5 Business Lessons We Can Learn From Musicians

The day-to-day practices of a famous band may seem worlds away from running a business, but remember that since a band is just a different type of (very successful, in some cases) business, many of the governing principles are the same. Though the words may differ, the way a band achieves success is quite applicable to the daily running of a business. Here are five lessons that we can learn from musicians and bands to make our own businesses successful.

1. Remember the Harmony

Imagine a well-rehearsed band, playing a familiar song. One band member decides independently to build on, improve, or change the already-familiar tune by adding in a new harmony. The band has two choices: one, remain unfazed and ignore the harmony, preferring to stick with known territory; or two, react positively to the new part, and grow and develop with the change. In the first case, the harmony is ignored, there is no development, and the musician who instigated the change can feel ignored or shunned. In the second, the band grows together, and recognizes harmonic change as a positive development. The same idea applies to bringing on a new team member or introducing a completely new idea to your business: your existing team can react in the same two ways. Keep the harmony in mind when making changes and make sure that your team is willing and able to react positively to outside changes.

2. Remember Your Audience

Never lose sight of whom you’re trying to serve or entertain. In the same way that a Beatles cover band would be expected to play the hit songs as close to the original way as possible, if you run a chain restaurant or retail outlet, you are expected to keep your store as similar to every other location as possible. People don’t walk into a McDonalds expecting to see innovative, new-age, expensive food—they’re looking for cheap burgers. However, just like the audience at a Dave Matthews concert would be disappointed if he didn’t take 10 minute jam solos exploring and pushing the boundaries of music, clients of a software development firm would be disappointed to find that the firm wasn’t constantly evolving. Keep your audience, or customer, in mind at all times.

3. Re-Condition Your Immediate Responses

Always make sure that your first response is assessment of the situation. Imagine a famous band on stage when the lead guitarist breaks a string, or the vocalist forgets the words. The response of the band is never to stop playing, but to immediately assess the situation and roll with it. The guitarist may finish out the song while avoiding the particular string that has snapped and later grab a different guitar to finish the set. The vocalist may sing a previous verse, or may scat sing over the melody. Either way, the immediate response of the band is to assess what has gone wrong and then work on positive solutions rather than just stop playing. Similarly, though your instantaneous conditioned response when watching a team member complete a task incorrectly may be to immediately chastise him and correct him, first assess what is going wrong. Can he figure out what he’s doing wrong and work to correct it himself? Can you use this as a training moment later on and help the team member understand what was done wrong, and why? Immediately reacting with anger or correction is usually not the best response, so work to re-condition yourself to take a step back and assess the situation before making any decisions or actions.

4. Know Your Parts

If a band member shows up to a rehearsal without looking over his or her parts, or practicing at all, the rehearsal obviously will not be very productive, and the overall morale of the band will be lowered. Similarly, if one of your employees attempts a task without knowing how to properly complete it, your business will suffer, and other team members may feel annoyed or distrustful. Make sure that all employees have adequate training and are given the tools and lessons they need to succeed at any task assigned to them. Every team member knowing his or her parts will make your business run much more smoothly and productively.

5. Practice Makes Perfect

Similarly, don’t forget the importance of re-training. In the same way that even the most veteran musicians play scales every day, even the most veteran employees can benefit from going over the basics every now and then. So as not to alienate seasoned employees by re-training them, try placing them in leadership or training roles so that they are still getting exposure to even the most basic tasks without feeling like they are being patronized. Practicing every aspect of the job regularly can help employees to perfect their day-to-day activities, and will make your business succeed.