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Bon Jovi: Soulful singer to Soul owner

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Not your typical rock-star-turned business-owner, Jon Bon Jovi takes an active hand in his ownership of the Arena Football League’s (AFL) Philadelphia Soul franchise.

Bon Jovi named the franchise. He created its mascot, Soul Man. He lands big bucks selling advertising, fusses over details and personally promotes his players in the media. He wants to take his team to Europe and Japan, just like his band.

Bon Jovi says it’s easy for leaders to detach themselves from day-to-day operations. Most creative people don’t have a clue about business, but the boy from New Jersey has managed his own rock enterprise for 12 years (saving 20 percent from when he employed a management firm) and knows how to run a show.

Example: In his second week as Soul owner, Bon Jovi walked out one morning to see the team’s captain and its star defensive back sitting on the curb, having missed the team plane. The rocker had a choice: Leave them or take them with him. He decided to take them along on his own plane (realizing later that he’d rewarded them for irresponsible behavior). But on the plane, they started talking.

Bon Jovi learned that Soul players had to provide their own transportation to the airport. (Suffer a flat tire and you’re screwed.) He learned that they didn’t have team duffel bags, meaning his players looked more like terrorists walking into an airport than a professional sports team. He learned that they received a per-diem allowance instead of team meals.

He called National Football League owners and staffers for ideas. Right away, Bon Jovi began offering team meals and transportation, plus curfews after games.

“The team was so grateful,” he says, “because now, when they walk into an airport, they’re all in jacket and tie, carrying those bags, having a lot of pride.”

Result: The Soul leads the AFL in ticket sales and has set a pace to break even in its first year.

— Adapted from “Soul Proprietor,” Adam Hanft, Inc.

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