KISS bassist Gene Simmons and frontman Paul Stanley have worked together for 40 years, developing a hard rock empire that Simmons thinks is worth somewhere between $US1 billion to $US5 billion.
In Simmons’ new book on his business approach, “ME, Inc.,” he says that Stanley is “the brother I never had,” and uses him as the model for an ideal business partner.
Like real brothers, the two have had plenty of disagreements and arguments, but they have remained the band’s only two original members because they share the same vision and what Simmons tells Business Insider is a “blue collar work ethic.”
“Don’t sweat the small stuff. Just find a partner who brings something to the table and an expertise that you don’t have,” Simmons says.
He tells us that problems between cofounders inevitably arise, but they can only be overcome if there are shared values.
Simmons and Stanley met in New York City in 1970 when Simmons’ band Wicked Lester recruited Stanley as a rhythm guitarist. The two decided that the band lacked focus but that the two of them were on the same page. They brought on Ace Frehley as lead guitarist and Peter Criss as drummer and reinvented themselves as KISS by the end of ’72.
As the band exploded in popularity over the next decade, Simmons and Stanley took the lead in approving contractual decisions and songwriting responsibilities.
The differences in effort and personalities between the two halves became too much for the ambitious Simmons and Stanley to deal with, especially when substance abuse became an issue. Criss was kicked out in 1980 and Frehley booted in ’82.
“Life is a football game. You don’t want to pass the ball to somebody who’s going to fall on their face because they’re drunk or high or don’t want to work that day because guess what, then the whole team loses,” Simmons tells us.
Because Simmons and Stanley have worked together for so long, they certainly have butted heads, but they both believe that business partners need to be honest with each other, even when it’s not pretty.
In his recent autobiography, “Face the Music: A Life Exposed,” Stanley says he thinks that Simmons’ ego has gotten in the way of their work at times, and that it’s a huge overstatement to consider Simmons the sole brains behind KISS.
Simmons admits that he tends to be arrogant, but it’s only because he’s completely sure of himself.
It’s telling that the two are comfortable both criticising and praising each other.
In his book “Zero to One,” billionaire investor and entrepreneur Peter Thiel likens founding a company with a business partner to getting married. It’s important for cofounders to have complementary skill sets, he explains, but they need to share a vision and actually like each other so that they can overcome problems that arise.
The two have certainly complemented each other in their development of KISS. Simmons had a drive to take every business opportunity that came his way, while Stanley took the lead on writing songs that topped the charts.
In addition to their own businesses, Simmons, now 65, and Stanley, 62, still play with KISS, alongside band members Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer.
“And with Paul, as the brother I never had, there is nothing we can’t do. It’s almost 2015! Watch us burn rubber,” Simmons writes.