NORM BRODSKY b STREET SMARTS
The Only Opinion
You want to know what I think of your
new business idea? Don’t ask.
Norm Brodsky is a
He is the co-author
of Street Smarts: An
All-Purpose Tool Kit
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ture manufacturer and put on his frst two Rock & Roll Revival
concerts on October 18, 1969, with performances by, among
others, Bill Haley and His Comets, the Coasters, the Shirelles,
and the Platters.
Both shows sold out. So did almost all of the 25 oldies
concerts he went on to produce at Madison Square Garden.
They were so popular, in fact, that they had to be moved
from the Felt Forum, which could accommodate about
4,500 people, to the main arena, which held up to 20,000.
Over the next 40 years, Nader took his oldies shows to
giant venues throughout the United States and Great Britain.
He even produced an oldies movie based on the concerts.
A company bearing his name that he started in 1989 is still
staging oldies concerts today, nine years after his death.
In the early days of his business, Nader would always send
me two front-row tickets to his concerts in Madison Square
Garden. It was his way of reminding me how wrong I had
been about “the stupidest idea I had ever heard.” That idea
wound up making him millions and millions of dollars and
transforming the rock ’n’ roll concert business.
I got the message. Since then, I have never told entrepre-
neurs starting businesses what I think of their ideas. On the
contrary, I have urged them as forcefully as I can not to ask for
or listen to other people’s opinions of their ideas. The world is
full of naysayers happy to tell you how crazy you are to take a
chance on a business.
I think my story convinced Charles that there was no point
I’ve heard some version of the question “What do you think
asking me about his idea. I told him I was very willing to ofer
my thoughts on how he might implement the idea and what
was the likeliest way to raise the money he needed. He thanked
me. I asked him to keep me posted on his progress. I’ll let you
know what happens.
few months ago, a
bright young man
named Charles came to
see me for advice about
a business he was
starting. The business,
he said, was a hedge
fund of cryptocurren-
cies like bitcoin. There were actually more than 1,500 types
of cryptocurrency at the time, and the number had been grow-
ing fast, but he said he was trading only the few that were
well-constructed and likely to last. “What do you think about
cryptocurrency?” he asked.
of my idea for a business?” over and over for the past 50 years.
First-time entrepreneurs always want to know what I think. I
gave Charles the same answer I’ve given all the others: “It
doesn’t matter what I think. All that matters is what you think.”
“But you must have an opinion,” Charles insisted.
“Sure, I have an opinion,” I said. “So what? I may be
wrong.” And then I told him a story.
It happened in early 1969, when I was a newly minted,
26-year-old lawyer with my own practice in Brooklyn. A guy
named Richard Nader came to see me. He had an idea for a
rock ’n’ roll concert business featuring performers from the
1950s. He was planning to stage the frst concert at the Felt
Forum in Madison Square Garden. He wanted me to put up
$25,000 to help fund it. “What do you think?” he asked.
I told him I thought it was the stupidest idea I had ever
heard. Understand, the country was still experiencing the Brit-
ish Invasion set of by the Beatles, who scored three U.S. No. 1
hits in 1969—fve years after they frst topped the Billboard Hot
100 with “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Motown was also going
strong. I couldn’t imagine that enough people would want
to hear a bunch of washed-up rock ’n’ roll bands to fll the Felt
Forum, and I wasn’t alone. Nader had already spent four years
trying to interest well-known music promoters, including Dick
Clark, in his idea. After striking out with everybody else, he
fnally managed to borrow the money he needed from a furni-