What Can Jimmy Buffett Teach Us?

When Jimmy Buffett’s first album sold less than 300 copies he figured his career was over. Ha! It’s been over 30 years since that “failure” and Buffett is bigger than ever. In fact, it was the failure of his first release that led to his ultimate success. Although this will sound like a sad country song, it proves truth is stranger than fiction (for some). Buffett’s first marriage ended, he quit his day job as a writer for Billboard Magazine, and he was not only broke, he was also deeply in debt. (There is probably a dog involved in this story, but that would too much to handle.) So he left Nashville a failure and drove to central Florida where he thought he had a gig lined up–he was mistaken. So he kept on driving to Key West where he found he really fit in. It was here he got the inspiration to write “Margaritaville” and finally find success.
The story could end here with a headline like, “Buffett Makes and Blows Millions After One Hit Record”, but Jimmy Buffett is different than other rockers who had hits in the seventies. He’s had longevity because in real life he is a more like Warren Buffett than Jimmy Buffett. (Translation: He is a smart and shrewd businessman.) How else can you explain (and understand) how he turned one hit song–and it only made it to #8 on the charts in 1977–into an empire that includes several Margaritaville restaurants, hotels bearing his name, hundreds of products for his Parrothead fans, and a music career that still sees him topping the (adult contemporary and country music) charts. He is bigger and better now at age 65 than he was in his prime at age 35. How did he do it? Here are three of the ten things Jimmy Buffett did (and does) to maintain a net worth behind only U2’s Bono (who invested in Facebook early on) of $700 million.
In the hit song “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” (recorded by Buffett and Alan Jackson) the lyrics pose the question, “What would Jimmy Buffett do?” This is what Buffett would do if he were in our shoes.
1. Changes in Lattitudes, Changes in Attitudes. (Dealing With Change)
Einstein said, “In the middle of difficuly lies opportunity.” Buffett would likely say something like, “In the middle of change lies opportunity.” When the music industry was flipped on its head with digital downloads, internet radio stations, and a downturn in disk sales his business grew. He first formed his own record label, was one of the first to have his own radio station, and embraced iTunes and other new ways to expand his musical reach. He saw change as a trend with new opportunities instead of the end of the old way of doing things–and he acted on his ideas while others wasted time complaining about the horror of it all.
2. Wasting Away In Margaritaville . . . Not. (How To Beat The Competition Like a Drum)
Jimmy Buffett owns and pilots his own planes (yes, he owns more than one), captains his own boats (again, he has sail and power boats), and loves to fish, surf, and play tennis. So how does he ever get any work done? That’s just it, he works hard and plays hard. He doesn’t do drugs (any more) and rarely drinks (even though his has own line of tequila) and instead is focused on the job at hand–building his brand. In addition to selling out stadiums for concerts each summer, Buffett is also a best selling author, recording artist, and as we mentioned earlier, a very busy businessman. How does he do it? He has surrounded himself with smart people and trusts them to get things done. He also has found a way to create multiple revenue streams that once set up provide residual income requiring very little effort on his part.
3. Barefoot on the Beach. (Build Your Brand)
We should brand ourselves before someone does it for us–and it’s not what we want. When you think of Jimmy Buffett it’s likely you think of beaches, boats, bars, and ballads. That’s exactly what he is going for. One of his most popular songs for diehard fans is called “A Pirate Looks at Forty” which is about a smuggler who can’t quite find his place in the modern world. He often makes a point to tell people he is NOT the pirate featured in the song–but he may or may not have been at one time. Clever. He plays up the image of the guy you want to sit next to in a bar and have a beer with–but most of that perception was created to sell records (and other stuff.) He believes what he is all about (and what he is selling) is escapism and that’s exactly what he delivers with his songs, shows, and other endeavors.
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What Can Jimmy Buffett Teach Us?

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