executive artistic director and founder / sfjazz
Randall Kline, founder and Executive Artistic Director, started SFJAZZ (then called Jazz in the City) in 1983 and served as both Executive Director and Artistic Director for the organization's first 25 years. Over that 25-year period, Kline led SFJAZZ's growth from a small seasonal community festival to the realization of the SFJAZZ Center, a vibrant cultural center in San Francisco's Hayes Valley Arts District. Among the programs established are: the internationally-acclaimed San Francisco Jazz Festival (1990); a much-expanded organization, newly titled SFJAZZ in 2000, with year-round concert and educational programs (2000); to the formation, with Joshua Redman, of the SFJAZZ Collective, a resident and touring ensemble (2004); and the announcement of plans for the SFJAZZ Center, the first stand alone building for jazz in the United States (2008).
The SFJAZZ Center opened in January 2013 and under Kline's artistic leadership programming has expanded significantly, and with a number of new initiatives in development. SFJAZZ, now celebrating its 5th Season in the SFJAZZ Center, presents more than 400 concerts a year to more than 175,000 fans, and with a Membership program that has grown 3-fold since opening—to over 13,000 active donors.
Mr. Kline currently serves a member of the Board of Governors of the University of California Humanities Research Institute, and on the boards of directors of Chamber Music America and the Western Jazz Presenters Network. He has previous served on the boards of the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau (now San Francisco Travel), the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS, San Francisco Chapter) and the Jazz Alliance International.
Mr. Kline was the recipient of first Bruce Lundvall Visionary Award in 2015, presented by Jazz Connect. He has also received recognition from the Museum of the African Diaspora of San Francisco (2014 Patron of Culture), Western Arts Alliance (2013 Leadership Award), Jazz Journalists Association (2013 Jazz Hero), San Francisco Bay Area Religious Announcers Guild (2004), and California Arts Council (2001). He holds a B.A. in Business Administration from St. Mary's College of California, and was music performance major at San Francisco State University.
Drew Kugler: So I am sitting here at the SFJAZZ building in San Francisco with a gentleman I've known for a really long time. I met Randall Kline 2004 as a referral from a client to help Randall on his venture, which we're going to talk about much more today. So thank you Randall for joining me today. We’ll start like we start every one of these, and that is, you know, the question which I like to ask and hear from all sorts of people. And that is: what did you want to do when you were a little kid, when you grew up?
Randall Kline: That is a great question, Drew, and I can't really say. I had a few things kind of growing up. Nothing really, not not one of those like I want to be famous, as, you know, but I can think the little things along, you know. In this it was the space race. It was happening and Sputnik and John Glenn. So astronauts were really kind of cool at that time, you know. Cowboys were cool, you know; all the things on TV that I kind of got inundated with. But never really sort of felt like, you know, there was a career path ahead of me. So I always ended up, seeing, I was always curious and looking at things and, you know, wherever I sort of ended up doing that, that kind of helped pull me towards more about sort of what I thought I might want to do when I grew up. Although there's still a good question today what I thought I might want to be.
Dk: Like when you grow up, exactly but there were it's at least it's my experience, I'll share my story some other time, but, they were influenced early on. Something as fundamental as conversation and how we think about the world we're in. If we look back we can pick times out of our childhood that made us think certain ways. Can you think of a time while watching necessarily John Glenn or anybody else where somebody said something or taught you something that has guided you?
