Hollywood strategy is a more glamorous version of what every business needs to do – focus on where to play and how to win. But a cohesive plan can often elude us. Today’s guest is a Hollywood mega entrepreneur with an amazing story whose journey gives us a peek behind the curtain into his secrets for success.
What You’ll Discover About Hollywood Strategy (highlights & transcript):
- Factors Namer considers in crafting his Hollywood strategy [3:35]
- The strategic value of flexible business structures [6:23]
- How Hollywood strategy can be applied to Main Street businesses [11:08]
- How change empowers new business opportunities [14:26]
- The personal habits that contribute to Namer’s Hollywood strategy [17:06]
- The time management component of Namer’s Hollywood strategy [23:42]
- And much MORE.
Hanna Hasl-Kelchner: [00:00:00] Hollywood’s strategy is a more glamorous version of what every business needs to do, focus on where to play and how to play. But a cohesive plan can often elude us. Today’s guest is a Hollywood mega entrepreneur with an amazing story whose journey gives us a peek behind the curtain and to his secrets for success.
Announcer: [00:00:22] This is Business Confidential Now with Hanna Hasl-Kelchner helping you see business issues hiding in plain view that matter to your bottom line.
Hanna: [00:00:33] Welcome to Business Confidential Now, I’m your host, Hanna Hasl-Kelchner, and I’m delighted to welcome Mr. Larry Namer to the show today. His entertainment and media credentials are pure platinum. He is an entertainment industry veteran with close to 50 years of professional experience in cable television, live events, and new media. Larry is a founding partner in Metan Global Entertainment Group, a venture created to develop and distribute entertainment content and media, specifically for Chinese speaking audiences in China and abroad. More recently, he was appointed chief operating officer of FanVestor, an innovative, data driven ecosystem for celebrities, brands and their fans to become an investor and access exclusive experiences and rewards.
Hanna: [00:01:23] While Maten and FanVestor may not be household names to you. The Entertainment Television network, no doubt is. And that’s Larry’s baby, too. He co-founded it. And some baby! It is now valued at over $4 billion. Now, those three projects are just a small sample of his amazing portfolio of work. Along the way, he’s received tremendous accolades and won prestigious awards that are too numerous to mention. The show would be over. We’d be packing up and going home if I listed them all. So suffice it to say, that is an honor and a privilege to have him join me today.
Hanna: [00:01:59] Welcome to Business Confidential Now, Larry.
Larry Namer: [00:02:01] Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Hanna: [00:02:04] It’s great. Now you have a remarkable talent and eye for identifying opportunity.
Larry: [00:02:10] Ah, so I’ve been told. Nobody can ever quite figure out why. So but yeah, for some reason it’s been its kind of been following me around all my life from literally when I got out of college and got into the cable business to being in early on and interactive TV. And I was in Russia before anybody realized that it was no longer the Soviet Union. Then China and now I’m in FinTech and a bunch of other things. So, yeah, I have an uncanny ability for being there before everybody else.
Hanna: [00:02:46] Which is wonderful. You know, not only identify the opportunity, you drive a truck through it and I mean that in a good way because you take it from point A to B. With E! Entertainment you recognized the desire for celebrity gossip and made it happen.
Hanna: [00:02:59] With Metan Global, you’re embracing technology, recognizing content goes over multiple distribution channels and the U.S. is no longer dominant when it comes to creating content. Great stuff is happening all over the world. And with FanVestor, you’re blending a crowdfunding platform with entertainment and an opportunity for fans to participate. And now if I ask you how you do it, I know that’s too broad a question, so let me phrase it this way: What factors do you zero in on before greenlighting a project? What are your priorities?
FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE NAMER’S HOLLYWOOD STRATEGY
Larry: [00:03:35] Well, I look at stuff and I’m a voracious reader. I read that probably 50 magazines. I read everything online, but probably 50 magazines a month on just every imaginable subject. And I do web research a lot, and stuff. So I basically look for things that I think may not be disruptive today; but, you know, if the technologies or the geography continues the way it’s been going will become disruptive. And then I kind of focus in on those.
Hanna: [00:04:10] Like when I decided on Russia, I was looking at the Soviet Union still and realize that no matter how much we did our anti-communist, you know, their boogeyman in the closet kind of stuff, that that was going to go away and that there would be tremendous economic opportunities there. And then pretty much the same thing with China.
Larry: [00:04:33] When I got into China, which was 11 years ago, everybody thought that, you know, they’re going, “Why bother with China?” It’s nothing in the entertainment business. And if you look at just film business there, 11 years ago it represented one plus one percent of the world market. 11 years later, it’s now the number one movie market in the world. This year went by the U.S. in terms of movie markets. So, that’s the kind of stuff I look for.
