Red Auerbach: The Harvard Business Review Interview

Part 19

HBR: You've gone from being coach of the Celtics to general manager and now to president. Have you changed your thoughts on how to run the organization?

AUERBACH: Not at all. I still try to answer all the letters I get because that's the way I always did it. I would always tell the people in the front office that I didn't want to see any special treatment of the rich people buying box seats, any more than the guy buying a $3 seat upstairs. I don't want to see any meanness toward the lesser customers. They're the backbone of our business. One thing we have here is manners. That person buying the tickets is our bread and butter, and we don't forget it.

Too often, when people become executives they think that gives them a key to the toilet nobody else has. All of a sudden their heads get bigger than their shirt size. I've never operated that way. My door is open. Guys come in to shoot the bull and we talk.

That doesn't mean you can let them get so close that they lose respect. You have to have some sort of distance without being a snob. Too many executives become snobs, their egos are so big. They lose touch, they forget what got them there. After a while they don't even care about names. All they do is get the reports every morning and look at the bottom line.

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