Business leaders and entrepreneurs, listen up: the latest Simon Sinek book isn't the only place to get inspiration for your work. You don't need to look at the next innovation from Apple to learn what you should be applying to your venture. If you want to create a loyal following but don't have a huge budget, learn from the people who achieve these goals on limited resources all the time: musicians.
Here are nine business lessons that you can learn from musicians:
1. Make fans, not customers. Many businesses are so focused on selling their products and services that they focus on short-term transactions rather than developing long-term relationships that provide a higher return on investment over time. Musicians often don't think about who they sell to -- instead, they find ways to establish a relationship where fans feel appreciated, connected, and emotionally vested in the artist's success. There's a reason why the highest Klout score list tends to be dominated by musicians and not world leaders, CEOs or brands. They have interactive social media that is focused on their audience.
Musicians who have a solid fanbase know that they can turn to them for investments such as crowdfunding or for spreading the word about a new project. You want to create that kind of loyalty with your own customer base.
2. Timing is Everything. When playing music, it's important to hit the right notes at the right time -- otherwise, a song can quickly turn into a raucous mess. It's the same with business: a great idea is useless if executed prematurely or after the market has already moved. Entrepreneurs need to see what is happening with their partners, their staff, their competitors and their audience. Know when to take action, not just how. Rushing can often ruin things -- build your business with patience and strike when the moment is right.
3. Harmony. When performing music, harmony is achieved through the combination of simultaneously sounded, but different, notes. The result is a pleasing sound that is often more powerful than what a single not can achieve. In any company, it's important to have harmony in the staff who can express different skill sets and passion but are unified through one mission/vision. Often, business leaders narrowly focus on one area (such as sales), thereby creating imbalance that doesn't lead to long term, sustainable growth. In music, it's all about complementary notes. When developing an organization's team, it should be about complementary skills and experiences.
4. Collaboration. Most musicians need rely on a band -- even solo acts need support in the way of management, publicists and a legal team. In addition, artists usually get support through sponsors, investors and advisors. Businesses should also learn how to create alliances within their industry, with nonprofit organizations, or other entrepreneurs/leaders who specialize in other fields, to find opportunities to work together. This could be developing an advisory council for their organization, establishing new ways to help their local community or a charitable cause, or for mentoring aspiring businesses.
5. Everything depends on the conductor. Whether it is a small combo band or an orchestra with over 100 players, musicians depend on a conductor who understands the big picture and can provide real-time feedback to the group. No matter how talented the individual musicians might be, having a bad conductor can ruin the entire performance. In every organization, the success or failure often depends on the leader. As John C. Maxwell states, "everything rises and falls on leadership." He calls it "the law of the lid," the idea where a person's effectiveness depends on their leadership skill. You cannot develop a sustainable competitive advantage if you do not continue to grow your skills with the size of the organization. You need to lift the lid of your skills in order to bring the entire group with you. Remember, people don't leave companies -- they leave management.
6. Success depends on originality. While artists often rely on musical trends, they still need originality in order to distinguish themselves and be successful. Cover bands don't top the charts. Whether you run a tech company or a nonprofit, your uniqueness is your greatest strength, not how well you emulate others. Getting inspiration from an industry leader can help generate ideas, but replicating an exact business model will often backfire and can leave your organization stagnant.
7. Passion fuels the work. "The starving artist" is a common label that people put on musicians who are passionate about their craft and are willing to make deep sacrifices for their music. Passion gives musicians resiliency and drive. Business leaders should also be as passionate about the work that they do -- either their products and services or the people they serve. Leaders can re-focus on their passion and values, not just the bottom line, to develop that kind of contagious spirit. Just as live performances are uninteresting when musicians lack emotional investment, an organization is uninspiring when its people don't have passion.
8. Get scrappy. Musicians often have to learn how to get by and little to no budget, especially in the early stages of their career. That means knowing where to invest time and resources, how to stretch the dollar, and often times, learning how to get things done themselves (running the business of their art). Often, business owners waste precious resources through misguided efforts -- for example, outsourcing their social media instead of learning how to do it on their own. Business leaders need to learn how to cut waste and maximize their resources.
9. Constantly work on the craft. Even at the highest peaks of their career, musicians will constantly rehearse to develop and grow their skills. Many of the world's best singers have vocal coaches to expand their range and technique. Business leaders should follow suit. In addition to reading books and attending trendy leadership conferences, entrepreneurs should be working on their strengths, expanding/enhancing their products and services, and learning betters ways to communicate to their staff, partners, and audience. No matter how successful one is, they should be filled with a sense of wonder and thirst for learning.
Businesses can often find valuable lessons by looking at unexpected, but analogous industries. In many ways, successful musicians exhibit all of the best qualities of an entrepreneur: creativity, tenacity, passion, and an ability to create an audience that falls in love with them. By learning these kinds of skills, you can be a rockstar in your own industry.