Building Bridges Key to Moving Forward

Stephen Yagielowicz

One of the most valuable aspects of attending industry events today is the interpersonal networking opportunities that present themselves — allowing participants to create (or repair damaged) business relationships that benefit themselves, along with the industry as a whole.

While we all want to make new contacts, and understand the value of expanding our customer base, it is the latter case that I want to focus on; where the bonds of business may be strained to the breaking point, due to past grievances or present practices, whether justified or not…

It should come as no surprise, given the constant complaints of no-payments, “shaving” and general scumbag behavior that floats across the industry’s message boards, that not everyone in this business is “playing nice” with their peers. Sometimes, the perceived affront happened years ago; at other times, it is a more recent tarnishing of relationships that slows profits and potential, regardless of the grudge.

Whether it is an individual, an agency or a corporate entity, one group can easily create enemies out of the people that should be its friends. Sometimes this is inadvertent; sometimes the result of criminal deception, fraud or rampant egos; and sometimes, it is simply a situation that has blown out of control.

A case in point is the ongoing saga of “Senior vs. Junior,” played out in prime time over the past decade on The Discovery Channel and its perennially popular “American Chopper” television series.

For those unfamiliar with the show, it documents the timeless father and son struggle between Orange County Choppers’ aging iron king and his egomaniac offspring, as they seek ways to work with and respect each other.

According to the show’s website, “For the Teutuls, what was once a family business is now a family feud, and all bets are off for what new fireworks await in American Chopper: Senior vs. Junior. The series captures the renewed rivalry as Paul Sr. continues to build world-famous custom bikes at OCC, while Junior opens up Paul Jr. Designs.”

Briefly, the old man owns the company and has been building bikes forever. He has the skill and the capital to do so, but lacks his son’s talent at designing for today’s audience. The kid can build attractive, trend-setting bikes, but was wrong when he thought he could do it all on his own — his ego has cost him nearly everything, as he set up his own shop, which simply does not have the traction of the parent firm.

Both parties and their companies have suffered, perhaps irreparably, as their industry continues to change and the market for $100,000+ custom motorcycles evaporates — the last apples rotting on the tree as the pair expends their energies and cash reserves on in-fighting and legal wrangling, rather than on innovation and marketing.

However, the duo is attempting to make amends, perhaps as much out of necessity as out of desire.

This corporate and personal feud echoes throughout the adult entertainment industry, where companies that really could benefit from working together needlessly waste their resources on disputes ranging from back-room deals gone awry, to personnel problems, potentially purloined databases, and soured acquisition deals.

Consider also the transience of corporate animosity in an industry as intimate as online adult, where yesterday’s partners are today’s plaintiffs — and tomorrow’s target of renewed business relationships. Sure, it may not always work this way, but the bigger issues facing the industry may be bigger than the often relatively petty differences that separate some otherwise compatible players from one another.

In many cases, the incidents sparking separation may be forgotten or no longer relevant.

I will point to a moment at the recent XBIZ Miami Summit where a seminar attendee brought up the subject of .XXX — a former lightning rod of controversy that seemed all but forgotten at this event. Here, the virtual sound of crickets chirping lonely in the distance was the only response, as no one in the audience admitted to the purchase of .XXX domain names. It seems that this once contentious issue has passed into history and piracy has once again become the main target of adult industry angst.

If today’s friend is tomorrow’s enemy and yesterday’s enemy, today’s partner, does that mean that grudges should never be held and all should be forgiven? In many instances, “yes,” since the maturation of our industry is tied to the maturation of its operatives — many of whom began this adventure in their late teens or early twenties, a time of imprudence and impatience in most people’s lives, where actions that once seemed wise are now regrettable.

Recidivism is a bitch, however, reminding me of the line from the Canadian comedy television series, Trailer Park Boys, which proclaimed, “A shit leopard can’t change its spots” — or if you prefer a different saying, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

In those cases where outright criminal activity, rather than a mere bruising of egos, is the cause of separation, perhaps forgiveness should not be on the menu. However, in cases where common ground can be found, now might be a good time to bury the hatchet — smoothing over differences and finding a way to move forward to the benefit of all involved. This business is simply too tough these days to let personal or interpersonal problems add to your burdens, making the building and repairing of bridges more preferable to burning them.