RK: Yeah well, you know, not getting too deep into my personal psychology or what, you know; I grew up in a reasonably unstable but stable environment. My father was a compulsive gambler. And as a result, I—there was lots of ups and downs of the kind of a world like that and I always look for sort of steadying things here, or escapist things because, the tension. There was tension a lot in my household and so being outside of that household—it was a good thing, so I always saw things sort of on the—at the outside. And there were conversations I can remember particularly with my father at certain times. They were influential. I remember conversations. You know, I got very involved with athletics and particularly football in junior high school and high school and a little bit in college as well too. And these were—and, the athletic part of it the football thing was a very formative thing for me; actually because I was at best an average athlete—probably not even close to that. But I had a high school football system that was... that excelled. It was the top in the state kind of thing and they got a lot out of a little, basically. There was a few stars that were in part of it but basically it was a wonderful team effort and really well organized. And the way those coaches and... designed the system—was very organized as you came along. So I found inserting myself in that system which you did as a young kid—you were learning high school plays as a junior high school student. You know you get into a system that was a philosophy and if you sort of bought in and you could move along in the system. And so for someone for me who is average, it was great I got to sort of do well in a system like that. And I was looking for things to do. The other part of a system sort of... or questions or conversations were just around, you know, things that form us as adults—work ethics and things to do it. And that was... that football program was a very heavy work ethic and—I mean it involved a lot of effort if you did want to succeed. It just wasn't following the rules, but was really really following the rules.
DK: Like what?
RK: Like well, just lots of outside working out, in studying systems and being very devoted to a particular thing. So my—I remember my mom was very supportive of this and would cook me all the right meals at the right time and all the things. It was a cool thing. And it was it was like this raw, kind of thing; but also an interesting time where it was late Sixties/earlySeventies. And sort of the social order was starting to fall apart a little bit as far as the idea of kind of middle class America and whatever values. So you know the Summer of Love and and civil rights movements and all these things really changed how we thought. It was really—and you know I'm sixty three years old—and that these were formative foreigners time. So I was looking for... going to see it was a time that everyone was sort of searching. And at the same I found this thing regarding athletics and that was very disciplined. And my father was very undisciplined basically and it had a certain kind of way and I one particular conversation I really remember that formed...a lot of my thinking which...contrary to what his advice was.
But in high school as I was involved in sports. One of the cool jobs for high school athletes was being a playground instructor in this little town and you get the—it's a great job. You get to walk around in gym shorts and sneakers and T-shirts and have a whistle around your neck and kind of be like a make-believe coach for a summer with little kids. It was great... was going on and I remember going to my father saying, “Great. I’m going to take this job and get paid five bucks an hour or whatever.” And what he said back to me was, “Why would you do that? That kind of work is for suckers and work in general—working—you worked too hard for that.” There are various reasons why he had that particular philosophy. He was an aluminum siding salesman at the time and he would encourage me—rather to work physically hard—to get to work in his business for the summer and ostensibly sort of bilk people into buying aluminum siding... which you get a much greater commission. I could make a lot more money doing this. And so that was that was the the the value proposition was there—more money, less ethical, less money upstanding sort of nice thing. And I realized that all right, well, I'm kind of being taught not to work here. And so that helped. So as I'd sort of moved away from home, trying to have to learn basically... teach myself these things... how important it was to work and how important—whatever the job you took was was very important. And it wasn't a question of evaluating a job or really what felt right for you, became sort of the most important thing. And I tended to gravitate towards things that sort of felt right for me.
DK: Right, right. So were along your career trajectory at that point, with the whistle around your neck and the gym shorts—but that certainly changed. Obviously, probably after high school college or, you know, where did you go on to?
RK: Yes. So music became, you know, was a big thing for me growing up as well, too. The very same father was a very good amateur jazz piano player and a lot of music played in the house, and my mom was a big opera lover and show tune lover. And so I heard lots of great music. And music was really in me. My brothers both were very into music—my older brothers. So I heard a lot of things. So, you know, I had a, I got a bass guitar when I was a young teenager and learned it. I was playing in rock bands and covering animals tunes, and Rolling Stones tunes, and Beatles tunes; and that was a parallel path for me. So the same time I was being the kind of jock type, and I didn't view one world or another. I—and I liked both of those things and they were great stuff. So I went off to college. I wanted to play football in college. I did for a bit my, my freshman year. But I got really involved back again in playing music again, at that point playing my my bass guitar, and fell in to some work. Accompanying a folk singer kid who was a classmate of mine in high school who was working in the Boston area in the summer, so I came back. Not, I did do that summer of selling the aluminum siding which was lucrative and very very empty at that—but then I did spend a summer doing this and I thought then, that's where I got a bug. I got, like, something that I said. Oh, this is really... this is something that... a direction I want to move! So that sort of set me on a path to want to become a musician at that point. So at at age nineteen, twenty, I decided maybe I want to be a musician here. And then I dropped out of college and I moved to the West Coast from the East Coast; and thought I'd go back to school here—actually in San Diego—where my brother was living at the time and becoming a music student. And I followed that path and I learned a lot in that world.
