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Dwayne Johnson and Dany Garcia Business Strategy: Think twice!

April 30, 2020

Read for 15+ min

“There is a before and after” Says Dany Garcia.

Dwayne Johnson and Dany Garcia Business Strategy: Think twice!Dwayne Johnson and Dany Garcia Business Strategy: Think twice!

Here it is before. It is 1998 and at that time Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a wealthy fighter who WWE. Garcia was in the middle of his career at Merrill Lynch. They had just got married and were eating in a restaurant to discuss Johnson’s way forward. “It took me a little bit of work to get around the corner in terms of fame,” Johnson recalls, “because by default I’m lonely and calmer. And I can’t hide myself either. “

Let us be clear: it cannot be hidden because it is huge. His biceps were the size of a head before and now. People recognized him at airports and made a scene. So yes, he was famous, but he seemed a bit messy and out of control, and he didn’t bring him closer to his goal. He didn’t just want to be famous, he wanted to be something bigger. Something more important. But how?

Johnson and Garcia discussed this at their table when another couple approached them. They both trembled. “Sorry,” they said, “but … could you give me your autograph?”

Johnson didn’t feel like it, so slowly and coldly he looked at her and said: “Safe” in a tone that meant the opposite.

His fans seemed repentant. “Sorry,” they said.

“No, no, no, it’s fine,” said Johnson.

He signed everything and gave it to them. The couple went quickly.

Johnson turned to Garcia and felt the full weight of his terrible posture. “We identified it immediately,” he says. “I had a chance these people felt good and instead they felt bad. In fact, I’m a damn happy person to be excited to see me and ask for an autograph.”

Both Johnson and Garcia are analytical people. You like to find out things and see how A leads you to B. So they decided to do an exercise. “The exercise was: let’s think about what happens when this couple looks up in the middle of dinner and I’m there. What will your conversation be like? The husband says: “Look, there is La Roca. I have to get closer. “” No, don’t do it. “” Yes, I have to. “And they decide and come closer. That was very useful for us,” he recalls.

There is a before and after, says Garcia. That was before. And that’s afterwards: At that dinner, where Johnson and Garcia wondered how to build their careers, the answer had suddenly come to them. “We have the ability to make people feel comfortable,” says Johnson. “And that’s a very powerful thing.”

It is something very powerful for everyone and we all have it. Every brand has this opportunity. Johnson and Garcia knew it intuitively. At some point he had to live what he calls “circus life” and travel through the United States to take part in combat competitions at bazaars, markets and used car dealers. The goal was to give people a great show so they feel good. Garcia is now the daughter of Cuban immigrants, and her father had worked in a car dealership since he was 16 and was always grateful to his new country. Johnson and Garcia understood the power of happiness together, but in the hustle and bustle of fame and career-building fear they had lost sight of it.

But not anymore. Now you’ve seen it. And they saw that Johnson was able to do this on a grand scale. Because such an emotion is much bigger than a single person, regardless of the size of their biceps. This is what people want, beyond a good wrestling show or a good movie or anything. People want a person who can give them an experience. You want to be happy.

But there is something that neither Garcia nor Johnson could have foreseen in 1998. At that point, they were not fully prepared to understand the scope of the opportunity. Not yet. To do this, they would have to completely redefine their partner relationship. Because no business changes without its executives changing.

An exercise is worth doing here. Ask yourself: What am I deep inside?

We are salespeople or accountants or writers or investors or plumbers or actors or directors, but in essence this is basically nobody. We do that. If you define yourself through what you do, you can easily get derailed. You can identify yourself as a manager of a company, but your job could go away and you would no longer be a manager, which would mean that you are nobody.

So look deeper. What moves you Why do you strive for the things you strive for? What is the passion that could basically fuel a dozen different jobs? I will give you an example. I used to see myself as a newspaper reporter, then as a magazine author, then as an editor … And then I realized that all of these things are fleeting. They come and go. What is my center? This: tell stories in my own voice. I can do it here, in this story, or as the editor of this magazine, but I can also do it on a podcast or anywhere I can control the narrative. That is my center, my core: communicating. Maybe you’re building deep in your center. Or solve problems. Or have an impact on your community.

Today my center took me to a film studio in Atlanta where I tell Johnson and Garcia all of this. It goes without saying that they no longer sit in restaurants and find out what they will do with their careers. Garcia is the manager of La Roca and they are business partners who manage an extensive and complicated set of interests. On the one hand, there is Seven Bucks Companies, a company that produces films, television programs, marketing and branding projects and generated $ 1.9 billion at the box office in 2019. (While we’re talking, we’re sitting in the production office for one of these projects, a movie called Netflix Red hint in which Johnson is acting). There is also The Garcia Companies, a holding company that manages investments in a variety of brands. (Garcia is also the manager of actor Henry Cavill.) And of course, as many stories point out, Johnson has achieved the status of the highest-paid actor in Hollywood.

