Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn from Brown M&Ms

Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn from Brown M&Ms


Musicians and artists can be quirky, and some are famous for making absurd demands – because they can. Among the seemingly quirkiest: Van Halen (in the David Lee Roth days), who demanded that a bowl of M&Ms candies be available backstage, with all of the brown ones removed and there’s actually a brilliant reason for it, according to Insider.

The demand was buried in the rider to the performance contract – a rider that was roughly the size of the Manhattan phone book, and the M&Ms provision was placed inconspicuously within the document to ensure that the promoters actually read it. It primarily included technical specifications to do with lighting, staging, necessary infrastructure, security, etc.

There’s Always A Reason

Van Halen had a mammoth stage act, or as Diamond Dave explained, “At the time, it was the biggest production ever”…In many cases, the venues were too outdated or inadequately prepared to set up the band’s sophisticated stage,” and very specific technical needs had to be met to ensure that no one on either side of the stage got hurt due to a lack of attention to detail. If all of the provisions were not met, Van Halen had the right to keep all of the proceeds from the concert, which often totaled in the millions. Their litmus test? The brown M&Ms. If they spotted brown M&Ms, they knew that, chances were, the rider had not been fully read, much less adhered to, and the band would need to do a serious line check. Here’s the Diamond Dave interview that explains what proved to be a shrewd business move – and safety test.

The brown M&Ms were seemingly inconsequential – but God is in the details, entrepreneurs et al. Always a good idea to cross your proverbial ‘t’s and dot your ‘i’ and double-check the spelling: if you miss the small stuff, an investor or client with whom you are meeting might wonder what else you missed – or if you’re sloppy as a rule.

Which brings us to ‘team’

How many times have you heard an investor say that the team is one of the most important factors in their consideration? True, in a pitch deck/executive summary, the so-called order of importance is the problem, the solution, the differentiators, the TAM et al, and team is mentioned somewhere towards the end. There are those investors who will look at the problem, the proposed solution, and then go straight to who is on the team. Truth be told, most companies pivot in some way, and therein lies the rub: if the choice is between an A team with the B idea, or the B team with the A idea, the investor might just go for the former. As Brian Smiga of Alpha Venture Partners warned at our investor breakfast, “nothing ever goes as planned.” Chances are, the A team with focus on the problem until they’ve found the solution.  They’ve read the rider: they know about the brown M&Ms. The B team, maybe not so much.

As Insider reported, “High-profile musicians make all sorts of wild demands about their backstage set-ups at concerts: Kanye West reportedly requires a barber’s chair – and a whole list of other things – , and who can say why with any certainty, any more than you can know why investors or clients make specific and sometimes seemingly absurd or non sequiturial requests. One thing is for sure: everyone is being careful. They’re going to do their due diligence, in whatever form it may take. They’re going to be especially careful  to choose the right team. After all, investors and clients do expect a return on their investments. And they’re not going to sugar coat it. Onward and forward.


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