EOY: From Nettwerk to Namaste

Whether managing pop stars or teaming up with yogis, business partnerships are about alignment, Terry McBride says of his two entrepreneurial ventures


BCBusiness + ERNST & YOUNG

Credit: Phillip Chin

Music and yoga share an emotional connection, says Nettwerk and YYoga co-founder McBride

Whether managing pop stars or teaming up with yogis, business partnerships are about alignment, Terry McBride says of his two entrepreneurial ventures

There are two glass doors leading out of Terry McBride’s Vancouver office, housed on the fifth floor of a building overlooking Cambie Street’s Whole Foods Market. One opens toward the headquarters of Nettwerk Music Group, the music management, recording and publishing company he co-founded in 1984 and continues to helm as CEO. The other door takes him to the offices of YYoga, the upscale yoga and fitness studio chain he co-founded in 2007 with yogi Lara Kozan, for which he is also chief executive.

“Yoga and music are the same business,” McBride says. “They are both thousands of years old, and the business component of it is the monetization of the emotional connection.”

McBride, winner of the EOY Media and Entertainment category for the Pacific Region in 2003, is a master at building partnerships. From his decades-long management relationship with songstress Sarah McLachlan to his yoga studio acquisitions, McBride—whose tendency to speak in rapid-fire cadences can seem at odds with his Zen-like pronouncements—says it comes down to one key element.

“It’s all about creating alignment,” he declares. “It’s not about one party winning and the other party not. I think with a lot of negotiations and people trying to create deals, that’s what their focus is. It’s like, ‘What’s in it for me?'”

Where most businesses find alignment through external partnerships, McBride has taken a unique approach by co-founding two seemingly disparate companies that have more in common than appears at first glance. It’s paid off: YYoga now has annual revenue in the $12-million range and more than 300 staff, while 100-employee Nettwerk’s revenue tops $25 million.

YYoga has grown to 10 locations in Metro Vancouver and Whistler and two in Toronto. McBride proudly notes that the company’s first two studio acquisitions, both in Yaletown, are still headed by the same team a decade later. “That’s no different than how we go about it with artists,” he says. “Nettwerk’s average relationship with an artist is 10 to 15 years, which in the music business is like a lifetime.”

McBride’s 23-year management relationship with McLachlan was one of his most celebrated, and its rupture made international headlines in 2011. But he believes it’s possible to end partnerships amicably, as long as both sides remain honest.

“I think both parties know [when it’s time to end things], but both parties are probably afraid to address the subject,” McBride says. “Honesty is sometimes the hardest thing,” he adds. “I think your intuition is always right. And if a relationship is going sideways, it’s really good to catch it early. Maybe you can save it, but chances are ending it then is much more pleasant and professional than dragging it out for a couple of years, when sentiments have built up and then you’re pointing fingers.”

Given his decades in the music business, it’s tempting to think that McBride has dealt with his share of difficult temperaments. But he insists that’s not the case. “The difficult rock star is maybe a persona of 10 to 20 percent of the business, but I could say it’s the persona of 10 to 20 percent of any business. It gets 80 percent of the noise, but it’s not the business,” he says.

“The most successful businesses are ones that create partnerships that last for a long, long time,” McBride adds. “Because not only are you emotionally aligned, but inside the business, you feel like you’ve treated each other fairly.”

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