Robert to build a record company, he came to Nashville to shop a young Blues artist around to the labels. He discovered the guy on a trip down Highway 61.” He laughed, “Your uncle was pretty clueless about how the music business worked and didn’t realize that the labels in Nashville at that time were only interested in Country Music. One day, after him and his young artist, Catfish Houston, had hit the wall, they chanced to meet me at Bob's Big Boy, now the Shoney’s at the end of Music Row.46 They were a sorry-looking duo. Did not have but a couple of dollars between them. So, I felt sorry for them, and I bought them dinner. I did not usually do that. I was a staff producer and A&R executive at Behemoth Records back then. Making good money, but heck, I would be broke today if I had bought a third of the sorry-looking musicians in Nashville a stick of gum. I must have been open to hear another hard luck story. I guess if the soap opera is bad enough, it makes you forget your troubles.” As I listened to his story, I noticed he spoke as though he was Ivy League educated. He must have been an anomaly on the Nashville music scene. Dr. Steven told me he had transferred from New York, in search of more folksy musical styles. Dr. Steven explained, “The music scene in New York and L.A. had just been through the anti-war protest era and was running out of gas, creatively speaking. The South had always been a hotbed of musical innovation, with Hillbilly music in the Appalachians, Swing in Texas, Bluegrass in Kentucky, Jazz in New Orleans, Blues from the Mississippi Delta, and Gospel from all over. “I had little tolerance for the terminal nature of the music business and a burning desire to follow in the footsteps of the legendary A&R men like John Hammond47 and Ralph Peer.48 I wanted to discover something genuine and leave a musical legacy. I was looking for the real deal. You know—artists whose style and approach could ignite a new generation of fans. At forty-nine, I was growing out of the demo and becoming honest with my label and myself. I no longer had the desire to find the next ‘haircut.’” He stopped, yawned, glanced at the mirror, fixed his shirt, and took a sip of coffee. He set the coffee down on the table, backed into one of the large cushiony chairs, and slowly sat down, using both hands to slow his descent. Then he continued, as if he had never slowed down. “Behemoth Records was going in the opposite direction. So, I left New York to find a more authentic style. What I found were country labels whose 84

Geronimo Stone only desire was to get their music on pop radio. They signed pop artists, and then dressed them like cowboys for the country market.” He looked at me, raised his voice, and pointed out the window. “It was blasphemy, and I wanted no part of it.” His voice lowered. “So my chance meeting with your uncle and Catfish Houston was fortuitous, all around. Thus began a lifelong friendship based on our shared love of authentic American music. “At first, I advised Robert and coached him along. He produced the first few recordings independently. Later, I fell in love with the vision of Geronimo Stone Records and quit my cushy job with the majors to go full-time here. Robert and I discovered forty-seven artists and produced over three hundred albums together. Over time, I taught your uncle how to produce, and between us, our recordings sold over one hundred and sixty-two million units and won countless industry awards. And now, here we are.” With that, he stood again, rocking forward and pressing hard on his knees. He grabbed my hand to help pull me up, then gave up, grabbed his back, and dropped my hand. Stretching some more, he said, “Let’s go Tommy, let’s get out of here. I’m getting too old for this third shift work. Hurry up and get up to speed, so I can retire.” I put my arm around his shoulders and said, “I’ll do my best, sir.” I grabbed my briefcase, and we found our way to the parking lot. The next morning came quickly. I was in the office before daylight. Aunt Brenda had the next package ready for me. I found it in the center of the table, with all the other packages lined up around the room. Jill had everything ready for us to get started. Coffee, juice, lots of fruit and a great continental breakfast; the only thing we had to do was roll up our sleeves and get to it. The package looked the same as the previous packages and had another acronym written on the front: “TPBC.” Jan was already looking for the key words, and on finding them, said, “TPBC—Teams, the Power behind the Company.” We tipped our juice glasses toward Jan and started looking at the mobile. We knew by now that teams would be reflected in the mobile in some way. We found TPBC engraved on one of the pieces hanging from the bar of customer focus, the larger piece balancing three smaller ones on the other end of the bar. Symbolically, the shape of a group of people artistically carved in metal represented a team. As with the other packages, there were pages of text that we would go over in detail later, but for now, we would only skim the surface. 85

Craig Stevens The cartoons were funny. Two Far Side cartoons. The first showed cavemen in front of their suburban caves, of course. In front of one of the caves, a man was hard at work inventing the wheel. He had a chisel and an almost perfect wheel, fashioned from stone. It obviously took him hours of work; I imagined sweat and a pile of chisel tailings. Then he looks up to see three of his buddies honking and waving from a speeding B.C. Cadillac with fins and all. The caption that Uncle Robert had written in read, “We have known since time began that people working together get more done than people working alone.” The next cartoon was similar, and since they were stapled together, we concluded they were to be read together. On this second cartoon, we saw the same group from the B.C. Cadillac, plus those who hadn’t made it past the testing phase. In this earlier stage of development, you could see one guy at the foot of a steep hill, holding a clipboard and taking notes. Three other guys, at the top of the hill, were about to roll a wheel down the steep incline. A fourth guy was tied to the top of the wheel and about to take the ride. I guess we knew why there were only three guys in the B.C. Cadillac of the earlier cartoon. The hand written caption on this one went with the other. It said, “But working together is never easy.” We all got a kick out of the cartoons. I gave Jan the video, and she started it. The TV flickered, and then Uncle Robert was once more sitting at his desk. He looked bad in this one. His face had a grayish tint, and his voice was much weaker. On his desk were bottles of medicine and a glass of water. “Pain pills,” my aunt said. Everyone got quiet as my uncle started to talk. A twinkle returned to his eyes as he started talking, “Hello, Tommy. You are probably getting good at this. You probably already know something about all of the points I have been making. Well, you should, these are all well accepted business concepts. The difference is in the mobile. A young consultant that I met introduced me to the mobile.49 You can read his white paper in the package. You see the way most of these concepts have been taught is a little disjointed, not very systematic. If you can see the relationships and the chronological order in which to implement the major attributes, well then it all makes more sense. I simply organized packages that I thought would help everyone at Geronimo Stone Records implement the ideas. I knew this whole process would come at a difficult time for you and our staff. Change is hard for everyone. So, when you start, you will be able to say that this is what Geronimo asked me to do. They’ll have 86

Geronimo Stone the approval of the old man. You can sell it as my last request. Say, ‘this was Geronimo’s last wish for Geronimo Stone Records.’ That should help you with some of the hardheads. Your senior staff should be of help to you, knowing they are carrying out my wishes. Brew promised me to help lead you through the landmines. He and his friend helped me produce these tapes.” Aunt Brenda held her fingers of one hand to her mouth, and Jill held Aunt Brenda’s other hand. They both looked a little funny. “After everyone goes home at night, she comes here and makes copies for the packages and runs the video recorder. Her and Brew are looking out for me and making me take my medicine. I hate that stuff. It never makes me feel any better, and I don’t see why the doctor says I should take it. It just makes me sleepy. I want to see my last days, not sleep through them.” Tears rolled down Brenda’s face. “This will be a big surprise to everyone. Only Brew and Steven know about these tapes. I will give them to Brenda as soon as they are finished, and she will give them to you over the span of a week or two. I asked her not to look at them until you can look at them together. I want it to be a game. I would love to see you work on these packages. It is my last big game. I hope you enjoy playing it. Okay here it is— “Today’s package is on teams. Teams are the power behind the company. We all have to work together, but it will not be easy. Like the cartoons? I love The Far Side. Larson is one of my heroes; he always makes me laugh. “The best example of teams I remember hearing was from a Career Track tape series I had once. It was on teams, and the speaker’s name was Mark Sanborn50 or something like that. I heard him speak in person once. One comment he made has always stuck with me. He had a list of the differences between a team and a working group. A working group he defined as just a lot of people working together. One of the attributes of a team, he said, was that teams were holographic in nature. “Remember when I took you to the opening day of Star Wars, a long time ago? Remember the little robot, R2U2?” I smiled and whispered, “I remember. It was R2D2.” I also remembered that he was more into the movie than I was, and that was saying a lot. Even as a teenager, I thought he was so cool. I also remembered we always had to stay for the credits. You can always tell whether someone is from the entertainment business by how long they watch the screen after the movie is over. They look for names of people they 87

Craig Stevens know or details about the music, locations, or company logos of those in the business. We never left until the last word rolled off the screen. He continued, “The holographic team idea always reminded me of R2U2. At one point in the movie, R2U2 had a little video attachment that projected holographic pictures. Remember how that little robot found its way to Obi-Wan Kenobi? When R2U2 was alone with him and Luke Skywalker, R2U2 projected the holographic image of Princess Leia asking for help. In holographic form, a small Princess Leia bent over adjusted a control on R2U2, and then stood up and said something like, ‘Oh, Obi-Wan Kenobi, come quickly. We need you. We need you.’ “Well, that is a holograph.” I couldn’t help but think, “Not only do I remember, I also have to relive it often, with my sons.” Robert continued, “Mark Stanborn said that a holograph could be cut into many pieces, and each piece would not be a part of the holograph, but a complete copy of the whole picture. Therefore, if we cut up the Princess Leia holograph, we do not get an ear, an arm, and so on—not a bunch of parts of Princess Leia, but complete copies. Ten cuts would give us ten little Princess Leias, all doing the same thing at the same time. “And here’s the punch line. Teams are the same way. If you divide the team, each of the members should be a copy of the team. Not in looks, attitudes, skills and personalities, but when it comes to the team mission, team goals, team agenda, etcetera. Every member of the team should be a complete picture of the whole. Everyone should have the same personal mission, goals, and agenda. If they do not, you do not have a team. You have a group of people working together. We do not want that. We want everyone on the same page. Doc has probably shown you the goals tree by now. He likes the goals tree. That is what I am talking about. Every goal, mission, and agenda has to fit together to make a picture of the whole company. There is more to it than that, but the rest of it is in your package. Go forth and do great things. Oh—and ‘May the Force be with you.’” Jill and Aunt Brenda looked at each other, disturbed. No one noticed at the time. We were too busy discussing teams and the material spread across our table. Just then, Michael, the production manager, poked his head through the open door. “You guys busy? I have some disturbing news.” 88

Chapter 12

The STAR Wars


ichael pulled Jeanine into the office and explained, “Jeanine came to work early to show us what the trade publication, the Record was saying.” Jeanine, in an excited voice said, “Have you seen the Record?” “Is our release in it?” asked Aunt Brenda. “Sort of. But so is this.” She pointed to a story on the front page under a large picture of John Rader handing a check to Brew.

Behemoth Sings the Blues Behemoth Records president, John Rader, today announced the formation of Behemoth Blues. Amid rampant speculation and industry chatter, he named Malcolm “Brew” Bruebaker, long time Geronimo Stone Records president as the new president of Behemoth Blues. Rader was quoted as saying, “For years, we’ve dominated Rock, Country, Pop, Classical, Jazz, R&B, and Alternative but we’ve always wanted to be considered a player in the uniquely American art of Blues. In two moves over the last few days, I am happy to announce that we are now dominant here, too! We have purchased the entire catalogue and all assets of Mercator Records, and are placing them under the care of the number one Blues impresario in the business, Malcolm Bruebaker. To demonstrate the enormous faith we have in him, I am giving him this blank check. His directive is to sign the greatest living Blues artists, and discover and develop new ones. 89

Craig Stevens We made a decision to take no prisoners, on the road toward building America’s largest Blues label. It is fitting that it carries the name Behemoth Blues. Grant Escobar, the Record More on today’s Behemoth Blues announcement on page 7. “Where is our press release?” I asked. Michael looked at me with a frown as he turned a few pages. “There we are. Behemoth burps and makes front-page news. We get buried on page seven. What’s up with that?” I opened the Record wide and read aloud for all to hear.

Geronimo’s Nephew Mounts Brave Attempt to Save Label from Certain Death. In a story related to Malcolm Bruebaker’s sudden move to Behemoth Records, an unknown management consultant and Robert “Geronimo” Stone’s nephew, Thomas Stone, has assumed interim control of what is left of the once thriving Geronimo Stone Records. Rumors abound that most of the Geronimo staff is heading to Behemoth Blues with Bruebaker. Artists on the troubled imprint refused to comment about their departure from Geronimo. However, a reliable source close to the Record confirms that Geronimo’s leading artist, Franklin Soul, has already made the switch. The Record reported, on June 10, that talks had broken down between Geronimo and Soul regarding contract renewal. A statement from interim Geronimo president, Thomas Stone, says they plan to “rebuild Geronimo Stone Records to Blues prominence.” They claim to have brilliant new music in the pipeline for release this summer. This reporter believes that Behemoth has checkmated the two largest Blues companies with one move. In the process of building a Blues dynasty, Behemoth 90

Geronimo Stone has bought one competitor and decapitated another. In the opinion of this humble scribe, two Blues dynasties end and another begins, this week. Grant Escobar, the Record Jeanine looked pale, almost physically sick. The release she had painstakingly prepared the day before told the story about a failed hostile takeover by Behemoth. It told how the recent death of Geronimo’s founder had inspired the family to rebuild Geronimo Stone Records. It explained how the combined efforts of the family and company employees had kept the company in the black and working steadily towards new releases and unprecedented growth over the next twelve months. Jeanine was accustomed to having her teeth kicked in regularly by the media. It went with the territory. This was different. It was personal. She had calculated that by giving her so-called friend, Grant, the exclusive on the story, he would print some of it in context. She apologized to everyone in the room and vowed never to make that mistake again. While Jeanine, Jan, and I were shocked, Dr. Steven just shook his head and said, “Welcome to the music business.” He shrugged his shoulders. We had to regroup and keep fighting. “It’s almost 7:30,” I said. “The staff will start trickling in, in about half an hour. Some of them will have already seen those articles. Let’s take this last half-hour to plan how to get the truth out to the staff. We have to call the artists, lawyers, managers, publishers, agents, radio, and the rest of the press. “Jeanine, please circulate your original press release to the staff and our industry partners—the whole database. Send a cover note with it, advising them that it is the real story. Tell them we’d love to hear from them with any questions, to sort the truth from the nonsense being published about us.” Jill left for her desk, to prepare for the day. As she went through the door, I yelled to her, “Tell them that the rumors of our death have been greatly exaggerated.”51 I winked at Aunt Brenda and said, “Mark Twain said that.” She smiled, then I instructed her and Jan, “Go to the lobby to greet the employees.” “Steven,” I asked, “how did your calls to the artists go, yesterday?” 91

Craig Stevens “I connected with everyone but Franklin Soul and Tuber Washington. Brew is taking them to Behemoth. He has been meeting with each of them over the last two months, preparing them for the move to Behemoth. When the tables turned on Friday, Brew called them over the weekend, to persuade them to switch. Train West, Catfish Houston, and nine others are solid. The new babies are solid. I am getting a little trouble from Ruby Moore’s lawyer, though. He thinks that, after all the rumors of our demise, we may be in breach and wants to renegotiate Ruby’s deal. He’s trying to use the changes as an opportunity to get better points.” I asked, “Isn’t Ruby Moore the one that put a record out last year and didn’t do much?” “That’s her,” said Jeanine. “We sold 74,000 pieces, she got some press, and we’ve been touring her to try to build a base.” “Is she close to a break-even?” Steven answered, “Probably about another 30,000 pieces.” “Well,” I said, “I’d say Ruby’s deal is probably fine the way it is. What’s her lawyer’s name?” “Edward L. Fox,” sighed Steven. “Does he represent anyone else on the label?” “Nada.” “Well, its times like these when you find out who your friends are, huh?” Steven just smiled. Brenda came back at eight-thirty to tell me that everyone seemed to be coming in early. She said, “Several employees have mentioned that they brought a lot of ideas with them this morning and would like to talk to you about continuing the workshops today.” She pulled me into the hall, and I walked with her out to the lobby. They stormed me! It was amazing. In one long breath, a young man said, “Tommy, I mean, Mr. Stone, sir, I was thinking we could set up, an internal bulletin board—you know, a BBS, so everyone could post questions, ideas and progress messages on the projects we’re working on. Oh, sorry, My name’s Dave Parker. I’m in promotions.” “Excuse me, Tommy, my name is Susan Alden. I work with Jeanine in media. I’m sorry about what the Record did to us today. But I was thinking—wouldn’t it be cool to share our press releases, bios, artist updates, and news on the website and the artists’ sites, as a way to keep fans and consumers informed? No one trusts the news anymore. People want facts, not biased opinions.” 92

Geronimo Stone The Record hadn’t affected these guys at all; they were ready for a fight. “Great, Susan and Dave. Those are great ideas! It’s nice to meet you. Would you take charge of those things? Oh but first clear it with your supervisors and find out if anyone else is already doing them, and if not work out the details with I.S.?” “Hey, I’m Sherman—” Aunt Brenda beamed, and it went on like that all day. When the end finally came, we met back at the office to debrief, do a damage assessment, and plan for the next day. Steven started. “The best I can tell from our conversations is this— we lost a little and gained a little. The negative publicity, at first sight, was a major blow. Nevertheless, the only people who read trade publications are insiders and stock market investors. Not customers. We own our stock internally, and we do not trade on the stock market, so that won’t affect us. As far as insiders go, we may actually get more mileage if our competitors focus on Behemoth, instead of us. We lost one competitor, but we haven’t really gained one. You see, Behemoth is a large, bureaucratic organization; they will now have to deal with the cocoon stage of this change. Some people call it the ‘valley of despair.’52 We’ll have some time to plan our responses. We’re smaller and more flexible. We may have problems related to radio play and shelf space, but with good relationship building, we can minimize the negatives. Soon, the buzz of the new label will wear off inside the Behemoth machine, and they’ll go back to focusing on pop stars and haircut bands. The Blues fad at Behemoth will run its course.” Brenda added, “The story didn’t hit our employees as hard as we feared. They are more excited about making an impact. I think as long as we continue to pay them well for their efforts and give them more say in the management of day-to-day activities, we have a real chance to turn this place around.” Jan interjected, “The books are starting to take shape. We don’t have any cash reserves to speak of, but neither do we have any debt. We will be able to meet our obligations, but we are only maintaining a steady horizontal line. If we have to spend any money at all, it’ll mean a loss. We could look into an IPO—that would generate a great deal of cash.” “I never liked the IPO route,” I said. “An initial public offering, for most of the companies I helped get started, has not been the best way to go. My experience with IPOs has been a mixture of positives and nega93

