Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Simon Cowell: "So many unhappy billionaires"

Business Week Online recently did a fun Q&A with Simon Cowell, acid-tongued star of American Idol.

What has this got to do with entrepreneurship? It turns out the celebrity judge is a serial entrepreneur. After starting in the music biz in London with giant EMI Music Publishing, he went on to form several record labels as well as a TV production company.

In March, his next competition show, American Inventor, will debut on ABC. Fledgling entrepreneurs from across America will compete to come up with the best new product.

Here are snips from his interview with BW's Stacy Perman.

You're best known as the tough judge on American Idol, but do you consider yourself a music man or an entrepreneur?
An entrepreneur. I've always treated the music business as a business. Whether I'm making TV shows or signing artists, you have to do it by the head and not the heart -- and I run my businesses that way.…

Do you find a difference in entrepreneurialism in America and Britain?I think America is a hard nut to crack. But once you get a toehold it's a great place for an entrepreneur because people are so enthusiastic...

What would you consider essential to being a successful entrepreneur? Work hard, be patient, and be a sponge while learning your business. Learn how to take criticism. Follow your gut instincts and don't compromise.

What role has failure played in you career? For instance, your label Fanfare Records went under in 1989, and your reality show Cupid was canceled in 2003.
When I was 30 the company that owned Fanfare went bust, and I effectively lost everything. I had to move in with my parents. In hindsight, it was the best thing that happened in my life because I learned the value of money: not to borrow money and not to live beyond my means. And I learned that getting there is more fun than being there. But one thing that I have always been able to do is to own up to my mistakes and not blame others.

As for Cupid, we compromised. We allowed other people to make decisions for us, [but] I don't blame anybody but myself for allowing that to happen.…

Who have been your role models?
I actually really like Donald Trump. I think he's entertaining. There are so many unhappy billionaires, and he's a happy one with a great sense of humor. I didn't think I'd like him. I like people [who] don't take themselves too seriously.

Idol music lovers may read the whole story here.


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