Scooter Braun, founder of SB Projects — though likely most recognized as the manager of performers such as Justin Bieber, Kanye West and Ariana Grande — remembers being told early in his career to never mix business and pleasure.
He sees that, however, as a cowardly way to live — and much prefers to get personal, to get involved, to be a friend and to surround himself with people who know who he really is.
“The more successful you become, the nicer you should be,” he told the crowd at NRF 2019: Retail’s Big Show. “Because you’re extremely fortunate.”
Braun, who was joined onstage by journalist, speaker and media trainer Alicia Quarles, shared his story of learning from failures, taking risks, betting on people — and remembering the importance of philanthropy all along the way.
“I know where I come from, so that idea of giving back is very important to me,” he said. In addition to his business successes, Braun has focused on Pencils of Promise (founded by his younger brother), the Braun Family Foundation and Make-A-Wish, among other efforts. He is well known for incorporating a charitable element for every company initiative and getting his artists on board.
“You stand on the shoulders of the people that believe in your dream. For me, I try to create a family atmosphere and bet on my people as much as they’re betting on me. Because I started the company and took the risk of being an entrepreneur, I’m getting the biggest benefit. But I don’t succeed unless they succeed, and I don’t succeed unless they care enough about me to give me their best.”
Braun admits that he has worked with extraordinary people. “My superpower is that I’m extremely ordinary.” If he likes something, he assumes others will like it too. If it moves him, why wouldn’t it move someone else?
Another of his superpowers is the ability to be forward-thinking, and to have invested well in organizations like Spotify, Uber and e-sports company 100 Thieves. And then there’s social media. At first, Braun said, no one had more than 1 million Twitter followers if they hadn’t been on the Suggested Users list. Braun, however, was paying attention to how celebrities were using the platform. It was very one-on-one, “and people were just watching the conversation.” But Bieber began interacting with the fans in a different way — and building other fanbases in the process. He became the first to pass that million-follower mark without being on the list — and Braun became the second.
He is quick to say that the most significant part of his life are his wife and three children. As for the most significant part of his career, he doesn’t think about the sold-out tours or Grammy Awards. Instead, it would be things like organizing and producing the One Love Manchester benefit concert in response to the bombing at Ariana Grande’s concert two weeks prior, and helping organize March for Our Lives, a student-led demonstration for stricter gun laws.
“I’ve seen really awful things, and seen some really amazing things come from them,” he said. Each one of us can do something significant, he said, either by ourselves or by listening to and supporting young people.
He closed with the advice to “bet on people. They’ll figure it out. If someone is absolutely relentless, even if they have to pivot, they’re going to make it happen. And those are the kind of people you want. One way or another, a business is going to hit on a hard point, and you want to know you’re betting on people that are going to keep going.”