But I want to go beyond that. In the center. I am telling you about my experience as a sophisticated way to ask yours. What are you deep inside The question is so complicated that a person can answer it. However, a successful business relationship requires two good answers, two people who know each other so well that they know what motivates them and whose life’s tasks complement each other.

You analyze it for a moment. Garcia answers first.

“Focus,” he says. “I have an incredibly intense focus. And the ability to interact with the full experience in front of me. “She doesn’t just want to tell a story, she says. He wants to tell “the story of the story” in order to understand the most complete picture possible. So that’s its center: dig deep and hover over it at the same time.

Then it’s Johnson’s turn. To answer, he returns to another crucial moment in his career when he finally found out what his center was. In the early 2000s I was in the transition between wrestling and cinema and the path was difficult. “The business we did was good,” he says. “But there was something else. There was something else and he still hadn’t identified what that power base was. And finally I felt that it was important not to limit myself in order to identify myself. I wanted to be a 10-lane highway that came closer to the world. “

It’s a good metaphor, so let’s move on. Many people strive for a lane. You want to own this track, drive it super fast. But Johnson didn’t. He was sitting on a lane behind the wheel when he noticed that there were nine other lanes that he still couldn’t see. I was stuck on a track. And then there was the center: take all the lanes.

How did you plan that?

“I felt like I had to make a radical change,” he says. It was time for a new regime: new advertisers, new managers, everything new, and he needed someone to lead him and share the breadth of his ambition. In 2008 he chose Garcia.

It was an interesting choice because 2008 was also the year that Johnson and Garcia divorced. But they have been friends since college, they have remained friends despite the divorce, and she has always been involved in her career, even when she became Merrill Lynch’s vice president and then founded her own wealth management company.

“Dany’s insight was tremendous,” says Johnson. “It was a pretty easy decision at the time.”

Think about the center: A person is not just what he does, not even the relationship he has. It is defined by something deeper. Johnson knew that. I needed someone to think of 10 lanes.

So … what happened next?

“We knew we had to work,” says Garcia. “It’s not like that won’t work. It’s like: That should work, you just have to do the job. “

With Garcia on board, it was time to do everything Hollywood was on board. This would require a little more conviction. So they started some meetings.

“We used to sit in boardrooms,” says Johnson, “and we had all these top studio and agency managers there, and I said gustaría we want to build the biggest movie star company in the world. But we also want to keep a limited number of drivers behind the wheel. “

Johnson said that he did not want to limit his brand. It is a basic mindset. Malcolm Gladwell, podcaster and author, kindly explained it to me once: “Self-image is very restrictive.” If you consider yourself one thing, you only have access to a number of experiences and a number of potential successes. Johnson wanted endless success.

“OK, great. How do you do that?” Remember what the managers said to him.

“I’m not quite sure how we should do it,” he said, “but we have confidence and the ability to work hard.”

As Johnson remembers all of this, Garcia interrupts him. “It’s a sentence from him: ‘I don’t know how we’re going to do it, but we’re going to do it.'”

“You have to believe it,” says Johnson. “So we were in these meetings and I said, ‘This is what we will do. It will be incredible and we will be pioneers. It has never been done before. We will work very hard. I need everyone who believes it “And everyone says …” OK, I’ll buy it for you. Even if I can’t imagine it now, we’ll make it. “And I said,” OK, perfect. I’ll go Dany stays. “

It literally puts someone between a rock and a difficult place. La Roca leaves and now Garcia has the job of executing.

Garcia has a growth philosophy: be disturbing, but the right kind of disturbance. Questioning the way a business is run is a good thing, but abrupt and unsupported changes are not good. Richard Branson doesn’t suddenly appear in Broadway y MC Donalds A $ 75 beef burger is not suddenly launched on the market. If a company or person wants to grow in a new direction, Garcia believes that they need to do this step by step so that their customers and partners can follow it.

This implied that Johnson could not change from one track to ten in one day. You had to plan a strategy track by track. The logical first step was to have more control over the films in which he played. “So the idea of ​​a production company was very natural,” she says. But instead of just starting a production company and insisting on being in control, Garcia stuck to his philosophy. “We always worked first to validate the loan,” she says.

In Hollywood, this means that when a star signs for a film, he often sends out a few notes that focus exclusively on him – sentences that he wants to improve, scenes that he wants to change, ways in which he could look better. But Garcia decided to go further. He put together a team and, together with Johnson, they founded a production company called Seven Bucks (named after a moment in Johnson’s pre-wrestling life when he was banned from the Canadian Football League and only had $ 7 in your wallet). While Seven Bucks didn’t produce any of Johnson’s films, the company worked as if it did.

