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wonder what Opportunity is?

by | Oct 30, 2020 | Opportunity, Van Halen, wonder

After a couple of years, the work at Merant was into a “good” rhythm.  I was enjoying meeting with customers and trying to figure out how to develop Product Roadmaps that would resolve issues they were having both with our current offerings, and also the market place.  It got me involved in some early discussions wondering about how the Web was changing everything and helping to innovate standards that multiple companies could “support” and still differentiate themselves from others – a needle all open technology struggles with still. It is ironic that one of the most closed environments (Apple) is the defacto standard, and shows the power of not actually working for standards.  The power of a brand is hard to compete against, and while we had one, it was quickly being eclipsed by the fast pace of technology… 

… and we had been “early” to Java, the new “perfect portable language”.  They had been rewriting the code into it… for 3 years… with about 50% finished, and running about 3 times as slow…. when I walked in.  The challenge is the idea came from our… CEO.  So, changing it was going to be really hard – convincing the entire senior team that we needed to go in a different direction –  so we could collectively move that way.  Luckily he had 2 other businesses to manage, and while he was looking at them, we made some progress and started to ship things that were moving big customers out of “we are replacing you” into “we will stick with you for ONE more release”.  Our sub-brand (PVCS) still was a leader in the market…but unless we could turn the reputation around, it would not last.. 

Last week we talked about Ed’s interest in tinkering.  After a series of Platinum albums, he negotiated to build a home studio that would be designed to his specifications.  He had married Valerie Bertinelli, and was in a period of relative calm, and wanted to have a place to go and tinker not just with guitars, but actual recording approaches.  Like Hendrix, Ed was probably happiest in the studio working on sounds and approaches that were captured easiest when he was close to home.  Stories of the road are mixed, but the ones I hear most consistently is he really didn’t party much after shows, wanting instead to go back to the room and noodle on ideas.  One that Nancy Wilson has shared is loaning him an acoustic and him working all night on a new song he played for her the next morning.  Her big regret – she didn’t record it when he played it… 

The studio was named for the section of the Califonia Penal Code that “California Welfare & Institutions Code, which allows a qualified officer or clinician to place a person under an involuntary psychiatric hold if the person is, “as a result of mental disorder, a danger to others, or to himself or herself, or gravely disabled.”  And being a budding business person, Ed realized that licensing materials around Van Halen would be an enormous contribution to his income.  He partnered with Kramer, Peavey, and Music Man to build amplifiers and guitars that could “reproduce the Eddie Van Halen sound” building some great brands along the way, including 5150. Here is a tour of the studio, and don’t miss their version of Won’t get Fooled Again at 24:00.  Having recently added one of his Wolfgang guitars to my collection based on this writing, I can report 1) they are very well designed and built, and 2) it still sounds like me. 

None of this I thought about as I was looking at the Opportunity, and resulted in better interview questions.  And… then another big lesson – the CEO and the Chairman of the Board got into a fight over what strategy the company was going to follow… and the Chairman won of course.  That meant the reason for having the Headquarters in Maryland (where the CEO lived) vaporized, and I was moving to Portland or out of work.  Given the kids were in High School, back to the interview process again, and in a hurry… which never ends well.  While we are now in a season of “work from home forever”, I would make sure you are clear on where the power centers are in new companies and the likelihood of moving near there if you going to make it a long-term commitment.  And – what is your own Brand… your Distinctive Competence? Ed leveraged brand to be near his home and record some of the best records sonically… Here is the wizard in the studio… another here… enjoy the namesake 5150. 

 

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