Aretha Franklin

What you want
Baby, I got it
What you need
Do you know I got it
All I’m askin’
Is for a little respect when you
get home (just a little bit)…

Find out what it means to me
Take care, TCB…

Or you might walk in (respect,
just a little bit)
And find out I’m gone (just a little
I got to have (just a little bit)
A little respect (just a little bit)

Songwriters: Otis Redding  Respect lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group Photo credit: Atlantic Records

Classic. Aretha is gone now, but her version of “Respect” is a song that probably will be playing onward far longer than anyone reading this blog post will be alive. Truly. Classic. Applause to Aretha Franklin for her career. Sadness that all things in this temporal world come to an end. I hope Aretha Franklin understood how much value she brought into the lives of people because of her voice and the way she could interpret a song.

At the risk of being perceived to be disrespectful to the memory of Aretha, I just had to sit down and write about her today. In strong ways, Aretha’s career is a great example of what I think about when using the V-REEL™ Framework to help decide the worth of pursuing a business or not-for-profit opportunity. To start, she knew how to use her unique talent and circumstances to create value for other people. People might argue about exactly what qualities of her voice, her persona, her ability to perform, and her song selections created value for others, but something about her singing could captivate people. She just flat out made people want to stop and listen. They found what she provided to them, to this world, to be of value. Any great career, any great business, any great not-for-profit endeavor always begins with creating value for other people. No way around it, you must create value. Aretha did it her way. You must do it your way. Always start with creating value.

And then there’s rareness. A lot of people sing. Many of them are quite good. But, Aretha was rare. The combination of voice, styling, personality, song lyrics, etc. was hers and nobody else’s. Creating value is always the start. Making it rare is always the goal. Aretha’s career was one consistent example of distinctive competency in the market. She didn’t just have a competency to sing; she had a distinctive competency that stood out from others with strong value and absolute rareness. Really, do you want to hear any other version of R-E-S-P-E-C-T playing? If you do, I think you might want to reconsider. Right now. Pull up that 1967 original version on YouTube and give it a whirl. I’m tellin’ you… nobody else can do it like that.

Unfortunately, there is always erosion. The world is a dynamic place, and things change. Therefore, the circumstances that allow for the creation of value and rareness will change as the world changes. You cannot escape erosion. Therefore, you must think about it before it arrives. Don’t be surprised by erosion. Don’t be unaware that the way the world works is likely to work against you in this way. As for Aretha, she faced the common human conditions of this world. Her ability to maintain her distinctive competency through more than 50 years of a professional career is a testament to her ability to understand and anticipate the factors that would work against her distinctiveness in the music industry.

Because of the eroding factors of this world, you must find enabling factors to help you blunt or stop the erosion, help you develop new ways to support value creation and rareness, and sustain distinctiveness in the market. Regarding Aretha, she worked with numerous songwriters and recording artists across the decades. She crossed musical genres. She didn’t try to be someone else. She took her talents and combined them with the talents of others. During an interview on the CBS This Morning the day after Aretha passed on from us, Stevie Wonder and the hosts of the show talked about how when Aretha took on a song, it became hers. “Respect” was originally written by Otis Redding, but it came to full life with Aretha. Stevie Wonder said that when she “took” the song “Until You Come Back to Me” from him and made it hers, that was a good thing even though it never would really be his afterward. Aretha navigated a notoriously difficult industry by doing what enhanced her natural talents and kept the inevitable arrival of eroding factors from stopping her career.

And finally, longevity. I’ve already mentioned that Aretha’s career was more than 50 years in length. When you can see the eroding factors, put in place the enabling factors to slow or stop the erosion, and continue to be distinctive in the market, longevity can be startlingly long. Of course, I do not know all the details of Aretha’s career, what she encountered, how she navigated the eroding factors that came in her direction by using effective enabling factors. All I can see from way over here on the side is that she was able to have a degree of longevity in her career that is remarkable. That is what anyone seeking success in the market hopes to accomplish.

So, with great respect for Aretha Franklin, I look at her career and think about how she is a great example of the V-REEL™ way of thinking about competing in this world. Yes, she was a whole lot more than that, but she sure did know how to create value, keep it rare, enable herself to maneuver around eroding factors, and have a great, long career.
By the way, I’ve read that the letters TCB she threw into her recording of “Respect” was her acronym for “Taking Care of Business”. Classic. Truly. Classic.