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This week the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) went on strike, grinding to a halt any moving part in Hollywood that wasn’t already ground to a halt by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike which now enters its third month.

Not inconspicuously, CEOs, media moguls and tech billionaires arrived this week at Allen & Co.’s annual conference in Sun Valley, Idaho. Chief among them, Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, said some members of SAG-AFTRA are asking for too much.

In an interview with David Faber on CNBC, Iger said, “We managed, as an industry, to negotiate a very good deal with the directors guild that reflects the value that the directors contribute to this great business. We wanted to do the same thing with the writers, and we’d like to do the same thing with the actors. There’s a level of expectation that they have that is just not realistic.

“And they are adding to the set of the challenges that this business is already facing that is, quite frankly, very disruptive.”

I’ve written about this here and elsewhere. The dirty little secret in Hollywood is that more than half of all studio revenue still comes from cable TV subscription deals. Warner Brothers, Paramount, Disney and NBC rely on cable bundles for 49%, 59%, 40% and 48% of revenue, respectively. This represents between 88% and 100% of profit for the same firms.

What can stakeholders do when most of the studios disdain the delivery model that generates more than half of their revenue and all of their profit? 

How sustainable is a business model where subscribers cut the cable cord (i.e., revenue and profit line) at a rate of 7% per year?

If you think of union negotiations like a poker game, the studios have clearly overplayed their hand. They’ve collectively written off nearly $8 billion in wasted spending in the first half of 2023 chasing Netflix down the streaming rabbit hole (source: Sean McNulty at The Ankler).

What in the world does all of this have to do with dentistry and orthodontics? Quite a bit as I explain in The Burleson Report, Volume 9, Issue 21. If you’d like to see specific advice from a principled, strategic and tactical level, sign up to receive The Burleson Report today and dig into five articles each week covering all aspects of the elective healthcare industry for private practice owners and operators. 

Here are a few discussion points for you and your team leaders, prompted by this recent strike and the lessons we can derive:


First, define what are your common goals. Strikes don’t happen without a reason. Typically, they are driven by a collective desire for change and improvement. Any strike within or outside your industry presents an opportunity to appreciate the power of unity, cohesion and the importance of striving towards a common goal.

Second, communication matters. From management and leadership to front line workers and all stakeholders, clear messaging and effective communication are paramount. Unfortunately, they are also rare. This presents a tremendous opportunity for you when you get it right.

Third, fair treatment, working conditions and compensation are opportunities for strategic competitive advantage. Over 500,000 dental healthcare workers lost their jobs in the coronavirus pandemic. We’re in the middle of the long tail I predicted and that Roger Martin and I discussed on his podcast interview. Our teams grow and report higher job satisfaction when we prioritize well-being and advocate for healthy work environments. 

Finally, there are hundreds of hidden lessons in plain sight on the importance of negotiation and compromise. As Wendy Smith reviewed on a recent interview discussing her research and book “Both/And Thinking,” we can create the too-often elusive win-win situation when we know as much or more about the other side’s position than they know about ours and move towards the middle in a both/and versus either/or solution.

I learned many years ago that a judge’s job in almost all legal disputes is to make both sides equally unhappy. They won’t come out and say this but they want to get promoted to a higher court, bigger position and higher status with more responsibility and prestige. The last thing in the world they want is their boss reviewing a case on appeal and concluding that the ruling was one-sided. This is why arbitration is so popular in American law. 

There are some bloviating, self-important entrepreneurs and business leaders who talk about how they never settle a legal case and always take disputes to trial. I did the opposite so I could get back to work on creating more value in my businesses. By taking this stance, I might have lost from time to time but I avoided the number one mistake most poker players (and negotiators) make: they don’t win as often as they should.

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