February 9, 2019
Expensive Problem: Jeff Bezos edition
Let’s start with some context:
Recently, NSFW selfies and racy text messages were published in the National Enquirer. They were sent by Jeff Bezos to a person who was not Mrs. Bezos (i.e., Los Angeles news anchor Lauren Sanchez).
After the scandal broke, Bezos launched an investigation to find out how the data leaked. A few days later, Bezos dropped a bombshell article on Medium stating that his team had reason to believe that Sanchez’s phone was hacked, that it might have been politically motivated in relation to his ownership of The Washington Post, and that lawyers for the National Enquirer had threatened him in writing with what amounts to blackmail.
Pass the popcorn!
The entire story is fascinating for several reasons and it’s almost certainly worth your time to read the entire Medium post, but the following paragraph exploded off the page at me:
To lead my investigation, I retained Gavin de Becker. I’ve known Mr. de Becker for twenty years, his expertise in this arena is excellent, and he’s one of the smartest and most capable leaders I know. I asked him to prioritize protecting my time since I have other things I prefer to work on and to proceed with whatever budget he needed to pursue the facts in this matter.
That sound you just heard was a dump truck dropping a mountain of gold bars in Gavin de Becker’s driveway.
(Key concepts: expertise, trust, retainer, unlimited budget, total latitude.)
My immediate reaction was to Google:
“Who is Gavin de Becker?”
The first hit was an article published the day before in Slate entitled:
“Who is Gavin de Becker?”
(ASIDE: Well done, Slate editorial/SEO teams!)
The Slate article included a bunch data points that I fully expected to encounter. Here are some unsurprising (to me) facts about Gavin de Becker:
- He is highly specialized in a specific area of expertise (i.e., personal security)
- His target market is extremely specific (i.e., public figures)
- His ideal clients are very well known, they are super wealthy, they operate in a volatile business environment, and they have a lot to lose if their reputation was tarnished (e.g., Madonna, Michael J. Fox, Cher, Tom Hanks, George Harrison, etc)
- He wrote a New York Times best-selling book on his area of expertise that has been praised by Oprah and is still influential 20 years later.
- He has created novel intellectual property (His security tool, Mosaic, has been used to profile domestic abusers and assess threats to school)
- He is a thought leader in his space who has been credited with revolutionizing the industry
Over the years, Gavin has clearly and relentlessly defined himself as THE go-to person when it comes to personal security for public figures. He’s the obvious choice for a public figure worried about their personal security.
Here’s the thing...
Most people I talk to are highly resistant to crafting a positioning statement as specific as Mr. de Becker’s. When I suggest drafting this sort of thing, they tend to react with The Fear. I hear things like:
- I’ll never find enough clients with such a specific target market
- I’ll get bored doing the same thing all the time
- But what I choose the wrong thing?
Do you think Gavin has a hard time finding clients? Do you think he’s bored? Do you think he feels like he chose the wrong speciality? I’d have to answer “No” to all of those questions.
Did GdB build his reputation in a week? A month? A year? I doubt it. I don’t know the guy’s back story, but my guess is that at some point he took a leap of faith and just decided, “I’m going to help public figures maintain their personal security.” Or maybe he feel into it, but regardless - at some point he recognized what his core XY Positioning Statement was and he ran with it.
Seems to be working out just fine.