Video Transcript

00:09 Host: Over here, there is a question over here.

00:12 Audience Member: Greetings of peace, blessings, and love to you Brother Russ and your daughters. I'm Marvin Muhammad of All Faith Consortium. I also send greetings from the chief and mother. My question is when you are looking to hire individuals to work with your companies...

00:31 Russell Simmons: Individuals what?

00:32 Audience Member: Individuals that work with your companies.

00:34 Simmons: Yeah.

00:35 Audience Member: Do you look for those who have consciousness and awareness that you live by. And what do you look for when it's time for you to let folks go?

00:45 Simmons: Well, a lot of times people make themselves known by their work. Some people show up everyday and just do it. They just service. They work until you can't live without them and they become indispensable. Like Kevin Liles was an intern, he became a president. Mike Kyser was an intern, he became a president. Julie Greenwald was an intern, she became a president. Lyor Cohen was an intern, he became a chairman. I see it happen right there in front of me. They become... It's easy to be smarter than me at any of my jobs. It's very easy to walk in and just serve, and stay the craft, and continue to serve until you're indispensable, and add value. So, that's what I'm looking for, people who add value, and who are selfless, and are good servants that... A good servant is a great leader. He makes people better. I see people do it all the time. Then... I don't have to recognize it. It just hits me in the face.

01:51 Host: Thank you. There is a gentleman back there.

01:54 Audience Member: Bob Carzoli, CEO of Program Productions out of Chicago, also in the television production business. I think for most of us in this room we've had that moment in our career where we just knew something had changed. I don't know if 'made it' is the right word. But something happened that we got the right customer. We finally got the income statement that showed us we had crossed some threshold. I know you started with Def Jam in the music. Was there a moment, sitting in your car and hearing Run-DMC on the radio? Or, was there something that happened that you realized you kind of moved from A to B and had maybe crossed over into an area that you were hoping to get to?

02:47 Simmons: There are things, moments I can look back on, I like to say, because people ask me the question like, "When did you realize things were going okay?" And I look back and I always talk about going to Amsterdam in 1979, Christmas Rappin' was on the radio in Amsterdam. It wasn't in New York yet but it was a record we put out that was played in the clubs. And then we got an invitation. And I'd never been on the plane. And I got to Amsterdam and the president of the company met me at the airport, me and Kurtis Blow, 1979, Christmas Rappin'. "Mr. Simmons." I don't know who the fuck he was talking... "Mr. Simmons, what would you like?" And I was like, "Oh my God!", it was... I said, "I want some cocaine and some pussy." [laughter] And he said, "Yes, sir." [laughter] But, I find that when I look back though, it's not genuine to reassess those moments and say, "Well, that's not real". It's not genuine to do that. But I think about it, after all the years of experience, I think do never get anywhere. And those experiences, I don't wanna dole them down, but those results, that moment, it did remind me that I had done something. I was Mr. Simmons first of all, right. And I was a kid, me and Kurtis Blow, it was in the hood. We got this old white man searching Amsterdam for cocaine. It was good, the moment, it felt like a moment.

04:31 Host: Well, what about the second thing that you put in your order?

04:34 Simmons: Well, that was so easy 'cause what they... Amsterdam was...

04:36 Host: Okay.

04:43 Simmons: Did I say I don't use drugs, I'm a veg... I said that already?

04:45 Host: Yeah, you mentioned that. You know what? Can I ask you something though about women in the business world, if you don't mind my asking, because you're a parent and I was thinking about what this lady up front asked, the first question she asked you about this young... This friend of hers, I don't know how old she is, who is working all the time, and 80 hours a day, and this, and this, and this. You're a parent now, your peak earning years, your peak productive years also coincide with your peak reproductive years. And I'm just interested in how you... The women who were in your business, how they worked that out. Like your former wife, the business it seems like, the business with your family life was very much in alignment at one point. Your kids are very featured in your ads and stuff like this. But, I mean, do you have some... I was just interested to know if you have any specific advice for women who also wanna have what you have? They wanna have a family and they also wanna be successful, but, there is the biological reality of bearing kids. And then there is time that you wanna spend with them... So talk about it if you would.

05:42 Simmons: I'll talk about it a little bit but not much because I really don't have an answer. I don't know how I get to do it. But I do spend lot of the time with my two daughters and I spend a lot of time with... Like, Kimora and my daughters stayed in my house last night. I came in from Hong Kong. I get to see them. I'm here. So, it's tough. I mean Kimora takes... Aoki Lee was in her meetings yesterday. She spends a lot of time with her daughters but she also has help. And so, I don't know the answer to that. Each person has to manage it differently. The priorities have to be the children. And it's very difficult. And I wish I could give you an answer on that but that's... I don't know much about most things. And so that's one I really don't know much about except, you know, it's an effort, ongoing, and you do the best you can.

06:41 Host: Alright. So Inc, we want to hear from Kimora next year about how she does it.

06:45 Host: Yeah.

06:52 Host: Don't act like you don't hear me.

06:55 Audience Member: Hello. My name is Matthew Woodford. I represent Gift Giving, Inc., from...

06:58 Host: Can't hear. We can't...

06:59 Audience Member: Hello. My name is Matthew Woodford. I represent Gift Giving, Inc., from Detroit, Michigan. Modern philanthropy is the term used to describe your philanthropic endeavors. How important is giving back to the communities that support us is for non-profit, I mean, for for-profit companies?

07:14 Host: Could you all hear?

07:14 Simmons: He wants to know how important is giving back.

07:17 Audience Member: Yeah, for for-profit companies, how does it...

