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4 Business Lessons From a Sailor

4 Business Lessons From a Sailor

What can we learn from someone who has made a career from three cord songs, flip flops, cargo shorts and a blender? Turns out we can learn a lot about building a brand, business and empire from all of those things.

I have liked Jimmy Buffett for a long time. Like most people who get turned on to his music, the song Margaritaville became my gateway drug if you will into a world of deep South coastal living, pirates and pretty women on far off beaches. Buffett and the world that he creates through his songs and stories were like a yen to the yang of punk, mental, hard rock, etc. that every male tends to gravitate to while becoming a man.

You might like Buffett or you might not, but one thing that you cannot deny is that he has become perhaps a more successful business man than singer if you are only going by the number of hits on the charts.

In 1977, Jimmy Buffett released the song Margaritaville. That song, is one of the lucrative songs ever. Bloomberg reports that in 2007 Margaritaville Enterprises brought in at least $100 million in revenue. Robert Brauneis, a professor of intellectual property (IP) at George Washington University Law School asserts that the closest type of creative properties to Margaritaville are most likely movie properties such as Star Wars, Winnie the Pooh or Transformers.

The question then comes as to how a singer/song writer from Mobile, Alabama was able to build such a successful business when many of the performers of his generation are having to go on the reunion tour circuit just to dig themselves out of financial distress. The answer can be found in these valuable business lessons:

1) No one cares about your business like you do. This lesson can be difficult to artists and creative types who pay lawyers, agents and others to watch out for the artist’s best interest. The fact is there are countless stories of how performers and entrepreneurs have been ruined by people who they thought were working for them and caring about the product or service as much as the artist does. This lesson is why it is important that as a business owner, you make sure that your team is working for you and performing up to your standards.

2) Create an experience or lifestyle around your product or service. High end products and companies execute on this lesson very well. You might have poured your sweat and soul into your product or company but if your clients do not have a unique experience or can enhance their lifestyle because of what your business does, the switching costs are lower for them.

Jimmy has often said it best about what he does, he sells escapism. Turning on a Buffett song, pouring some frozen drinks and changing your business suit for your Hawaiian shirt and cargo shorts and for a time feeling like you are Caribbean vagabond is what it is all about. It is very difficult to find a substitute for what simple songs and carefully crafted products can make you feel.

3) Surround yourself with talent. Jimmy knows that he cannot do it all himself. He surrounds himself with great talent on the stage and off. It is true that no one will care about your business the way you will, you have to have great talent to help you reach your goals. Creating a vision, standards and direction is up to you. However, without a great crew to help, you find that instead of being able to captain a large schooner around the Horn of Africa, you can only manage a one person Sunfish in your neighborhood lake.

4) Spot and execute on potential. Over the last decades, there have been Margaritaville stores that have opened and even a Margaritaville casino in Atlantic City and Las Vegas. Jimmy has clothing lines, knick knacks, several record labels, a line of Margaritaville branded food and drink products and even a partnership with Anheuser-Busch to produce Land Shark Lager beer. All the product development and licensing has been carefully considered and is part of the core of what Jimmy sells, escapism.

Entrepreneurs while sticking to their core should always be on the lookout for potential extensions to their brands and products. Once those potential opportunities have been identified, execution then becomes the next step. The smart business leader is always on the watch for ways to build and expand their brand into areas that make sense and deliver their message and experience to new markets and customers.

Coach’s Wrap Up:

Early in Jimmy Buffett’s career, he had a mentor who taught him what the music business was really all about. That time opened his eyes to the fact that the music business is much more than writing songs and having hits on the charts. As Buffett continues to build a business that started with simple cords, a lost shaker of salt and a mysterious tattoo of a Mexican cutie, he leaves in his wake some great lessons that entrepreneurs and leaders can pick from.


What are some lessons that you have picked up from entertainers or those in the entertainment industry? How have they impacted you?


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