Many CEOs would name Jack Welch, Stephen Covey, Richard Branson or Meg Whitman as their major influences. Mine include Lenny Kravitz, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Janet Jackson and Sir Mix-a-Lot. What do I mean? Well, to quote Vanilla Ice, “Check out the hook while my DJ revolves it.”
The DJ, you see, was me. As a 12-year-old seventh grader in Bath, Mich., I started my first entrepreneurial venture with my cousin — getting paid to spin records (CDs, actually) at my middle school’s Friday night dances. We built this into a successful disc jockey business through my college years.
After retiring my headphones sometime during the Clinton administration, I thought that was that. But I’ve come to understand that my formative years as a disc jockey taught me everything I’d need to know for leadership positions at companies like Oracle and Salesforce and, now, in my first year as a CEO at Act-On.
Here are 10 indispensable lessons I learned as a young DJ that form the backbeat of my business life today:
Disruption is king.
It may have become one of the business world’s most prevalent and annoying buzzwords, but disrupting a market is thrilling. My middle school was losing money on dances because all the proceeds were going to pay outside disc jockeys. I offered to do the job for half price, using my father’s powerful stereo and CDs from my own collection or borrowed from friends. Neither my cousin or I were old enough to drive yet, so we also needed help from Mom and her station wagon for the first few years. We got all the gigs from that point on. And my DJ business, called SoundWaves, was born.
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