DK: What school was that? I ask only because that’s my hometown.
RK: UCSD was where I was looking to go. I know it's your hometown, and I hate to say this Drew, but I was really bored there.
DK: Yes, I was too.
RK: Yes, and I ended up coming up here in San Francisco one weekend, Thanksgiving of 1974, I hitchhiked up from San Diego. I was going to meet a friend here. And I fell in love with San Francisco and I thought OK, I'll just figure it out here. [There's] other schools here and I could do something. And I went to work at a nightclub and like all, all these particular jobs... I learned things along... There were certain people and sort of unlikely people that became kind of mentors to me about how to do things.
DK: Who unlikely comes right to mind?
RK: The first unlikely was... it was, there were group of people who worked at this club. It was called The Boarding House. And a lot of famous acts came through there just as they were about to break into real big time things. People like Steve Martin, and Bob Marley and the Wailers, and Lily Tomlin that already broken big. But there are lots of interesting people. The people that worked at this club were very serious about a couple things, about doing a good job. The idea—what it was like to... if you're going to be in this business, what a good job meant. And there were managers there that sort of, there was this kind of very laidback but very serious aesthetic about...being. If you were in and everyone actually love the music in the place... so a lot of musicians worked there. And so there was sort of an affinity about doing something, well, there. And I got to see some interesting characters. There was a bartender there who was very influential; a guy named Terry Dowling who I have talked about in the past. This picture—actually a photograph of him—he passed away a few years ago. His picture is up in my office. He was a guitar player that I ended up being in a band with there. But he had a particular flair. He ran the bar there and he had a particular flavor about him that was just very—to me—like, cool. And I thought, you know what you know not only was he cool looking, he had this great mustache and dressed really interesting and he smoked his camel on filters and then all sorts of like outwardly kind of Kris Kristofferson—the cool kind of thing. But he did his job really well, which was being a bartender. And he impressed me, you know. He did it with flair. He would flick a glass off the top shelf and catch it, and in the mean time he was delivering. He was fast. He took care of all the way people there really well, and we ran a kind of a—it was all business, very Zen-like approach. And I thought this is great this person is... who he is... he's very uniquely... a human being that's unto himself and he does his job, whatever that job is, really, really really well. And for whatever reason, that made a huge impression on me.
And the other thing that made an impression on me—it was about to the question of conversations— was some conversations I witnessed while working at the boarding house. And one was a conversation between Steve Martin and his manager, who [I] believe was John McCune at the time. And when you played at this club, it was a six-night run. You played two shows a night and Steve Martin did three runs there. Just he recorded the second time. He recorded his first record there in "Let's Get Small" and I was so impressed with how hard Steve Martin worked. So this issue of working hard was clearly becoming a theme here. At the end of every night's performance, Steve Martin and his manager would sit in the downstairs bar and with a cassette player that his manager recorded. And they would go over the performance to talk about the material, what they might do better the next night. I remember Steve Martin was almost begging people to stay for the second show because the first one in particular wasn't sold out. And he worked every sort of minute—every second of these things from being in the lobby. I mean he would do these great routines in the lobby, begging people not to leave in some very funny and clever ways. And how he would deal with people the lobby and how he would make his exit at the end. But what was most impressive was how hard he worked to get to where he is. You know obviously a huge film star and… but he took his his craft incredibly seriously and so that made a big big impression as well to—so this idea of things don't come easily. And in the world of music, in the world of arts, you see that all the time.
