Exclusive Interview with Entertainment and Business Tycoon, Mathew Knowles
Okay, now you know this was one of my crème’ dela crème moments in writing history—interviewing the entertainment magnate, Mathew Knowles.
Mathew Knowles is a successor by default. His parents were the first to introduce him to hard work, structure, and discipline by their own acts. In case you forgot, this is a solid advantage in any family, especially African American.
If you don’t mind me being generously truthful, I’d like to add that there is certainly a difference between how parents raised children back in the day and now. Parents supported one another’s decision about the child’s future and wellbeing.
This generation as a whole, is radically dissimilar... I still believe in the biblical saying, “Train up a child in the way that he should go, and he will not depart from it.” Knowles walked in his mother’s steps, and began his fist job selling quilts on the weekends, which is an interesting trade for a kid. Nevertheless, it was an occupation—a game changer that set everything else in motion.
Knowles was the first African American to graduate from Litchfield Junior High School and Gadseon High school. His drive was supreme, thus arriving Knowles at the University of Tennessee as the first African American student.
Knowles attended Fisk University and graduated with a Bachelors of Arts in Economics and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. Knowles received an Honorary PhD from Cornerstone Christian Bible College in addition to Fisk University. He started out lofty. So, it’s a no brainer that he took the road less traveled for success.
Mr. Knowles outstripped in sales for Johnson and Johnson as well as Picker International to name a few. Xerox named Mr. Knowles the Sales Representative of the Year for both regional and the worldwide level, seven years in a row. This man was sincerely bionic! But, that goes back to what I originally shared. We are the model for our children to follow, which brings me to the next phase of this article.
Knowles barreled into the 90’s as an originator and leader of the Music World Entrainment. He hijacked the music scene with this bolt from the blue company. Music World received over 300 million in worldwide record sales alone.
Mr. Knowles was key frontrunner in artist development, endorsements, as well as partnerships that expanded. I’ve tried my best not to mention it because you should know the megastar group that he managed.
Knowles executive produced an unmarked number of award winning, platinum, and gold albums for “Destiny’s Child”, and not to mention, he spearheaded their group as manager.
His dexterous business knowledge allowed him to unite with the likes of Sonny Music, Interscope/ Geffen, and Fontana/ Universal. This doesn’t include the endorsement deals with American Express, General Mills, Pepsi Co, L’Oreal, and Verizon, just to name a few prominent and highly regarded businesses.
Knowles has lead one of the most victorious careers as an executive that started from the ground up. When I hear stories like this, and then I get to speak with the man that did it all, it brings things into perspective for a person with vision and gumption… You can do anything you want, as long as you start.
Knowles is now a professor at Texas Southern University. His courses range from entertainment management to entrepreneurship and etcetera. He’s erudite. He deserves a lifetime achievement award in my book for all of his accomplishments.
Although Mr. Knowles visits Universities, and does workshops, he wanted to create a resourceful and obtainable parable that everyone could enjoy, while learning how to achieve success. Hey, if you must get information about the music business, or being an entrepreneur, why not acquire it from someone that actually practiced before they decided to teach it. You can gain a great deal of knowledge from his business enterprise… Knowles created the secrets to success in his latest manuscript “The DNA of Achievers: 10 Traits of Highly Successful Professionals.”
I want to know about the transition of MWE into the educational manifesto as a college professor. Were you always a professor? This is my tenth year. I taught at Fisk University where I graduated from for two years, and now for eight years, I’ve taught at Texas Southern University. I teach entrepreneurship as well as the school of communication. I teach business management, recording industry, as well as artist management.
When did the “Ah-ha” light go off and you knew you needed to write this manuscript? Well for me that moment was on a flight. When you’re on that plane, you sometimes talk to that neighbor sitting next to you, and normally the first thing out of their mouth is, “What do you do?” And so, when you ask that question, some people talk a little bit about it and others talk a lot about it.
The thing that killed me is that most of the time, the certain people that I talked to say the same thing. Then I started thinking about people that I know. I looked at my own life, and I realized these were ten common traits. A couple of the phrases, I named myself, and others it was thinking outside the box. But, these are common traits that different people have. Then I said “I’m going to write a number of books. I always wanted to do this. I probably should do the Destiny’s Child book first and then I decided to do this one first.