Craig Stevens tives. In many cases, as soon as the IPO is issued, money pours in. This generates a sense of abundance, and the first thing people do is repay all of the good ol’ boys and girls that worked so hard to make the company work in the first place. There is money to start with, but eventually, you have to pay all that back in performance. Too often, the IPO is used to line personal pockets and make foolish decisions, and then the company is forced to make other decisions to make stockholders happy. We could control all of this, but let’s not go that route, just yet. I think we should look at opening the stock to employees, first. Heck, it’s probably the best way to go, anyway, considering that we want to empower everyone.” “How about a stock-matching account?” said Jan. “And what about the first four attributes of our mobile?” Dr Steven answered, “Our leadership pool looked like it would be a major problem. But now, I think the whole thing was a blessing. Because of our money situation, we would have had to make major cuts anyway, while trying not to destroy the supportive culture. That would have been next to impossible. We would have had to make major changes in management to turn this company around, forcing a chemistry change—and that is often hard to manage. The exodus set us up to accomplish our objectives without anyone knowing we were doing it. The most expensive people left and with them, many of the barriers to change did, too.” “That’s interesting Steven. I noticed that sometimes companies cut costs by removing the most valuable resources they have—the people doing the work. It takes years to rebuild the experience. Sometimes, the managers that don’t, or can’t, do the work make cuts selfishly, just to save their own worthless positions. We lucked into a situation where the deadweight cut themselves out of the picture. I know we lost good people, but by leaving, they forced us into a change that the culture of Geronimo Stone Records immediately accepted. That would never have happened if our management team were still here. The pressure to try something new is driving the culture to change in ways we want it to.” “What about our artists?” “We took a couple of hits,” said Steven, “but a couple of Behemoth’s big stars are fed up with the rat race, and they want to bring their stuff to us. Brew’s reputation has preceded him. These may not be the only ones. Some of Mercator Records’ stars are dreading the move to Behemoth. After we talked to them, most of them thought they would be treated better at Geronimo Stone Records. When John and 94

Geronimo Stone Brew bought Mercator, they kicked out many of the department heads, in order to have a place for our old managers. They thought they were killing two competitors with one move, but they had to promise the new guys big bucks, and in doing so, made their products more expensive. They lowered their profit margins. “Massive cuts at Mercator must have lowered morale. You cannot change the chemistry of a team and expect it not to have an impact. Their jobs just got harder, and they probably don’t even know why. A configuration management issue goes along with all this. They don’t understand the handshake agreements and unspoken laws of the new company, artists, and clients,53 or the other employee cultural issues. The culture at Mercator was the opposite of Behemoth, and it was better than what we had here. I think Mercator was heading in the direction we are now, only they were several steps ahead of us. They were well underway in empowering their employees. I bet we will start getting resumes very soon from the old Mercator crowd. Let’s keep our eyes open.” Jill chimed in, “That’s right. I’ve already heard from one of the managers, and he wants to bring his whole department. I told him to send us resumes and make proposals. I’ll let you know as they come in.”


Chapter 13

The Team’s Tool Box


he alarm clock startled me Wednesday morning, and when I reached to turn it off, I noticed it was only three-thirty AM. “You can do this,” I encouraged myself. “Just get started.” I rolled over, kissed Jan, and sweetly whispered in her ear, “Time to get up, sweetie.” With all the energy she had, she forced one eye open. Her eyelid quivered like an Olympic power lifter under the strain of a heavy weight. The eye promptly closed, never making a second try. I leaned over her and said, a little louder, “Hey, sweetie, this was your idea. Let’s have our adventure.” Again, her eye opened, this time quicker, but with the same result. Her eye reminded me of Groundhog Day. In this case, the little groundhog came out, saw light, and escaped into its little home, not to be seen again for a while. She grabbed the covers, pulled them over her head, and turned over, wrapping herself up like a large soft taco or egg roll. That reminded me. “Ah, food!” I was so tired last night that I never ate. I leaned over, gave her a big hug, and whispered, “I’ll be right back.” I hurried to the kitchen, opened the refrigerator door, and pulled out my version of a cup of coffee—a grapefruit. My mouth welcomed it, and then I found a couple of bananas on the counter and finished them off in short order. There, that would hold me until I got to the office, where Jill would have breakfast waiting for us. I hurried back to the bedroom, and on the way, I heard Aunt Brenda’s shower starting. Good ol’ Aunt Brenda. Won’t have to worry about her being on time. I went back to our room and looked through the bedroom door. There was Jan, still lying on the bed like a giant cocoon. I jumped on the bed, leaned over her, and tried to find the head of the elusive, sleeping butterfly. I knew I was getting close. I started seeing hair, so the head couldn’t have been far away. I only had to follow the hair and the muffled, grumbling, grunting noises. 97

Craig Stevens “Wake up, Miss Butterfly. I know you’re in there.” “Leave me alone,” she whimpered. I replied, “No can do. Not today! We have work to do.” I’d always been the morning person, but this was the third time this week I’d had to get up this early. We had been getting to work at five AM and leaving late. I could have done it easily if not for the late-night bull sessions we had every night. Jan and Brenda were just winding up at ten PM. They called me the party pooper because I shut down about that time. I’d always been that way. What would I miss? Girl talk, that’s all! Anyway, I needed eight hours of sleep. I bent down, kissed her sweet little head, and said, “That’s okay, sweetie; we just have to do this a couple more days. We have to finish the packages before Monday. That’s when the kids get back from their vacation with Grandma and Grandpa.” If it lasted much longer, we’d all have burned out. I figured that Jan and Brenda were only alive because of caffeine. The other night had been the first time in a long time that I even thought about drinking coffee, but even then, I gave it to Dr. Steven. I looked back down, and Jan’s cocoon was curled up and S-shaped. “Wake up, sleepy head.” That didn’t work. She covered her head tighter. I decided to take a quick shower. The water felt great. I turned it up a little hotter and steam filled the beautiful, glass-enclosed room. The whole house was wired for sound. Near the showerhead was a waterproof remote control. Something to play with—I turned the music to one of Aunt Brenda’s stations. My God is an awesome God, He reigns from heaven above, With wisdom, power, and love. My God is an awesome God. What great resonance the little room had. I finished, dried off, went back to the butterfly, leaned over, and slowly unwrapped her face. “It’s four o’clock; we have to leave by four-thirty. You’re not going to make it unless you start getting up.” She ignored me, as was her morning custom. I left her, jumped off the bed, and went to the walk-in closet. I pulled out the suit of the day, the only suit I had with me, quickly dressed, and was ready to go in fifteen minutes. 98

Geronimo Stone I looked back in the room, and to my delight, the cocoon was opened and empty. Just then, a walking zombie came out of the bathroom, passed me, made its way back to the bed, fell into it and by turning and pulling the covers, re-inhabited the cocoon. “Bummer!” She finally got up and dressed, and somehow, we made it to the office by five-fifteen. For the entire trip, she sat in the corner of the car with her eyes closed and arms crossed, sipping on her third cup of coffee. As we pulled into the office parking lot, she started waking up, one body part at a time, and soon she was almost walking like a real, live human being. Jill was already there. She had all the lights on. The packages we had already seen were on display by the windows, and our breakfast was ready to go. Aunt Brenda came in with the next package. She handed it to me, saluted, and said, “Sir, package number five, ready for inspection, sir.” I took her package, returned the salute, and said, “I think you are taking this leadership thing a little too far.” This package had a picture of a toolbox on it. The letters “PSSTTB” were on the side of the picture. Jan, ignoring everyone, sat on the couch with her eyes closed. We all looked at her and waited. She felt the silence and the weight of our eyes. “What?” Dr. Steven looked at her and said, “Someone didn’t get enough sleep last night.” She cocked her head, raised her eyebrows, and stared back at us. She squinched her nose and gave a sarcastic hiss. “Okay, okay.” She stood up, stretched and yawned, stretched some more, and pretended she was interested and ready to go. I opened the package and placed the material on the table. Jan grabbed the cartoons and read, “PSSTTB—Problem-solving Skills, the Team’s Tool Box.” She threw the cartoons back on the table, then sat down and leaned her head back on the couch. She was enjoying her role. She looked up, cocked her head again, and gave us all a forced smile, progressively becoming more alert. I handed the tape to Jill, and she did us the honor of playing it. Uncle Robert’s health had continued to slide. We could tell he was not feeling well as we watched the tape. His words were slurred. “Tommy, you only have two more tapes to watch after this one. This tape deals with an important step in achieving excellent management 99

Craig Stevens skills. This step deals with building core competencies, problemsolving skills, and general employee skill development. If you look at the mobile on the desk in my office, a toolbox hanging beneath the bar of customer focus represents this step. The symbolism goes as follows: Leadership is the first step. Nothing can happen without leadership. Start there. Next, build the organization’s culture. Build a single company culture from the multi-dimensional culture you will find in most of today’s businesses. You taught me that— remember? I learned too late, but you have time and can do this. Next, think of the customer. This will only happen after the culture accepts it as important. On the last tape, we discussed having people working in teams.” He paused to rest, and then continued, “We have to use a team approach to power the company. No one person can generate all the fresh ideas necessary to run a business in today’s world. Remember how the three other objects balance the team’s object on the mobile. All four pieces are required before you can balance excellent management. Remove any, and the mobile is out of balance. Remove any one of those attributes in your organization, and the organization is out of balance and will never be effective. “This brings us to today’s attribute of excellent management, problem-solving skills and core competencies. This is the team’s toolbox, but it is more than that. You have to think in terms of a learning organization—a learning environment. We have to teach people the best ways to solve problems and educate them to perform their work. They have to commit to educating themselves, and the organizational culture has to reinforce the importance of continuous learning.” Again, there was a pause as Geronimo just sat in his chair. It was hard for me to see him this way. Geronimo continued. “Building employee skills is easy to understand, but what is more difficult to understand is that we have to build a culture that likes to learn anything and everything. Even the stuff we do not think is important, may lead to breakthroughs we will need later. We need to support as much as we can afford without worrying about if it is necessary for that person to know that specific thing, or worry whether a person will leave after they graduate from a program. If we are the company we should be, they would not want or need to go somewhere else. Unleash people to learn and gain an education in whatever they find interesting. In addition, the executive and middlelevel leadership has to accept the empowerment of the teams and indi100

Geronimo Stone viduals doing the work. This is hard for type-A personalities like me. It is almost impossible for those with large egos and power hungry people like—well, like Brew.” That statement surprised me. Wasn’t Brew doing the taping? Uncle Robert continued. “The culture has to stress the importance of solving problems ethically and with honor. I wish politicians could grasp this concept. The only way a person or team can be effective in problem-solving is to do what is right. Doing what is right, not just for the short-term benefit of a few, but for the organization, the team, the company, and the country as a whole. This is important when serving the customer. You cannot segregate ‘doing what is right’ from a worldview, values, and beliefs. It is a character issue. Everyone makes mistakes, but our company culture should pressure people into doing what is right, regardless of the cost. Don’t force people into stretching the truth and breaking the rules on your or the company’s behalf. If someone is willing to do this, well, maybe it is time to replace him or her. Those who lie for you will also lie to you. “The customer is the only reason we are in business, but there are some things we should never sell. If it is bad for our customers, our employees, or our country, then we should not be in that business. We may find customers who want illegal drugs, but that does not mean we should sell drugs. The same thing goes with music, or any opportunity. It is not censorship or bigotry; it is a question of quality—the quality of life for future generations. We should not contribute to the self-destruction of our craft or industry. Dishonesty is one of the big problems the music industry faces today. An economy will not grow where people feel empowered to steal the products instead of buying them. I feel our own entertainment industry has helped to create this culture. “I am afraid some people in our company want to do things that are not good for our company, families, or country. Everyone who works here needs to know that our core values are inviolable. Brew and I seem to be looking at two different pictures. Remember this, Tommy— you are in charge. Do not let anyone take that from you. You will have to drive changes into the culture I left you. I know you can. You have done it before for others now you must do something harder. Do it for yourself. I left you a great deal of information. Much of this you may already know, but how it fits together is the key to success. Dr. Steven has the keys to this package. Listen to him for the rest of it. Tommy, I love you and your family. Give Brenda a big hug for me.” 101

Craig Stevens We watched Uncle Robert lift his handheld remote and press the off button. The screen went blank. Obviously, Bruebaker and his girlfriend weren’t in the room that day. They must have had a falling out. I asked if anyone knew the story. Aunt Brenda said, “That was the day your uncle went to the emergency room. He was very sick, but as he started feeling better, he finished his project with the packages. He just did it from the hospital. He never gave me the details, but he told me he no longer trusted Brew and thought Brew’s girlfriend was trouble, too. We knew Brew was greedy, but Robert would never have believed the stuff we found out about him. From that point on, I had Brew tailed, and we watched his every move. We intercepted anything that looked out of place. John supervised the investigation. Robert would never had suspected Brew would have acted the way he did during our board meeting.” John added, “Ivan did a lot of the electronic stuff. He’s a genius.” Ivan smiled and patted John on the back. He was a quiet sort, but very dedicated and excited about his work. We were running out of time and getting off the subject, so I redirected the conversation. I looked over at Dr. Steven and said, “Looks like you’re on.” Dr. Steven said, “Building skills and problem-solving tools is a powerful attribute. I know you know this, Tommy, but for the sake of others here, think of problem-solving in the broader sense as the skills and core competencies needed to do a good job. “I did a Google search and found subjects related to problem-solving, including concepts such as learning organizations, systems thinking, training in using tools and skills, methods, business and quality tools, processes of all kinds, project management tools, and so on. I found writings about building core competencies and much more. Think of this attribute as a catchall for any problem-solving tool, any decision-making method, any core skills or competencies, and entire methods of doing and achieving work, like project management, for example. ‘Problem-solving tools’ is a misnomer. Tools don’t solve problems—people do. Tools support people. We may use statistical methods as part of our Six Sigma program, but people design the experiments, use the tools to target and flag the problems, collect the data, analyze the data, decide on a course of action, and do the work to fix the problem. Each step may require different tools, but people do the work. One symbol your uncle and I developed to explain organizational problem-solving to our people is this.” Dr. Steven lifted a graphic entitled “Solving Organizational Problems.” 102

Geronimo Stone Figure 5. Solving Organizational Problems 54

“If we view an organization’s problem as a weight to be moved, a set of problem-solving tools could be viewed as the lever and fulcrum used to move the weight. The lever is only as strong as the choice of tools applied. No one tool does all things. Different tools are required to solve different problems, and we may have to design new ones as we 103

Craig Stevens go. If this is true, the closer the fulcrum is to the weight, the more leverage one has to move the weight. The fulcrum gets closer as the teams’ skills in using the chosen tool increases. Increasing skill requires training in and frequent application of problem-solving tools. “The force applied to the lever is a function of teamwork and communication. To have optimal effect on the organizational problem—the most leverage—we must move the force as far back on the lever as possible. In our organization, we do this by giving the team time. In essence, apply force as far away from the problem as possible. This symbolic distance on the lever is a factor of when the team will be empowered to solve the problem. It is like turning a ship. One has to give the ship plenty of room and begin the turn long before the ship actually needs to make it. In many instances, someone has seen a problem coming for years. However, fear, politics, micro-management, or other cultural issues keep us from trying to solve it until it is too late for our team problem-solving tools to be effective.” I broke in. “Kind of like my uncle and this company.” Dr. Steven nodded. “Yes. When we apply force at a point where the tool will not properly work, we have to try another tool, or brace for the consequences. We are starting to see consequences now. Think of yourself as one of the new foremen, and you will have to help your craftsmen master new tools. How would you do that?” With that, time had slipped away, and the workday was about to start. The rest of the information would have to wait until later. As the meeting broke up, I held the mobile in my hand, and we all looked at it. “A neat little piece of art with a lot to teach us. I hope it will help us come up with ideas as we investigate Geronimo’s packages.”


