What can Elvis teach us about business?

What can Elvis teach us about business?

“I’m as helpless as can be
I become a puppet on a string”

From Elvis Presley’s Song “Puppet on a String”

Its over 40 years since the death of the “King of Rock-n-Roll” Elvis Presley.

What does Elvis have to do with business?

Elvis died of a heart attack at the relatively young age of 42. Exemplified by his estate at Graceland, Elvis became known for a life of excess and luxury, owning three pink Cadillacs to a private jet. This lifestyle finally caught up with him. Combined with years of substance abuse and poor dietary habits which resulted in multiple ailments including glaucoma, high blood pressure, liver damage, and an enlarged colon, he went from a 1950-1960s sex symbol to an overweight unhealthy man who died a premature death almost bankrupt.

It is a sad story of decline through excess and poor choices and could parallel a business failing for similar reasons. For example, Kodak grew fat on a film based processing business model and despite inventing the digital camera filed for bankruptcy in 2012. However, there is another more positive lesson from the Elvis Presley story.

When Elvis died in 1977 he had less than a million dollars in his bank account and probably would have been bankrupt within a few years had he lived. However, in 2016 his estate earnt more than $US27 million ($A34 million) with total record sales heading towards 1.5 billion!

Was what is the lesson or message here?

Businesses must be able to continue to prosper and grow without the owner or CEO having to be working in the business.  Like the words of the Elvis song “I became a puppet on a string’, businesses should not be reliant only the owner or CEO.

The Elvis Presley business continued to grow significantly after his death.

What is the takeaway message of what I call the Elvis Business Model?

Have a business that can operate without you working in the business on a day to day basis. In other words, a business continuity plan.


What are you, as a business owner doing about creating a business that can operate without you on a daily basis?


Life Cycle

Life Cycle

“All product categories have a specific life span called the product life cycle. Brands or products typically go through five stages of growth: development, introduction, growth, maturity and decline”

Yes, we all know about a product life cycles, just look at what car manufacturers do by redesigning car styles. Business leaders and business owners have a life cycle too! The issue is to know where you are in your career or business life cycle and to then plan and act accordingly.

CEOs of family businesses often have great difficulty in “letting go”. The issue is often an emotional one. Many business owners have invested so much time and money working long hours that they see stepping down as being “put out to pasture”. Ego, loss of self-worth, so called RDS (relevance deprivation syndrome – which retiring politicians claim they suffer from!) and perceived lifestyle all play a part.

Great leaders know when it’s time to pass the baton. We saw how John Howard, the former Prime Minister refused to hand over the leadership to Peter Costello. The result was a lost election in 2007, Costello leaving politics, Howard losing his seat (only the second prime minister to do so) and the Liberal party having 3 leaders in 3 years.

All businesses must have a succession plan. There are two types of succession plans; short term or emergency succession plans (the “what happens if you are hit by a bus?” scenario) and long term succession plans which protect your company’s culture, value and future. If you are a family owned business you owe it to your family, employees and customers to have a well planned and executed succession plan.

There is no greater satisfaction than mentoring and training a replacement successfully. If you do not plan for your succession then you have failed as a leader and have failed your business.

So know where you are in your career and business life cycle and start succession planning. It is not a sign of weakness but of strength and you will be recognised for it. I have seen too many companies suffer because there was not a well planned and executed succession plan.

Start planning now…