Larry: [00:05:05] And then the other thing that I always apply, and I use his name in vain, you know, Rupert Murdoch, I look at things and go, “OK, where can I as an independent, be on the same plane or higher than the Rupert Murdoch’s of the world?” Then when I say Rupert, I mean him and Time Warner and Disney and Fox, eventually the big guys are going to recognize it. How do I get my foothold in those markets before they really get in there and try and bury me? I have to survive through it. So those are kind of things I look at.
Hanna: [00:05:41] So have your priorities changed over the years?
Larry: [00:05:46] I . . . no, I wouldn’t say I like being . . ., I always look to being at the forefront of stuff and that’s kind of a priority. I’m more driven with achievements than I am necessarily with the money side of it. Thank God for that. You know, you do one E! in your life you don’t have to really do much else. The money side is taken care of, so you’re really doing the things that you love and you could take chances that are, you know, some people think are a little crazy. But you can do it when you have that kind of freedom.
HOW TO CREATE FLEXIBLE STRUCTURES FOR MORE STARTUP SUCCESS
Hanna: [00:06:23] Absolutely. Absolutely. I’d like to dive a little deeper. Hiccups often happen in a planning process. Nothing ever is quite perfect, no matter how we go about it. Are there certain areas in the planning process that you find are more vulnerable than others?
Larry: [00:06:40] Yeah, well, first of all, I have this great belief that, and this is like one of my underlying things is that, in a year from now all the things that I thought today I’m going to smack myself in the head and go, “What the heck were you thinking?”
Larry: [00:06:56] So even with all these companies, what I try and do is create structures where I just bring in the greatest, smartest people and don’t put them in a box that they can’t get out of. Give them the flexibility so that they can adjust on a dime. And unfortunately, that’s one of my biggest beefs with business schools, is, you know, they say here’s the textbook. Here’s what to follow. And unfortunately, you follow the textbook and you’re pretty much going to be in the bankruptcy court pretty soon.
Larry: [00:07:28] You have to have that flexibility because everything will change. How, you know, technology will change people’s interest in how they consume media will change. How in the world can you have predicted the pandemic? But those people that weren’t confined by these rigid business structures figured a way to adapt and figure out a way to survive. Those people that were stuck in those structures, “Oh, no, this is the way we do things.” I mean, those people are hurting and they will continue to hurting because in many cases it’s not going back to what it was.
Hanna: [00:08:05] Absolutely. So flexibility and really what you have described is tremendous leadership ability. It’s one thing to create the structure, but then letting go to let others carry the vision forward.
Larry: [00:08:19] Yeah. And don’t put them in a position that they’re stuck in.
Larry: [00:08:24] I’ve had this conversation with somebody recently. Very big business school, went to business school and got the MBA, I think, two MBAs and they look at agreements and they go, “Well, where are the KPIs[key performance indicators],” in somebody’s employment agreement. And I’m going if you put these rigid KPIs in on a start-up, and I’m not saying you don’t do it when they’re mature, a mature business is very different. But on a startup, if I put it in KPIs in a certain way, that executive, even though the business logic tells you to do something different, their bonus in their employment is based on meeting those KPIs. So that’s what’s going to drive them, not what’s good for the business and say, “Hey, you know what, we don’t need to do this. We really need to do that.”
HOW RIGID STARTUP INCENTIVE STRUCTURES CAN BACKFIRE
Larry: [00:09:16] If you’re stuck in having to do X and Y to get your annual bonus or keep your job, typically that’s what people will do. So in startups, I’m a real, kind of, anti-KPI person. Again, not mature. In mature 100 percent. But in startups, sometimes they come back to bite in the butt.
Hanna: [00:09:41] Now that’s a good philosophy to have because it’s amazing how incentive structures, even in mature businesses, can sometimes drive behaviors that are not always in the best interest of the organization.
Larry: [00:09:53] Absolutely. You know, and particularly in startups, you don’t have a lot of history . . .
Hanna: [00:09:59] Right.
Larry: [00:09:59] . . . so you don’t really have predictability. You can say next year’s sales should be one point one times higher or whatever it is. There’s really no history to it. So whatever the KPIs are, they’re basically totally arbitrary. So I think you could establish some rough benchmarks that people need to do. But I wouldn’t, again it’s why put them in a box that they’re going to be stuck in when the environment tells them they really need to change directions.
Hanna: [00:10:33] So let them have that flexibility. Awesome.
