An Important Lesson from Jimmy Iovine

Have you ever had an impossible client? Someone who wasn’t happy with any of the results you produced? Someone who worked you tirelessly, but wanted more and wasn’t ever satisfied?

Jimmy Iovine had an experience like that and it shaped his entire career.

Jimmy has been involved in some of the greatest music of the last 40+ years and is the co-founder of Beats with Dr. Dre, which they sold to Apple for $3 billion. Yes…billion. Their partnership is the topic of a recent documentary on HBO titled, The Defiant Ones, which I think is amazing.

In addition to Beats, Jimmy produced Damn the Torpedoes for Tom Petty, Bella Donna for Stevie Nicks, Rattle and Hum for U2, and many others. He was also the founder of Interscope Records, and was responsible for signing Tupac Shakur to a record contract.

But without an important lesson, all of this might not have happened.

Jimmy started at the bottom as a production/engineer assistant and got a promotion to engineer when he decided to work on Easter Sunday on a John Lennon’s Walls and Bridges album. The lesson is not about working on Easter Sunday.

The next big project he was involved with was Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run. The recording sessions would last for hours and hours, sometimes days, as Bruce was manic and had no other interest in his life other than making this record. He obsessed over every detail on the record, including the sound the drumstick would make with it hit the drumhead.

Jimmy was ready to quit. He complained to Jon Landau, at the time the co-producer of the album and later Bruce’s manager, that he couldn’t take it anymore. He was killing himself for Bruce and not only was Bruce unappreciative, he was unrelenting. He may have been The Boss, but he wasn’t a particularly good one at that time.

Landau explained to Jimmy that he had two choices: he could quit or he could walk into the studio and explain to Bruce that he was there to help him make the best record he could and that he would support him to the end. Landau explained that the project wasn’t about anything else but making the best record possible and that it was Bruce’s project. Everyone else was simply there to help in the process. If he helped Bruce reach his goal, he would have a friend for life.

As brokers, isn’t that what we are supposed to do?

If we are representing the tenant, we don’t have to live in the space once the deal is done. If we are representing the landlord, we don’t have to live with the tenant. Our job is to facilitate their vision, help them reach their goals, and provide amazing service.

There have been plenty of times in my career where I thought my client was making a mistake. Whether it was the structure of the deal, the layout of the space, or the pace of the transaction, I didn’t always agree with their decisions. Earlier in my career, it would frustrate me. However, it’s not about me. It’s about the client and getting them the best outcome possible that is aligned with their needs and wants.

Jimmy Iovine was lucky that he learned the lesson at an early age. It helped him create a career and a legacy that is unmatched in the music business. He stuck with Bruce who shortly after used his name in a song lyric and they are still friends, well over 40 years after he almost quit.

While I may not have engineered Born To Run or produced Rattle and Hum, like Jimmy, this lesson has helped me gain the confidence and trust of my clients, some of which I have been working with for over 15 years. Maybe, like Jimmy, I have made a few friends for life. I keep the big picture in mind and know above all…

it’s not about me…it’s all about them.