world, I went, ‘This is a new day. This is the future.’”
Winfrey continues to use the power of the Internet to tap new audiences through Oprah.com, which provides supporting material from each media arm as well ass original content. Moreover, the Website produces tens of millions of dollars in revenues. On the day the Winfrey-Tolle class was supposed to go live, more than 700,000 visitors were unable to log on because the system crashed. The bandwidth problem, says Bennett, although disappointing, spawned another opportunity: Millions downloaded the program through iTunes and Oprah.com. Throughout the seminar’s duration, it was the No. 1 podcast download on iTunes, and book club membership increased to more than 1.8 million. Currently there have been more than 25 million streams or downloads of the Webinar through iTunes and Oprah.com.
To manage the ever-expanding operation, Winfrey hired Tenia Davis three years ago to head human resources and further tighten operating procedures. As a result the company collaborated with an outside institution to create an internal Harpo University, which includes a year-long leadership program for senior-level employees and middle managers. “We met with professors and customized it around our culture, our way of managing, and our processes, looking at how our businesses would flow,” says Davis of the year-old program.
For one, Harpo is a highly competitive environment. “But there is good competition and bad competition. Our intention is to maximize the good,” says Davis. “With that we first focused on the leadership team to make sure that we would get buy-in and engagement at that level.” Instructors concentrate on managing collaboration, communication, and the importance of feedback.
Oprah’s brand of leadership demands that nothing is taken for granted. There is a cafe on premises as well as Club Harpo, a workout facility, and The Spa at Harpo. All employees start with four weeks vacation and, depending on the department, have up to 11. “I don’t yell at people. I don’t mistreat people. I don’t talk down to people, so no one else in this building, in this vicinity, has the right to do it,” she states emphatically. “Treating people with respect is the most important thing to me. It’s not just talk.”
That message — in and outside the organization — is a large part of her legacy. She has developed a series of ventures through an array of media platforms to communicate her guiding philosophy of dignity, purpose, and empowerment. “Television is the most powerful medium we have,” she continues. “The Internet is close and there will be a hybrid of the two at some point. But that medium inside the home to communicate with people, that visual medium … is the most powerful thing you can have. That is an enormous amount of influence.”
As the distribution contract for her show will terminate in 2011, she looks forward to building OWN, set to launch in 2009, promising it will be more expansive than anything she’s ever developed. “My intention is for it to live beyond me — for it to be a living