In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that
have shaped their business philosophy.



Talent manager, film agent and producer


Background:  

Shep Gordon made his debut in the world of superstardom as manager of the rock band Alice Cooper. His Hollywood clients include Groucho Marx, Raquel Welch, Luther Vandross, Teddy Pendergrass and Kenny Loggins as well as celebrity chefs Emeril Lagasse and Wolfgang Puck. Gordon recently published a memoir, “They Call Me Supermensch: A Backstage Pass to the Amazing Worlds of Film, Food, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.” 

The Mistake:

An opportunity presented itself to go into business with a fellow who had a very questionable reputation. One of his nicknames was “the baby-faced killer.” There was a joke in my industry that if you could find the heartbeat, you’d get a million dollars—and I was sort of naive in thinking that I might be different.

I went into business with him. … We got successful, and someone offered us a lot of money for the company. He really wanted all of it; he threatened to shut down the company, and he did shut down the company, so none of us got anything. Years of hard work went down the drain.

The contracts are a reflection of a human …

The Lesson:

He’s a very well-liked guy. I have no hostility toward him. He never hid anything; the fault’s on me, not him. But I learned a great lesson from it, which is, believe what you hear.

It’s really about the humans, not the contracts. The contracts are a reflection of a human, so if there’s someone who has a bad reputation and you have a strong contract with them, it doesn’t really matter. They’ll figure out a way around it. 

[Ever since then], I’ve listened to people’s reputations more than their voices. I started to vet everybody that I did business with.

The quality of a human is really the most important choice you have to make in your partners. All the other stuff will come along.

Follow Shep Gordon on Twitter at @SupermenschShep.

Photo courtesy of Shep Gordon.

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