8 Business Secrets You Can Learn From A Successful Hollywood Executive


“I learned lessons from this business that I still follow today: People will pay you to make their lives easier; always take the time to make the pitch; personal service is the name of the game; never get paid once for doing something twice.”

I’ve only recently learned about Jerry Weintraub and even more recently have begun writing about him. I’m surprised he isn’t more of a household name, considering the magnitude of his life and career. Starting as a kid from the Bronx, he climbed his way up to being Elvis and Sinatra’s manager (among many others), producing tons of Hollywood hits, and doing it all as an independent, outside of the system. He’s an entrepreneurial role model for me, and here are a few things I’ve learned about business from his book:

1. Make People’s Lives Easier

That’s the name of the game in American capitalism: making people’s lives easier. By providing a product or service that improves people’s lives, saves times, or lessens their stress or pain, you’re sure to be a success. Focus first on providing value. As Weintraub said, “People will pay you to make their lives easier.”

2. Perfect Your Pitch

Jerry Weintraub was a story teller. Once, John Denver was upset about the tour: his food, his rooms, his everything. He was prone to these moods and thought he wanted to fire Weintraub. So, Weintraub went back to Denver four hours later and said, “I’ve taken care of the problem. Things will be different now.”
“You took care of them? How?” Denver asked.
“I fired Ferguson. There has been trouble with the hotels, with the food, with the venues, with the sound systems? Well, Ferguson was in charge of all that. He’d been fired.”
There was no Ferguson. John Denver, from then on, was happy with the tour, anyway.

3. Relationship Marketing

“Personal service is the name of the game,” Weintraub wrote. Of course, this underlined his entirely life philosophy: “Relationships are the only thing that really matters, in business and in life.” Use the power of networking and your relationships to leverage business opportunities and gain access to opportunities that those less friendly and personal cannot. Always put a personal touch on your products.

4. Get What You’re Worth

Weintraub told a story in his book about how, for a laundry delivery service he had started, he was doing twice the amount of work for what he would have got paid for only doing it once. He took note and separated his deliveries, allowing him to get paid what he was actually worth. Especially in the beginning, you should always put in the extra effort for a great job. But make sure that you are not wearing yourself out with superfluous work.

5. Plan for Change

“The point is, do not get attached to the world as it is, because the world is changing, something new is coming, every ten years a big hand comes down and sweeps the dishes off the table.” Robert Greene coined the term ‘tactical hell’ as the state of being so immersed in one’s ways and everyday battles that it is impossible to see any grand strategy or further vision. This, in business and in life, is a bad thing. The world is constantly changing, and those who are able to maintain fluidity are those who win consistently.

Stubbornness, complacency, laziness–these are the traits you want to avoid in business. As Tucker Max said about change, “When new technologies or ideas come up, people tend to draw a straight line forward. They assume the future will be the past, but just more of it. That’s not how new technologies work. Truly innovative ideas fundamentally alter relationships, which in turn creates entirely new possibilities.

6. Learn from Wherever You’re At (Apprentice)

“Grunt jobs are often the most instructive—they allow you to flow through an organization unnoticed, a corpuscle or cell moving in and out of the heart and lungs.”

I’m in the middle of a book right now about the Hollywood mailroom system, and this ethos certainly runs thick in in that book as well. Everyone had to start from the bottom-Geffen, Brillstein, Meyer, Ovitz-and the simple fact was that because they started at the bottom and learned from their surroundings, that actually helped them in the long run. The obstacle became the way. More importantly, when young, hungry, and just starting out, it’s important to learn from people who are better than you. Weintraub was certainly no exception to this rule.

7. Diversify

“In business, it only takes one, but who wants to live that way, on a single throw of the dice, or by wrapping yourself in the fortunes of a single artist, no matter how brilliant—the point, as the chaperones used to say at the high-school dance, is to get out there and mix.”
Diversify your portfolio, mix with different crowds, and do more than one thing. The key to staying successful is continuing to work after your one hit wonder, and continuing to evolve after people try to typecast you. The single throw of a dice, Weintraub says, is no way to live. The best time to succeed is after you just succeeded, so celebrate for a minute, then get right back out there and slay your next dragon.

8. Act Like a King To Be Treated Like One

“I figured it was all about appearance, perception, as the man who rides in style often rides away with the big contract.”

Perhaps a Hollywood executive is by nature an exaggeration of this concept. But that’s only because Hollywood is an inflation of this universal truth: you have to act the part to be treated the way you want. Weintraub bought a Rolls Royce before he could afford one because he wanted to the appearance of importance. “You grow into the suit,” the saying goes. Certainly, a Rolls Royce is a bit extreme and irresponsible for most people, but don’t underestimate appearances. Act confident, dress confidently, carry yourself well, and people will assume the best.