Chapter 14

Rader Ups the Ante


ne by one, everyone left my office. Dr. Steven continued to finesse the stars; he would have an interesting day as clients and their managers called for answers and reassurance. Jan called on her old company for support rebuilding our financial records. She had her work cut out for her. Ivan and John had plenty of security holes to fill. Ivan and his Information Technology (I.T.) group were busy planning our technological future. Aunt Brenda left to work her magic. She and I made rounds separately, visiting the teams. We wanted to ensure their motivation and success with continued diagnostics and damage control. Michael went back to the studio with a renewed creative vision. The creative side of the business was foreign to me. I thought to myself that we were asking a lot from our people. They had to perform their daily activities, help plan our future at the same time, and do it after being abandoned by a once-trusted management team, in the middle of a hostile takeover attempt. Jill broke through on the speakerphone. “Your eight o’clock visitors are here from Westbrook Stevens.”55 “Great, Jill. Send them in.” In walked the people who had taught me about change, JW, management, productivity, and quality; Matthew, organizational change and operations; Pat, marketing and communications; Leah, human resources, motivation, and stress; Frank, procurement and business systems; Jeanne, public relations, media, and communications; and Michael, music industry operations and business development. They were happy to see me. They should have been—we’re great friends, not to mention this was a big job and we were dishing out big bucks. We grabbed hands and exchanged hugs, as though we hadn’t seen each other for years. It had only been a couple of days. They had helped us through the all-hands meetings and brainstorming sessions on Monday. I was grateful they had come in Monday, on a moment’s notice, rearranging schedules over the weekend to do so. I had explained we 105

Craig Stevens needed immediate help, and they’d postponed everything else to be there by noon. I hadn’t been able to spend much time with them then, but we had talked on the phone on Tuesday, and they had agreed to follow up today and help us as long as we needed. Each committed as they found holes in their schedules. This was a big risk for Westbrook Stevens, too. They’d agreed to a cut rate and understood we might not be able to pay them for a while if things didn’t turn around soon. My aunt was running out of cars to sell. “You guys were a big help Monday. Everyone I talked to told me how helpful you were. You showed our people the tools to use, walked them through the processes, and helped them lead the way. It would have been ten times more difficult without you.” “That’s our job!” smiled Matthew. Looking around the room, JW said, “Nice digs! We didn’t get much time to talk Monday, but you have a great place here. Your people are a little confused, but that will pass. I can see why you decided to stay.” “Oh, it’s more than that,” I replied. “I really had no choice.” For the next hour, I shared all that had happened. I explained the attempted hostile takeover and about Brenda selling priceless art, cars, and the artifacts of the history of Geronimo Stone Records and the Nashville recording scene to pay for our survival. I explained how high the stakes were, our future risks, and the problems I saw coming. Then I picked up the mobile and showed them the packages and tapes left by my uncle. JW and Matthew looked at each other and said, “The Seven Attributes of Excellent Management.”56 “We know the developer,” they said. Matthew added, “Piece o’ cake.” We continued until we had a complete picture of what was happening at Geronimo Stone Records, and then we negotiated their roles. They would act as facilitators, helping our people through this time of confusion. I had worked with these guys for a long time, so I knew what they were able to accomplish. I summarized the plan for them and ended with, “You know the drill. You’ve done things like this before.” I handed out information about Geronimo Stone Records, complete with organization charts. Many names were crossed out. I gave them office layouts of the building, and John gave them each ID badges. I handed out copies of questions and answers, suggestions, surveys, comment sheets, the results of the brainstorming sessions, and flow charts from our work on Monday. 106

Geronimo Stone I told them, “Mix with the departments. You were introduced to everyone on Monday. Maybe you should start with the group with which you developed the closest relationship. After you have helped that group stabilize, have someone introduce you to the next group on your list. Very few of the original management team have stayed with us, so leave the groups that do have a manager alone until you have stabilized departments without managers. “Leah, this is where you come in. Start documenting missing core competencies, as defined by group sessions, and help us find replacements. Counsel those who express an interest in changing departments or duties. We should let our people find their ideal places before we look outside. This may mean training, temporary assignments, or a period of transfer. Keep the burden of leading on them. You’re here to support, not manage. Help them make decisions and keep an eye on transition planning, so our jobs don’t become harder. Your command center will be the executive boardroom. Jill will show you where it is. “When we come back to debrief, we’ll make a decision on the talent we need to hire to meet our goals. In the meantime, look at minimizing barriers between people and departments. Open the flow of information. Simplify the work, and empower the workforce to handle as much as possible at lower levels. Be sure to include in your plans the time-dependent layers we talked about, related to leadership and empowerment. It will take time to get people ready to lead. Focus on issues relating to an effective culture, customer focus, and team building. Help me understand the skills we’ll need to have to train our people and help them build up their problem-solving toolboxes. “Configuration and information management, security, customer relationship management, and quality are very important at this stage. The people we have left are scared; show them you have everything under control. Let everyone know you’ve done this before, and they all are a valuable part of the future of Geronimo Stone Records. Call Jill if you need anything. You guys can do this! It’s old hat for you, by now.” As I turned them loose, I felt a sense of relief to have the people who taught me, now helping me in such a time of stress. It was like having the U.S. Navy SEALS on your side. If they couldn’t pull you out of trouble, no one could. They’d help keep everyone calm and focused on solutions instead of problems. They’d ask questions as they waited for openings in busy schedules. They all had experience in organizational development, industrial engineering, marketing, recruiting, and business systems, and 107

Craig Stevens had a strong background in management theory. As they interviewed, they’d be doing a SWOT analysis, as they looked at our Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats. At Westbrook Stevens, we used the same type of philosophy that the mobile revealed. It made sense, and my uncle did say my ideas had helped him understand the mobile. Our employees would be able to do the work if the original managers had been worth their salt in the first place. You could judge how good a manager was by how well the organization ran after he or she left. I wished people understood this point in politics. Everything that happens is a product of history. It took six to eight years for the economy to respond to the actions of a president. If we looked at the U.S. economy, and then counted back six to eight years, we’d find the origin of the problem and/or possible solutions. How did Singe put it, in the book ‘The Fifth Discipline?’ “Today’s problems come from yesterday’s solutions.”57 But, companies want to see quicker results and force people to be shortsighted. How well a new manager does depends on the person before him. At least everyone remaining here seemed up to the challenge. That did look good for the managers who left. Everyone went to work, and then I walked over to my desk, picked up the mobile, and took a last look at it. I set it down, and the mobile danced, reflected light, and created soft musical notes. I wondered if anyone would believe we were basing our whole management plan for survival on a piece of art. Jill broke through on the speakerphone. “John Rader’s secretary is on the phone. Do you want to talk to him?” “No! Yes—maybe—hold a second, Jill.” “Will do!” she replied. I’d been avoiding his calls long enough. I decided to take this one. The timing was right; I had a couple of minutes. Maybe I’d learn his next step. “Okay, Jill.” A couple of seconds later, she transferred John to my phone. “Hello, John, this is Tom.” John Rader answered, “Hello, Tom. You’ve been busy.” “Things are hopping,” I stated. “Let’s get to the point. I was wrong; you have what it takes to manage our effort in building a Blues label. So, Behemoth Records is prepared to offer you $250,000 a year, plus bonuses, including a $250,000 signing bonus, stock options, and incentives that would give you a cool million dollars a year—just to manage our effort. I’m pre108

Geronimo Stone pared to sweeten the offer to buy Geronimo Stone Records. Since your family owns all, or most of the stock, you will make even more money than if you had accepted our original deal. We’ll let you pick your staff; you can bring almost anyone you want to the winning side. This is as good as it gets, my boy. I went to bat for you. You can keep most of the players you want, and get rid of those who don’t deserve to work for you. Your aunt could buy all her junk back.” He paused for a moment to let his words sink in. “She hasn’t sold the farm yet, has she?” he asked. “I understand she’s selling everything. She already met with real estate people. Sounds like a fire sale to me.” “She’s not very materialistic,” I answered. “She is more interested in rebuilding Geronimo Stone Records.” “Great, then. We all want the same thing. We’ll make Geronimo Stone Records a division of Behemoth. You’ll meet your goals and so will your aunt. You can support your family with a cushy job, making good money, plus you’ll have a fortune from the sale of the record company. I wish someone offered me a deal like this. You don’t even have to work if you don’t want. If you’d rather, you can just consult Behemoth Records from a home office. Take a couple of trips every now and then; spend time with your kids. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Your wife will love you for it. Your aunt will love you for it. Your kids will love you for it. They’re still in Los Altos with your wife’s family, aren’t they? I bet they’re enjoying the fruit trees in your in-laws’ yard. I bet you worry about them, not being around to protect them.” “I don’t like the way he said that,” I thought to myself. It sounded like a threat. He knew too much. I wouldn’t trust anyone who knew too much about my personal life. “Back to the offer,” said John. “How about it?” “I’ll never work with Brew.” “Brew who? He’s as good as gone.” “I don’t think my aunt will go for it.” “But you want to; I can tell from your hesitation. Tell you what— how about I make you a deal. I’ll up the salary to $300,000 and throw in a position for Jan; she could stay home with the kids and work from there if she’d like. I’ll even include a signing bonus for her.” “John, send me the offer, and we’ll look at it but—” “It’s a deal then,” John blurted. “It’s already there; I have a courier waiting in the parking lot.” 109

Craig Stevens “I never said it was a deal; I said send it over, and we’d look at it.” “Good enough, kid. You won’t be able to turn it down. By Monday, your kids will be safe, and you’ll be hugging them. You can tell them you’re the new VP of Behemoth’s Geronimo Stone Records Division. You saved the farm, my boy. You’ll be a hero!” Click. I turned around, and there stood Aunt Brenda, in the open doorway. Her posture said it all; she hated what that guy stood for. Her face looked serious; her brows etched with her distrust of John Rader and resolve to fight. She walked in the room and closed the door. “How long have you been standing there?” I asked. “I think I heard the whole thing,” she replied. “What are you going to do?” “I think it’s ‘What are we going to do,’ isn’t it?” “Tommy, I said I’d follow your lead—now lead. You heard the man—all you have to do is ‘Turn these Rocks into Bread,’58 and we’ll all have a feast and live happily ever after.” Jill knocked on the door, peaked in, and said using her fingers to make quotation makes in the air, “‘A courier’ is here from Behemoth Records.” She had a funny look on her face. “How could he have gotten here so fast? I just hung up the phone.” I told her to send him in, and in walked a beautiful blond, wearing a tight Behemoth Records t-shirt. She could have been a Hooters Girl. With an inviting, toothy smile and exaggerated curves, it was hard to tell what the words Behemoth Records referred to, but there was no mistaking the message Behemoth wanted me to receive. She said, “I hear you’re joining us,” then she handed me the package and stood there, as if waiting for orders. “Thank you,” I said. “If there is anything I can help you with, my number is right here.” With a flamboyant gesture, she pointed to her number on the back of the package. “If you need anything, you can reach me on my cell, anytime, day or night. Behemoth will pick up the bill.” Then she turned and walked out, stopping and turning at the door to smile and wink before she left. Jill just stood there, her eyes wide and mouth open. Aunt Brenda leaned over to Jill, and in a low tone said, “I wonder which block her cell is in?” Jill watched the courier slink down the hall. Jill looked at me and Aunt Brenda, winked, and turned to walk out. She lifted her right hand 110

Geronimo Stone delicately in the air, threw a little kiss over her shoulder, and swung her hips so wide as she walked though the door, I was afraid she’d throw her back out. We couldn’t help but laugh as we heard her knock things off her desk as she made her way back to her chair. “Looks like you already have a staff eager to please and ready to go,” my aunt said. “That’s Behemoth Records—young and sexy. Kind of like, ‘It’s Spring Break, and you’re away from your parents.’” She sighed. “They do have great sales numbers. So, are you buying it?” “It’s a good deal, and John said you listed your farm for sale.” My aunt looked at me and said, “Listen, sweetie, when your uncle and I first started, we lived in a ratty old trailer. I could retire to a nice condo and be happy, as long as I know we gave it a good fight. I have my retirement set up so that I can do that any time I want. I even have a condo ready. Nothing you can do will change that. I listen to Dave Ramsey59, and I’m not stupid.” “But the farm has been in your family for over a hundred years. It’s a historic Civil War site.” She looked at me with peace in her eyes. “The War is over; it’s just land and a building. Everything changes, and nothing on Earth lasts forever. Earth isn’t Heaven. That comes after our time here. I’ll be dead and gone one day, and I’m putting my eggs in a spiritual basket. I have no children; you are my only heir. You have to make this decision. I just hate to see trash like John Rader win. If it were up to me alone, I’d make this company employee-owned. I’d make everyone here partners in our success.” Jill broke in on the speakerphone. “Hey, big boy.” “Yes, swivel hips?” She snickered and added, in a more serious tone, “Sarah, from Lockland and Moore is here, can I send her in? She had a minute or two of free time, so I asked her to come over. I thought you might need her after that phone call from John.” How did she do that? She was always two steps ahead of the game. “Thanks Jill, you smart hunk of woman, you.” Jill and Sarah were laughing as Sarah opened the door.


Chapter 15



first met Sarah in the executive meeting my first day here. She was the young attorney. I shook Sarah’s hand and said, “The soap opera continues.” “We can handle it,” she said. “Whatcha got for me?” I took the unopened contract from Behemoth Records and handed it to Jill, along with my handwritten notes from my phone conversation with John Rader. Looking at Sarah, I said, “I have these.” Then I turned to Jill. “Have someone make three copies of this. Give one to Sarah, and have one logged in the records file, then take the original, put it in the active files, and give the other copy back to me.” “Come in, and I’ll explain,” I said, gesturing for Sarah to sit down. “I can’t stay long,” she said. “I have other appointments today, but fill me in on what I’m reviewing and what you want me to do.” Aunt Brenda and I brought her up to speed and summarized the events of the week. I told her about the latest offer from Behemoth Records and its arrival. Then I asked her to look over the contract, to see what she thought of it. As I finished, Jill came back with the copies and handed a set to Sarah. We stood, walked Sarah down the hall, and said our goodbyes. Sarah placed her copies in her briefcase as we walked out. As Sarah left, Aunt Brenda and I returned to my office. “What’s next on the agenda?” I asked Jill. “You have your day cut out for you. You and Steven have already had four calls this morning from reporters about yesterday’s press releases. There’s a list of others who want to talk to you, too. We’re getting the Mercator resumes, just as I suspected we would. Their management team is starting to call; some are even walking in, all the way from Chicago.” Brenda added, “And boy, are their feet tired.” Jill smiled and continued, “The Mercator people are looking for places to land. I’ve taken the liberty to ask HR to set up interviews with 113

Craig Stevens their old employees. We’ll get the scoop on what really happened, and maybe even find people who can help us. I was thinking that we could negotiate lower salaries, temporarily—until we get our feet under us. If we can sign some of their stars, well, we might even have the cash flow to pay for all this.” I looked at Jill. “Excellent detective work, Jill. I want to meet anyone with an interesting story or any senior staffer who can fit into one of our open slots. Who’s doing the screening?” “I thought we would let HR start the process. I would meet them afterwards, document skill sets, and probe for gossip on Behemoth. When we run across a good find, I guess we’ll set up a meeting with the appropriate department’s empowered team, then the senior staff, then you—if the candidates make it that far.” “Sounds like you have everything under control. But if you hear any information I can use, let me meet that person quickly.” Jill nodded, and then continued with the agenda. “Okay then. You have to make rounds with the employee teams today, to help plan the future of their departments. Oh, and your kids just called, so you’ll want to call them back first, then later today, you have the debriefing with the Westbrook Stevens group at five-thirty.” “That reminds me. Tell John and Jan I need to see them right away. And please get my kids on the phone as soon as you can.” Aunt Brenda was about to leave, but I stopped her. “I need you here, too.” Within minutes, Jill had the phone ringing at Jan’s mother’s house, in California. “Hello!” “Hello, Grandma. It’s awfully early there; is everyone okay?” “Oh, yes,” she answered. “I know we talked last night, but I had the feeling you might want to talk to your kids again today, so we called your office. That nice young woman said you were on the phone, and I told her to let you know we called. Do you have time to talk to everyone?” “Oh sure, but first, how are you and grandpa holding up? Anything happening in California?” Jan walked in, and I switched to the speakerphone. Jan spoke up. “Hi, Mom!” We heard her say in a muffled voice, probably to Grandpa George, “It’s Jan and Tommy. Go get the kids.” Then, to us, “We couldn’t be better. We’ve been going to the beach and the mountains and traveling up and down the coast, and today we’re going to Marine World, Africa U.S.A. George rented a custom army van, and we have been living it up.” 114

Geronimo Stone We heard Grandpa George in the background, surrounded by excited voices. “Army van? Here, give me that phone.” “Tommy, I rented a slightly-stretched Hummer, with extra seats in the back.” “What?” I said. “A Hummer? So that’s what the kids have been talking about.” “I’ve wanted one of those, ever since they came out. With your crew here, it was the perfect time to rent one. Of course, it’s a little tight with the six of us, but we’ve been all over and as you know, we’ve gone camping twice. I hooked the camper to it; it pulls great.” John walked into the office in time to hear about the Hummer. Under his breath, he said, “A Hummer! That’s my kinda in-laws.” I looked at John and said to Grandpa George, “Aunt Brenda is here, and our facilities and security expert, John Cooper, just walked in, and he wants you to adopt him and take him along in the Hummer. But I think he’s much, much, much too old.” John jumped in, saying, “I was just saying a Hummer! That’s my kinda in-laws. I’ll lie about my age, if that helps. Tom’s a lucky guy; I’ve only had mean-as-snakes outlaws, myself. I guess that’s what happens when you marry the star character from the song ‘Rocky Top.’” John and Grandpa George hit it off and began talking about Grandpa’s new toy, his tour in the navy, and John’s tour in the army. They ended up comparing the largest vehicles they’d ever driven, and George won the contest with his destroyer story. Aunt Brenda sat on the couch and laughed as the rest of us wondered how the conversation had been highjacked. I finally had to break in. “Okay, okay, guys, it’s my turn to talk to the kids. Put the little troublemakers on.” They reluctantly stopped the conversation, and Teresa, the youngest, took the phone. “Hey, Daddy! I love you more than crocodiles love poodles.” Jan, the kids, and I talked for the next thirty minutes. It was nice hearing their voices. However, after the conversation with John Rader, I couldn’t shake my unease. It was also unusual for Jan’s mother, Debbie, to call here. She’d said she felt like we needed to talk to the kids. Sometime during the conversation with the kids, John and Brenda went out to talk to Jill, and at the end of the call, they returned, each with a donut and coffee in hand. John looked at Jan and said, “A Hummer! Man, that’s my kinda vehicle. I was thinking of buying one myself, but Tracy will have no part of it. She says we have the jeep, and that’s good enough.” 115

Craig Stevens His face turned serious. “So what’s so important that you called me away from business and had me wait while you made me envious of your in-laws?” I looked at Jan, then walked to my desk and told them of my phone conversation with John Rader. I detailed the new offer and explained that the deal sounded good on the surface. I told them our attorney was looking into the fine print, and we should know her assessment by tomorrow. We might have a good deal we could all think about. Then a ton of weight settled on my shoulders. I found myself looking at the floor, trying to find the right words. Slowly, I explained about the controls to a recording device that I found under the desk. “After Rader’s first call to me, I guess my suspicious nature told me to be extra careful. So, I’d decided to record any conversations I had with him. I just flipped it on before he called today.” “I know about the device,” said John. “I installed it for Geronimo a couple of years ago. Let’s hear what ya got.” I looked at John. “Well, there is only one part that really bothers me.” I pushed a couple of buttons and listened. Across the stereo speakers in my office, the conversation started. I fast-forwarded it to where I thought the piece was that I wanted everyone to hear, listened, fastforwarded the tape, and listened some more. On the tape, John Rader’s voice continued from a longer dialogue: — trips every now and then; spend time with your kids. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Your wife will love you for it. Your aunt will love you for it. Your kids will love you for it. They’re still in Los Altos with your wife’s family, aren’t they? I bet they’re enjoying the fruit trees in your in-laws’ yard. I bet you worry about them, not being around to protect them. Back to the offer. How about— I stopped the tape, “Am I wrong, or did that sound like a threat?” I rewound the tape for everyone to hear again. John listened quietly. Brenda looked worried. Jan, wide-eyed, said, “You don’t think that in 2001 a businessman would threaten a competitor’s children, do you?” Brenda hesitated as she looked at the ground, then back at John. “That’s ridiculous, isn’t it?” 116

