Business tips from “The Demon” Gene Simmons

February 10, 2011

Gene Simmons – rocker, reality TV star and self-styled marketing genius – may be the shrewdest businessman to have donned face makeup and six-inch heels.

In the business world, as in music, Simmons boasts an impressive record. A classic immigrant rags-to-riches tale, he’s worked tirelessly over the last 36 years to turn the KISS brand into an empire. His former blood-spitting “Demon” alter ego now graces more than 2,500 different products such as ketchup, condoms, coffins and credit cards.

In addition to KISS album sales (over 100 million units sold), Simmons earns $100,000 per speaking engagement, and has more than half a dozen booked for 2011 already. Among his other non-musical ventures are estate planning (he is a co-founder of Cool Springs Life Equity Strategy), books, magazines and a handful of television projects.

Reuters sat down with him recently in Toronto just before his keynote speech at Canada’s Advertising Week 2011. Here are some tips from Simmons on how to excel in business.

Q: Beside yourself, who else has it right in business today?

A: If you take a look at Warren Buffett, Carlos Slim — they don’t use computers and they don’t text. They don’t even talk on the cell. Impersonal social networking is fine for information. But you’re not judged like that. You’re not going to get a job that way.

Q: When it comes to pitching business ventures or new ideas, what’s the best way of making your case?

A: When you sit there to talk to somebody (in a pitch), you better learn the two most important things: learn how to speak English correctly – it’s the language of money – and learn good people skills. Learn to communicate as well as you can so people give you more money. It’s actually a profoundly simple idea.

Q: What are some rookie mistakes you’ve seen?

A: A lack of due diligence. In plain speak, you don’t find out who the people are. It’s your responsibility to look both ways before you cross the street. It’s your responsibility to make sure the light’s green. It’s your responsibility to learn, to educate and find out if you’re dealing with crooks.

(He mentions the idea again during his speech, noting that the victims of Bernard Madoff failed in due diligence to ensure their investments were legit.)

Q: And what about failure? How do successful entrepreneurs bounce back?

A: There is no failure. Take a cue from the best athletes in the word. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is actually a really good phrase. If you’re alive, you’re in the game. Every time you fail you learn something and next time you won’t make that mistake again.

Before rushing off to his next engagement, he offers one last piece of advice he said has proven the test of time.

“Never listen to any one particular piece of business advice. What that really means is you have to take successful peoples’ lives and experiences into consideration, but then you have to apply your own situation to that. Because there are no ‘10 rules’ for success.”

Photo credit: KISS bass player Gene Simmons performs during their concert at the Parque Simon Bolivar in Bogota, April 11, 2009. REUTERS/John Vizcaino

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