And so I have a great respect for what it what it takes to be an accomplished artist in—I think the general population believes people are born with a gift, they develop their gift a little bit, and they get out there and it comes just naturally and they're born with something. But in fact, that's rare. People are born, I think... leave with some sort of gift. But they—really the people who are successful are people who have worked extremely, extremely hard and musicians spend an inordinate amount of their days and therefore years hours of their days locked up in a room by themselves practicing and perfecting things. And artists like Sonny Rollins, for instance, I can remember and we've lucky to present him a number of times. He would lock himself in his dressing room before a show—you'd hear him warming up for an hour or so, and at the end of every performance he would close it. Or you could see him because he would he would be there practicing yet again, after the performance working out all the things I guess that he felt that he could have perhaps done differently. And it was—that was just him and he was a also hardworking guy. And as talented and gifted and creative as you can get and also a very warm human being. Also, he was a very nice man. Still, he's still alive. He's still a very nice man—not performing right now. But so those things, so... when it came for the, you know, when I'd finally decided what I want to be when I grow up.
DK: There we go.
RK: Which was decided for me, basically. So I did go back to school. I studied music. I was trying to figure out how to make a living going through school, and I thought I could produce some concerts. That would be an easy way to make money and get me... Rather than I was working in a produce department in a health food store from six to eight every morning, or five to nine, wherever those crazy hours were. And I thought there's got to be an easier way to do this... is that was hard work and maybe I could learn how to produce some shows. So that's why I got into the concert producing business. I was doing those and took a chance in doing that while I was still in college. And you know it was a bad move because it's not easy—what I found out—to actually make a living doing this. So I ended up losing money, dropping out of school second time. And had to pay back debt, basically. So I want to you know it's a very important to the money that I borrowed, which wasn't substantial amount of money, but it was enough money that I had to pay people back; and went to work in music business and started learning aspects of the music business. And that was the not by choice but... I went back to The Boarding House basically seven years later and was hired as a publicist at that time. And then I learned about the business of promoting music and doing that. And someone gave me a break and I learned about it. And then I kept meeting—it's kind of the story of how all these things sort of developed. I learned a little more about something else and eventually the person who hired me at The Boarding House—the second run there... introduced me to someone at the City of San Francisco who in the grant, city granting agency who was interested in doing some more things with jazz. And that's how SFJAZZ got started—that the city wanted to fund more jazz. And he happened to know her again happenstance, and when he went in and made a proposal for a San Francisco Jazz Festival and that sort of started this this organization thirty-five years ago.
DK: That's what it was it was about was about thirty-five years ago so take us along that trajectory. Up until, so we actually met in 2004, I think. And you were full-on engaged in envisioning where we sit.
RK: So that was the twentieth year of The Stand. So we close to twenty years of what was then called SFJAZZ and now called SFJAZZ. We had just changed their name in 2000 from Jazz in the City and San Francisco Jazz Fest; so we had a couple different names along the way. And we were engaged in—so when this organization was founded the idea was that perhaps Jazz could follow a path similar to symphonic organizations, like in our case here in San Francisco, the San Francisco Symphony. And that was a model. So this is another sort of characteristic of these things, working hard finding good models. And we had a great model in the San Francisco Symphony that was a successful Symphony Orchestra when the symphony world was starting to be stressed at that time. And a lot of organizations were starting to fold, and starting to be challenged, and the model was changing. But no one had ever really done a strong model for jazz in the way of a nonprofit performing arts organization for jazz. So, you know, again it was a light idea initially because of—we did have a very modest undertaking the first year we did this. But every year we did a little better, actually a lot better. We kind of doubled or tripled in size every two or three years as we moved along. And by the time we met in 2004, an idea that was always put out from the very beginning that made... perhaps one day we could be like the symphony and have our own venue and present and be a cultural institution like they were. We were having a very serious dialogue, the board and I, about—alright, is this is something we could possibly pull off? And I always... that in the conversations with that board were key in this because basically I had to justify something that was going very well. The San Francisco Jazz Festival at that point—it was considered the top festival in the world by many people. We had built it into a very impressive thing, all based around respecting the art. Back to the say another theme it was all we weren't making a lot of commercial concessions. We were doing great quality work from the beginning till now. But why change the model? Why do something from renting all these other venues that we did, and then take this risk of having to build your own building, and try to do that? What what was to be gained from that?
