The Chief Executive Officer of Nirvana surveying his effects pedals
It was 18 years ago today that Kurt Cobain took his own life. Some of you may not even remember that day; those of you who do probably remember exactly where you were when you heard the news.
One surprising thing that came out of the research for No Brown M&M’s! was the discovery that Cobain was something of a perfectionist. Imagine that. Despite the slacker image and the “oh well, whatever, never mind” attitude he made famous, he was very much on top of his role as the CEO of Nirvana. He had a very clear vision for the band, its music, and its direction. He knew exactly what he wanted and he got it.
There are many roles entrepreneurs have to play, especially in the start-up phase of a venture. But in the long run, none is more important than being the visionary. If I ever run a company large enough, I think I’ll call myself the Chief Visionary Officer. Most every other aspect of running a company can be delegated to someone, but the leader’s role in establishing a clear vision for the business and inspiring others to join and follow can’t be delegated—at least not easily. More important, it shouldn’t be.
And such was the case with Nirvana.
Jon Bon Jovi, then and now
A 50th birthday seems like a good time to reflect on your life so far, and Jon Bon Jovi certainly has nothing to regret in terms of accomplishments. He’s led one of the most successful rock bands for over 30 years, which has sold well over 100 million albums; he’s amassed a net worth of roughly $120 million; he’s received acclaim and awards for his solo albums; he’s enjoyed cross-over success on a number of songs; and he’s had a bit of fun dabbling in television and film acting.
And the fruits of his labor have extended to charitable ventures as well. He started the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation in 2006 in an effort to help America’s homeless, hungry, and poor. Then in late 2011, with his wife and personal chef, he opened Soul Kitchen, a “community restaurant” in New Jersey to offer those with little or no money the chance to enjoy better food through a “pay what you can” model. (The food is mainly donated by Whole Foods, with much of the vegetables grown on the property.) The concept allows people with low incomes to enjoy a restaurant meal that’s not fast food, while people with more means can pay a suggested price, or more, to help those who can’t. Incidentally, Panera Bread has been successfully operating several restaurants under the same model for a few years.
Bon Jovi exemplifies a number of key traits that mark every successful entrepreneur:
- Hard work—He is a noted workaholic among his band and peers, diligently tending to his music business and other ventures.
- Ethics—He doesn’t use his industrious nature as an excuse to run over people, treating those around him with due respect, especially his band mates who as a result have mostly been with him since the beginning.
- Brand management—His flagship venture, his band, has been handled magnificently over the years, perhaps only matched (at that level) by U2, AC/DC, and Aerosmith. Though his and the band’s look and music has evolved over the years to keep up with the times, their core values have not. Bon Jovi’s middle-class, blue-collar, Jersey roots still run through all that he does both on stage and off stage; he never relocated to Los Angeles and adopted a Sunset Boulevard lifestyle.
- Leadership—Aside from his solid ethical grounding, his band members attribute their loyalty to his leadership. He has a strong vision for Bon Jovi (the band) but has also allowed the others their creative room to breathe in side projects. He’s demanding, and yet doesn’t expect his band mates to share his workaholic nature.
Though he’s now eligible for membership in AARP, it’s highly unlikely Bon Jovi will be retiring anytime soon. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if he has another 50 years of meaningful contribution to music, business, and society in him.