By David K Williams - Entrepreneur
Have you noticed how many successful creative entrepreneurs are musicians? Paul Allen, cofounder of Microsoft. Steve Wozniak, cofounder of Apple. And yes, since the age of five, I’ve been an avid musician (I play piano) as well. As I look at the traits of entrepreneurs and musicians, it seems that more often than not, I see an indelible match.
Over the past months I’ve gotten acquainted with business consultant, speaker and author Steve Dragoo, of Nashville. The thing that immediately struck me about this entrepreneur (known as “The Doc,” short for Dr. Groove) is his love of music, which I also share.
Steve’s gift manifests itself in Karaoke. He is also an expert in the intersection and influence of music and business, which he’s written about in his new book “SING! Business and Life Lessons from the Karaoke Stage” (available from his website, KaraokeLifeLessons, or from Barnes and Noble).
In Steve’s book, SING is an acronym for these four steps that pertain to every entrepreneur:
Step Up: What could you do if you weren’t afraid? You should make a mental, emotional and spiritual commitment and then take the risk, Dragoo says. Start today.
Inspire and be Inspired: What energizes and motivates you? How can you use these gifts to motivate others?
Find Your Nexus: In business and in life, surround yourself with people who share your interests, talents and strengths.
Go for It: What is your stage? Put the lessons you learn to work on your own life stage.
Steve puts his own skills to work by coaching entrepreneurs and others in the skill of karaoke, and beyond the fun and fulfillment they gain, helps them apply their growing capabilities to the workplace as well.
Peter Spellman, author of Indie Business Power, notes the powerful corollaries between business and music as well. In his book he interviewed professional musicians about the ways their musical abilities had translated to business success. Their responses included the following:
Attention to detail
Quick mental processing
The development deep listening skills
Ability to receive criticism
Persistence & focus
Confidence and self-esteem
Ability to handle rejection
Teamwork and collaboration
Ability to strike compromise among diverse personalities
The constant campaign of engaging fans and ‘packaging’ creativity
Toned and fit creativity muscles
Leaving the harbor of predictable outcomes and sailing into the sea of uncertainty
Strong work ethic
An impressive set of attributes. In my own life, music has been a defining source of skill building, inspiration, and even bonding and fun . When I was five, my exposure to music began when my mother required me to take piano lessons and to practice first 30 minutes then an hour and eventually two hours a day. It was excruciating to sit and focus, but I couldn’t have privileges until the practice was done.
Then I made a discovery. As a young swimmer on the Brigham Young University Jr. Olympic team, I practiced swimming an hour and a half every day with musician Kurt Bestor and his sister Jill (Kurt was a year older than me, and his dad was the coach). One day, after our swimming practice, Kurt and I sat down at the piano. My gift is the ability to sight read, and I pulled out my sheet music, anxious to show Kurt, who was older, that I knew how to play. Then Kurt took his turn. He played without sheet music while looking at nothing at all. As I watched his hands move over the piano with ease, I was inspired by his gift of creating and playing music in a way that seemed effortless. Now the hours I was required to practice didn’t seem so punitive any more.
At age 13–14 I had graduated to “Level 10.” There was nothing more, and so my mother allowed me to discontinue the lessons. But an interesting phenomenon occurred. As soon as I didn’t have to play, I suddenly wanted to play for hours a day. Elton John. Billy Joel. Cat Stevens. On some occasions I played 3–5 hours a day. I imagined myself in a concert hall with these artists and playing with them. To this day, music has been a source of fulfillment that has also shored me up through my most challenging situations in business and life.
Now that I’m 57, I’ve discovered another benefit of music as well, which I regularly share with my grandchildren when they complain about their mothers requiring them to play. I may no longer be able to play football like a champion (though I do work out every day), but on the piano, I can still knock it out of the park.
Music has been essential to our company’s culture as well. When we are cutting loose, there is invariably music involved. When our salespeople hit their numbers, the top two salespeople have a dance off. We sometimes hold Fishbowl talent shows, where employees are invited to share their musical contributions with others.
Fishbowl employees express their creativity with the Harlem Shake
We often use music and dancing to let off excess steam. One of our “shake your tail feather” celebrations after pre-paying our buyout loan even found its way to the press. As the CEO I was slightly embarrassed — yes, I danced too — but only for a moment.
Yes, we did. Fishbowl employees celebrate buyout (Image courtesy of Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)
As I look through my own company, and at others, many of the top business performers count music as one of the greatest joys in their lives. Singers, trumpet players and performers use music as a way to hone their ability to make presentations and sell. Programmers are frequently experts at music composition.
A person’s music background can give you insights about what their standout strengths are likely to be. Musicians have learned patience and dedication, which are great preparations for business (whereas a poor employee runs out of these two things very fast). Music is a powerful resource that can invigorate, inspire and soothe. Knowing this, is the music in your business (hold music, elevators, lobbies) accomplishing the things you hope and intend it to do?
For every entrepreneur, I advise you to cultivate and treasure the ways music can influence your business. Watch for the great attributes music abilities can provide within your employees. Cherish and grow your own musical pastimes. And if you have the desire (even if not the full ability), sing out, dance or play with everything in you. It will benefit your spirit and psyche. It is cheaper than therapy. And as experts have noted, it will contribute to the success of your business as well.