Q&A: Life Lessons from the man who gave us Bieber
(Note graphic language in 21st paragraph)
By Chris Taylor
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Scooter Braun made his name as the man who discovered music phenomenon Justin Bieber nearly 10 years ago.
Today, the talent roster of his management firm works with a number of big names, like Kanye West, Black Eyed Peas and Carly Rae Jepsen, which landed him on Time Magazine’s 2013 list of the world’s 100 Most Influential People.
For the latest in Reuters’ Life Lessons series, Braun, 35, talked with us about how his philosophy about life and money stems from world events of seven decades ago.
Q: What life lessons were impressed on you at an early age?
A: The fact that my grandparents were Holocaust survivors has played a significant role in my life. My grandmother is 87 now, and was only 15 when she was in Auschwitz. My grandfather died when I was 14, and he was in Bergen-Belsen and Dachau. So be grateful for your life, because nothing is guaranteed. Everything could literally be taken away from you tomorrow.
Q: What was your parents’ attitude toward money?
A: Their whole thing was, anything you need can be given to you within our home. But the moment you step out of your home, you are on your own. I remember one early money lesson of being in a Pizza Hut and wanting 25 cents to play video games. My dad said, ‘Get a job!’
Q: When you started seeing success as a manager in the music business, how did you deal with sudden wealth?
A: When I was 25, I had risked everything to launch Justin Bieber, and was a couple months away from losing everything. Within a couple of years I had a massive business that led to where we are today.
One day I asked my accountant, “Hey, how much money do I have?” That number was more than my lifetime goal. I drove for a couple of minutes, and then had to pull over because I was so depressed.
Q: So what did you do?
A: I called my dad, who asked me when I was happiest. I said I was happiest helping people, or making hospital visits, or surprising fans with personal messages, or giving away tickets. He said, “Then implement more of those moments.”
Q: As someone who manages young adults with a whole lot of money, is it difficult to keep them on the right financial path?
A: I am not their business manager, but my job is caring for them as human beings. I steer their careers to where they have financial freedom. So I give advice, and have conversations with them, and get together with their business managers and make recommendations.
But at the end of the day, I’m making recommendations to adults, and hoping that they come to the right decisions.
Q: Have you seen some wasteful spending along the way?
A: Sometimes the private travel gets ridiculous. But for some of these people, it is hard to even get through airports. Sometimes the only way to realize what a foolish purchase is, is to make one.
Q: What kind of investor are you?
A: What I do for a living is so high-risk, that I try to make sure my portfolio is as conservative as possible. I have a group of people I turn to for advice – one for stock investments, another for collecting art, and so on. The way I look at my money is that it is not my own. It is my children’s, and I protect it with that in mind. It is not mine to have, it is mine to give away.
Q: How are you directing your giving?
A: I work a lot with (my brother’s charity) Pencils of Promise, with my wife’s charity Fuck Cancer, and with the Make-a-Wish Foundation. I think 50 percent of giving should be public, because it inspires others to give. I think the other 50 percent should not be made publicly, but just because it is the right thing to do.
Q: What lessons are you planning to pass on to your own kids?
A: We have one son who is 17 months old, and another on the way. I want them to be kind, to understand the importance of giving back, and know that true success is in the value of our relationships. If you want to live a long and prosperous life, that doesn’t mean the accumulation of wealth, but the accumulation of character.
Most of all I want them to know exactly where they come from. They are the great grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, and people who have worked very hard for the opportunities they have.
(Editing by Beth Pinsker and Richard Chang)