Larry: [00:10:36] Yeah. And if they don’t do it wisely, you get rid of them and you get smarter people. But, you know hire the best, smartest people you can hire people that are in each individual area. Actually, they’re smarter than you. I mean, you may be the overall broad person. You may have lead them, but just hire incredibly smart people. And, you either trust them and they do it, or they disappear.
Hanna: [00:11:03] Yeah. One way or the other, they disappear.
HOW NAMER’S HOLLYWOOD STRATEGY CAN TRANSFER TO MAIN STREET
Hanna: [00:11:08] All good, all good, so let me ask your advice about this, how could your approach to strategy be transferred to Main Street businesses?
Larry: [00:11:18] I think it does. I mean, particularly if you look at startups, I think my advice pretty much holds true there. And then if you look at more established businesses, again, the times are changing so quickly, so quickly and technology changes, consumer behavior changes, and stuff like that. It’s really the think through structures.
Larry: [00:11:43] Always be looking for where do I want to be next year, will be in three years, or five years. But realize that making hard conclusions and just being rigid is going to put you in a place that you’re probably going to regret. So to me, with all the changes that are going on in the world and the changes to come. I mean, I think Covid has just made people rethink stuff from soup to nuts. Create business structures that allow for this flexibility.
Hanna: [00:12:14] It’s forced people to rethink things. And even when things get back to an I’m to put quotes around it, “normal,” whatever the new normal is going to be, they’re going to keep some of those new features because they realize that customers, their clients, their marketplace likes these things. And it’s an additional revenue stream. So these are all kind of good developments, even though it’s been a baptism by fire, so to speak.
Larry: [00:12:39] Yeah. And you just look at certain things. I mean, I’ll give you example. I’m out in L.A. and I always wondered why L.A. never took advantage of a coastline, the beach, the gorgeous weather all the time and stuff like that. And it goes, you know, all these restaurants go inside now because they are forced to do outdoor dining. I believe this is the way you should live in L.A. We should be doing outdoor dining because we could do it 11 months out of the year. So things like that change that.
Larry: [00:13:11] When you look at just offices, I mean, I would hate to own commercial buildings in inner cities now because it used to be where all your employees had a report to work every day at a certain time and stuff. And now you realize that sometimes they don’t have to report to an office at all. They could work virtual and sometimes they only need to report one or two days a week. And you could put them on shifts and you could probably shrink the amount of space you rent dramatically. So I think you’ll see offices shrink, you know, where people actually have to go to.
Larry: [00:13:51] And then you just look at where people live. People pick a place to live that’s typically close to where they work well, so that forces you. So you would live in New York City and pay crazy high rents and whatever. But now if you’re working virtual, you can move to Connecticut. So you’re going to find all these apartments, and you see it now, my friends tell me the apartments world in New York, a lot of empty apartments and prices have come way down. And I’ve heard as much as 30% in terms of rent.
HOW CHANGE EMPOWERS NEW BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES
Larry: [00:14:26] So all of this stuff is changing. And then you look at the business opportunities there. The rise of Zoom. What was Zoom before the pandemic? I mean, I used to use it. I know a few other people, but it was not like part of your everyday life. But now you got Zoom and Microsoft Teams has caught up and Google Meeting Place and all those things. And it’s not done.
Larry: [00:14:52] There’s still going to be so much innovation in that work from home, virtual workplace kind of stuff.
Hanna: [00:15:00] It’s definitely an exciting time for sure one way or the other, whether you go into it with anxiety or you’re embracing it, right?
Larry: [00:15:07] Yeah. There is a silver lining. While the pandemic is horrible in just every way imaginable, it has created opportunities with things like I told you, even like the newest thing I’m involved in, which is called FanVestor, which is where fans can invest in the businesses or the careers of their favorite celebrities.
[00:15:35] Before the pandemic if I would talk to a music manager and suggest that their music artists get involved in real estate or in developing a clothing line or a fragrance line or, you know, anything like that, the response I would get, they go, “Larry, look, we’re really busy. That’s not the way we do things.” Well, for the first few months, that’s kind of the attitude, it’s that that’s not the way we do it. Everybody thought this would end a lot quicker.
Larry: [00:16:05] Now all these managers and lawyers and agents are looking at it and going, “Oh, my God, you know, it’s going on longer and it’s probably not the last time we’re going to have a bump in the road like this and while my acts may not be terribly worried because they got a ton of money in the bank, if my acts aren’t working, if my bands can’t do concerts and tours and festivals, I don’t get any commission and I can’t pay my mortgage.” So now all of a sudden all these folks are calling me back and going, “Hey, you remember that thing you were telling us about? You know, is that still open? Can so-and-so still do a clothing line” and things like that.
