Kerry Packer’s start-up

I watched Channel Nine’s much-hyped mini-series about Kerry Packer smashing the cricketing establishment to get up his World Series Cricket competition.


Obviously, it’s a TV show and who knows how much fiction and dramatic licence were weaved into the storyline and the performances. But the show has some invaluable lessons for any entrepreneur.


There were certainly aspects of Packer’s personality that were less than tasteful. He was rude and obnoxious and at times showed a complete lack of empathy for people’s feelings.


But, man, he knew how to get things done. He was an unstoppable force of sheer determination.


Sure, he was already wealthy. He controlled a TV network. He had loyal and talented deputies. He had the resources to get the best lawyers to help him fight his battles and so on.


However, he was still trying to launch a new, untested product. He was taking on a very powerful and entrenched foe in a much more conservative era.


Kerry Packer, at the time, was very much the start-up entrepreneur.


I’ll tell you what really stood out for me.


He was incredibly hands on. He wasn’t only interested in the high-powered business aspects of the venture. He was interested in the smallest detail down to personally inspecting the pitch being prepared to make sure it was up-to-scratch.


He was obsessed with the user experience. He was focused on getting the telecast perfect for viewers. He hired the best in the business and pushed them to innovate and push the boundaries (sorry!).


He was aggressive and ruthless. He argued and fought and bullied and charmed. He had his doubts and moments of despair but it was almost as if he had his own cricket bat in his hand and smashed every obstacle to the boundary.


And in some ways the most interesting thing for me was that there was an element of madness to the whole thing.


The venture didn’t necessarily make perfect sense on a spreadsheet. Indeed, some of his advisors were begging him to stop. But it was a personal crusade, a mission that meant more to him than simple profit.


It was a fascinating insight and perhaps one of the better primers on how to successfully launch and run a start-up that I have seen.


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