Geronimo Stone “I don’t know what to think. All I know is, I have never talked to Rader about our kids, your mom’s place, fruit trees, or anything like that. I’ll tell you this, though, when I heard him say, ‘I bet you worry about them,’ I—well—I—worried about them. All the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. Tell me I’m wrong, John.” John had a distant look in his eyes, almost as though he was looking through me, into the future, “I learned a long time ago to never take feelings of danger lightly. Geronimo taught me that.” Brenda jumped in. “A lot of strange things have happened around this place over the last couple of months. Even Robert’s death. When he went to the hospital, he was getting better, right up ‘til his death. I never told anyone that, but I still have a sick feeling about it, and I know something was wrong. And John Rader always seems to know too much about what’s going on.” Jan’s face turned white. “What are you saying? You’re scaring me!” I replied, “I’m saying we need to be careful. We need a plan.” Our day’s agenda had just changed. John told us he had a friend, a private eye in the San Francisco area; he could watch the kids until we could escort them home. John said, “Tommy, you better stay here. I’ll take Jan and Tracy with me. Tracy is a scrapper and can go into the restrooms with the girls. I’ve never worried about her being assaulted, not with her black belts in jujitsu, karate, and judo. She’s an IRS detective and a skeet and handgun champion. Her family decided if you can’t beat the revenuers, then you’d better have one in the family. The point is, with her being a fed and all—she can carry a firearm anywhere. She’ll love a quick trip to California. Hey, maybe I’ll get to drive that Hummer.” He grinned, trying to lessen the stress. “I’ll have my buddy, Billy, fill in here for me, if he can get away,” he continued. “You met him; he’s that big, ugly black officer you met outside the Bluebird that night. Don’t tell him I said he’s ugly. He might hurt my feelings—starting with my nose. Anyway, he’d never believe you; he thinks I’m the ugly one. Billy is the best; he’s a great officer and a former Navy SEAL. Of course, the SEALs had it easy; everyone knew when the army was there—they just snuck around in the dark. I listened to John’s confident tones and felt better. “Well, I guess you’re right. I better stay here and keep my aunt from selling the farm. I’m probably wrong anyway. It’s probably my imagination, at worst, Rader’s sick way to pressure me into giving up. You guys make it hap117

Craig Stevens pen, and call me if you have a change of plans. Right, as if I’d stay here. I’ll be going too. But—Jan, maybe you should stay here and—” She wasn’t buying that. She folded her arms and shook her head. “Well then, make sure accounting support has plenty to do before you leave. We can’t wait to get the books in order. That could sink us before we get started.” For the rest of the day, everyone worked as fast as possible. John called his friend in San Francisco; when John reached him, he said he was only minutes from Los Altos. We told the in-laws of the change of plans. I told Jan’s dad the whole story, and he said they would stay at a friend’s house on the coast until we got there and everyone was safe. John’s friend Billy was excited to make some extra money and help John. He had some days of vacation saved up, so he was ready to start first thing in the morning. He and Angel came over shortly after they got the call. We wanted to bring him in as soon as we could so he could get to know the players. We soon found that Billy was comfortable around anyone. John assigned one of his young guards as Billy’s assistant. Billy immediately took charge, put his heavy arm around the young man’s neck, and said, “We can handle it.” The poor kid didn’t know what to do with such a massive man invading his personal space. Tracy came over after lunch to ask questions and learn what was going on. Angel offered to go with Tracy, and we accepted. Jan was having problems with the books, and we suggested she stay behind. But after her protest, I agreed that the books would have to wait; the accountants could handle them. Our flights to California would not be until the next day, so we decided to look at the sixth package that night, after the Westbrook Stevens debriefing. Then we’d only have one package to go. The meeting went well. Things were under control, and the employees at Geronimo Stone Records were accepting the change better than we expected. With the departure of top and middle managers, many of the barriers to change, left with them. Most of those who stayed were young professionals, who needed more help and were used to asking for it. They didn’t have as much experience, but they were ready to make their mark. They would try anything. Their inexperience actually made them want to work together. The knowledge the Westbrook Stevens group imparted gave our employees the confidence to make things happen. Our people were feeling empowered to try new things. We lost a lot of information and change control, known as “con118

Geronimo Stone figuration management,” but we had a group we could build on. With all the resumes of experienced people we expected, we would rebuild our company in no time. It was getting late. Billy and Angel left to get Angel packed. Jan had packed us earlier, during her lunch, and Tracy took care of her and John’s stuff before coming to the office. She packed light, because, according to John, all she needed was a good stick, to keep him in line. John told me his friend was already at my in-laws’ and on his best behavior. He was trying to watch his language, not drink all the beer, and stay low-key. I started the last meeting of the day. “Okay, we need to finish this package before we split up tomorrow. Depending on how well we do tonight, we may be able to finish the last one tomorrow before our flight. When are our flights?” Jill answered, “I couldn’t get a commercial flight until 3:45, so everyone will leave from Nashville then and arrive in San Jose at 9:09. You’re all flying Northwest 1739 and 203, connecting in Minneapolis.” “Is that the best we can do?” Jill shrugged her shoulders. “I could keep trying.” “No. I guess that will give us time to set things up here, but what about the kids?” Tracy had a good idea. “What if we play a game of our own? Call Rader and tell him you have decided to look at his offer. Tell him your lawyer will contact him next week to begin discussions. That should give us an extra day or so.” Everyone agreed on the plan.


Chapter 16

Continuous Progress


e had to get through the packages as quickly as possible. The kids were taken care of, and after all, we were probably over-

reacting. Jan handed me Geronimo’s sixth package, and I opened it, placing everything on the table in order. The handwritten lettering on the package was “MC and CI.” Jan immediately looked for clues and came up with “Mastering Change and Continuous Improvement.” I handed the video to Jill, and she started the tape. The background was different this time. Geronimo was in the worst shape we had yet seen him. He was lying in a hospital bed, sitting at a 45-degree angle. He looked tired, but was obviously determined to finish the game. A voice came from behind the camera. “There, I think it’s all set for you. If there is anything you need, just press the call button,” said the nurse. “Come here, Mary,” Geronimo replied, waving over the person behind the camera. “I want you to say hi to my nephew; tell him what you told me.” The nurse came around, leaned over, and said, “I told your uncle he was my best patient this month—” Robert gently pushed her away and said, “See how I’ve changed?” The nurse, from somewhere in the room, added, “But I also told him I’ve been on vacation for two weeks, and he was my first and only patient this month.” Robert said, “Thanks, Nurse Mary, that’s all I need.” We heard the nurse, farther away, saying, “I also said he’s too mean to stay sick for long.” “Well, Tommy, things are getting worse. I had a rough couple of days since I last talked to you. The doctors are running all kinds of tests on me. I feel like a lab rat. They have done everything except make me find the cheese. I’m weak and can barely move my arms, but I have a couple of good days left in me—long enough to finish this project. So let’s get started; pull up a chair. 121

Craig Stevens “The next part of the mobile is about mastering change and continuous improvement. Remaining competitive requires constant change and continuous improvement. This requires a team approach, using the problem-solving tools and techniques we talked about earlier. Without the proper tools, the teams are ineffective, and continuous improvement is impossible. Simple, right? “Well, the rest is in the package. I will pass more information to you soon. Until then, read over the information I left you; get Steven to help you. Tell everyone I love them. I will try to leave some personal stuff on the next tape. Oh, before I go. I have a bad feeling about Brew and that girlfriend of his. John Rader introduced them. I don’t have the whole picture, but Brew sure has changed since he got mixed up with that group. He wants us to sell to Rader. He is the current president of Behemoth Records. I don’t like him. John Rader is nothing but trouble; I do not like where he came from, and I do not like where he is taking this business. He concentrates on the worst society has to offer and sells it to the weakest and most inexperienced people—our children. And their parents let them buy it! “Don’t turn your back on him. Brew has been seduced by power, and I believe Rader introduced Brew to his new friend to make Brew easier to deal with. I handpicked Brew for his genius, and we have known each other for a long time, but I do not like the way he has been talking lately. Tommy, if you do sell, make sure it’s for the right reasons.” With that, Geronimo clicked the camera off. “What did he mean, he didn’t like where Rader came from?” I asked. “Does anyone know?” “I think he dug himself out of a hole,” said Aunt Brenda. “And maybe he should go back into one.” “John,” I continued, “could you have one of your detective friends to look into that for us?” He agreed to call someone in the morning. This crisis took valuable resources away from making the company a success. Security is overhead; it brings in no money and it makes our products more expensive. But without it, who knows. “Okay, Dr. Steven, the show’s all yours,” I said. Dr. Steven stood and walked to the whiteboard. As if he were teaching class, he wrote out our lesson for the day. “Continuous improvement, in the broadest terms, means getting better or improving. Here, we are talking about all aspects of change—change that is evolutionary, as well as revolutionary. Evolutionary changes are the smallest 122

Geronimo Stone incremental steps we take; this is part of continuous improvement. Revolutionary changes are the large steps we take that change the way we do business or the way people think about our products. It may even cause a major paradigm shift, a shift in the way people think about a subject. “In the research I have done, I found different terms used to describe this attribute of the mobile, including the Japanese word, kaizen,60 meaning ‘continuous improvement.’ A lot of what I’ll be telling you comes from a book with the same name, ‘Kaizen.’ Authors use other concepts when talking about change and continuous improvement. Some include issues related to training in improvement, the phrase systems concept, and words like innovation, change, discontinuous change, hyper-change, and so on. Phrases like ‘striving toward error-free performance,’ ‘control of process variation,’ ‘change management,’ and of course, ‘revolutionary and evolutionary change’ are used. Dr. Steven turned to the board, drew a picture, and labeled it the “Power of Continuous Improvement.” He started out with what appeared to be steps. Jan sang out, “And he’s drawing a stairway to heaven—”61 Dr. Steven turned and looked over his glasses until Jan stopped singing. Jan was worried about the kids, though she tried not to show it. She was doing her best to relieve her tension. Steven exaggerated his teacher’s role and played along. When she stopped, Dr. Steven said, “Thank you. Graduated high school in ’78, I bet.” Steven had the uncanny ability to recall when every song was popular and how it fit into social experiences. Then he continued, “This is how most people think change happens. In fact, revolutionary change sometimes does happen just like this. The problem occurs when we don’t look at the whole picture and fail to keep up with our competitors. Take computers, for example. When they were first developed, some companies thought that because the technology changed so quickly, they should wait as long as possible to upgrade. They reasoned they would save big bucks and jump ahead of the competition by investing at the last moment. They thought that by doing this, they would need only to spend a small amount of capital to catch up. “That kind of thinking actually worked a long time ago, but with computers, came an information explosion and faster and faster change. That strategy will never work again. Change happens too fast now. Waiting too long is one drawback of making decisions based on cost alone. 123

Craig Stevens “What they didn’t count on was that as their competitors spent money, they also built the core competencies that gave them an advantage over the companies that failed to keep up. It takes months and years to build technological skills, and processes change as technology changes. If your people don’t learn incrementally, it is harder for them as the technological changes add up. Business processes also have to change. It wasn’t that long ago when we had secretarial pools, but now we have very few secretaries and many computers. That one variable, the computer, changed everything. “Let’s stay with the computers as the example.” Dr. Steven turned back to the board and drew as he explained, “Even if you try to keep up with the changes, we still have problems. Say we change with the competition, but fail to manage continuous improvement properly. If the first stairway represents actual change, then—” He drew another step, which curved under the first step. “This is what happens when we fail to train our people in how to use change.” He drew the next step, and like the first one, it curved down. “So we take another step and upgrade our computers, but this time, we fail to maintain them.” He turned and drew the next step, and like the other two, it also curved downward. “This time, we upgrade our computers, but never upgrade the software.” He finished the set of broken curved steps under the first set of steps, and each time he told us how we failed to maintain, train for, or master continuous improvement. “If you look at the distance between the set of unbroken steps and the set of downward broken steps, we see a gap. The bottom set represents our company. The gap is our perception of how far away we are from our competitors if they implemented all available technology the correct way. “Now, here is what a really good company would do.” He drew a vertical line and curved the horizontal step upward above the original steps. “They would make each change and continually improve it.” Then he drew another vertical line and curved the horizontal line for the step upward again. “They would learn from others, implement the learned change, and improve upon it.” He continued drawing lines until he had a set representing the step changes a company would make and the process of improvement after implementing the changes. This time, the lines curved upward, above the original stairway. 124

Geronimo Stone Figure 6. Continuous Improvement Steps62

“The problem is,” he continued, “you may think the difference is minor, as with the original steps and the lines below them, but the real difference is between the company that masters change and continuous improvement, and the one that merely implements changes. And that, my friends, is not the worst part. The same thing happens with all aspects of a company, including market shares. Finally, there is just no way to catch up. Unfortunately, today, changes happen quicker than ever before, and it is more important than ever to understand and master change.” That reminded me. “I liked what I heard Zig Ziglar say once: ‘You will never get ahead of others as long as you’re trying to get even with them.’63 I think he was talking about getting even in other ways, but the same point works in competition. You have to aim higher than your competition, not at your competition.” We spent another hour talking about the materials spread out on the table and how we could use the information to build a company that could master change and continuous improvement. So much information, and so many details! Shortly after, we left for the day. 125

Craig Stevens Back at Brenda’s house, Jan and I rushed to finish packing for tomorrow’s trip and call the kids. We finished later than expected, tired, but too nervous to turn in, so we looked for Aunt Brenda. We found her in her private studio, where she went to clear her head and create. The door was open; through it, we saw Aunt Brenda, with her head down. As we entered the room, I heard the closing words of a prayer. She looked up and smiled. “Sit down.” I sat back in a large reclining chair and watched as Jan and Aunt Brenda embraced each other, and then paced the floor, talking about kids and parents, family and friends. I fell asleep and later went to bed.


Chapter 17

A Measure of Success


he next day found us at the office early for the completion of Uncle Robert’s game. I hadn’t expected to, but I’d slept well last night. The call to the kids helped. Yet again, it was still dark when we pulled up to the office. A steady cool rain fell. The humidity was thick and warm, even though this was the coolest time of the day. I dropped Aunt Brenda and Jan off at the front door and parked a few yards away. Jill was already at work. Even from outside of the building, I saw that a trail of florescent lighting, betraying her path. Normally only night-lights would have been on in the building, but this time, bright lights led to my third-floor office. From the parking lot, the rain blurring the windows between wipes. I caught glimpses of a woman on the third floor, moving around. It was Jill, making things ready for our morning game. Like a mother preparing breakfast for her children, Jill was already hard at work. Jill was one of the most refreshing people I’d met in a while; I was starting to feel like she was family. I first noticed her at the funeral. There she was; a well–dressed, middle-aged lady with pretty, dark skin and some Asian features. She took very good care of herself; she was trim, and every detail of her hair and makeup was perfect. She and my aunt were very close that day. Jill waited on Brenda as if she were her long-lost daughter. Brenda relied on her heavily, which had probably been the case for some time. Uncle Robert’s body was cremated, no viewing. I guess he didn’t want anyone feeling sorry for him after he had been sick for so long. He wanted his ashes spread over Old Hickory Lake from his houseboat. Jill helped Aunt Brenda do the honors. The memorial flag flew from the boat while the honor guard and most of the family, friends, and some reporters watched from shore. Counting the funeral, I’d only been here for a little over a week. Man, it felt like months. In that short amount of time, I’d come to realize that Jill could handle almost any job here. She was like a cat— 127

Craig Stevens always curious and able to predict what would happen long before it did. When I first arrived, I pulled her HR file to better understand her background. She had a business degree from Trevecca,64 a good, small school in Nashville. I knew she was married and had a couple of kids, but I didn’t know much more about her. I’d been thinking she would be a great candidate for a promotion. However, when I approached her about it, she said she would appreciate a raise in pay, but would rather stay and do the job she loves. I think she finds the supervisory part distasteful. How did she put it? “Too much hassle, plus, if I do my job right, I already control everything. I already have all the power that some people crave. The managers just don’t realize it, and that’s fine with me.” She was right. I was relieved when I found she felt that way. In one short week, I had come to rely on her input and support for many decisions. She controlled my schedule, who I spoke to, and many times, the agenda. Aunt Brenda said Jill had always been the organization behind Geronimo Stone Records’ executive team. Now, I needed to make sure we rewarded her for her efforts, and let her know how valued she was. The rain continued to fall, and in a daydream state, I somehow parked the car while on autopilot. I gathered my things and prepared to run for the front doors of the building. As I looked out the window to plan my path, the wet world reflected the shimmering lights of the building, painting shimmering pictures. It was as if, through the raindrops and the water-streaked windows, a Monet painting came to life under the darkened glass of pre-dawn. Once inside, we set the mobile in the middle of the table and spread out the contents of the final package. We displayed the earlier packets on the tables in front of the large picture windows. Jill had breakfast waiting and everyone was ready for today’s challenge. Although we would have many days of study to do before we understood all the materials of the previous packages, we decided to expedite the discovery process. We made good time opening the previous packages. To postpone the completion of and climax to this story of discovery would have been cruel and unusual punishment. There was still so much to do. I wished we hadn’t felt the need to check on the kids, but the feeling was rather pressing. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw dawn approaching and it gave us all a sense of urgency. Jan, John, Tracy, Angel, and I needed to be on our way to the airport soon. We took our places around the table and looked at the acronym, “MSFPM,” printed on the last piece of the mobile that had not yet been deciphered. 128

