The Definitive Guide to Business

Russell Simmons: The secret to success is being the dumbest person in the room

Russell Simmons
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Russell Simmons

Russell Simmons is prolific.

The hip-hop mogul is the founder of Def Jam Records, Phat Farm clothing company, All Def Digital online content company and the list goes on.

The secret to having multiple successful businesses operating at once is to hire people who are smarter than you to run the day-to-day operations of your company, Simmons tells CNBC.

"You put your head down and you work very hard until you attract the right people," says Simmons, 58.

Every manager at Simmons' various companies is better than he is at that particular task, he says. And that's intentional.

"I am very lucky that, over time, I am able to find people to help build out the ideas that I have — people who are smarter than me to help deliver on the promises," says Simmons.

Since he is so dependent on his team, Simmons is careful to hire slowly and precisely. "You have to really spend time understanding what the people's skill sets are and where they are useful," he says.

But once he has hired someone, he backs off. He knows what he doesn't know and lets the employee do what they do best.

"I am always asking [managers], 'What do you need?'" says Simmons. "I work for them, the people who understand the businesses. I work for them."