September 3, 2023

I attended my sixth Bruce Springsteen concert this past week (my first was in 1977 during my freshman year of college).

And while Bruce’s music has been the soundtrack of my life (I even went to college in New Jersey), “only” attending six concerts made me feel like a slacker—almost a “Springsteen Virgin” –when I shared my attendance record with other attendees who have attended dozens of concerts over the half century Bruce has been touring.

And yes, they were more than happy to list every concert they’ve attended, which tour, the exact dates and location, what Bruce was wearing on stage…and tons of other useless (yet priceless to them) information.

I’m sorry/not sorry I asked.

Too much information…but it puts things into historical perspective which is always educational.

Many who were there this time were not even born when I saw him for the first time…which proves that he has transcended generations with music that stands the test of time.

And that I am old. 🙁

If you don’t pay attention to music (or modern culture) you might have missed Bruce’s rise to super stardom…or maybe you don’t like him…or maybe you are wondering where this post is heading (other than me being a fanboy).

Regardless, please stay with me.

And if you are a fan, I know you are with me. 🙂

If you slept through the last 50 years or if you are a hater, all you need to know is that Springsteen is known as “The Boss.”

But the Boss of what?

Rock and Roll?

The swamps of New Jersey?

The E Street Band (i.e., his “staff”)?

All of the above in my book.

And I nominate him as “The Boss of Excellence with Longevity.”

There are others in all fields who could claim this version of being a boss…some even mentioned later in this post…but none who were born to run like Bruce.

Sticking around in our hearts and minds for five decades doesn’t happen by accident…it leaves clues (and even a formula) along the way.

“The Boss formula”:

Look at everything like a business, one that is built for the long game (and dare I say understands marketing) …what it takes to build that business to last forever…whether that business is one of the most prolific rock and roll bands of all time…a sports franchise…or any other enterprise.

How we create excellence with longevity (by looking at everything like a business) became the lead topic during the Titans Xcelerator live call this week after I innocently mentioned that I had been to the Springsteen concert the night before.

An hour later, with over 100 comments in the chat, and a lively discussion to add to the chatter, I knew it was a topic worth continuing today in this post.

The wisdom of the crowd cannot be denied.

Many of the 75 participants also unmuted and shared their insights verbally, some of which I will share below…and I invite you to join in the discussion by emailing me with your own thoughts on this topic (after reading more about it, of course).

I may do a Part 2 on this one…and share your insights.

A Boss is not a dictator

Watching Bruce on stage leaves no doubt who is the ultimate caretaker of “Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.”

However, the feeling you get from the camaraderie expressed among the band members during three hours of continuous music, playing classic songs from one of the most engaging and poetic catalogues in the history of music (Bruce’s songwriting and lyrics are second to none), leaves you with the feeling that they like each other.

It’s no surprise that when you Google the top live acts in rock and roll of all time, Bruce and his band are always in the top 5…often #1.

It’s because they are all on the same page while on the same stage.

The Beatles of New Jersey…without the drama. Well…they keep the drama to a minimum relative to others in rock and roll.

While they all get spotlighted with solos, their stage presence seems like so much more than everyone getting three minutes of fame.

They all bask in Bruce’s glow while being part of something much larger.

I could be describing a blue chip business with that sentence and not just a rock and roll band.

One key to the Boss (plus the E street Band) creating excellence with longevity has to do with this synergy…but it’s also about a mission that stands the test of time…with many of the original band members from the 1970’s still being a part of the band.

Like any band, members of “E Street” have left, come back, left and never came back, died…but I still thought it was uncanny how much continuity there is with this particular band…down to the deceased, original, and legendary saxophone player, Clarence Clemons, being replaced by his nephew Jake.

Continuity means connection.

And…all of the “newbies” that have come into the band since its inception have bought into the same mission…not just for a paycheck… but because they believed in the Boss’s leadership and vision.

Bruce even mentions this in the lyrics of the song, Born to Run, the unofficial anthem of New Jersey:

…I wanna be your friend…I want to guard your dreams and visions…

Consistency means connection too. 🙂

A band is a business…as is a sports team…as is everything

During the discussion with the Titans Xcelerators, we compared Bruce to some of the most successful sports teams of all time.

With this conclusion:

Everything is a business.”

And we defined a “successful business” as “excellence over a long period of time.”

“The Bosses” of those sports teams are important…whether it’s a coach, a general manager or an owner (or maybe all of the above).

But it’s always about the “culture.”

The phrase “winning culture” exists for a reason.

If you follow sports as I do, there are examples of these “companies” which come to mind…and they all have these components:

  • A humble (subject to interpretation) –yet confident–leader…who is in it for the long haul (and I recognize that supreme confidence can cross over into arrogance which is “less than humble”) …but success comes in many flavors of leaders
  • A “way of doing things” that is unique to the organization
  • Documentation of that way of doing things…so even when you change the players, everyone knows the rules and roles to continue to make the magic happen without interruption
  • Loyalty among the “staff,” all marching in the same direction, but recognizing the uniqueness of everyone on the team…and in sports, it’s a lot harder to keep the band together than with a band

I’m sure you can think of other characteristics of how a winning culture is created by simply thinking of the teams (or bands or businesses) who have a history of long-term success.

In sports we call them “dynasties”; in music we call them “bands that are relevant for decades (often led by 70-year-old rockers)”; and in business, we call them the best companies to work for and work with.

