“Trapper John” Reveals How He Became a Business Star

Wayne Rogers, best known for his role as Trapper John on the now classic TV series M*A*S*H, is a man with many hats. He’s weaved in and out of acting roles to take such leads as a founding shareholder of six banks, real estate developer, and co-owner of a vineyard, restaurant, convenience store chain, and, not surprisingly, a film distribution company, among other things. He even owns a minority interest in a Major League baseball team, the Oakland A’s. And, it appears, he hasn’t struck out. In fact, he’s helped turn around distressed businesses, including Kleinfeld, the largest bridal retailer in the nation and star of the TLC smash hit, Say Yes to the Dress. What’s his secret? Rogers says that his successes — acting and business — are all thread together by the creative process.

In his book, Make Your Own Rules: A Renegade Guide to Unconventional Success, Rogers talks about the things that are common to both the arts and entrepreneurship. I spoke to him while he was writing the book.

“[I]t’s not that different,” he says of the two. “There is a creative process that goes on.” Rogers said that when he creates a character, he wants to know everything he can about him — from what style of clothes he wears to how he behaves. And so he must figure that out as actors do. In business, where he had no experience and therefore no preconceived ideas, he takes the same approach of immersing himself in it to learn everything about it.

Rogers has also applied his creative process to fundraising for the Emerald Coast Child Advocacy Center in Niceville, Florida. With so many fledgling, grassroots charities out there, I thought it would be interesting to learn how Rogers gets people to give generously to benefit those in need.

Rogers likes local charities. He thinks that they tend to be more focused. If you’re personally involved in a local charity, “you have a better chance of seeing the results of your charitable work,” he said. Even with a local chapter of a national organization you can see that something is actually happening with your money.

Contrary to the heart-tugging approach many national charities use to get the dollars pouring in, Rogers says donors ante up the big bucks when they’re having fun and when friendly competition is involved.

Once, he auctioned off an autographed jersey of a Heisman trophy winner who played for Florida State’s rival, the University of Alabama, Roger’s home state. Given the location, not too far from Florida State, there was plenty of conversation about that sweaty shirt, and that raised a lot of money.

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