Feb 03, 2003
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"Bartles & Jaymes" is a critical code-phrase around here. Whenever anyone has a big new idea (something red-hot we should launch or do right away to make more money) somebody says, "Bartles & Jaymes" and the balloon is punctured from crazy to sensible.
It's from a story in one of my favorite books ever, 'Ernest & Julio: Our Story,' about how in 1982 a tiny start-up called California Wine Cooler (who invented the cooler) came out of nowhere, and by 1983 became the 10th largest wine company in California selling almost 2 million cases. The Gallo brothers' execs urged them to launch a wine cooler too, do a land-grab on the new marketplace and stomp the upstart. They held back, and back and back. Until 1985.
Not because they are a slow moving-organization, they were family-owned and fairly nimble. But because they wanted to make sure (a) the opportunity was real before diverting resources that could go into previously proven things and (b) they wanted to do the absolute best job they could of launching. They wanted the best product, best distribution and best advertising. It's not worth launching if you do a half-assed job in your rush.
It's the absolute opposite of the "land-grab" mentality of the dot-com boom. Frustratingly, it's also the opposite of my own nature (life is no fun unless I do things in a slapdash manner at the very last minute).
Results: Within one year of launch B&J was in the #2 spot in the marketplace behind California Cooler, the following year B&J slipped ahead to become #1 and still dominated the approx 34-million case marketplace in 1993 when the book was written.
My goal is to run a publishing company emulating these principles, even if it kills me :-).