After writing on leadersayswhat for as long as I have, I am embarrassed that it has taken me this long to discuss Sammy Hagar. As one of my favorite musicians (the album Red Voodoo is a must-own), Sammy has been a preeminent part of the rock n’ roll scene since the 1970s. He was the lead singer of Montrose, Van Halen, and two all-star bands (Chickenfoot and Circle) and has an accomplished solo career. What you may not realize is that Sammy is also an accomplished businessman.
Besides the wealth created as a performer, Sammy has generated multi-millions of dollars with his various non-music ventures. Fueled by his entrepreneurial spirit, Sammy has built a dynasty in such industries as liquor, cycling, restaurants, real estate, and travel. To tell you how he’s done it, Sammy spoke with Liz Welch at Inc.com. The following are some of my personal highlights.
Identify Your Inner Drive
I’ve never started a business thinking, ‘Oh, I’m gonna make money off of this. All my ideas have come from sheer enthusiasm.’ I felt that way about Cabo San Lucas. I bought a condo down there in 1981. There were three hotels, and none of the restaurants had air conditioning, telephones, or TV. But I fell in love with the place. I wanted a place to hang out down there, so I said, ‘I’m going to build a tequila bar.’
Look for Opportunities That Excite You
Back [in the early 1980s], I was seriously into bikes. My friend Bucky was working at a bike store in Corte Madera, California, and he said, ‘Man, these guys are building mountain bikes with big tires and gears.’ I gave him an old junky bike and he built me this crazy-ass mountain bike. I was like, ‘This is awesome!’ I can go off curbs, over rocks, up hills. So I bought the bike store and hired more mechanics to convert more bikes, and then opened a bigger store, Sausalito Cyclery, in 1987, which was doing $4 million in annual sales before I sold it.
After I left Van Halen, Shep Gordon, a music manager, came to visit me at Cabo Wabo. I was wearing shorts and flip-flops, and he said, ‘You need to roll your whole thing into your whole thing.’ Around that time, I met Kari, my current wife, who said, ‘You remind me of Jimmy Buffett.’ I thought she was nuts. But then she took me to see him and I’m going, ‘Holy s–t. This is awesome.’ Some fool with a parrot on his head would get his ass kicked at a Van Halen show. But a light went on. He created a lifestyle for his fans. I had already started Cabo Wabo. I said, ‘We beach all day, eat tacos for dinner, drink tequila. I get onstage and play. That’s it.’
Surround Yourself With Good People
My strategy for running companies successfully is to find the right guy… Marco [Batali] and Steve [Kauffman] are the best partners on the planet. And I can’t get through the day without Renata Ravina. She is my business manager and has been with me for 26 years. She organizes my day and handles my calendar. We talk several times a day at least. Tom Consolo, my music manager, oversees that part of my world.
Friendships are really important in any industry… I’m connecting the dots all the time. And though I don’t tour as much as I used to, I try to make sure every radio station gets a bottle of my rum. The DJ will say, ‘Hey, Sammy sent me this rum–this stuff’s great!’ And I try to make sure the rum is in every venue I play.