Jeffrey Lurie is a very rich man. He was born into a rich family. His grandfather was founder of a national cinema chain. He made more money in Hollywood producing television commercials and unsuccessful Hollywood movies until the success of “Inside Job,” which won an Academy Award. In 1994 Lurie took $195 million of his family money to buy my hometown Philadelphia Eagles.
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You can argue that Jeff Lurie is not a successful business owner. You can say that his money is mostly inherited. His film and TV producing and football ownership careers have mostly losing results (the Eagles reached the Super Bowl once under Lurie’s reign). But I disagree. It’s not just because the Eagles, mostly through Lurie’s management (and luck and timing which are all essential factors in every entrepreneur’s success), are now worth more than $1.75 billion.
It’s how Lurie handled the firing of head coach Chip Kelly this week. This is the real reason why Lurie makes more money than you and I.
Kelly was in his third season with Eagles. You don’t have to remind Philadelphians like me just how lousy this season was. Kelly had presided over two 10-6 seasons previously, but the record didn’t tell the whole story. The team’s statistics, from points to defense, were in a marked decline since Kelly had taken over. Adding fuel to the fire, the coach had made some questionable moves in the off-season and was under intense scrutiny over his handling of some of his star players this season. There were rumors that Kelly had “lost” the locker room. It seems obvious that he lost creditability with Lurie, both personally and professionally.
So what did Lurie, the owner of this business do? He fired his head coach. He did this before the season was over. He did this without first consulting the players. He did this without a replacement and seemingly without a personnel-related (i.e. discrimination, harassment, theft, etc.) reason. He did this because of a key manager’s performance.
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Some will argue this was impetuous. Bad management. Poor judgment. Others say that Lurie’s lack of communications is an indication of a weak organizational structure. But successful business owners know otherwise.
Successful business owners are not afraid to fire people, regardless of their position in the company. They understand the costs caused by such a disruption. Losing even one key manager from a 20-person company is a huge challenge for anyone, just like losing an NFL team’s head coach. It's so challenging that many less successful business owners make excuses and avoid the conflict to keep the peace. These people are lazy cowards. They suffer under inadequate leadership because they don’t want to rock the boat or are afraid of change.
But not Jeffrey Lurie. He could’ve sat back and let things be. He could’ve been “more patient,” as some advised. He could’ve taken a laissez-fair attitude and given his head coach “more time to build his team.” But he didn’t. Three years was enough. He didn’t like the direction his team was going under this head coach, this key executive, so he did what successful business owners do. He stepped up and made a very, very hard decision. He fired Kelly.
Could Lurie have handled this situation better? I guess he could’ve waited until the season ended. He could’ve called a team meeting and briefed his players personally before all hell broke loose. He could’ve had a replacement ready to ease the transition. He could’ve held hands with everyone. He could’ve arranged for player counseling, lit incense and sung Kumbaya.
That all would’ve been very nice.
But successful business owners don’t worry so much nice. They don’t worry so much about how things appear or what people may think of them. They only care about results. They want to hit their revenue targets. They want to reach their profit goals. They want to build a valuable organization. So they do what they have to do and make the difficult decisions they must make to achieve these results. They know that, in the end, people want to be in a winning place. They look to their leaders to take them there.
Lurie wants to win a Super Bowl, so that’s what he did this week. His franchise will continue to grow in value because of this. Which is why he will always make more money than you and I.
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