Geronimo Stone Jan, already at work, looked up and said “MSFPM—Measuring Success or Failure using Performance Measures.” Jill started the VCR, and Robert Geronimo Stone gave us his last message. I was unprepared for what I saw. He no longer looked like a dying man. Uncle Robert—well—he looked good. His face shone with a healthy glow, and though weak from his ordeal, he appeared stronger. “Hello, Tommy. If things keep going like this, you may never get this tape. I feel great…well…better than I have in months. The doctors say it looks like things have turned around. They changed my medicine, and my body is responding. I think the problem I have been having lately has been related to my medication. But enough of that; lets continue with the game. This package is all about measuring performance. The biggest enemies of good quality are the words ‘I think’ and ‘I know.’” I said aloud, “Hey, that’s one of Dr. Jerry Westbrook’s65 sayings.” Aunt Brenda quickly added, “Yes, but your uncle said it, too.” My uncle continued, “But you already knew that; you quoted those words after you started working at Westbrook Stevens. I have been thinking, the number one enemy of customer service, good quality, high performance, and many other things related to excellent management, are also the attitude of ‘I think’ and ‘I know.’ “I’ve heard people say, ‘You cannot manage what you cannot measure.’ Performance measures are very important if you want to improve anything. Without measuring performance, you can’t know whether you’re getting better or worse. “Here is how it all fits together. Leaders have to lead. Without leadership, nothing else happens. Get your leadership issues straightened out. Tommy, I know that you know leadership is more than a couple of people at the top. It is everyone. Everyone has to help make this happen. You have to empower everyone to make decisions, even at the lowest levels. But you, son, have to paint the vision. “Next is culture. Organizational culture is the string or cable that holds it all together. Unless the company’s culture buys into what you’re trying to accomplish, your vision cannot be realized. It simply will never happen. If you do not work on the culture, you may as well cut the string on the mobile. Like the mobile, your organization will fall apart. Systems are important, but culture can cause the perfect system to fail. The organizational culture has to support our paradigm of employee empowerment. The biggest barrier to this will be our currently empowered management team. You will have to change that. Just re129

Craig Stevens member—everyone has to buy in; to an employee, his or her direct supervisor represents the company’s entire culture.”66 The company should be a great place to work for those who buy into the culture…but for those who do not, it will be better to let them go. Aunt Brenda leaned over and said, “See? I solved that problem for you on the first day.” Uncle Robert continued, “After culture is the bar of customer focus. The customers must be delighted, both internally and externally. Do not get suckered into the debate of who pays and who does not. The paying customers are the reason we all have jobs; everyone had better have them in mind when they do their jobs. Everyone should also think about the next person in the process chain when performing his or her duties. “Next on the mobile is the dangling object that represents teamwork. We have long passed the day when one person can perform all the duties required for success. It takes a number of people with different focuses to make even the simplest product a success. Build teams that focus on the customer. “Teams require skills to be successful. That is—skills in doing their jobs, skills in working together, and skills to make decisions and solve problems. This is one of the three objects hanging below the bar of customer focus, balancing teamwork, on the mobile of excellent management. “Next, we talked about change and continuous improvement, the issues related to competitive longevity. The teams must continuously work to make our company the best. You can never be the best, unless, you continue to improve the processes and systems required to serve the customer. The organization’s culture must understand how important this is. Everyone must lead and the senior leaders must paint the vision and demonstrate its importance.” Stopping to catch his breath and take a drink of water, Geronimo paused for a moment. Then he set the water down, looked at the camera, and smiled. “Here is where performance measures come in. We cannot know whether we are getting better or worse unless we measure how well we are doing. “All these attributes must remain in balance; they are all important. You cannot remove any one of them without shortening the life of the company. Just like on the mobile, remove any one piece, and it is no longer a piece of art. In a company, remove any one, and you no longer have excellent management. Remove excellent management, and you cannot remain competitive. Stop being competitive, and one day, you will no longer be a company. 130

Geronimo Stone “So, what do you think? Your dear old uncle did pretty well getting all these concepts, didn’t I? “Steven and I worked on a seven-step approach for performance measures67 that we felt would work for Geronimo Stone Records; he will tell you about them. Right now, I feel like I will outlive old man Steven. But just to be sure, let me say my personal good-byes. If you are any good at all, you will already have the whole management team helping you plan your steps. I’ll address each of them first.” Uncle Robert spent the next fifteen minutes talking to the people he thought would be in the room. He started with Jill and expressed his appreciation for her service to Geronimo Stone Records and him personally. He acknowledged that she had to put up with him more than anyone else at the office did. Jill cried, and Brenda held her hand. He said he had left Jill a present, and she could find it in storage room G12. The key was in the package on the table. Jan quickly found the key. He talked to John and said that through the years, John had been his closest friend, and there was a present for him in the storage room, too. He called Dr. Steven his mentor, and said that without him, life would have been very different. He continued, naming several executives who were part of the first day’s coupe; he had nice things to say and likewise, had left them all presents. Finally, he admitted he had left gifts for everyone at Geronimo Stone Records. He started to share his personal messages to Aunt Brenda, Jan, the kids, and me, but paused, and then said, “—but before I do that, talk to Dr. Steven while this information is fresh. You can always start from here and finish the tape in private. The rest is personal, for the family.” Jill turned the tape off, and with tears in her eyes, quickly left the room. She went to her desk and retrieved a box of tissues. I turned to the rest of the group and said, “Let’s meet back here in fifteen minutes to talk about performance measures.” Fifteen minutes later, Dr. Steven was ready to go; he had a couple of sheets of paper in one hand and a dry-marker in the other. When everyone had returned, Dr. Steven wrote the words “Performance Measures” on the board. He said, “Performance measures are vital for judging progress. I researched this topic and found that companies use many different performance metrics. I found many terms used to describe their metrics, such as error-free performance, value/price/cost ratios, quality assessments and assurance, surveys and feedback, benchmarks and benchmarking, excellence and measurement training, stockholders’ 131

Craig Stevens value, and individual and team performance. These concepts describe performance. “I found much data that describes performance measures for manufacturing organizations, but only a few that covered service-oriented organizations and knowledge-based workers. Your uncle asked me to come up with a process we could use here at Geronimo, and I think I did it. After reading over sixty authors on the subject, I think these seven steps will fit any organization. I call it ‘The Seven Steps for Using Performance Measures.’68 “Step 1: First, understand the science behind performance measures. “There are many rules related to good metrics; understand them before you start the process of developing a set of measures to use for your own organization. “We heard Robert say, ‘You cannot manage what you cannot measure.’69 We have all heard that said at one time or another. Well, here is a collection of other ideas I found; let me read this to you, and then we’ll comment on them. ‘To understand and improve productivity and quality, it must first be measured.’”70 Jan said, “Can’t manage what you can’t measure—got it.” Steven replied, “Good. How about this one—‘Measurements of both efficiency and effectiveness must be done to make decisions concerning problems with a service organization.’”71 I thought of something. “Efficiency is doing things the right way. Effectiveness is doing the right things.72 I was working with a client once, and they were trying to implement performance measures. Everything they looked at related to how fast reports were being written. This is an efficiency issue related to documenting work. That’s okay, but the real issue was how well the work being documented, was being performed. But both of these issues relate to efficiency. “They also needed to measure whether they were satisfying their customers. Were they being effective? Did the work give the desired results? Were they doing the things that make an impact and give optimal results? Maybe some of those reports weren’t even needed.” Dr. Steven said, “Good! Now, according to my research, measurement requires a clear set of principles and objectives—goals.73 Here is a couple from a list of principles in your package that I found useful. Tell me what you think. 132

Geronimo Stone “Measure what is important. Concentrate on strategic priorities.”74 Brenda added, “Measures take time and money, and we only have enough of each for the ‘strategic priorities,’ or the important stuff.” Dr. Steven continued, “Okay, how about this—several things may be important, so a ‘family of measures’ will allow different, even conflicting, objectives to be considered.”75 Jill said, “Well, quality is important, but so is cost. You have to balance both.” “Great!” agreed Steven. “How about ‘measures are useless if the results are not used as feedback’?”76 Ivan broke his silence. “I got this one. Don’t make me design a system you aren’t going to use. I’ve got real work to do.” “Okay, a system of measures must be used to avoid suboptimization of elements,”77 said Dr. Steven. John said, “The chain is no stronger if you make only one link stronger and if the rest are still weak.” “Great!” said Steven, “Next, simple, usable metrics, both qualitative and quantitative, must be developed78. Although qualitative measures are not as precise as traditional quantitative measurements, they still provide valuable information.”79 Brenda jumped in. “Keep it simple, stupid.” “Right!” smiled Steven. "You have to measure basic things. If it's not simple, not easily understood, or easily tracked, don't bother measuring it; nobody will ever use it.”80 Brenda winked at Jill and then said to Steven, “No, I was talking about your presentation.” Steven rolled his eyes and said, “Everyone’s a comedian.” Brenda said, “But seriously, like Robert said, things should be kept as simple as possible, but no simpler.”81 Then she turned to me and said, “I know, I know, Einstein said it first.” Before I could respond, Steven continued. “After you master the rules of performance measures, you’re ready for the next step.” He turned to the board and wrote in big letters: Step 2: Understand the goals important to the organization.” He turned back around and said, “One should never develop performance measures that do not track back to specific organizational goals. Measuring performance costs money and time, and can even 133

Craig Stevens lower productivity while the measures are taken, analyzed, and reported. The effect should be increased productivity. You will have a higher success rate if the starting point of the measurement is a set of clear organizational goals. This leads us back to leadership on the mobile. Leadership is required to look at the vision and determine the goals. Remember the goals tree. Next—” he turned and wrote: Step 3: Create a set of criteria that reflect the goals we are trying to achieve. “If the goal is to be the best Blues product on the market, the best may mean better quality music, faster service to producers and distributors—something like that. If our goal is to become more competitive, lowering cost could be the answer.” Next, on the board, Steven wrote: Step 4: Create performance indicators related to the criteria “Performance indicators are the outward reflections of the criteria we are trying to improve. This is the information we collect to give an idea of company performance as related to a specific criterion. This would be a definable unit of measure, such as the hours worked, number of complaints about a subject, and anything that reflects on the criteria from step 3. For example, we may measure cost in dollars required to break even, spent on materials, or saved in the process of creating something. Better quality may mean better cover art, printed lyrics, or more careful attention to detail in the mixdown. Each has indicators that are measurable, like the number of flaws on a product. Some indicators are more subjective, like the way people feel. You have to have a way to measure these indicators, because the next step is—” Turning back to the board, he wrote: Step 5: Collect data related to the indicators. “There are many ways to collect data. We could interview, observe, survey, or use questionnaires; we could review existing documentation. Likewise, we could collect measurements in many ways. We could take physical measurements, such as those related to indicators, such as specifications met, tolerances, and so on. On the other hand, we could 134

Geronimo Stone use counts, like how many times we receive a complaint. We could use accounting methods to measure monetary indicators, such as how much money we made on a project. We could use surveys to collect data on indicators like how people feel about our music. We could measure time by stopwatch or calendar, as in how long the development took for a project. In each case, as one author said, ‘Begin with a reasonable set of metrics and refine them as data is collected and experience is gained; do not insist on the ‘perfect’ set of metrics at first.’82” Jill shouted out, “Continuous Improvement!” Steven replied, “Exactly, Now—" Again turning back to the board, he wrote: Step 6: Analyze the data to determine the performance. “Once we collect the data, we must analyze it. It will lead us to questions and answers about where we can improve and whom we should reward.” He looked around and said, “Now for our last step—” Everyone applauded; Brenda wiped imaginary sweat off her brow. Step 7: Use the data to make a difference. Steven summarized, “If we do not use the data we collected, why go through the process in the first place? Miss any one of ‘The Seven Steps for Using Performance Measures’83 and there is no reason to measure. If you do not know the rules, chances are you will break them and make things worse. If you measure something not related to a goal, you are wasting time and money. If you are never going to use the information, you again are wasting time and money and causing cultural problems.” We all had questions, but this information was going to take time to digest. It still felt good to see the entire picture of the Mobile of Excellent Management.84 Now we had to implement what we had learned. At some point, during our self-congratulations, Officer Billy looked in and waved to John. He looked worried, and I knew I wasn’t going to like what he was about to say.


Chapter 18

Bad News


illy took John into the hall, and I followed. He said in a low voice, “I just talked to Tracy. She’s on her way. She called me this morning and told me to meet her here. Have you talked to her yet?” John and I replied at the same time, “No, what’s up?” Billy just shrugged. “Don’t know. But it sounded important.” I turned to see Tracy with a large envelope under her left arm, hurrying toward us. She never stopped, but grabbed John and pulled him into his office, a couple doors away from mine. Billy and I followed. With one arm, she cleared a spot on John’s desk, raking things onto the floor. Then she spread the contents of the package onto the table. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of dèja vu. From the pile, she grabbed a picture of four people standing together outside a fancy restaurant in New York. One was Brew, but the others I didn’t know. She explained who they were: John Rader, and Lesley and Anthony Jakes. Tracy looked at me and said, “Here is the scary part. Anthony Jakes was a construction tycoon with ties to Middle Eastern groups that are less than friendly to Western interests. He amassed enormous wealth building hospitals, government buildings, roads, and other infrastructure all over the Middle East. Much of the money went into his pockets and or financed radical groups. Federal law enforcement officials have been watching him for years, as he has links to organized crime groups here and terror organizations in the Middle East. We think it’s mainly for protection money, but he’s not innocent, himself. Lesley is Brew’s girlfriend, and Anthony Jakes’ adopted daughter. She’s bad news; like her dad, she is being investigated for ties to nasty things going on in the world. That’s all I’ve been cleared to say about them.” I had no idea what she was talking about. I never thought much about the politics of other places on the globe, although remembered thinking Middle Eastern oil money wanted to buy a competitive stake in international businesses. John said he had read about attacks on civil137

Craig Stevens ians in Malaysia, Israel, and Somalia because of differing political and religious beliefs. I had also heard of groups that saw no problem hurting or killing people to obtain money, power, or influence. “What about Rader?” Tracy answered, “He’s one of Jakes’ puppets. He has a history of underworld connections, and the best I can tell, is motivated solely by greed. He does whatever Jakes tells him. We think he landed at Behemoth records because of a large investment made by Jakes’ contacts. We suspect the money comes from Jakes’ partners in the Middle East. They want to control some of the major media outlets in the world for business and propaganda reasons. The music business fits that. Robert must have been a barrier to their vision. Robert had contacted the FBI about underhanded business tactics he was privy to and evidence he had stashed away.” She stopped. “I have some pretty important news about Geronimo. But, I can’t officially say anything. His—” She stopped and used her fingers to form quotation marks, “death—” She restarted. “Geronimo’s death has me concerned.” “We found a link, worldwide; six other business acquaintances of Rader’s have died from mysterious diseases in the last three years. All were associated, somehow, with the Jakes. We strongly suspect it is related to the medication Geronimo and the others were taking.” An explosion of rage from John almost made me jump out of my shoes. He picked up a chair and threw it across the room, “That explains it. I’ll kill them! She taped the first few videos. I bet she doctored the medication. Geronimo was recuperating in the last tape. He was under doctor’s care then, right?” John slammed his fist through the sheetrock, “It was my job to protect Geronimo Stone Records—to protect Geronimo.” Billy placed his heavy hand on John’s shoulder, forcefully turned him around, and looked into his eyes, “Listen here, big boy, you watch yourself. We’ll get the bad guys, but don’t become one of them. Don’t make my job any harder. We need you in this fight. Don’t do something stupid and make me have to come after you, too.” John’s eyes burned with anger. He pulled away from Billy and said, “It’s my fault; I should have seen it coming. That’s my job.” Tracy said, “No one can see everything. The president of Behemoth Records died just before Rader entered the picture.” Then, pausing to look me in the eye, “He died the same way Geronimo did, and he was one of Geronimo’s friends. We think Robert was collecting evidence for the FBI.” 138

Geronimo Stone John’s face was red and sweating. “Walter Stewart! We went to his funeral. He was Steven’s closest friend. Steven’s been depressed for months now; you can see it in his eyes. He, Steven, Robert, and I used to go deep-sea fishing and hunting. I met him on one of those fishing trips. Why didn’t Robert tell me any of this?” “Don’t know. I guess he was trying to protect his friends. I guess he figured what we didn’t know would protect us. We’re sure he didn’t suspect Bruebaker, though. We believe—well, there are a couple of things I can’t tell you. Nevertheless, Tommy, I do worry about your family. The sooner we get there, the better. I had some friends in the Bureau promise me that your family would be covered. Our private eye friend will have some stealthy backup.” “What about your plan—you know, us telling Rader we are ready for a deal?” I asked. Tracy looked at me, steel in her eyes, “Won’t work. Might have made things worse! Rader has had Geronimo’s phones, and maybe the building, bugged for months. Lesley, she’s Brew’s friend, remember? She has some major character flaws. That was likely her doing. This office should be secure; this door is always locked.” John broke in. “How did you find out? I check all lines myself and do so from time to time.” Tracy shrugged, “New technology; you would never have known it. I’ll tell you this much, Lesley has been trained in all manner of bad things. Martial arts, small arms, explosives, electronic surveillance, computer hacking—modeling—” she smirked, “you name it. She is very dangerous. Protect the kids, but leave her to the professionals. I’m having her tracked. We’re sure they know about Geronimo’s evidence and will stop at nothing to obtain it. I believe Walter gave that evidence to Robert. Anyway, the problems are bigger than two record companies. It may be a national security issue.” I was in shock. I sank into John’s chair, and then looked up at Tracy, “How much does Brew know?” She shrugged. “He may be too preoccupied with Lesley; she is quite a beauty, and she knows how to use her assets. My bet is he’s one of the pawns. They are using him for his expertise in the music business and his knowledge of Geronimo Stone Records. They want Robert’s evidence and will stop at nothing to get it.” Tracy’s cell phone rang, playing Wagner’s ‘The Ride of the Valkyries.’ She grabbed her phone, smirked, and said, “That’s my ring for official business.” 139