And there are a couple things to point that out in this is, where having other people around really help and having conversations and having smarter people than yourself help answer questions and—you know, we commissioned a lot of studies from some very sharp consultants about whether this was a path that was potentially viable. And we came up with some justifications, basically, and reasons to do this. And the idea was all along, somebody, a jazz a noble art form born here in America, it has more of a multi-ethnic face than many other art forms. That it looked more like society today, in the society of San Francisco today that we might have a chance of doing this. But it was always a tough discussion. Even the board—I mean, some people think it's a great idea but how the heck do you do that? That's fifty million dollars or some of the numbers you know, thrown out initially right for doing this. And so again, following the rulebook.
So capital campaigns—I started studying what capital campaigns look like and how do they work—and one of the great hallmarks of that. And one of those hallmarks was a lead gift. And a lead gift could either be an opportunity or it could be a huge downer. Because, you know, a lead gift in the amount typically of it was usually around half of the overall organ the budget that gave people confidence to sort of move forward. There are some who believed in it, but there was also the other side to this. That a lead gift which was called by this one organization, the non-profit facilities fund that had these workshops around, basically. Why not to build a building they cost a lot of those lead gifts as what they called the "real estate opportunity" was how they couched this case. And the real estate opportunity is someone wealthy passes away, they love the theater company or the opera and they think, "I'm going to give half of my fortune to this thing and here's a twenty million dollar gift. Go build a theater named after me and my wife or my husband will take care of this for me." And then of course the artistic director, executive director think, "Fantastic! This is our chance. We're going to build a building. We're going to do it!" Not understanding really what that means.
We were lucky in that we sort of started really studying this. You know, what did it mean? What were the pitfalls? What were the potential opportunities? And we, you know—because we had such smart and powerful people in many cases on our board—I had to make an argument to someone who had a much bigger intellectual capacity than I'll ever have...to make it sound like it was something that was rational to do. And so, that sort of share my game. There was one conversation I had in this process with one of those really smart people that really sort of shifted my thinking about how describing the process, and sort of understanding how to inject sort of a belief in this, because there's a real pragmatic way to do these projects which is, you've got these things you have to accomplish on the way. But there's sort of the realm of the sort of metaphysical thing to do is, someone's got to really believe that this is possible and can pull everyone along with this—sometimes be viewed as unrealistic—belief. And this is a conversation with a venture capitalist named Bill Boes. Bill was one of the first big VCs in the Silicon Valley a company US Venture Partners—is still very active and he was on our board. And a wise, wise man he just passed away in last few months. And in talking to him, you know, my question was, “Well what we're thinking of doing, this is what it's going to be. How how do you judge whether this is a good idea or not?” And his answer back was short. It was—and it was great—which is, “Do you think the project is transformational?” That was the question back to me. And I thought, OK, basically his explanation for that was he wasn't really—it would be hard to push a new thing forward that this seemed to be going against all odds unless there was some reason that it would, could change something. I think disruptive is a word that can be used now. That's not quite the same but there—it's going to change something from something to something else. So then you're not in the business of supporting something that was old and that was not preserving something; but you're creating something new. It's going to transform, and there's a lot of energy and that idea of transforming into something new and after that conversation—I don’t know how long it took for it to sink in with me, but it it gave me a lot of freedom and then explaining why this was an important project.
RK: Because I was always cautious about explaining this idea, that this is a great art form although, the sort of the really pure kind of emotional reasons to do something. I love this music. I grew to love it very early at an early age when it is transformational for me. When I sit in certain kinds of performances and I come out feeling a lot better than I do when I came in. And jazz has this whole sense of danger and improvisation and also this great sense of rhythm that carries you along. There’s all sorts of great things, have great teamwork, all these things you get to see on the stage of how people interact with one another. So then Bill's response of transformation... OK, great. Let's figure out if we're going to do this. Even more so how can the team that we're going to do this, make this more transformational?
