Top Gun revisited

Top Gun: Maverick is, after 36 years, the sequel to Top Gun. It’s just been premiered in the UK and will be released in the US later this month. No doubt there will be a surfeit of column issues comparing the two movies. That’s not for me.

I watched Top Gun on video in the mid 80s. It was a great movie with super music and I noted the reference in it to the US Navy’s objective of training ‘the best fighter pilots in the world’.

I was at the time responsible for one of Dow Chemicals’ speciality chemicals businesses with a dispersed team of 40 or 50 people in manufacturing, technical service and sales and we were just emerging from a period of poor performance which I’d inherited from my predecessor. We weren’t exactly mainstream Dow, that was occupied by plastics and bulk chemicals based businesses, which meant that there was a touch of the maverick about us and we were left to get on with doing whatever was necessary to make the business better.

We had a record and very profitable year in 1987 and I saw this reference to the ‘best fighter pilots’ and reckoned that there was a parallel in our sales team, we had the best sales people. I saw an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone by sending every salesperson a cassette tape, yes it was that long ago, of the original soundtrack. I remember buying 10-15 copies at local music stores and putting the purchase on my expense account as ‘audio business aids’ or similar.

Bird number one was of course to motivate the sales people by boosting their egos, salespeople like that.

Salespeople of course didn’t just do selling, vitally important that it was. They also provided a ‘chauffeur service’ taking technical service people and their managers, including me, to visit prospects, customers and distributors. Much of the time on those journeys you listened to whatever music the salesperson had in the car. Giving them a copy of the Top Gun soundtrack meant that they would have at least one cassette that was worth listening to. Hence bird number 2 got killed!

Our success in 1987 continued into 1988 with monthly sales records and a mention in Dow’s annual report. Sadly I left the business mid 1988 but that’s another story.

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