Craig Stevens As she talked, her eyes narrowed. She took some notes and hung up. Her expression was grim. She looked at me and said, “Lesley Jakes is in California—landed in San Francisco yesterday. She’s traveling with Brew. I need your recording. The one you made from Rader’s call. I’ll have someone come by today and retrieve it. With all the other information I have, the other information that I’m told exists, not to mention attempted or possible murders of Walter and Geronimo, there may be enough for the FBI to search Rader’s office and residence. We’ll see if we can get INS to cooperate in finding Jakes. But I’d say, fat chance, unless we can find people with personal relationships between departments. We don’t work together that well, sometimes. “Right now, I’m leaving for the airport. I’ve a government jet scheduled to leave for California in less than an hour. John, you’ll have to take the commercial flight. Angel said she would bring all of our stuff with her and Jan.” John didn’t like that. Billy and I left as John and Tracy said their farewells. Things had just become critical. We’d have to expedite our trip. I asked Jill to see what she could do—maybe charter a jet. She checked and one of our clients had a jet ready to go; they insisted we take it. John and I would take that option, and Angel and Jan would take the commercial route. They wouldn’t like it, but we didn’t need them getting in our way, in case we had to move fast. We used the excuse that the jet was already packed and they Jan and Angle had to transport our personal stuff anyway. To everyone else, I explained that John and I wanted to arrive early for business reasons and all we could get were two extra seats. With this plan, Tracy would land in California and get to Los Altos around noon California time. John and I would land shortly after that, and Jan and Angel would arrive later in the day. It was the best we could do. I tried to take comfort knowing all of the people already watching my kids and family, but I could not shake the feeling of impending danger in not knowing what was happening to my family. Billy, Steven, Aunt Brenda, and the rest of the team would stay in Nashville to take care of the business. Suddenly, I got a sick feeling as I grabbed my cell phone to call Jan’s father. I only got his voice mail. Tracy was gone by now, but I yelled to John and Billy, “Hey, they know—they know—where the kids are—they know! We talked to the in-laws using the office phone. They have our phones bugged; they know where the house is too.” On our way to the airport, we tried to reach anyone, but only got messages. During the flight, John checked his messages at home and 140

Geronimo Stone found one from the detective. He said a dark-eyed beauty and a large man cased the house where the in-laws stayed last night. He had followed them back to their hotel. The message had probably come while we were in the meeting this morning. That would have made it around three-thirty AM, California time. John tried to reach his friend, but was unable to. On the flight to California, I tried to call the kids and anyone else I could think of, but there were no answers. I called Jan for additional names and tried to hide my concern. She was too smart for that, and I had to tell her the whole story, skipping the worst details. John told me to sleep. He said I would need the energy. I tried to take his advice, but it seemed like we were in the air for days. John called Tracy after we landed, we relayed all the information we had, and Tracy started tracking down the kids. On landing in San Francisco, we received another call from Tracy. Bad news. John’s detective friend was in the hospital. A night watchman found him in the parking lot of the hotel early this morning. She said, “The police thought it might be a suicide attempt until I talked to them. A van blocked the hotel security cameras, so no one saw anything. He was found unconscious and locked in his car, at four AM, by a security guard making his rounds. The engine was running. All the windows were rolled up, the doors locked; the car’s exhaust was routed into the passenger compartment with duct tape and a dryer hose taken from the hotel’s laundry room.” Lesley and Brew had either been staying at different hotels or using assumed names. After sharing that disturbing piece of news, Tracy left to find the kids. As we were getting our rental car on the road, Tracy called back to report that there was no sign of anyone at the location where the kids were supposed to be. There were no signs of Lesley or Brew at any of the hotels in the area. All day, we tried to call the in-laws, but could not reach anyone. John did the best he could to keep me focused, but it wasn’t working. I had never been so worried. “The hospitalized detective has awakened,” Tracy said, the next time she called. “He told us he followed a ‘dark-eyed lady’ into the hotel’s bar; the last thing he remembered was the lady coming over to him and asking if he would buy her a drink. He had a nasty knot on his head but was only in the car for a short while before the security guard found him. He has a major headache, but the doctors say he sustained no permanent injuries. Here’s the good news. The detective said that when he 141

Craig Stevens left to follow the car, he called Jan’s father and told him to find a hotel and stay off the phone until he called them. He left them one of his other cell phones in the mailbox, told them to watch the caller ID for his number, and not to answer any other number. The bad news is that the detective’s phone is missing and programmed with the other cell number. He gave us the number, but no one will answer. You try it, they know your number; maybe they will answer.” She gave John the number, and I called it immediately, using my phone. My battery was very low and the beep, beep, beep warned me the phone was dying. Nevertheless, I did get through. I looked at John. “Success.” “Hello, Tommy, is that you?” “It’s me, it’s me—everyone okay?” “Sure, Tommy. I recognized your number on the caller ID. We had a scare early this morning, but Mr. Henderson told us to leave our friend’s house and find a hotel. He told us not to answer until we saw his number on the caller ID. He told me he would call us to find out where we are. He’s on his way here now. What’s going on?” “He’s on his way? I don’t have time to explain, but Detective Henderson is in the hospital—his phone is missing. Whoever called you was not Henderson. Get out of there. Find another hotel, call the police, and call my cell when you get there—” I lost contact. The phone was dead. I tried to reconnect—no luck— no power. Moreover, I never thought to bring the charger. It was with the suitcases, with Jan. I started to panic. John grabbed my hand holding the cell phone as I was about to slam it into the dash of the car. “I lost them, and my battery is dead,” I told him. “I never found out where they are. I don’t know if they heard me. Even if they do leave in time, they will stick out like a sore thumb in that Hummer.” John looked at me, “If that is what they are still driving. Your father-in-law is a smart cookie. He’s seen more action than you have. Everything is going to be okay. It’s going to be okay.”


Chapter 19



ohn, give me your phone!” I grabbed it from his hand and tried to call, but there was no answer. John, in his calmest voice, tried to reason with me. “He doesn’t know me or my number.” “It’s the same area code.” “Right. The same one as Brew, and maybe Lesley, also.” I called, and there was no answer. My mind raced as I tried to solve the problem. No battery, no time to waste, my family was in danger. There had to be a Sprint store nearby. There had to be another battery. I looked out the window as we passed Chef Chu’s Chinese’s Restaurant,85 on the corner of El Camino Real and San Antonio Road. Judging from the number of people and the way many were dressed, it was a large Greek wedding party coming out of the restaurant. That seemed odd. Then it struck me. I thought aloud. “People using cell phones! There has to be another like mine—” Then I shouted, “John, stop—stop now!” There was no time. Startled, John slammed on the brakes almost starting a chain of accidents. I jumped out of the car and dove into the crowd of people waiting outside Chef Chu’s for the bride and groom. I was looking for someone with the same model phone as mine. John, still in the car, tried to park with the passenger door open; cars honked, and people yelled. In a matter of seconds, blue lights flashed from the on-coming traffic. An officer had seen us and suspected a drive-by shooting, a robbery—or something. I must have looked like a madman as I pushed and shoved my way through the crowd. I got in people’s faces, waving my phone, and asking, yelling, for their cell phone!” I grabbed phones out of peoples’ hands. When I found one that looked like mine, I pleaded for it, and then I snatched it. I took out my wallet. I took out money, credit cards, anything of value. Whatever it was, I waved it at the frightened young woman. I had her 143

Craig Stevens phone in one hand and three hundred dollars in cash in the other. I saw an officer maneuvering through the crowd towards me. John, by then, must have had his hands hand cupped behind his back, lying on the hood of the rental car. I begged the woman to sell me her battery. I told her it was an emergency, that my kids were in danger, and I was afraid for their lives. She agreed, I saw compassion replace the fear in her eyes, and we exchanged property as an officer tried to tackle me. Out of instinct, not resistance, I raised my elbow and turned quickly, and the officer fell into the crowd. Just then, a second officer tackled me. I hit the ground hard, my head bouncing off the cement. The battery flew out of my hands and under the feet of the crowd. I saw feet and felt the concrete against the side of my face. My nose was bleeding, my eyes unfocused, and my head ached. Through a slow-motion fog, I saw the battery knocked around under the feet of the onlookers. I tried to focus on it. I reached for it, but the officer must have thought I was reaching for a gun. He pressed his knee into the center of my back. The pain was unbearable; I felt my elbows and shoulders go numb, as if out of joint, as he handcuffed my hands behind my back. As the officers rolled me over, I must have looked pretty bad, judging from the open-mouthed, wincing faces of bystanders. I was in pain; my eyesight was blurred in the center—clearer around the outer fringes—but the only thing I could think of was my kids. The officers picked me up, handcuffed and bleeding, and carried me to the car. The crowd opened a path, and I saw that John was in the back seat of the police car, his hands behind his back. He was explaining the story to the officers standing around him. By this time, there must have been six police cars, all with flashing lights and radios blaring. Teams of men with dogs were searching the rental car. I heard an officer from a nearby squad car say, “It checks out.” Tracy was on John’s cell phone explaining the situation to a grayhaired man with lots of stripes on his arms; the officers were starting to calm down. But all I could think of was, “I lost the battery.” One of the officers took the handcuffs off John, and then lectured me on proper behavior before removing my handcuffs. Another officer handed John a reckless driving ticket for causing so much havoc, and then told him to watch me. The gray-haired officer looked at me and handed me a towel for my face. “Here, you need this—you don’t look too good. I’m Officer Lopez— welcome to California. I understand what is going on, I think, but you could have handled yourself differently for a better first impression.” 144

Geronimo Stone An Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) came by, looked at my face, and started cleaning it and my nose. He asked a few questions about how I felt and I lied. He must have realized that, because after he bandaged me up, he stayed around, probably waiting for me to pass out. Just as he finished, the young lady with the cell phone approached, and leaning as to keep her distance, handed the officer the battery and two hundred dollars in cash. “I don’t think I need all the money, but you may—God bless you.” She gave us a small smile. Officer Lopez took it, we smiled and thanked her, and the officer put the battery into my phone as she turned away. “Nice kid,” he said. Her kindness was a bright spot in an otherwise bad day. However, the intense fear, along with my throbbing temples, made it hard to concentrate. Officer Lopez handed the phone and the money to me, looked at me expectantly, and said, “Well, what are you waiting for? Make the call.” I didn’t have to be told twice. I dialed the number—no answer. My world was coming apart. I tried again, but no answer. I looked at the officer. He took notes as he talked to John. John gave descriptions of the kids, in-laws, and the Hummer, as best he could. I corrected the descriptions as I heard them, trying to think of the next step to take. A younger officer started relaying the descriptions to the dispatcher. Just then, Tracy rounded the corner in an unmarked car, accompanied by two plain-clothed officers. They all looked serious. Tracy grabbed John and gave him a hard, worried kiss, in front of God and everybody. They held each other for a short moment. “Don’t worry me like this,” she said as she looked into John’s eyes. “I heard it all on the radio.” Then she looked at me and said, “We lost them.” She saw the panic returning to my face. “No—no—we just don’t know where they are.” She pointed her finger at me and yelled, “Now be strong. Hold yourself together. Stay out of trouble and let the professionals do their jobs!” I felt myself getting sleepy, but I fought it the best I could. It must have been from the blow to my head. “Your kids have never been in danger before have they?” The older officer put his arm around my shoulder and said, “We’ll find them.” A tone on my phone signaled that I had unanswered messages. I dialed my voicemail and entered my code. Six messages. One was from Billy. He said, “This is important. I tried to reach John, but—” I skipped it, and asked John to check his voicemail. 145

Craig Stevens The next four were work-related. The sixth was from Grandpa George. “I gotta make this quick. I’ve seen the bad guys, I think. Grandma has the kids; she is hiding out back of the Holiday Inn Select, on El Camino Real. I took the Hummer and tried to get them to follow me. I think it worked. I’m heading—no, wait—they’re turning around. They’re turning around—” The phone went silent. I replayed the message for Officer Lopez. He listened and shouted to a younger officer, “Send men to the Holiday Inn Select. It’s an emergency. Look for a grandmother and four kids and an old man in a Hummer.” “That’s only a mile down the road,” Tracy yelled. “I just passed it.” She jumped into her car with her escorts. John stayed with me. Lopez leaped to action and ordered, “Stay here with Officer Williams; she’ll keep you informed. And you—let that medic do his job. You look terrible.” I couldn’t help but think Billy would have said it more colorfully, like, “You look like death eating a moon pie.” Officer Williams was eager to be of assistance, but we stood and watched as five cars left, burning rubber and with lights flashing. Officer Williams walked back to her car, and John and I walked to the rental car. I sat down in the passenger seat. My eyes were still blurry. John sat down, hard, in the driver’s seat. He turned to me and punched me in the left shoulder. Pain reverberated between my temples and shoulder. “Don’t ever do that again! You could have gotten us both killed. Those guys carry guns. You made yourself a target. You made us a target. You made me a target. See that sign? They are here to serve and protect people. Protect people from—from crazies like you. How stupid was that?” “I’m sorry—I wasn’t thinking about the way it looked, but we did get a battery!” John raised his finger and pointed down the street a short distance to a store—Wireless World.86 The same young woman that gave me the battery was just exiting the building. “We got a battery alright. I understand your actions, but next time, fill me in.” Officer Williams came over to the car and started asking questions as she filled out police reports related to today’s adventure. She looked at me, concerned. “Your eyes are glassy. You sure you’re okay? You don’t look so good.” She motioned to the medics, who were still circling like buzzards waiting for me to die. I think they were concerned about the kids, too, 146

Geronimo Stone and wanted to be of assistance if needed. As the medic came over, Officer Williams returned to her car to fill out reports. The medics checked me out and decided I should be in the hospital. One ran back to get the stretcher; I think they were worried about my brain swelling. Officer Williams came running to the car, holding her radio, “They found the Hummer, it crashed into a light pole; the driver’s door open. No sign of anyone, yet!” Just then, a voice came over the radio. “Tell the son his father is okay. The suspects have fled, and there’s no sign of the kids yet.” John yelled, “Get in your car! There goes Lesley.” He pointed to a silver Mercedes. The officer hesitated, but John didn’t. I pushed the medic away, and before I knew it, we were in hot pursuit. Through the back window, I saw Officer Williams in a surprised crouch, one hand on her weapon, the other slinging her radio to her mouth. The medic checking me out stumbled back and threw his hands in the air. Moments later, blue lights flashed, and the police were in hot pursuit of us. I looked ahead as we closed in on a silver Mercedes. I saw Brew in the back seat, turning around to watch us. Their larger car drove down the center lane, pushing its way through traffic, knocking mirrors off both sides. John forced our smaller, outclassed sedan to keep up the pursuit. We hugged the bumper of the Mercedes, missing most of the obstacles. Cars swung wide to avoid damage, and then closed the gaps behind us as drivers overcorrected. Officer Williams’ police car behind us was blocked by the busy chaotic traffic. Soon the flashing lights had faded behind. I looked at the car in front; I counted three men and Lesley, but saw no one else. They led us on a chase, but did not appear to try to lose us. With their more powerful engine, it wouldn’t have been that hard. They stayed just out of our reach, made a turn, headed down a narrow street, and then stopped hard. Two men were already out of the car, standing clear, as John slammed our car into theirs. Our air bags exploded, and the two men opened John’s door. Without thinking, John threw his heavy shoulder into the car door, slamming it into one of his attackers. John then grabbed the other man and slammed the door hard on his hands. Both men fell to the ground. One cradled his broken hands as the other jumped to his feet. He hammered John with a right hook. I ran toward the Mercedes and grabbed the woman. I heard a switchblade whisk open, and she stabbed the knife through my arm and kicked me away. I lost the use of my left arm, and the sudden movement had 147

Craig Stevens caused hot spikes of pain to rush to my brain. I certainly had a concussion from the officer’s tackle. Everything was distant, and my head felt like I was wearing a bucket full of nails for a hat. John came running around the car in slow motion, leaving the other two men struggling to get to their feet. Brew, bleeding from the crash, tried to climb out of the back seat. Lesley drew a gun and pointed it at John. She fired one shot, and John fell like a sack of concrete. As he hit the ground, the only sound I heard was his cell phone’s ring. John had crippled the two men with the car door, but they were regaining their strength and heading our way. Lesley raised the gun to my head, and I knew these would be my last moments. All I thought about were my missing kids, Jan as a widow, and John on the ground, dying. My head throbbed; I was losing a lot of blood from the gash on my arm. At least I knew Brew and Rader’s scheme would be their undoing. My vision blurred, but I saw Bruebaker explode from the back seat. He grabbed Lesley under his right arm and twisted the gun away from her with his left. He threw her to the ground and aimed the gun at the approaching men. They crouched and fired their own weapons. Brew never flinched, but returned fire until his gun emptied. When the smoke cleared, two men lay on the ground, motionless. Brew, injured and bleeding, sunk to his knees, but Lesley raised a large rock and smashed it onto Brew’s head. In the next instant, I looked up at Lesley through a fog; she held the same bloody rock over my head. I covered my head with my good arm and felt pressure from the blow, but no pain. I rolled out of the way and came to a stop against John’s body. Lesley repositioned herself, and then something strange happened. I saw a pair of pale snakeskin boots, then two figures. Uncle Robert was in the fog, peering down into my face. Had I died? He bent down, cradled me, and told me I’d be okay, and everything went black.


