A Journey With Oprah

In the spring of 1984, Chris resigned from her job at Good Morning America and moved to Chicago to produce a new local talk show. A.M Chicago.

The host, an unknown from Baltimore, was a woman called Oprah Winfrey.

For the next seven years Chris was part of a very small group that managed the  development of the show, the studios and Oprah’s personal profile. She and Oprah travelled the country together, building both the business and the brand by balancing the need to expose the message with the importance of protecting its value.

As in all great and enduring relationships they taught and learned from each other. And marveled at the journey of a black woman from “nowhere” (as Oprah described her background) to the most powerful media influence on the planet.

That no one could forecast how far this would go is true. But the practices that were instilled in those early days created the platform that have allowed Oprah to do what she wanted on her terms. Including deciding how and when to evolve.

In today’s news the media is reporting the final episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show as an end.

It is in fact a transition. To see if she can build something that has value beyond her own personal reach.

The Oprah Winfrey Network may outlive her. Or it may simply prove that without Oprah, there is no business. But she is unafraid to try. Or to let go of her lifeboat.

And though it is easy to decide that a billionaire has little at stake, this ignores the fact that every founder is emotionally intertwined with their business. Often to a point of paralysis.

One of the things we do most successfully is to help owners take responsibility for their business by separating themselves from it. Which creates the possibility that the business can exist without them.

It’s taken Oprah 25 years to do so. But this is her first step to discovering whether when she is gone, she has created a legend.

Or a legacy.