Larry: [00:16:44] So it’s really, it’s major, major changes in the businesses today and the businesses that will be tomorrow, the one thing that’s constant.
Hanna: [00:16:53] Right, the change.
Larry: [00:16:54] Yeah, absolutely! And that’s kind of the thing, is just, keep in your head that what the situation is today will most probably not be the situation a year from now.
PERSONAL HABITS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO NAMER’S SUCCESS
Hanna: [00:17:06] Right. So you said at the beginning of this interview that you just always had an eye for this type of stuff. What type of personal habits do you think have contributed to your success?
Larry: [00:17:21] Well, according to my friends, it’s like when my mother actually did drop me on my head when I was a year old. It’s true. When I broke my arm and stuff and according to my friends, that’s kind of the way everything else happened. It was something affecting my brain.
Larry: [00:17:39] But I’m just I’m a voracious reader. I read everything. And I’m curious. I’m curious. I have an unbelievable curiosity. So, I read magazines on crocheting and stuff like that. Yeah, not forever. But if I’m going to do a TV show and I got to show somebody crocheting, I’ve got to understand that crocheting thing. So I’ll read those things.
Larry: [00:18:10] I never fired a gun in my life when I read firearms books. And so I just read and read and read and then pay attention. I watch a lot of news, but not necessarily U.S. news. I like to see the way other countries are presenting or analyzing the news that we get here and stuff because it’s very different. You look at our election and you look at the way it’s being reviewed in China and Russia, and U.K. even, the reporting is just so much different. And I think you really do have to have a worldview now. You can’t have a U.S.-centric view anymore. Those days are over, just absolutely over.
Hanna: [00:18:58] Yes. The foreign point of view is always fascinating. And we’re just such a huge country here. I think we kind of go native when in reality we’re so interconnected and how other people see us around the world and their perspective is really fascinating. I definitely . . .
Larry: [00:19:17] Yeah . . .
Hanna: [00:19:17] . . . hear what you’re saying.
Larry: [00:19:18] I think in the US we got incredibly spoiled when the Soviet Union fell apart. It was that the big threat disappeared and we realized it was not a threat. And we basically controlled the world. We could do whatever we want. We were the center of the universe. Every Eastern European girl wanted to marry an American guy or come to America. We just enjoyed this incredible time. And we as a country didn’t realize that this is not a forever thing. Then you have the emergence of China and the days where we control everything are gone.
Larry: [00:20:04] And I mean, that’s one of the things that Americans are struggling with, is the fact that we’re no longer the center of the universe. And there are other countries out there, China being one. Vietnam and India and all these places are coming up. And we’re going to have to learn it really is a global environment. We’re part of the human race, not just Americans anymore.
Hanna: [00:20:31] That’s right. But I think if we embrace it we’ll all realize we’re going to be all richer for it. So, and I don’t mean that in a monetary sense, but in terms of different points of view and what we can learn from each other.
Larry: [00:20:42] Absolutely. Absolutely.
BEST BUSINESS ADVICE NAMER EVER RECEIVED
Hanna: [00:20:43] Yeah, definitely important. If you had to start your entrepreneurial journey over again, what would you do differently or wish that you knew then that you know now?
Larry: [00:20:56] I spent my first ten years at Time Inc working for other people, which was a great training ground. I probably should have started thinking of doing my own stuff a little bit earlier, but I mean, I certainly caught up. Just the whole idea of flexibility, going into things and knowing my idea is so good and just sticking with things too long, I think is the biggest problem that I’ve had. And I think one of the biggest problems entrepreneurs have today, quite honestly.
Larry: [00:21:39] I get up in the morning. I have ten new ideas. By the time I go to sleep at least nine of the ten I realize were really dopey and impractical. But I’m now, and this happened with age, smart enough to go, “OK, thought it was good, didn’t work, next.” Most people hang on too long and they spend, you know, the thing that you have that’s finite is time.
Larry: [00:22:05] We’ve got a lifetime. That said, however, we need to maximize the use of all the time we have. So, just because you have a good idea, it may have seemed like a good idea, but ego has you hold on to it, even to the point where logic would tell you it’s no longer valid or it wasn’t such a good idea to begin with. So the greatest strength that I’ve learned as I got older is the ability to let go and go. You know what? I thought it was good. Now I see it’s not time to cut loose and move on. And I don’t waste time on things that, where I’m fighting for to keep hold of something because my ego makes me do it.