RK: And so we started thinking about not just building, a building that could house an art form, that many people viewed to be kind of moldy and that was somebody whose parents' or grandparents' music into something that was just the opposite; was something that was dynamic and creative—which it's always been. And so we set out, we found a great team to do that. And all these things, again for me, it's always kind of happenstance. You know, happen to see an article in a magazine about great architecture in the Bay Area. I see a building we knew we wanted, kind of a Mid-Centuryish building—that was the heyday of jazz. That kind of architecture seems to be something that's going to be hanging around. It says something about classic forms and a good basis for creating new things on top of it. So the architect was featured—best architecture in the Bay Area—I found him, got to view the building that he he was recognized for, which was a community music center just south of here, which he won all sorts of architecture awards for. And he took me on the tour of the building and told me a little bit, and I started learning about architecture and what these qualities that I could barely quantify. And found a way to begin to quantify and so then we sort of developed a plan. Mark Cavagnero is his name and Mark also had an affinity for jazz, which turned out to be a very important part of the project. When I first went to his first website, the splash page had a John Coltrane quote on it and I thought oh this must be a very good sign here for Mark. But it was more than a good sign—he just had an affinity for the music, and the rhythm of music and architecture—a lot of it is about rhythm and it's about openness. And so the building we sit in was it is an attempt to sort of change how performing arts centers work and how people might view jazz, and create this idea of it being more open.
And so I had this very strong idea about performance and performance spaces and we were also beneficiaries of a lot of good research about changing society’s—societal changes about how people are interested and participating with art. So the same model of the San Francisco Symphony and symphony orchestras in general was a model that was crumbling, at the same time in people thinking about doing things. And one of the things that has been done on the basis of research in this world is buildings that are more open, they don't feel like bastions to culture they are, you know, these fortresses for culture. They're things that welcome people, and we're sitting in a room right now that is is built around this concept. It's a room. It's a performance space. And a rehearsal space where it's literally open to the streets right on the street, and it's two on a corner and two of the walls are all glass. And they were as we're here, people are walking by and looking in and we're looking out and people see that there's something happening here. And at night when there's a performance here, or people drive by or walk by, and they see something is happening. So that's something a little different that that you you you can connect with that things that you might maybe there, might be something that.
DK: You know and if you tell that story, especially in points and the intersection with these people, whether was a board members, whether it was the architect, whether it's these people walking by, it really strikes me that—I've got this quote in my head I read about from a neuroscientist, who talked about persuasion and talked about connecting in a real influential way. And the quote goes, I’ll paraphrase slightly—but the quote goes that, “Reason leads to decision. Emotion leads to action.” And the decision is one thing, but to take action to implement the decision is entirely another. And in your position, and a lot of these people that are nice enough to guest on this podcast sort of the through line is they have made a difference in this world in the face of—as you tell—in the face of resistance. In the face of, “Hey, can we really do that in the face of doubt?” But what you did, and what you continue to do even in our own personal conversations, is really is about this this lovely connection between knowing your stuff, working really hard to have that down. But at the end of the day, you present emotion here right in the form of music. In the form of people's engagement with the architecture. So I was just struck by that as you were telling that story, and for the listener thinking about how to how to move people. If we get the PowerPoint right, and we get our slides looking just so, and we've got everything memorized that we're going to win the day. But you could have showed all the PowerPoints in the world, and it wasn't going to do it.
RK: Yeah, so this is a place where I've got very strong opinions. So the you know there's got to be a there there. I mean in the end. And in a typically ends up being sort of—it's both an emotional and it's a pragmatic kind of explanation about something. But you know here in art, in presenting art, you know, there is something that happens to people... there is a transformative experience. And there was another article actually that I can refer to later about, you know, the experience people can have listening to music and difference in the way we're going to and our whole goal here was we want to change that paradigm. We want to create conditions by which people could have their own personal transformational experience and listening to music—musicians could as well—to want to create this, to give dialogues. This is really a conversation between artists and audiences and when they can really talk well together. Because it's very important for a musician on stage to feel the energy of an audience and it's obviously very important an audience member to get the energy of what comes off the stage. But it's this beautiful loop that when it works well, it's just a phenomenal thing to sort of be part of. And this loop is very... we all want to be part of it when it's there. But we tend to go to concerts feeling that we're like, “Man, that was the greatest thing and that energy that came from the stage.” But it's just the same for the musician. They're feeling it from what's happening. It—yes they are creating the—they're setting the stage for us all, but they feed off that energy so if we could increase....
