“Hey – You can’t park there. You idiot – can’t you see the signs? I’m trying to run a business here!”
Oh wait – that’s exactly NOT what Duck Dynasty CEO Willie Robertson said to me.
My kids love to watch Duck Dynasty. The show is a light-hearted silly look at a small business run by a bunch of fun-loving family guys who like to blow stuff up. It’s perfect for my teen and pre-teen boys, and it’s a favorite at our house.
We’re on a big family road trip and we passed through West Monroe LA – the headquarters of the Duck Dynasty business. Just for fun we decided to drop into the Duck Commander offices and visit the gift shop.
When we pulled up outside, we were shocked to see Willie Robertson, the “CEO” of the multi-million dollar family business standing outside greeting visitors.
Now Duck Commander is big business. These guys have patents on the design of duck calls – a big niche market. They also sell deer hunting related products. In addition, the family stars in a break out hit “reality” TV show, and recently sponsored a big NASCAR race – the Duck Commander 500.
As we pulled up in our enormous Sprinter van, we were stunned to see Willie standing outside shaking hands with fans.
Not wanting to miss our #BrushWithFame, and a photo op – I offered to drop off Holly and some of the older kids in the “no parking” area. When I stopped the van, Willie could have easily chewed me out, but instead he said
“Hi! That’s a pretty nice vehicle you’ve got there.”
Encouraged by Willie’s greeting, I put the van in park, got out and unbuckled my three year old.
JD – Willie’s assistant – took my camera from he he commented
“This is a big part of my job these days. I’m pretty good at it, now.”
As I worked on getting all of the kids to line up. I noticed that Willie talking to my 3 year old as my wife held Noah in her arms.
We spent just a few moments with him, but there are three takeaways I have about leadership from that encounter.
1. The “work” is more than the duck calls and TV program – it’s in the PEOPLE.
I’m sure that Willie had about a thousand things more “business related” than standing in the hot Louisiana sun shaking hands with fans.
As much of a goofy leader as he appears to be on the TV show, Willie knows that his success is tied to other people. He’s spending a LOT of time pressing the flesh and taking pictures with fans and guests. That’s as much his job as it is making sure that the duck call manufacturing is happening.
2. Even people who can’t directly help you are important.
Willie made it a priority to make a connection with my 3 year old. He asked him questions and smiled warmly at his answers.
Why? Because Willie even values people who cannot buy stuff from him.
(And Noah’s mom really likes it when people value her kids, too!)
3. “You’ve got to make hay while the sun shines”
During our brief connection, I mentioned his marketing strategy, and that’s how he responded. Willie knows his fame is fleeting, and he has to take action immediately to maximize his impact.
For Willie, “making hay” included taking the time to connect with us personally.
Think Willie’s strategy worked? We left the store with a big bag of souvenirs, and a great memory of getting a photo with him.