I loved the grammar expressions and the Wikepedia references. Although you’re knowledgeable, you didn’t put it in there as though you had all the answers. I definitely respect that. Why take so much time to create a thought provoking manuscript? It took me two years. You know, I was so fortunate. I had thirty people in the book that also tell their stories and also relate to each chapter with each trait. About twenty-five of those people, I know, and I work with them. Some, I didn’t really know. One lady, I met on the plane, and sat next to her. She had an incredible story. Others, I was in a different place, and I was introduced to them. And, to just have my friends be a part of it, and hear them tell their stories… So, you can see the commonality that existed.
Then it all starts with one. See, you can’t have the ten traits unless you have this one, and that’s in chapter one. It’s passion, and passion drives itself. If you’re not passionate about what you do, (“You know this”) then you probably won’t be successful. I will say that if you live your passion, you’ll never work a day in your life, and that’s what it’s all about. Think about that, “If I live my passion, I’ll never work a day in my life.” So, are you passionate about what you do, Tawanda (Yes, he really asked me that)? Do you think you’re at work or you’re having fun? (I had to tell the truth… I have a full-time job. This is was I do because I love it.) “How about that-- I’m pleased to hear that. Folks need to hear you say that. You do that because you’re having fun,” says Knowles contentedly.
I’m thinking about what I do. I’m having fun with things. I never know how the day is gonna go. But, to me, it started as a young man, and dreaming. Dreaming about how one day what it could be, and taking all of that visionary. That’s what being a visionary is about, it’s taking that idea into fruition and then it comes to be. That’s what passion really is. It’s also being a visionary and having those dreams that we all have. I’m sure you have dreams that you think about and something you think about all the time. We all do. If you choose to bring the dream to life, that’s the most fulfilling thing that we can have is being able to have a dream and then visualize it; have a vision, and finally pull it to life. You know, when I look at my kids, Solange and Beyonce, and I see how happy they are when they were little kids, and I mean young kids, seven, eight, and nine-years old, it was their dream. They wanted to be in this industry, and always wanted to be the bright star shining, and that gives me a lot of pride and happiness to see them reach their dreams.
I saw where you said risk takers in the book, and you elaborated on that. You said, “risk takers and you made the literal move to Houston.” But, you didn’t feel like you took that risk then. So, what’s the difference between taking the risk and taking action? In the book, I talk about coming to Houston, from Nashville Tennessee. I had no job. I literally left Nashville because Texas Seven played Tennessee State, and I drove out. I was enamored with the city-- amazed. I said, “The only way that I’m going to accomplish my dream is to come out here, and I came out with no job, and no place to stay. I asked a fraternity brother, “Can I stay a month with you?” and I remember my fraternity brother he was married. His wife said, “You have to sign a contract. You can only stay here a month, and after that, you got to get out.” That risk paid off for me. I took a risk also in entertainment by not moving to New York, LA, or Atlanta, by starting a record label and management company in Houston. That was a risk cause as you know, that’s not what Houston is known for.
Would you agree that a lot of businesses, especially using your formula, should they play it more safely or take more risk? Well, my philosophy about risk is, “let it be a risk.” And, once you accomplish it, it has high rewards. Some people take risk on small things in business and it really isn’t going to impact the business, and if it’s not going to impact the business, you may not want to take a risk. The greater the impact, those are the risk that you wanna seriously look at and take. Again, I really risked quitting corporate America, and getting into the music industry. Nobody had a record deal. That was a risk. My passion drove my risk. My vision that I had for this idea, also drove my risk. It made me feel comfortable because I had thought this all the way out. I was prepared. I went back to college so I could better understand the music industry. Did you know that by the time I decided to get into the music industry, I actually went back to college and took courses?
Do you think it had a better impact on you once you went to college? It was a combination and a number of things. It was the knowledge I had from being in Corporate America and sales marketing. It was going back to college and understanding the music production courses and music management as well as artist management. It was going to about twenty seminars, seminars all across the country, any seminar that I could get into to hear someone talk about the music industry and to also build relationships by being at those conferences. It was all of those combinations. Not one specifically, but all of the combination.
