Randall Kenneth Jones
If there is one casualty of our increasingly frenetic business lives, it’s the decline in time devoted to simply think, listen, inspire and create. After all, can any business thrive without a healthy infusion of fresh ideas and creative thinking?
In the late 1980s, friends, beach enthusiasts and retail-industry veterans Bob Emfield and Tony Margolis took the aforementioned time to embrace their love of Florida’s Gulf Coast — going so far as to fashion a fictional, luxuriously clothed character symbolizing their appreciation for the idyllic tropical lifestyle. They created Tommy Bahama.
Emfield and Margolis understood what their creation ate and drank as well as how he spent his free time as part of a quest to live life as one long weekend. Their lives and the lifestyles of countless consumers changed when the following idea surfaced: “Why don’t we dress this guy?”
A chance meeting between Margolis and fashion designer Lucio Dalla Gasperina resulted in a newly formed management trio ready to introduce Tommy Bahama to the national retail landscape.
Though the three founders shared leadership responsibilities, another man stood virtually above the rest.
“At every meeting, we always added a fourth chair for Tommy,” Emsfield says. The invisible presence reinforced the notion that all business decisions had to be based on the question, “What would Tommy do?” — a brand marketing play absolutely brilliant in its ingenuity and simplicity.
Take the first step
Emfield says there is always a window of opportunity, but Emfield’s own window may never have opened if he and Margolis hadn’t taken the time to be creative visionaries on a grand scale.
Of course, isn’t creativity ultimately the cornerstone of any successful business? Creative thinking has been responsible for many of the images, brands and cultural icons we take for granted today.
The publishing industry gave us Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler; the food and beverage industry gave us Coca-Cola; the health care industry gave us penicillin; and the entertainment industry gave us Mickey Mouse.
Ask yourself if you are doing enough
Menswear’s Tommy Bahama has certainly earned its place on this list of truly inspired accomplishments. This also raises a very important question: As a business leader, are you doing everything possible to create environments where your teams can think creatively and speak openly? Absolutely no organization can afford to miss out on an inspired thought or imaginative concept that may revolutionize its business.
Though all three founders retired in 2008, Emfield’s ongoing passion for the brand is apparent — and, metaphorically or not, Tommy himself is never far from his side. As Emfield puts it, “There’s a little bit of Tommy in all of us.”
If a “beachcomber” is defined as somebody who looks for valuable things at the seashore, then Tommy Bahama founders Emfield, Margolis and Dalla Gasperina are arguably the three most imaginative beachcombers of all time — finding extraordinary value in the coastline by cleverly looking beyond the sea shells and spare change.
So is Tommy Bahama real or imagined? Just ask the millions who have bought into his ongoing search for the endless weekend, and the answer is clear. Like Virginia and Santa Claus — I dare say, there too is a Tommy Bahama. ●
Speaker, writer and professional storyteller Randall Kenneth Jones is the creator of RediscoverCourtesy.org and the president of MindZoo, a marketing communications firm. For more information, visit randallkennethjones.com.
The animal kingdom has long been instrumental in teaching children about appropriate behavior.
A rabbit named Peter educated us on the importance of conflict resolution. For better or worse, Curious George was habitually inquisitive and, in separate incidents, three bears and three pigs taught us the importance of home security.
But despite a literary reputation as “big” and “bad,” according to Jack Hanna, “A wolf will feed the sick, the old and the young first.”
That’s a pretty impressive character trait for a creature so often maligned by the human race. Over the years, however, we’ve learned to expect Hanna to set the record straight on an important part of our world that most of us will never experience firsthand.
Following the footsteps of a legend
Inspired by wildlife pioneer Marlin Perkins, Hanna parlayed a fascination with animals and a position leading the Columbus Zoo into a television empire spanning 30 years. He’s had countless TV appearances on popular shows such as “Good Morning America” and “The Late Show with David Letterman.” In addition, he currently helms two television programs, “Jack Hanna’s Wild Countdown” and “Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild.”
Not surprisingly, Hanna’s high regard for the animal population is also reflected in his view of the public’s acceptance of the animal kingdom: “Most people who say they don’t like animals don’t like people much either.”
Phil Beuth, former president of “Good Morning America,” observes, “With Jack, what you see is what you get — he’s a genuine gentleman.”
Hanna has set a simple benchmark for appropriate professional behavior, “I operate by The Golden Rule — do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Of course, humans are animals too — complete with instincts, genetic predispositions, unique skill sets and laws to keep us from acting like predatory animals. Yet, prey we do — leveraged buyouts, hostile takeovers, foreclosures, etc.
Comparing workforces of nature
When asked about lessons human worker bees can glean from the animal kingdom, Hanna enthusiastically says, “Just look at ants and termites. They each have specific jobs to do.” By performing specific tasks every day, these creatures work solely to serve the greater good — ostensibly without complaining.
Animals = 1 Humans = 0
Hanna also points to an innate respect in the wild that does not always translate into the land of the bipeds: “The animal world does not waste food and animals do not abuse their own children. For example, gorillas may fight but they still work together.”
Working through issues to achieve top performance is apparently part of the natural order of things. It’s about survival. As the concept of business survival has never been more prominent, shouldn’t cooperation receive equal billing?
Animals = 2 Humans = 0
Though Hanna also marvels at the mysteries behind the instinctual and highly effective way animals communicate, many in the office marvel at some people’s overwhelming lack of communication skills.
Animals = 3 Humans = 0
Specifically, according to Hanna, “The elephant is one of the most intelligent creatures on the planet.”
So yes, it seems that without the benefit of an iPhone, Twitter or Outlook, an elephant truly never forgets.
Time to hire me an elephant. The Laws of Nature win every time. ●
Speaker, writer and professional storyteller Randall Kenneth Jones is the creator of RediscoverCourtesy.org and the president of MindZoo, a marketing communications firm in Naples, Fla. For more information, visit randallkennethjones.com.
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