Timing and What We Can Learn from Oprah

I don’t watch the Oprah show nor do I run out to buy her book of the club picks or her magazine.  But I am a great admirer of this woman who has built a media and entertainment empire from scratch. And my admiration for her has risen a few notches now that she has decided to end her show while she was ahead, telling the media that she felt in her gut  it was the right time. How many executives step down while they’re ahead — and give two years’ notice. It’s almost unheard of. She is on to her second act, and has orchestrated this announcement just as she has managed her personal brand — with grace,  eloquence and anticipation.  She is her own spokesperson and whoever her media trainers are or her publicists, they are most likely learning from her rather than teaching her.

Back in the day, when Oprah was a co-host of People are Talking show in my hometown of Baltimore and I was a grade schooler, she stood behind me and my mother at the supermarket, a local celebrity thumbing through the tabloids to kill time. She made small talk with us and upon leaving the store, my mother giddily whispered to me: “Do you know who that was?”

Business schools should teach an Oprah course.  Not on how to interview celebrities or flavor-of-the-day newsmakers. But on how to manage a “clean” business with very little negative press, how to not jump on every opportunity just because you can. And how to move on when you’re ahead.  Granted, Oprah is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of nineteen gazillion dollars, but still — her timing is priceless.

PS:  Who else do you know that resigned/moved on/quit while they were ahead?

  • http://www.claymorgan.org Clay Morgan

    Oprah built an empire unlike any we’ve seen in media, and she did it with grace and class. While the cancellation of shows has disappointed people, I don’t recall one that actually shook people…that made the front page of the New York Times.

    She is the epitome of a good business person and one who knows how to work the media.

    There are plenty of folks who left at the top of their game. I think of undefeated world judo champion Yamashita – three world titles and an Olympic gold – and nobody coming up behind him, he retires anyway.

    However, he certainly, like all others, didn’t have the impact on the media landscape that Oprah has had.