Chapter 20



awoke three days later with casts, bandages, wires, and tubes attached to every part of my body. My head only moderately ached. I felt a dry crust around my eyes as I tried to open them. I found myself looking up at a strange ceiling, through blurred and irritated eyes. As I tried to move my right hand to clear my eyes, I found I couldn’t budge it. I tilted my head down to see Jan sleeping with her cheek on my hand. Both of my arms were heavily bandaged. I tried to talk, but was unable because of the tubes in my throat. When I moved my head, it began to pound. It was hard for me to move much at all. I looked around the room and tried to answer the question, “Where am I?” In the bed next to mine was a man. The room was dark, and in the darkness, I couldn’t make out much other than we were in the hospital. I felt weak, and not wanting to wake Jan, I lay there until I fell back to sleep. The next morning I had a bad dream. I had lost my family and friends to bad guys. I looked around the room, but it was empty. I needed some kind of assurance that it was only a bad dream. Then I got it. I saw John come out of the bathroom. My heart raced; good news— he was alive. He had some bandages on his head, but other than that, he was in good shape. He looked my way, then walked over and fiddled with the tubes and tape on my arm. I winked at him, and he fell backward and ran into the open door. Rubbing his face, he yelled, “Jan! Jan! He’s awake.” Moments later, Jan came through the door, then Jan’s mother, Jan’s father, and the kids. It reminded me of when I had visited my father in the hospital. I thought, “The nurse isn’t going to like this—all these people in my room at once.” It was time for a major hug fest. For the next fifteen minutes, I held each of the kids and Jan. Then I felt myself slipping into a fog again; everything became distant as voices faded. Through the fog, I saw Uncle Robert by the door. I wondered if I was dead or alive. Maybe we all were dead. Maybe he was here to take us to heaven. 149

Craig Stevens The last thing I remembered hearing was a news commentator. “And now, more on the shooting in the Sunnyvale area earlier this week. Behemoth Records vice-president, Malcolm Bruebaker saved the lives of eight people, all family members of new Geronimo Stone Records president, from a murder attempt by—” That’s odd, I thought, as dreams replaced reality. I awoke later the same day and steadily began to get stronger. I left the hospital a couple of days later. I had been in a coma for a week or so. John had suffered only minor injuries from a bullet graze and a glancing blow to the head. John was discharged from the hospital the day I first woke. Reading the collection of newspapers saved for me by Jan, I learned that Brew had come out of it a hero. Before I left the hospital, I visited him in his hospital room. I walked into the room carrying a fruit basket. “Hi, can I come in?” Brew looked up at me and said, “Sure, why not. No privacy in this place.” He lay in a full body cast, pulleys and weights attached to his legs. “You don’t look so good,” I said with a smile, to break the ice. He smirked and said, “You’re no beauty queen yourself.” I laughed in an awkward way, as pain shocked my head. “Well, here. I brought you this.” I set the fruit basket on his lap table and rolled it closer to him. “What’s this, leftovers from your room?” “Hey, my hair’s a mess, and I didn’t have time to go shopping.” I pointed to the bandages covering a shaved patch of scalp. “I wanted to express my appreciation for your actions in saving us and spread the wealth.” “What did they do, give you half a Mohawk?” He snickered a little. “Yeah, well, I learned a big lesson. Our business issues aside, I jeopardized your family. For that, I’m sorry. All I can say is that I was duped by Lesley Jakes, and I’ll be paying for it for the rest of my life.” We paused for what felt like a day and a half, while the macabre music of hospital machines set the mood. Rhythmic beeps and rolls of data printing out his statistics blended with the sounds of hydraulics, muffled voices, and noises from the hall. Disrupting the concert, I spoke. “So, what’re ya in for? What did the doctors say?” “It’s not good. I’ve lost all feeling in my legs; they think I may be paralyzed from the waist down. They say there’s a chance, well—but, I don’t know.” 150

Geronimo Stone “I’m sorry to hear that, Brew.” “Yeah, well, I’m sorry, too. This was my fault to begin with. Lesley made a fool out of me.” “We both made fools of ourselves. John is still mad at me for the great battery caper. Talk about lessons—there’s one for you.” Brew looked confused, so I said, “Never mind, it’s a long story. We all do foolish things.” “Yeah, but you’re still walking.” He looked down. “You better go now; I don’t want this to get too mushy. I messed up your life, and you trashed mine; we’re even for now.” I looked at him and said, “I’m sorry you feel that way, Brew.” I turned and headed for the door. As I approached the hall, an attractive woman in her fifties, wearing a stunning red dress, stood in the doorway, nervously holding her hands. As I left the room, I heard Brew say, “Lucy, is that you?” I wondered to myself, “Wasn’t that Brew’s ex-wife’s name?” I turned around and saw a surprised Brew, the lady hurrying to his side. They embraced. Brew left the hospital a month after I did. He had tried to take over Geronimo Stone Records and had gone to work for Rader, but it seems that in California, Lesley Jakes had planned to frame him for the murder of my kids. Tracy thinks Brew was clueless up to that point. He overheard Lesley and her father talking on the phone the day they arrived. He became suspicious and connected Geronimo’s murder to Lesley. While ambitious and self-centered, he was not a murderer. He had liked my uncle. He was determined not to let anything else happen and followed her. Brew foiled the plot to kill the kids by helping them to hide in an unlocked FedEx truck. He was about to turn Lesley in to the police, and had actually made a 911 call before her thugs surprised him, overpowered him, and threw him into the Mercedes. From talking to Jan’s folks, I understood that Lesley showed up just after my call. George and Jan’s mother were hiding the kids behind the hotel; just missing Lesley and her hit men as they ran to the hotel room where the kids had been staying. Brew had grabbed George while he was sneaking around to the Hummer. “I thought my life was over,” George explained. “I tried to knock him down, but he recovered. Man, he’s a big boy, isn’t he? He told me he was there to help. I had no choice but to trust him.” 151

Craig Stevens Brew told George to act as a decoy. As soon as George saw Lesley and the two men come out of the building, George drove by them and out of the parking lot. They followed until they realized George was alone. Then Lesley turned back to the hotel. “I knew I should have rented the one with the tinted windows,” George said. From Grandma’s story, Brew took that time to put the family in the back of a FedEx truck while the driver made a delivery. The driver didn’t know he had stowaways and drove out of the parking lot as the Mercedes returned. George drove the Hummer in hot pursuit. Brew had been making the 911 call when the Mercedes returned and the two men overpowered him. I heard the 911 transcripts on Fox News, but that’s another story. George wrecked the Hummer trying to stop the Mercedes from leaving the parking lot. The Mercedes was just a second too fast for him. When the FedEx driver made the next delivery, the kids and Jan’s mother jumped out of their hiding places; the shocked driver fled on foot when he heard all the racket coming from the back of the truck. He ran so fast he never knew it was just a bunch of kids and a grandmother. He thought he was being highjacked, so the driver called 911 on his cell phone from a safe distance, and that’s when the police showed up and surrounded the truck. Jan’s mother said, “It was just like in the movies, only I was scared; I was really scared. The police surrounded us, helicopter and all, blue lights flashing, and someone on a loud speaker told us to throw out our weapons and come out with our hands up, so I threw out my purse. I have never seen so many guns in all my life. When they saw the kids and me, they were so happy, especially the nice older officer. That’s when I knew we were safe. They saved us. I would have kissed them all.” As all that was going on, the Mercedes escaped down El Camino Real, and that’s when John saw them pass us. Even Brew had collected evidence to use against Rader. I’m not sure if it was anything more than classic Brew trying to get ahead, but it made him look good to the Behemoth’s board of directors and the police. It also gave Behemoth a public relations boost. Behemoth spun the story that they brought Brew in to gather evidence and clean up the corruption in upper management. Behemoth used Brew’s accidental success to keep the feds satisfied and stockholders happy. Behemoth stock went through the roof. The board promoted Brew to president. 152

Geronimo Stone The police charged Rader with five counts of murder, four counts of conspiracy to kidnap, and four counts of conspiracy to commit murder, embezzlement, traffic in pornography, prostitution, and payola to radio stations, and blackmail. But they also charged John and me with a couple of traffic violations. As for the Jakes, no one knows where they went. Tracy thinks they made their way to Canada and then flew back to whatever hole they crawled out of. That’s just half the story. We have more information about Geronimo that we can’t tell anyone about until after the trials. Not only that, while we were busy in California, Billy fought some major battles of his own. Brenda was almost blown up. Early one morning, there was a bomb scare. A parked car blocked the front drivethrough of Geronimo Stone Records, and Brenda got tired of seeing it there. She ordered it towed. She looked in the car, and the keys were still in it, so she just pulled a Brenda; she jumped in and drove it to the parking lot. When she got out, she rifled through the contents of the glove box to find a name, so she could have the owner paged. What she found were blasting caps. Not knowing what they were, she picked them up and carried them around like loose pencils until Billy stopped her. When the police came, they called the bomb squad, and they found a bomb taking up the entire trunk. They evacuated all the buildings in a two-block radius. Everyone went home. Billy was locking up and found two men, in bomb squad clothes, searching every inch of the buildings. Billy became suspicious; he thought he knew everyone on the force, but didn’t remember these two. He followed them the best he could by using John’s hidden cameras. Evidently, they were looking for Uncle Robert’s evidence on Rader and Jakes. About the time he confirmed that they weren’t a part of the bomb squad, the two men were on their way out, so he confronted them. We now have ventilation holes in many of the walls at Geronimo Stone Records. Brenda likes them; she thinks they add historical value. The police were making their way through the building, following the gunshots, looking for Billy. They captured the men as Billy ran out of ammo. Billy was unhurt, and Brenda was okay. The men are in custody. Nothing blew up. They tried to detonate it once they were discovered, but thank God, the bomb squad was too fast for them. Tracy feels that with the downfall of Rader, and the Jakes leaving the country, everything should be getting back to normal soon. Unfor153

Craig Stevens tunately, ‘back to normal’ is still pretty rough. John’s not taking any chances; he has combed our buildings and installed all new security systems. On my first day back in Nashville, Jeanine our publicist, entered my office and said in an excited voice, “Have you seen the Record?” “Is our release in it?” asked Aunt Brenda. “Sort of. But so is this.” She pointed her finger at the lead story on the front page. The picture showed Behemoth’s board of directors honoring Brew. Brew, in a wheelchair, held a Batman costume with a bat made out of music CDs glued to the front. Below the picture was the story:

Behemoth’s President Saves the Day – As well as Geronimo’s First Family, Behemoth Records, and Maybe the Record Business, as We Know It – Gotham City has Batman and the Daily Planet has Superman, but we have Record Man. Last month, Behemoth Records’ new president, Malcolm Bruebaker saved the lives of Geronimo Stone Records’ first family. To better serve Behemoth’s fans and clients, the board of directors reported that they secured the services of Malcolm Bruebaker. Malcolm’s keen insight allowed him to foil an international plot to take over one of America’s prime entertainment companies. His fast actions and strength of character allowed him to save the lives of ten people in California last month. When asked, Bruebaker issued this statement: “Behemoth’s board of directors felt something was wrong, so they called me to assist them. I was happy to do it. When I uncovered the plot to attack Robert ‘Geronimo’ Stone’s family, I had to do something. I tracked the bad guys down and kicked their butts. Any red-blooded American male would have done the same thing.” He looked at this reporter and joked, “I had to save 154

Geronimo Stone Geronimo’s management. It would be no fun unless I was the one kicking their butts—in a competitive way.” More heroics and Behemoth Blues progress on page 7. Grant Escobar, the Record We just shrugged and threw the rag in the trash. It’s been a couple of months since the excitement; Brew is acting president of Behemoth Records and spending his extra time in rehab. The kids have started back to school, and Geronimo Stone Records has been implementing the seven attributes of excellent management. Our staff is really starting to contribute. Everyone is excited about participating in the leadership of the company, and many have committed to learning more about quality, change, and behavioral theories. The culture, now that everyone knows what culture is, is slowly but surely starting to become more participative. Our earliest attempts to empower the employees allowed us to recuperate. If it weren’t for that early push to empower, people would have waited for direction. As it turned out, everyone chipped in with a vision in mind and implemented an inclusive decision-making culture. The consultants helped by facilitating team problem-solving efforts. We have a plan for becoming more competitive and improving customer focus, both internally and externally. We’re attempting to build cross-functional teams, and our company’s decisions seem to be improving as a whole. Last week, I sat in on one of the after-hours employee brainstorming meetings. The team invited me in for their recommendations. A young mailroom guy introduced the main presenter, and she laid out the suggestions that the group had compiled. “Hey, my name is Judy. Here is a summary of our recommendations. We used the new electronic bulletin board on the intranet, and these are the ideas that came in over the last two weeks. Not all are new, but we agree with them as a group. First, we suggest that we continue to address value to our customers by discovering the most brilliant artists and creating faster service to stores, both direct and through our distribution chain. We think that plenty of live performances and one-to-one contact between our artists, their fans, and the employees of Geronimo Stone Records will help build strong relationships. 155

Craig Stevens “When we repackage older music, we should supply radio, press, merchants, and fans with bios and historical information. We should even send a Geronimo employee on a road show to introduce the new recordings via radio and print interviews. We need to show historic video clips on local and national TV more often. We should work these as aggressively as we do our new releases. If we show the fans why we care about this stuff, they’ll have a chance to catch the fever. We should try to load a repackage with one or two unreleased tracks, or tribute cuts of the artist’s songs by currently popular stars to stimulate extra sales—” Many of these ideas weren’t new, but they were good. The point is, they came from the people making it happen. That makes the difference in performance and success. Every process is a potential target for continuous improvement; every person is a “change agent;” they know they are being paid to think. Everyone is excited about making a difference. We have implemented many training programs to teach our people the skills and tools needed for maximizing resources, decision-making, and problem-solving. One of the more successful training programs seems to be the Project Management Training. We are starting to see more progress and successful completions of projects. We teach in a way that gives students a chance to become certified project management professionals (PMP)87 thru the Project Management Institute (PMI).88 This gives them an added sense of accomplishment. We have more successful projects than unsuccessful ones, these days. We are redesigning the performance measures we use. For example, we no longer measure the time someone stays at their desk, while expecting them to be out improving our sales. Oh, and remember the gifts left by Uncle Robert? Well, as soon as we left for California, Jill found and unlocked the storage room. She found boxes with mobiles in them all over the place. There were enough for everyone’s desk. Now every person in the company has a mobile paperweight89; we have hundreds left over. Plus, Uncle Robert must have been very busy in the hospital, because everyone also received a handwritten good-bye message to go along with the mobiles. Motivation to succeed has never been so high. Many people had their messages framed, and they proudly display them in their workspaces along with pictures of “the Old Man.” Jill’s was very special. She had a gold and silver version of the mobile, with a handwritten letter addressed to Geronimo’s “daughter.” She cried. 156

Geronimo Stone Our artist roster actually benefited from the merger. The prima donnas went to Behemoth, and the more cutting-edge artists stayed or came over from Mercator. Business is starting to pick up. Our sales are starting to turn around and our style is going through some kind of evolution. Another bright spot is a new television series, Nashville Blues. It’s about a Blues label in Nashville. We made a deal with the network, and our company is benefiting greatly. We licensed them to use our music, have access to our stars, and even use our facilities. That’s going to help with name recognition. They use our facilities and buildings in the show. We have been invited to the 2001 Emmy Awards and to the preEmmy parties in New York to celebrate the new show. It’s been a welcome relief from a challenging couple of months. Brenda, Jan, the kids, and I will fly to New York on the weekend of the ninth and see the sights until the party on the thirteenth. After that, we fly to California for the broadcast of the 2001 Emmys on the sixteenth. We will see Jan’s parents again, under less dramatic conditions, and we decided to pull the kids out of school for a fabulous week in New York City and LA. Steven, John, Tracy, and the others have decided to go to either the pre-Emmy party or the Emmys, depending on the tickets they receive and their travel budgets. Geronimo Stone Records will help with some of the expenses. Brenda said if we didn’t, she would sell her Mercedes. I think we all need the rest, and the celebration will do us good. While we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, this has to be our last major expense until the coffers are full once again. As Robert Geronimo Stone used to say, “Experience is a hard teacher. She gives the test first and the lesson afterwards.”90 Well, he said it, or Vernon Sanders Law an old pro baseball player, depending on who you ask.



It’s all About Change


he model used in this book is the first phase in a five-phased approach, known as The Linked Management Models, found at the web link - Mark Twain said, “The only person who likes change is a baby with a wet diaper!� Nevertheless, you either master change or become irrelevant. Change is inevitable, and change will increase in response to corporate resizing, organizational evolution, the changing economic climate, a fluctuating marketplace, innovation in technology, and the ever-changing landscape of our workforce. Never before have there been this many changing trends nor has information been as accessible as it is today. Just cataloging the types of information would take an enormous amount of time. Things are changing so fast that good solid research seems to turn facts into fiction and then back again, repeatedly. Just like personal diet plans. Massive amounts of information bombard our organizations daily to such a degree that only those doing the work can effectively process and use the data. Increased information brings enlightenment, yet may also cause confusion and chaos. Even the largest ships of industry, like Microsoft, may one day change directions or even break apart, based on the whims of politicians. At the same time, organizations, seemingly made of smoke and mirrors, rise like volcanoes. Some erupt, not exploding like Mount St Helen's, but popping, more like bubbles. Companies that survive and prosper in this environment have to learn how to not only tolerate change but also embrace it and use it as a competitive tool. Craig Stevens developed The Linked Management Models to help organizations understand and master change. Each of the five phases answer a specific question and outline different tools to use as resources. The model used in this book, The Mobile of Excellent Management is the first phase in the five-phased Linked Management Models approach. 159

Craig Stevens Phase One: The Mobile of Excellent Management Explained: The Mobile of Excellent Management answers the question, “HOW CAN WE GET BETTER AT ACHIEVING EXCELLENT RESULTS?” To influence others to achieve results takes a systemic, balanced approach. Using an artist’s mobile, like the one featured in this book; we are able to describe graphically the interrelationships of the seven attributes vital to excellent management. On a mobile, remove any one piece and the system is out of balance. Likewise, remove any one of these attributes within an organization, and the organization itself is out of balance, making the entire company less effective. As in the mobile, in an organization, no one attribute will work alone. The mobile is useful in helping others visualize the simplicity of the steps leading to better results and excellent management.

