What’s the secret to success for a startup? Would you believe Elvis Presley?
Jerry Weintraub, the famous music producer, provided a great example for all start-up leaders in a piece I heard this week on NPR. Here’s the excerpt on how Weintraub landed Elvis Presley:
RYSSDAL: That’s an amazing thing to be able to say, “When I got Elvis.” Tell us the story of how you wound up in business with Elvis Presley.
WEINTRAUB: I sleep — still do — with a pad and pencil next to my bed. And I had a dream one night, and I wrote down, “Jerry Weintraub presents Elvis Presley at Madison Square Garden.” Wrote it down on a piece of paper, showed it to my wife, and she said, “Why don’t you go back to sleep?” She said, “You know Elvis Presley?” I said, “No I don’t know Elvis Presley.” She said, “Well, how are you going to do this?” I said, “I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I’m going to do it because I wrote it down.” Next morning, I called his manager, a man named Colonel Tom Parker. And he got on the phone, talked to me, and I said I want to take Elvis Presley on concert tour. And he said to me, “Not a chance. Not going to happen.” And for the next year — one solid year — I called him every morning when I got up.
And one day he said to me, “You still want my boy for concerts?” And I said yes. He said, “OK. You come to Las Vegas tomorrow, bring me a check for $1 million, or cash, either one. A million dollars. Now in those days, I thought only one person had $1 million — Rockefeller. I didn’t know anybody that had $1 million. A million dollars was way out of my league.
RYSSDAL: How old were you?
WEINTRAUB: I was a kid, 20-something years old. But I got the million dollars to the Colonel, we sat down. Three weeks later, and I ended up in San Diego and I was a multimillionaire.
Like chasing a deal with Elvis, start-ups are really hard work. You are breaking new ground and trying to change the way the world works.
Our team is knee deep in the start-up challenges with Alice.com now. Getting a manufacturer to sell its goods in a new way or a consumer to stop going to the store to buy toilet paper and toothpaste is hard, hard work. Some days you are on top of the world; some days you feel like you’ve been punched in the gut.
How do you keep driving forward? By doing exactly what Jerry Weintraub did. You visualize your success. You see what your company can become. And then you go out and relentlessly “will it to happen.” I’ve heard my business partner Brian say this on many occasions. “We are going to will this to happen.”
I’ve tried to summarize some of the things that startups need to do to succeed on this blog (see for example, the 3 advantages of a startup). But everything starts with this relentless will to succeed.
Visualize what you can become, and go out and make it happen.