Hanna: [00:22:47] That is good advice because I know I’ve done that myself, held on to things for too long where I should have let go sooner and made a pivot to something else. So definitely it’s easy to fall prey to that. What do you think was the best piece of business advice that you ever got?
Larry: [00:23:05] You know, when I worked, when I was in Manhattan Cable, when I worked for the Time, Inc. family, I worked for a guy named Nick Nicholas.
Larry: [00:23:13] And Nick went on from Manhattan Cable to become the president of Time Inc and then Time Warner and stuff. And he taught me, you know, I just kind of watched him and the way he did it. He was really tough, but he was always fair.
Larry: [00:23:29] He was demanding, you know, for performance and stuff. But you can never look at him and say that he wasn’t fair in what he and how he dealt with things. That saying firm, but fair was one.
Larry: [00:23:42] The other thing I learned from him is time management. When I first moved into management, he recruited me to move from being a union guy to being a management guy, one of the things he did is that if you sent him something, he wouldn’t necessarily act on it right away. He would put it in a drawer. One day I asked him, I said, “Why do you do that.” He goes, “Because 90% of this stuff people send me, a week from now, it doesn’t matter to them anymore, so unless they come back,” he goes, “I don’t waste my time dealing with it.”
Larry: [00:24:15] And I realize it’s absolutely true. People send you stuff and whatever, and then next week it’s just not that important them. But yet you’re working on it. Things like that. And then also phone calls, just again, it’s a lot of time management. I very rarely answer the phone for people. I mean, my kids have my emergency number and stuff like that.
Larry: [00:24:38] But I find whatever I’m working on and I get a phone call people change my priorities and my agenda to deal with what they want to deal with at that time. So I just have a thing with everybody. I go, “Look, if it’s an emergency, yeah, I’ll talk to you on the phone; but short of that, send me an email and I promise you that I will never, ever go to sleep without answering all my emails.” And I’ve stuck to that. It doesn’t make a difference how long I stay up. I answer every email and people are now used to the fact that I’m not going to answer the phone. But if you send me an email, you will get an answer that day.
Hanna: [00:25:22] That is great time management and you’ve trained them well, which is kudos to you.
Larry: [00:25:28] Yeah, after a while they get used to it. They realize . . . and the thing is, you’ve got to stick with it, so. Right. Yeah.
Larry: [00:25:35] Once they see that every email they send gets answered like immediately, but every phone call, you know, I told them, I said, “Look, leave a message for me, maybe I’ll answer you in three days, but if you sent me an email, I will answer it today.” So they just do it.
Hanna: [00:25:50] Well, that’s great advice. So to those folks that are listening, decide what your preferred method of communication is. If it’s a phone call, fine. If it’s email like Larry, fine. Let people know. And it’s one way to streamline your day and reduce those interruptions, which is other people constantly asking you to do what they want instead of what you want.
Larry: [00:26:12] Exactly. Exactly.
Hanna: [00:26:14] All right. Well, Larry, thank you so much for joining me today. You have been very generous in sharing your wisdom and your time. And I deeply thank you.
Larry: [00:26:23] It’s my pleasure. Thank you.
Hanna: [00:26:25] That’s our show for today. But don’t go anywhere. I have a really easy ask for you. Would you please open your podcast app and give us a five-star review and leave a comment about what you love most about the show? I do read them all and it’ll take you less than a minute. And while you’re at it, share this episode, tell someone about it, because the best way to grow our audience is by word of mouth. And if you want the detailed show notes, links to connect with my guest or stuff that we talked about, even if you want to ask a question, have a show idea. Come on over to BusinessConfidentialRadio.com. I’ll catch you on the next episode.
Hanna: [00:26:58] And in the meantime, have a great day and even better tomorrow.
Guest: Larry Namer
Larry Namer’s entertainment and media credentials are pure platinum. He is an entertainment industry veteran with close to 50 years of professional experience in cable television, live events and new media.
Larry is a founding partner of Metan Global Entertainment Group (MGEG), a venture created to develop and distribute entertainment content and media specifically for Chinese speaking audiences in China and abroad.
Mo recently, he was appointed Chief Operating Officer of FanVestor, an innovative data-driven ecosystem for celebrities, brands and their fans to become an investor and access exclusive experiences and rewards.
While Metan and FanVestor may not be a household names to you, the E! Entertainment Television network no doubt is and that’s Larry’s baby too. His co-founded it, and some baby – it’s now valued at over $4 billion USD.
Those three projects are just a small sample of his amazing portfolio of work. Along the way he has received tremendous accolades and won prestigious awards that are too numerous to mention.
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