So this idea about passion moving forward—how you move something to happen. You've got to sort of be tenacious enough to sort of believe if you have a root belief in this, and you have enough evidence. So I've done a good Powerpoint presentations I've never been great at it. And it's usually been kind of a forced thing to sort of to get there. However, in the end there are certain things that have to happen in those things. You have to have your research. You have to have your numbers right. All those things have to happen. But it comes back to the Bill Boes thing, unless there's something that really you feel is transformational, you know there's a reason you're willing to go to bat for this because this was not an easy thing to pull off. I mean in assessing this now, ten years, thirteen years from when we met, and we were just really starting to push this forward, is that at some point it's going to seem impossible.
RK: There's going to be and then what helps push you through a hump like that. And you've got to have the things but—and I've seen people not to be negative or in—but seen people who are able to get to a certain level on what we'll call the Powerpoint presentation. You know they understand all the right words to say. They understand all the things to do, but eventually to be excellent at something, I think you can be good at lots of things with them, but unless you really know yourself the way Steve Martin wanted to learn his stuff, you don't get to be Steve Martin in the end. You don't get to, you don't get to build a building like this without, not just a belief, but some knowledge matched with a belief. So the two have to go hand in hand for it really work. But you've got to be able to go, you know—the challenges—I just think back to other conversations, one other tough conversation. There was another board member who is considered sort of the most powerful person on the board of that time who was the most challenging... about this in a good way. And it forced... so this is where the passion helps. So you're engaged, you really believe this thing could work. You're trying to understand all the places it could go wrong. how to connect things to make it stronger and to have to convince him—I remember this was around when we were trying to come up with a good case statement for why to build a building and not an easy thing to even write. You know something that's going to be good for everybody, because everyone hears things differently. Everyone tells things differently; as well to part of this issue of conversation is you know what you hear in a conversation may not be what the other person hears as well in the same same conversation. But I love that challenge actually was it forced me to sharpen an explanation which made the project much stronger. So the people that know the challenges along the way, the things that were the hardest levels. Now you're willing to accept some of those challenges and you get to live with some compromises along the way, too.
DK: Yeah, it strikes me though you mentioned about two minutes ago you were talking about hitting the bumps. And then you talked about this board member. As you know, I try to help people change and evolve—at least one part of it is around this process of what we tell ourselves. The most some of the most important conversations, are the ones in our head. So do you at all recall, let me take you to any of those bumps with that board member or otherwise. Do you recall what your what you said to yourself as you hit those impossible feeling moments?
RK: Yeah. I didn't do, it was just like it was, I just viewed it as a challenge I went back to there's got to be a way to do this, so there's got to be a way to explain this. I've had it you know another board member really didn't quite understand the business model—very very smart—and I made an attempt a number of times in public sessions to explain the business model for the building. And it wasn't sinking in, and so I made an attempt to spend time, a couple of hours with them personally, and it still didn't sink in, after that period of time. And then I thought that's a failure —like this that was like the lowest I sort of got around this was that. Because that person's feedback was not even positive, you know. It was just like, I just don't get why you think this thing's going to work. And there's nothing you can tell me that's going to change my mind really at this point. At the same time they're still being a board member and they're still being supportive, so a little bit of a paradox. And it may be their intent was to challenge and try to raise the game. But what I told myself after that was, I think it gets primal at that point is certain you know if you really emotionally believe in this area how can I figure out how to to do this. And what you know in the end you know, in that particular thing. So sometimes—and this can be annoying to other people and you talk about how to get over humps—you sometimes have a belief that you're right.
RK: And this is a very, very sort of walking-on-ice kind of place. Because this is where conversations get very hard. And what you do for a living is to help people with these people who feel very strongly that they're right and they ostensibly want to shove it down everyone's throat... why we are bothering going through this. And so as much as my a lot of my own personal impulse may have been to do that...