07:19 Simmons: For what?

07:19 Audience Member: For for-profit companies.

07:21 Simmons: Before profit?

07:22 Audience Member: For for-profit companies. For-profit, not non-profits. So how important... How much more important business owners to give back?

[overlapping conversation]

07:34 Simmons: To build a business?

07:35 Audience Member: Yes.

07:36 Simmons: You know, I... The financial service company grew last month over a month, a year over a year about 160%. We stepped up our marketing, branding. We're just looking for ways to spend money. We can't find enough ways to spend money. We cannot find places to spend money, productive places. You look to me like we have... I know somebody who can give money to.

08:00 Simmons: No, but we are looking all the time for where we can spend more money. I mean, we're building a business. I feel that way about any business. If you believe in it, find ways to build it and not to be afraid. I don't like just... But they're all different. And they all require different... I don't want to spend money that's not productive. I want to spend money that's productive. So, like I said, we're looking for ways to spend money. That's an important point. Both sides. One, you have to find productive ways to spend the money and if not, maybe if you have to take the profits out, you take it out once it builds up. But that's... Each situation is different.

08:44 Host: We're gonna have the last question over here and then I'm going to give you three minutes to give us a takeaway, a closing thought, whatever you want us to walk away with. And we also want to mention, you are just in from Asia, literally in from China last night. So...

08:56 Simmons: Thank you.

08:56 Host: We appreciate that you're...

08:57 Simmons: I'm happy to be here.

08:58 Host: Here, and sitting upright, and your eyes are sort of open without a Red Bull.

09:02 Host: So, here. Last question over here.

09:04 Audience Member: Okay. Thank you so much. As you're surrounded by entrepreneurs, new and seasoned, what is your greatest business lesson learned?

09:13 Simmons: If I'm...

09:14 Audience Member: Your greatest lesson learned.

09:16 Simmons: Oh, shit. [laughter] You know, people ask me what's my favorite record, artist, experience and I used to really be able to point to a record or an experience. And, again, I think that that, when I look back on it, it's because people have taught you to frame these answers, then you have to give 'em an answer. That answer about Amsterdam, it was a good moment, I guess. It was a bright moment. In other words, it's something you remember. You want to do all things that have lasting memories. You know what, you get older, time flies because the same... The yogis refer to some sky cycle of the same things over and over again, they don't cause any impression. They don't promote... That's why you say, "Oh, time flies," 'cause it's the same shit.

10:05 Simmons: So the truth is I want... And I have a lot of experiences. When they say, "What's your favorite record?" I say, "That's the one on the radio. The one right now, that's playing right now. This feels just like my favorite record." Or, this experience right now is special, learning about whatever it is that you're doing at that moment is special. Not a better moment than that moment in Amsterdam, that moment is not better. There were moments that shocked you into awareness but you want to get into awareness without the shock. You want to live in a place where you can see as you drive by every flower. You want to be able to see all the shit that's unfolding in front of you. This is your own intense practice, to find this kind of vision. It had nothing to do with what's on the outside.

10:57 Simmons: So this is something that I try to get away from, "This is my favorite, it happened on this day." I can experience it and remember it, and that's nice but I want to remember it all. I don't want to give that much credence to any experience when every experience should have the same kind of flower from it, everything should have that. So I don't have a... Maybe I don't have a best experience. Experiences are... They're all good if you're awake.

11:28 Host: You wanna take a minute? We have a minute and a half left just to give people a closing thought. I personally want to know what's up with the Argyle but...

11:34 Simmons: Oh. Is there something wrong with it?

11:36 Host: But whatever it is that you'd like to send people away with, whatever is your last thought for them before they take their leave of you.

11:44 Simmons: Argyle Culture. Argyle Culture is a clothing company that... There was this urban explosion and there were billions of dollars made and then one day it said, "Urban is dead. All of you go home." Because there's not one black person so, "All of you'll go home." But there's an urban graduate, they're not as aggressive as kids, but the urban graduate, they're 80% non-black. And they... What do they do? What do hip-hop kids do? They all buy Lacoste. They all got to buy Polo. Or, can there be something different? And is there a new American kind of image and idea for cool American shit and do we have a little bit more colors in our shit that's a little different? That's Argyle. All of my businesses are pretty much urban graduates except for the financial service. The TV people grew up with this kind of American and hip-hop influence. They need things and the gatekeepers don't know how to give it to 'em. So, that's what I try to build on. And what I want people to take away from this, I did say take the chapter on meditation, and the book is about happiness, and about giving, and about being in the cycle of giving, and then receiving as a result.

12:48 Simmons: Jesus taught two sermons. One was just be a great giver, be a great servant, and you don't have to worry about the Romans. I know they got tax issues and you got to pay 'hem, just do the work. If you do the work and without concern, without any kind of selfish motivation, you will have no problem paying the Romans. But then he told the masses something different than he told his disciples, good givers are great getters. If you are a great giver, don't worry, you are going to be a great getter. But that's more of a trade as opposed to a selfless giving spirit because everybody don't go for that, just go out and give. But good givers are great getters and that's what the book is about. And the idea of being super rich is the state of needing nothing which is the state of yoga, the state of samadhi, nirvana, Taqwa, Christ consciousness, the state of needing nothing and operate from that kind of abundance. And if you operate from that abundance then you'll be a great entrepreneur. You may not be the greatest businessperson, like I talked about earlier, but you will be a great entrepreneur if you operate with a real, sincere wanting to serve. So, that's it.

14:06 Host: Russell Simmons.

14:06 Simmons: Thank you.

14:07 Host: Thank you.