Wayne Rogers first made a name for himself as Trapper John McIntyre on M*A*S*H in the early 1970s. In this web exclusive, Rogers explains how he overcame stereotypes as an actor turned businessman and how to avoid playing it too safe.
SUCCESS: How did people initially respond to you as a businessman? Did they take you seriously early in your career, or did you have to work to change their perception of you?
Wayne Rogers: To the people who are in business, people who are painters or sculptors or actors are liberal, left-wing hippies who smoke dope. But, there’s a cliché attitude on both sides—from business people as well as artists.
I didn’t pay any attention to it. I just decided early on that it wasn’t going to bother me. I’m going to do what I want to do.
SUCCESS: You say bringing out the best in people is often more important than raw knowledge of the business. How do you bring out the best in people?
WR: I think you have to go through a test. It’s when your back is against the wall, when you’re in periods of stress or distress; it’s when it’s difficult that you see people at their best. Those stress tests bring out the best. You find that out with partners, with people who work for you and with people who work for you. The people who handle those stress tests are going to be the most successful.
SUCCESS: When people are in tight financial positions, it may be tempting to stick with the conventional, safe thing. What are some keys to making unconventional, yet financially sound, decisions when they’re considering taking the entrepreneurial plunge.
WR: If you’re going to play safe, the chances are you are never going to get there. You have to go ahead and jump off the end of the diving board at some point. You’re going to find yourself, and you’re going to find whether or not you can do it. Failing is not the end of the world. In fact, maybe in failure you learn more than you do in success. You’ve got to take the risk.
You’ve got to emotionally prepare yourself for the probability of failure and say: “So be it. I’m going to keep trying because I believe in this thing that I’m doing.”
Start by doing your homework. Gather all the factual information you can. But the part that is difficult is pushing away from the shore. That’s the part that you have to prepare yourself for, I think.