DK: To shove...
RK: To shove... and and so still is an impulse of mine, you know. The truth is, it doesn't always work and there are certain times when you’re forcing it at times, you don't have time. So another thing in all these things the pragmatic part of getting things done and—we're going all over the place here, Drew—is issues things. But motivating to me, oddly enough, is deadlines. When you're forced to make a decision. And you know decision making of, God, who was I just reading? It was about Instagram. The two founders of Instagram now and have put together this—one of whom comes here frequently, actually. To make decisions they've set a weekly meeting to say, “All right what we're going to do in these meetings is make decisions.” You know, I was there. It was a day's New York Times, actually. It was and I thought well you know this is a fascinating thing. Decisions are difficult for people to make and sometimes when you're in a project like this, when you kind of know the right direction, and you don't always know the right direction. But you just got to keep moving forward 'cause there's a deadline coming up and you've got to do something. And in fact it may be wrong. And that's the other thing about faith, and this is a jazz-like quality, faith in making the wrong decision: where you are smart enough and prepared enough to change course. So you may have an inkling you're headed in the right direction, and this is all about I think creative things. This building is one of the things. I'm working on some new initiatives right now; they are the same way. There are initiatives around how we spread the word of this building digitally. And I've got feelings about where to go, but the only way to know whether that's a good idea or not is you've got to go down the path and, that once you start going down that path, it's going to shift a little bit. And you have to have faith in the people you work with and everyone around you that you've got a team of people that can talk. That say, “All right, this isn't how we thought it was going to be.” And you can change. In something those changes are all the things that make it better in the end. So it’s, you got to be strong to sort of push it somewhere. But also I think stronger to say, “Oh, we might we may have made a mistake here.”
RK: And what's difficult in talking with other people about these things is everyone—I think you know in general—it's tough to not just to make decisions, but to change. You know as human beings I think we are just hardwired to not change. We find where we're comfortable—and whatever you're used to, that's what you're used to. And to move, even if it's better, it's not easy to do that. And the more you can—and that's about decision making—a lot of that as we move forward. So, when groups have to make decisions, it's difficult. They need good leaders. I think one of the things that really got us through this project—we're in an interesting tangent about decision making—was good consultants. Interestingly enough, people who everyone respected who neutralized the topic.
RK: Why your business is so valuable because people get caught up in the emotion of the moment, of “I'm right, you're wrong. You're wrong, I'm right." And people kind of lose sight of what it is you're there. And the outside consultant, if it's the right consultant, can really help you know push through that particular point. Or you can be pragmatic, and I know in developing the feasibility study for this building, we had a brilliant consulting a guy named Adrian Ellis, who was smart. And his intelligence really sort of carried the day, I thought. I mean, he was very experienced in this world, but he allowed all sorts of voices to be heard.
RK: When it came time to making the big final decision, are we going to commit to sixty million dollars that we're going to raise to build a building?
DK: Well, I'm I'm struck, as we as we begin to conclude here, that the thing that has made up the most important conversations for you have been have been driven, through your life really as I've heard it, have been driven by that ethic of hard work, by a sense of where and how to get to a certain place. But now what's come into it, it probably was present back in the football days, is that interesting mixture between being completely prepared and also appealing to the, in essence, the heart. And the emotion. And what is most striking there at the end is likely what is served you best in your best moments. And in all the best moments of anyone trying to prove something that they feel strongly about, is in actuality endeavoring to listen. To ask the extra question and to keep the conversation going. Because sometimes no matter how right you may think you are, there’s no use being dead right, as somebody once told me. And, that by what we're sitting in, you have built something magnificent here with the help of a lot of people who I know you care about and want to give credit to. But this is your place and I'm proud as your friend and as you being a former client, to hear you talk and to share your story today. I thank you so much for doing that.
RK: You are very welcome and thank you... A lot of the teaching that comes from Drew Kugler, from you, who really played a big part in working through all the all the intricacies of unraveling to get you to get to some simple premises to get this done.
DK: Yeah. Thank you, Randall. And thanks for taking the time.