This meant looking carefully at the entire film and looking for ways to improve the role of all actors, not just Johnson. “How can we improve the other characters?” Says Hiram Garcia, brother of Dany Garcia and long-time friend of Johnson and president of production in film and television at Seven Bucks. “What can we do to improve the general theme of the film?” Their first attempt was on Trip 2, where they focused very much on helping Josh Hutcherson, Johnson’s co-star. They then joined the studio’s marketing boards, which an actor’s team rarely does.

“We felt comfortable doing hard work at the time,” says Johnson. “We might not have got the loan at the time, but eventually we would become powerful producers in the business.”

Over time, the studies gave them recognition. And they started paying them. And Seven Bucks would end up producing all of Johnson’s work, from Jumanji to HBO’s Ballers Show, as well as many other projects he wasn’t involved in.

So there was another track. “And then … came social networks,” says Garcia.

Social media is a business based on irony. They move for authenticity when an Instagram or Twitter account feels like the product of a person’s hands and eyes. But any influencer can tell you that “authenticity” doesn’t happen by accident. It is the product of a strategy. The contributions are made. The information is analyzed, the learning is extracted. Authenticity is what happens when disposition meets persistence.

Johnson was fully involved and increased his Instagram fan base to 173 million. His colleagues describe this personally. “Dwayne treats his account as any personal relationship he has,” says Garcia. “He always gives his followers a front row seat in their daily lives,” said Maya Lasry, marketing director at Seven Bucks.

However, entrepreneurs should know that it takes a lot more to be effective on social media. And if you take a closer look at @therock on Instagram, you’ll see signs of it. “Sitting in the front row of your everyday life” happens with beautifully taken photos and many videos. This is a financial commitment for a team whose cameras always follow. (For example, during the photo shoot and the entrepreneur interview with Johnson and Garcia, the team filmed the entire process for later use on their social media. Most shown on the cover do so.) La Roca uploads photos of his outrageous “food sins” , incredibly forgiving food that goes against his strict diet, and that’s what every social media administrator would call a franchise, a repeating concept that builds on what people want to consume. . Everyone with a personal brand should develop their own franchise.

But there is something else we can see on their social channels: things for sale. Everything in which Johnson and Garcia have invested or built, from films to the Teremana tequila that they have just released and that conveniently led to the entrepreneur photo shoot, all have carefully planned appearances. Here, Lasry, the CMO, has something to offer other entrepreneurs: “One of the greatest insights we’ve found is that the more people see that Johnson is really involved, from production to marketing campaign, the more are you interested. ”This information helps them to create their posts. It is not enough to show a product and say that it is for sale.

You need to hold the audience by the hand and make them feel part of the process. Johnson tries tequila. It changes it. Think tequila. He works in tequila. In the end, you don’t have to sell it. The audience has already bought it. (The same thing happened with the story you are reading: Johnson uploaded a picture of our interview a month before the magazine appeared … To the surprise and delight of the entrepreneur.)

This is a very valuable formula because the bottom line (sales) helps them to expand further into other lanes. And that’s exactly what they started when they established their authority in Hollywood.

“We have a conversation: ‘Look at our story. It’s the amount of goods that people have interacted with Dwayne, “says Garcia.” Transfer it to: ‘It’s why we should make this alliance with Apple’ or ‘It’s why Project Rock ‘is fantastic. ‘You can give examples and case studies. People want to believe, but we help them do it. “

Some of these projects were obvious, such as alliances with wellness and entertainment brands. For example, there is Project Rock, an alliance with Under Armor. In October they start Athleticon, a two-day fitness event in Atlanta. They have also invested in the Voss water company and the Atom tickets platform and act as advisors. And there is more. But you are not building a 10-lane freeway that does what is expected of you. These are simply starting points, places where Garcia can implement his intentional disruption philosophy step by step and bring your audience hand in hand.

In this way, they invested and promoted a strange ice cream company called Salt Straw from Portland, Oregon.

“I wasn’t looking for it at all,” says Kim Malek, co-founder and CEO of Salt Straw. “It was totally random.”

A friend of Malek had worked with Garcia and offered to introduce her. Malek wanted Garcia to become a Salt Straw board member and even a board member. A couple of emails turned into a meeting in Los Angeles that was supposed to last 45 minutes but dragged on so long that Malek missed his flight. Both companies found that they had a lot in common. Both considered themselves storytellers, Seven Bucks with his countless entertainment and marketing projects and Salt Straw in the way it develops flavors. For example, they recently had a symphony played in their kitchen and they performed it in the form of ice. And to highlight the amount of food wasted in the U.S., they once put together a menu of ingredients that should be thrown away.