Figure A.1. The Acronyms and Mobile of Excellent Management Used in this Book 160

Geronimo Stone Step 1

–Leadership – GHL (The Guiding Hand of Leadership) Growing Leaders and Empowering People.

Step 2

– Culture - CSHUT (The String That Holds Us Together) - Building a Winning Culture.

Step 3

– Customer Focus – CCF (Customers, the Center of Focus) - Customer Relationship Management and Improving Customer Relationships.

Step 4

–Team Building -TPBC (Teams the Power Behind the Company) - Understanding People and Building Teams.

Step 5

– Problem-Solving - PSSTTB (Problem-solving Skills, the Team’s Tool Box) – Developing Skills, Core Competencies, and Problem-Solving Tools (Six Sigma, Project Management, etc.).

Step 6

– Continuous Improvement – MC and CI (Mastering Change and Continuous Improvement).

Step 7

– Performance Measures – MSFPM (Measuring Success or Failure using Performance Measures) - The Seven Steps to Measuring Performance

Here’s how it works - One must address the seven attributes of the mobile from the top down, and balance is necessary. If an organization disregards any one of these attributes, management is incomplete. First, to be competitive, everyone has to lead something, and the leaders have to understand how to paint the vision. Empowerment is leadership of one’s own efforts. However, leadership/empowerment doesn’t just happen; leaders are developed. Second, changes, competitiveness, and improvements will never happen in an organization unless the organization’s culture allows it. The culture has to push for competitiveness. Build a culture that lives to compete. Third, if your efforts are not centered on the customers, then you might as well go home and work on your house. At least there, you know your customer. If you do not have a customer - who needs you? 161

Craig Stevens Fourth through Seventh – We must continuously improve and make our own products and services obsolete before our competitors do. To improve continuously requires a team approach and the teams have to use problem-solving tools and techniques. Without the proper problemsolving tools, the teams are ineffective, and continuous improvement is impossible. Without performance measures, one never knows if things are improving or getting worse. This leads us back to Leadership and organizational culture. History of the Mobile of Excellent Management: Several years ago, after researching many linear feet of writings on quality, Dr. Jerry Westbrook formed a theory about the popular quality management trends found in total quality management (TQM).91 He described this often hard to understand program using six attributes that made it easy to implement. His attributes are culture, customer focus, team building, problem-solving, continuous improvement, and performance measures. His theory was that one could use these six attributes to describe TQM in a way that would satisfy all of the existing definitions. Furthermore, these six attributes would give practitioners a framework on which to build a program and a way to easily communicate these ideas to others. He also found a link between culture and success or failure. It all boils down to people. The number one problem companies had/have in implementing TQM or any other program like it, directly relates to the failure to prepare properly the organization’s culture to accept a change. Fix this problem and many others go away.


Geronimo Stone

Figure A.2 The Mobile of Excellent Management92 Later, Craig Stevens developed the graphics related to the Westbrook attributes, for a presentation on “Quality Management in Government,� for the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge operations office (1993). Craig added a seventh attribute when Bruce Brevard, a colleague and U.S. Naval officer, challenged him to consider leadership as a missing attribute instead of including it in the culture attribute. Mr. Stevens verified the model with a massive search of material while he worked on his dissertation. He created a database to store and retrieve the data compiled from this broader literature search and then used a design of experiments statistical approach to look at the relationships between the attributes. Mr. Stevens discovered that each of the attributes seemed to reflect the body of the information collected. Leadership was a natural and logical addition, and there were no additional surprises within the literature reviewed, nor were new attributes needed. These seven attributes, when applied to the quality of management in general (or excellent management) describe a set of easy to understand attributes. 163

Craig Stevens So here we are! To help organizations benefit from this work we developed, three tools using The Mobile of Excellent Management. This will help you to answer the question - How can we get better results? 1. Geronimo Stone – His Music, His Love, and the Mobile of Excellent Management. This book is the first book of a three-book set. 2. Geronimo Stone – The Mobile of Excellent Management, the Workshop’s Workbook. 3. The Mobile of Excellent Management Reference Book.


Contact Information: If you would like to explore The Mobile of Excellent Management ™ or The Linked Management Models ™ in greater depth, please contact: Craig A. Stevens (CraigAStevens@WestbrookStevens.Com) or Michael Moore (MichaelMoore@WestbrookStevens.Com). Our website is and phone number is (615) 8348838. To read about other related workshops and books go to


About the Authors: Author - Craig Stevens is the president of Westbrook Stevens, LLC. He is a Christian (which means his work comes from a Christcentered worldview), he is a husband, and the father of four kids. He was born in Key West, Florida, has lived all over the South, and worked in 25 different states. Mr. Stevens is the artist of all the B. Stone Paintings. He uses mainly oils and acrylic (to see some of his paintings, go to:'s_art.htm). He is the co-founder of a small, woman-owned company, Westbrook Stevens LLC (; Global Investment Resources; and Innovative Resources and Systems (IRaS, a service disabled veteran-owned small business). Mr. Stevens grew up in Holiday Inns. His parents were parent company troubleshooters. Most of his family’s conversations during meals were centered on the business. He started helping in the Holiday Inns when he was only eleven years old. He worked the front desk’s switchboard at a time when one had to plug wires into holes to make connections. Mr. Stevens has been a consultant from 1980, and has worked with both commercial and government clients. He has provided services to more than a hundred different companies and organizations of all sizes ( He has worked with every level of management and labor in a number of industries including agriculture, healthcare, manufacturing, transportation, research, waste management and environmental restoration, construction, governmental organizations, and the tourism/ restaurant/ hotel/ motel industry. He has served on faculty for Vanderbilt University, Belmont University, Trevecca Nazarene University, the University of Phoenix, Nashville State Tech, and University of Tennessee Knoxville (as TA). During this time, he taught graduate and undergraduate classes and corporate workshops in innovation and R&D, project management, organizational and technological change management, manufacturing management, strategic planning, historical management principles, sys167

Craig Stevens tems management, statistics, customer service, engineering economy, human factors engineering, and each of his linked management models. He taught corporate workshops for many organizations (AMA, Padgett Thompson, SAIC, US Army, US DOE, NASA, CNA, etc.) on change management, innovations, ethics, project/program management (basic, senior, IT, software, etc.), safety, IT, excellent management, customer service, a variety of technical subjects, TQM, value engineering and each of his linked management models. He studied for a PhD at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, in Engineering Management/Industrial and Systems Engineering. He graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville with a M.S. in Engineering Management/Industrial Engineering in 1985. He earned his B.S. in Industrial Engineering from UT in 1983. He went to Tennessee Technological University, Cookeville where he threw the javelin and competed as a power lifter, 1978-79. To understand his background, he has worked all over the place. Just to pay his way though college he worked as a commercial artist; a waiter, bar tender, front desk clerk, security guard, gardener, maintenance man, night auditor and he washed dishes and bused tables. He was also a construction worker, a product design engineer, U.S. DOE Engineer, DJ in a lounge, and underwater salvage diver. Later he also owned and worked a farm. Co-author - Michael Moore, VP of marketing for Westbrook Stevens, LLC, is also a Christian, with many years of marketing, publicity, and promotion experience. Mr. Moore added the music industry details to the story, in addition to his many other business contributions. Before Westbrook Stevens, Mr. Moore performed business development and licensing for Liquid Audio. Before that, he managed pop artist essence on RCA Records and techno-pop group, Superfuzz, on Warner Music Japan. Prior to that was 14 years of record promotion, capped by a stint as VP national promotion for Columbia Records Nashville. Through the 80s, he did pop promotion for Epic Records and directly contributed to the sale of over $1 billion worth of recorded music. He has been recognized for innovation, developing new markets, building, and motivating successful teams and imaginative problem-solving.


End Page References 1

Helen Keller


Teddy Roosevelt


Based on a sermon given by Reverend Tom Moody of the First Baptist Church in Wartburg Tennessee.



Pepper, Calvin and Craig Stevens “Project Management – Maintaining Quality by Communicating,” Third International Waste Management Conference, ASQC, Las Vegas, Nevada, 92.




Collins, James C. and Jerry I. Porras. Built-to-Last, Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, Harper Collins Publishers, 1997.


John C. Maxwell's The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Workbook, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2002.


Byham, WC and Cox, Jeff. Zapp!: The Lightning of Empowerment. New York: Harmony, 1988.


Donald T. Phillips, Lincoln on Leadership : Executive Strategies for Tough Times, Warner Books, New York, NY,1992.


Built to Last, ibid.


Stevens, C.A., “Step 3: Using the Westbrook Attributes For “Quality Management” to Understand and Maximize Organiza169

Craig Stevens tional Change Effectiveness and Efficiency,” American Society of Engineering Management, 21st National Conference Proceedings, October 4-7, 2000. 13

Words used by Victor Dinkus of Tennessee Eastman during a presentation to the IIE Chapter 11 meeting in Knoxville Tennessee in the 1990’s.




Tin Angel at 3201 West End Ave, Nashville, TN 37203-1305.


Jim Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t, New York: Harper Business, 2001.


John C. Maxwell, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Workbook, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2002.


WBS Goals Tree -


The Goals Tree -


Pepper, Calvin and Craig Stevens “Project Management – Maintaining Quality by Communicating,” Third International Waste Management Conference, ASQC, Las Vegas, Nevada, 92.



Queen, We will Rock You –


John Paul Jones –


Golf Paintings –'s_art.htm.



Giclees -'s_art.htm.

Geronimo Stone 27

Mobile of Excellent Management - Stevens, Craig A,. Presentation "Performance Measurements for Quality Improvement," Sponsored by The US Department of Energy, Oak Ridge Operations, Federal Building, October 26, 1994 –

28 - Craig A. Stevens, "Managing Work Force 2000," 36th Annual Tennessee Quality Conference, Sponsored by the University of Tennessee, American Society of Quality Control, The Tennessee Quality Award, and The Tri-Cities Institute of Industrial Engineers, at The University of Tennessee Conference Center, Knoxville, Tennessee, March 11, 1995.


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), Craig Stevens first heard this from Patty Taylor during a chemistry class at the University of Tennessee.


“Diversity, Creating a Single Company Culture in a MultiCultural Society,” National Management Association, August 15, 1995, Portsmouth, Ohio. –








Montelle’s View –'s_art.htm.


Craig Stevens 37

Olive Garden – 1131 Bell Road, Antioch, TN 37013, Phone: (615) 731-8431.


Albert Einstein quote –


Old Greek Saying.

40 - Try the Fish Camp from


Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles, Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service, William Morrow and Company, New York, 1993.






Shoney’s on Music Row no longer exits but was a hangout for a long time.


“John Hammond was responsible for discovering Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Robert Johnson, Bessie Smith, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Pete Seeger, and Bruce Springsteen, among others. As a producer, writer, critic, and board member of the NAACP, he was credited as a major force in integrating the music business. An early inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, John Hammond was one of the most important figures in 20th century popular music.”


Geronimo Stone 48

“Ralph Peer was the prominent early businessman in country music. His impact, moreover, on the larger popular music industry—as a pioneer in recording, music publishing, and artist management—is incalculable. Among the country music innovators whose success can be credited to Peer are Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family, both of whom Ralph Peer discovered, recorded, and managed.”

49 - Stevens, C.A., “Step 3: Using the Westbrook Attributes For “Quality Management” to Understand and Maximize Organizational Change Effectiveness and Efficiency,” American Society of Engineering Management, 21st National Conference Proceedings, October 4-7, 2000. -- Westbrook, Jerry D., Craig A. Stevens, Donna Riggs, “Quality Management In Government,” National Quality Month Presentation, US DOE, Oak Ridge Operations, Oak Ridge Tennessee, November 4, 1993. and others.


Mark Sanborn – Team building Career Track Tape Set


Mark Twain –


Gambrell, Steven and Craig A. Stevens, "Moving Through the Three Phases of Organizational Change," Industrial Management Magazine, Institute of Industrial Engineers, July/August 1992. - 173

Craig Stevens 53

Stevens, C.A., Steven Gambrell, "Managing Change With Configuration-Value




Magazine, Institute of Industrial Engineers, May 93. 54

Problem-Solving Tools Figure 4 – A similar concept was use by Stephen R. Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, explaining the value of effective managers.


This is fiction but for fun, we added our own company’s name.


Seven Attributes of Excellent Management –


The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, Peter Senge, 1990 - 1st edition, 1994 - paperback edition, xxiii, 413 p., ISBN 0-385-26095-4.


Good Rocks to Bread Commentary –

59 60 Masaaki Imai, Kaizen: The Key To Japan's Competitive Success, McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, 1986.


Stairway to Heaven-- Led Zeppelin.


Masaaki Imai, Kaizen: The Key To Japan's Competitive Success, McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, 1986.


Zig Ziglar, Something to Smile About, Encouragement and Inspiration for Life’s Ups and Downs, Thomas Nelson Publishers, (pg 2), 1998.


Geronimo Stone 64

Trevecca Nazarene University


Words of Dr. Jerry Westbrook, director of the Engineering Management, Industrial, and Systems Engineering Program at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, during his classes on Quality Management 1995.


Words of Dr. Jerry Westbrook, director of the Engineering Management, Industrial, and Systems Engineering Program at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, during his classes on Quality Management 1995.


Seven Steps - Presentation/Papers, Special Session on Managing Change, "Managing Change, Part 1 - Change Management The human side of change and its relationship to quality and productivity,” Stevens, C.A., Steven Gambrel; "Managing Change, Part 2 - Team Communications in the 21st Century,” Stevens, C.A., Calvin Pepper, Steven Gambrell; "Managing Change, Part 3 - Facilitating and Controlling Change - Improving Competitiveness, Quality and Productivity,” Stevens, C.A., Steven Gambrell, Calvin Pepper, 4th International Conferences on Productivity and Quality Research, Miami FL, February 1993. Included in book, "Productivity and Quality Management Frontiers-IV," Industrial Engineering and Management Press Institute of Industrial Engineers, Norcross, Georgia, 1993.


Seven Steps –


Tuttle, T.C.; "Strategic Performance Measurement", Conference Proceedings: Sixth Annual National Conference on Federal 175

Craig Stevens Quality, Federal Quality Institute, President's Council on Management Improvement, American Society for Quality Control, Association for Quality and Participation, and Quality & Productivity Management Association, 1993, pp. 537-545. 70

Stanleigh, M.; "Accounting for Quality,� CA Magazine, Volume 125, October 1992, pp. 40-42.






Thor, C.G., "Performance Measurement in a Research Organization," Productivity and Quality Management Frontiers -III, edited by Sumanth, Edosomwan, Sink, and Werther. 1991 Institute of Industrial Engineers.








Salemme, T.; "Establishing Metrics for Service Based Work", Conference Proceedings: Sixth Annual National Conference on Federal Quality, Federal Quality Institute, President's Council on Management Improvement, American Society for Quality Control, Association for Quality and Participation, and Quality & Productivity Management Association, 1993, pp. 528-536.


Shycoff, D.B.; Key Criteria for Performance Measurement, Comptroller of the Department of Defense, Directorate for Business Management, 1992.


Gould, L.; "Measuring Business Reengineering is Part of Its Success", Managing Automation, May 1993, pp. 45-47


Geronimo Stone 80



Quote contributed to Albert Einstein.


Salemme, T.; "Establishing Metrics for Service Based Work", Conference Proceedings: Sixth Annual National Conference on Federal Quality, Federal Quality Institute, President's Council on Management Improvement, American Society for Quality Control, Association for Quality and Participation, and Quality & Productivity Management Association, 1993, pp. 528-536.


Stevens, Craig A,. Presentation "Performance Measurements for Quality Improvement," Sponsored by The US Department of Energy, Oak Ridge Operations, Federal Building, October 26, 1994.


Stevens, Craig; Steven Gambrell, Presentation “Work Force 2000, and the Seven Attributes of Quality Management,” American Society of Quality Control, November 9, 1995, Nashville, Tennessee.


Chief Chu - Chef Chu's 1067 N. San Antonio Road, Los Altos, CA –


Wireless World (650) 941-3511. 4646 El Camino Real Los Altos, CA.


Project Management Professional Certification –


Project Management Institution –


Mobile paper weights – 177

Craig Stevens 90

Zig Ziglar, Something to Smile About, Encouragement and Inspiration for Life’s Ups and Downs, Thomas Nelson Publishers, (pg 2), 1998.


Jerry D. Westbrook, “Taking a Multivariate Approach to Total Quality Management,” Industrial Management, March/April, 1993February 24, 1994.


Stevens, Craig; Steven Gambrell, Presentation “Work Force 2000, and the Seven Attributes of Quality Management,” American Society of Quality Control, November 9, 1995, Nashville, Tennessee.

OTHER MATERIAL USED 1. Gambrell, Steven and Craig A. Stevens, Presentation, "TQM: The What and Why Important to Technical Communications," East Tennessee Chapter of the Society for Technical Communications (STC), Knoxville, Tennessee, January 25, 1994. 2. Stevens, C.A. and Steven Gambrell, Presentation, Full Day Session on "Managing Work Force 2000." "Part 1, Forecasting Work Force 2000" and "Part 2, Managing Work Force 2000," WATTec '94, Hyatt Regency Hotel, Knoxville, Tennessee, February 24, 1994. 3. Stevens, C.A. and Steven Gambrell, Presentation, "Managing Change - Creating a Vision and Moving to that Vision," sponsored by the National Presidents Program of WATTec, Science 178

Geronimo Stone Applications International Corporation (SAIC) and Innovative Resources and Systems (IRaS) at WATTec, Hyatt Regency Hotel, Knoxville, Tennessee, February 1993. 4. Westbrook, Jerry, Craig A. Stevens, Donna Riggs, Grover Smithwick, Presentation, “Quality Management in Government," sponsored by The Department of Energy, DOE Federal Building, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, November 4, 1994.


Geronimo Stone - His Music, His Love, and His Model  

In this searing drama, learn the seven attributes of “The Mobile of Excellent Management.” This, the 1st story in the Geronimo Stone Series,...