Wow, that was a lot of work. Now the book, you said that over thirty people assisted you with this project. But it is a solo project and a new reign for you as an author, and it’s already on the best sellers list. How does that make you feel? Well, I had a lot of gratitude to a lot of people. Gratitude to others folks, friends of mine that said yes, that they would absolutely be honored to be part of this book. Also gratitude to the folks’ who already brought the book. We brought a strategy that we do in the music industry. We brought that strategy to do the book publishing and launching this book. It’s similar to the strategy when we first launched Destiny’s Child that we got from Corporate America. It’s been a learning experience and combination of ideas and building the right team. It’s really critical. And one of the traits of the DNA of Achievers – and again it’s a combination. Let’s not forget, having artist that were extremely passionate. You even said earlier, “it’s a lot of work.” I immediately thought, “No. It wasn’t a lot of work. It was a lot of fun cause I wasn’t working. I was having fun.”
I guess that’s the reason for the book. To think outside the box because what’s abnormal may be normal to someone that wants to become successful. Is that what you’re working towards with this book? Absolutely, and the thing you said, “Thinking outside the box.” Most people, Tawanda, are boxed- in- thinkers. Not thinking outside the box because they’re always thinking inside the box, and that’s because they were conditioned at a young age by parents, teachers, and by society. “You can’t do this. You can’t do it because you’re a woman. You can’t do it because you’re poor. You can’t do it because you have a different lifestyle.” They’re conditioned because they can’t do a certain thing and so they stay boxed-in, boxed-in thinker, and the people who they associate with are just like them. If you’re a hater, I guarantee you the people you associate yourself with are haters. If you’re positive, I guarantee you that the people you associate with are positive, and once you take yourself outside of that box... See, inside that box is nothing but walls. Everywhere you go, when you walk, those walls are stopping you. If you think outside the box, there’s no wall. You can do as much or as little as you’d like to do.
This is part of your legacy, right? I won’t decide that. You will.
If you were to leave this earth, what do you want to be known for? The most important thing for me to be known for is( I told my wife this the other day) if I walked this world, my celebration, it would give me nothing but joy if all the people that I’ve helped and the people that I never knew or had an idea, just came up and said a few words. All the people that are homeless on the corner, and they have their sign. I give them a hundred dollars, and they look and smile. More importantly, I’ll pull over and give them a hug cause nobody wants to hug them. That’s what I would want. I want people to come and say, “The impact that Mr. Knowles had on me when he came up and gave me that hug, and this unconditional love he gave when he looked me in my eye and shook my hand—and said, “God bless you, Brother.” Those are the people that I want to say something.
What else can we expect from you? Right now, I’m pretty passionate about continuing the education and motivation in two areas in entrepreneurship. Teaching folks and sharing ideas with folks of how to open businesses, how to market a business, and how to build a client base. Also, the secondary is in the entertainment and music industry, as well as how to get into the music industry. For example, on October 24 in Houston at the Hobby center. I have a seminar I’m giving and it’s going on all day. It’s called, “The entertainment industry: How do I get in? You can go to eventbrite.com and get a ticket. I’m going to do a lot of those seminars, and online education as well as modules that will help folk in music as well as entrepreneurship. I’ve started on my second book, the story is “Destiny’s Child.” I’m excited about that. Some other books are on the way. I’m going to continue to write, motivate and educate. That’s what I’m going to continue to do.
Do you think being genuine is a key component to success? I think that people can see through someone when someone is not real. The average person is smart and can see through that. One of the traits in the chapters is learning from failure. Successful people, they fail. Being honest about failure is something else. Failure is an opportunity to grow, and not a reason to quit. Let me say it again, “Failure is an opportunity to grow and not a reason to quit. Being vulnerable, and being open, while sharing that with others cause we can learn from mistakes. It all goes together with risk taking and building this team; thinking outside the box, having a passion, and having an idea, and working hard on it. That’s what this book is talking about, and that’s what makes it unique. At the end of every chapter, there’s a worksheet. I want you to get a pen, and I wanna ask you some questions, and I want you to answer them so you can really understand that chapter and how it relates to the following chapter. This is a work thing. It’s not just reading, there’s gonna be some work with it.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share? I want everyone that reads this interview to take it to action and get the book. You can go two places. You can get an e-book, or go to Amazon.com. You can go to https://dnaofachievers.com/and you can get the hardback or paperback, and I’ll autograph it and send it to you…