The “Spur Way,” “The Gonzaga Way”…and the way to create a successful business for a lifetime

During the discussion on the Titans Xcelerator call this past week, one of the members mentioned basketball coach Greg Popovich as a perfect example of a “Boss” who created long term success using the prescription above.

You can read about him here…and the thing to pay attention to is that over a 20-year span, his teams came in first or second place every year but one (they came in third once) …they won five National Basketball Association (NBA) Championships, which is the premiere professional league in the world…not to mention that he has the most wins in NBA history.

One of the stories about him, shared by the above-mentioned Titan, was that when he was evaluating players—whether he was drafting them out of college, trading for them from another team, or signing them as a free agent, he asked one question:

“Is he a Spur?”

Popovich has spent his entire coaching career with one team, the San Antonio Spurs.

That was his code for, “Will this player buy into our system and be loyal?”

What could be more important than that?

Side note: It’s equally important that Popovich created said system…was loyal to it himself for his entire coaching career…and loyal to his employer.

And by the way, he just signed a 5-year extension to coach the team until 2028. He personifies the word loyalty.

Another example that came up in our discussion (from a Titan who lives in Spokane, Washington) is Mark Few (who you can read about here).

Like Popovich, Few is a basketball coach…but his incredible run of success (comparable to Popovich’s in many ways) is far more unlikely because he coaches in college, where your players will only be with you for four years max…so the revolving door of new recruits to “buy in and stay loyal” is short term…and far more challenging.

But…also like Popovich…Few is a “CEO” who has stayed in the same place “forever” (i.e., since 1989) …with a defined system and mission… and has never had anything close to a bad season.

He’s not the only college coach who has had a lifetime of success by staying in one place with a defined system…but he did it at Gonzaga University, a small Roman Catholic/Jesuit school with 5,000 undergraduate students, where he competed on the same level as powerhouse universities which are much bigger with many more resources.

Simply put, Few has no business having the highest winning percentage of any college basketball coach in history…except for the fact that he treats his coaching gig as being the boss of a business, a business based on the bullet points outlined above…and proves that you can have excellence with longevity from anywhere, including a small school in Spokane…with every one of his wins being extremely hard earned (689 to be exact).

And the fact that he has never won a national championship doesn’t take away from over 30 years of consistent success running his “business.”

I guess that’s “The Gonzaga Way.”

I bet he also asks every recruit some version of: “Are YOU a Bulldog?” (Bulldog is the Gonzaga mascot)

Some of you who have examined this topic might want to argue that because Few has never won “the big one” that he is somehow a failed CEO.

Much like the greatest players and coaches who pile up gaudy, hall-of-fame statistics but who are treated like second class leaders because they never won a championship.

I dismiss that theory wholeheartedly.

The CEO of a successful business wins every day when producing excellence over a long period of time…as does the rock band who sells out 50,000+ seat stadiums around the world even after being in the “game” for over 40 years…as does the coach who creates a living legacy without a championship.

I guess “winning” is how you see it as The Boss…with data.

Feel free to disagree.

I’m not changing my opinion, however. 🙂

I love this topic…and I’m sure you have your own rock bands, sports teams and businesses that qualify to be in this “circle of excellence with longevity” …all with different Bosses…philosophies…numbers to support them…and missions.

And I bet you can document the “how and why” that enabled them to enter that circle.

Please share some of your favorites with me…because there can never be enough of them to emulate.



P.S. Nine years ago this month I had the pleasure and privilege to host (along with my beloved team at Boardroom Inc. and the one-and-only Dan Kennedy) The Titans of Direct Response (TODR)…an event that has been labeled “the event of the decade.”

But that was referring to the last decade.

So it’s time to create the event of this decade. 🙂

One of the speakers at the original Titans event, Perry Marshall, has offered to co-host (with me), Titans of Direct Response: The Tenth Anniversary…and we have begun laying the groundwork for October of 2024.

Venue and speakers are still TBD…but ideas are welcome…especially from my online family (you)…see below.

Currently we are thinking about three metro areas for a venue (New York, Chicago, Tampa).

As far as speakers, we will have some encore performances from TODR 2014…O.G.’s (“Original Gangsters”) of direct response…along with some O.G.’s who weren’t able to be there for the event 10 years ago…and of course some of the best and brightest “N.G.’s” (“New Gangsters”) of direct response marketing, media, AI, email, social media, copywriting…and everything state-of-the-art.

What do I want from you?

1) I want to gauge your interest in attending…a simple response to this email with a “yes” in the subject line will do. 🙂

And if want to expand further…

2) I’d love your input on which location you would prefer…and why.

3) And…who are your “must speakers” for an event like this? And why are they Titans of Direct Response?

Perry and I have lots of ideas already…but here’s your chance to give us some input.

Feel free to email me with your thoughts on any or all of the three items above…and any other thoughts you have.

P.P.S. If you want to see what made the original Titans of Direct Response “the event of the (last) decade,” click here.

And you can still buy the physical videos and resources from the event on that site as well…and I will include everything in digital form at no additional cost (a $495 value) when you buy the full package.

Just email me after you order.

Or…if you would like Titans of Direct Response, Digital Version (with some additional surprises) ONLY, just email me and I will send you a link to that $495 offer.

Looking forward to your input regardless.

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

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