The 4 business lessons we can learn from Simon Cowell

Simon Cowell’s profile says it all; music producer, talent show judge, businessman,  talent manager, and artist and repertoire executive. He is the mastermind behind some of the most famous television shows of recent years including Pop Idol, American Idol, The X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent and America’s Got Talent. Cowell also owns the hugely successful entertainment company, Syco. The list doesn’t end here but space might, so instead let’s look at some of the valuable business lessons that can be learnt from his life and approach to work.

Dare to dream and do what you want.

Simon Cowell came from a privileged family as his father was an executive at EMI Music Publishing. He was a good student who graduated with honours but did not have much luck when it came to jobs. Cowell tried his fate here and there but failed to find anything really suited to his talents. It was his father who got him a job at his company where he worked as an assistant in A&R, but he had a big problem getting along with his colleagues and bosses, so he was forced to leave the job and try his luck in business. 

Cowell did not have any money or access to  start up loans, but his mind was set on entering the music industry and even though many people objected and tried to dissuade him, he didn’t listen to anyone. Not working nine to five was his primary motivation and he was eventually successful in establishing himself when he formed the E&S Music Company with his partner Elis Rich. ‘It’s always the stupid people who tell you what you should or shouldn’t be doing. I always say, why are you in a position to tell me? Everyone’s different,’ he later said. There were many setbacks, and at one stage he had no money to continue his business, but he never gave up on his dream.

Never be afraid to speak your mind.

One thing that stands out about Simon Cowell is his bluntness, both as a judge on television shows and in his general views. Never being afraid to say what you feel is a quality every leader should have. You may not agree with his way of saying it, but the gist here remains that you should be able to convey your message to people and be truthful in your opinions. Sometimes it will be positive things and other times negative, but that’s the nature of the job when you are a leader. Knowing how to bring out the best from others and being honest with them in the workplace environment works in most cases. As Cowell often points out himself, you are doing no-one any favours when you sugar coat feedback. Be honest and you might just give them the piece of advice they’ve always needed to hear. 

Spot the talent and take a chance.

According to Cowell, the key is to hire people who you think will end up being more successful than you. Some of the most famous bands in music history were the brainchild of Simon Cowell, and he certainly has an eye for spotting talent and then signing them up for his company. CNCO, Westlife and One Direction are few such examples, but there are many more. ‘I trust my instincts because I have very broad tastes. I genuinely believe that if I like something, other people will like it as well. If it works, just do it. Don’t think too much about it.’ That’s just one of the reasons why he is one of the most successful people in the music industry. 

Keep doing what works for you.

There is no need to change something that’s working for you. That holds especially true for Simon Cowell who started with the hit show Pop Idol as a judge. He signed the winners of the show, and both of the singers went on to have Number 1 hits in England. He then continued with the same template in his other shows such as American Idol and Britain’s Got Talent, both of which went on to become the most famous programs in their respective countries with record ratings. Once he formed his own company Syco, another television program with a little twist but with the same template was produced with the name of X Factor in which people of all ages could showcase their talents. This perfect recipe has worked for Simon, and once you have the successful formula, you should stick to it.

There is much we can learn from Simon Cowell’s success; his confidence, his determination to make his vision work, and his honesty. Afterall, there are few people around who have made a bigger impact on popular culture in recent years.