“I think they were excited about the opportunity to move to other areas that might not be as obvious to them outside of the entertainment industry,” says Malek. They soon worked out all kinds of projects and eventually led Johnson and Garcia to invest in the company. Salt Straw launched a number of flavors called “Dwanta Claus” that provided part of their profits to the foundation. Make-a-wish.

The ice cream sold out within two days and helped Salt Straw in a way that Malek couldn’t have predicted. For example, while you’re looking for new locations for your business, store owners will return your call faster. Although Dwanta Claus had more than one scratch on his head: Johnson, the image of fitness that promotes ice cream? But Malek knew how it works.

“I’m just thinking of the power of their appeal to everyone … they are a unifying force in the world,” say de Johnson and Garcia. “We need that. And if you think about it, ice cream is too.”

Sounds exactly like the idea Johnson and Garcia had years ago: their big success was not just making films or selling products. It should make people feel good. And Salt Straw confirmed it.

What is the difference between an ambitious company And a company that has achieved many of its ambitions?

Obviously growth: lots of money, lots of work, lots of people. There is also risk tolerance. You would think that a larger company has more to lose, but Garcia sees it differently. “Actually, we were pretty risk-averse,” says Garcia about his beginnings. “We didn’t have this understanding from the audience. But when you mature it is different. You can take increasing risks because everyone has a sense of who the individual is, and so expanding makes more sense.”

By “individual” he means Johnson, but the same applies to the organization. As soon as customers understand and love the brand, they follow it.

That may sound like common sense, but what Garcia says contradicts the natural gravity of most companies. Maxwell Wessel, SAP’s chief innovation officer, once wrote in the Harvard Business Review: “Large companies are too bad for innovation because they are designed to be bad for innovation.” Once a company is successful in something, it learns to make it as efficient as possible. Stop discovering new things and become an expert in yourself. And then stop taking risks. Then a smaller and more flexible competitor can destroy you. Blockbuster against Netflix. Sears against Walmart (against Amazon!). It is an old story.

This can also happen with a guide. A leader can be great for overseeing a phase of a company: the start-up phase, the cleaning phase, the first pothole phase. They are becoming the perfect leaders for the moment and they are doing an excellent job. However, when the company enters a new phase and needs a new type of manager, they cannot adapt. Therefore, it is the large and permanent managers who manage to change together with your company. They are a new type of leader at every stage.

What does this mean for Johnson and Garcia as Seven Bucks and The Garcia Companies get more and more lanes? How did they become different leaders than when they started?

“Oh, that’s good,” Johnson says when I ask him. And he turns to Garcia.

“Do you want to answer it?” They laugh.

But Garcia has an answer ready. “We didn’t do what we did this year last year,” she says. “We are not bound to the process, we are only bound to the result.”

Garcia’s process has changed a lot over the years. She used to be involved in every conversation and in all of the logistics, but her companies no longer need that. “So I became a different kind of producer,” she says. “Now it says: How do I get all these companies to work together? How do they relate to what is happening to the global economy? How do you deal with the global audience that he now represents? Who is he after every film? And how does that relate to everything else? “

Johnson has a similar perspective. For him, leadership is about asking a lot of questions and forcing himself to look at things from a different perspective. “I felt that my leadership skills and qualities were increasing,” he says, “but they couldn’t have grown without the ability to say,” OK, we always think that this is my first day at school, my first day at work, and I do not know anything. “” “

Garcia describes Johnson as “the result” because he is both the creator of a product and the product itself. This puts him in a unique position as a leader. And Johnson agrees: it has to be as good as the others expect it to be. It has to be the one that works the most.

“For me, it really helped me to set a good example … to really set an example and always do the job,” he says. “And if we fail, that’s fine, we fail. But I will always do the job. These people can tell you, you know … we flew to China, we landed in Beijing at 4am and we went straight to the hotel and we went to the gym and our day started there. And it’s a very long day, you know? But I’m with you and yes, we’ll do it together. “

These answers should sound familiar.

At the beginning of my conversation with Johnson and Garcia, we talked about our center: What feeds us? What do we know we do better than anyone else? Garcia said it was “interaction with the whole experience” to dig deep and hover over it at the same time. Johnson said, “Drive on a ten-lane freeway that is approaching the world.” You recognized these things years ago when Johnson was a man in conflict with his fame. Now their place in the world is very different. Your life is determined by billionaire contracts. But when I asked them how they developed as leaders, they repeated a version of their center: Garcia is digging deep as he rises, and Johnson sees a tremendous opportunity and is determined to embrace it.

This happens when you have a center, a clearly defined motivation, and when you understand exactly how well it is connected to that of your partner. Many things will change after years of experience and billions of dollars, but the center will not. It cannot.

“Because the process is just a cycle,” says Johnson.

“It needs to be polished, it needs to be improved,” says Garcia.

“Improvement is critical,” says Johnson.

But the starting point is everything.

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