The other day Dan Morris said to me on Facebook “You go to more concerts than anyone I know.” It's true that live performances delight and inspire me – as a former musician I know how connected the energy at a concert often is. But beyond inspiration, attending live performances often underscore business concepts and models for the small business owners I work with.
That's exactly what happened when I saw James Taylor perform the other night. Here's what self-employed business owners can learn from this talented musician.
- Make every day be fresh and new to yourself and your customers. Taylor has written hundreds of songs in his long career (did you know two Beatles actually played background in some of his early recordings?). But of course, he has decades-old hits that he has performed literally thousands of times. Taylor doesn't just rip them off nonchalantly. I watched as he put himself completely in to performing songs a lesser musician would be bored singing for the 2,999th time. He was into what he offered the audience, 100%. Didn't matter if the song was old or new. He closed his eyes, gave his full voice, jammed a while in a few of them, brought the audience to tears and to their feet. Taylor is smart to realize that while he may have performed “Carolina on My Mind” in front of a live audience for decades, his customers in the audience were waiting to hear him for the very first time. It was new to them, and it was his job to make it as fresh and new as the first time he performed it.
- Always build rapport with your customers. Taylor has been famous for a long, long time. It would be easy for him to ride on his popularity and remain aloof to his fans, taking his fame as a given, a flame that will never die. He doesn't. Throughout the concert Taylor shared his humor, sometimes self-deprecating, sometimes saucy (when a fan kept yelling “Free Bird” over and over again between each song, Taylor grinned and shot the guy a “free” bird, cracking the audience up.) He told short little stories of his life and music, making the concert's setting seem small and intimate despite the arenda's huge size. He carefully explained the 20 minute break, assuring the crowd he'd be back. At the end he came out for several additional songs, staying until they ran out of time. And since he was in the city known the world over for music, he acknowledged that, twice. After getting a standing ovation he said, “A standing ovation here in Nashville really means something, thank you.” Toward the concert's end, he talked again about Nashville and said, “This is where the music really is.” He knew how to please this particular niche, and he didn't lose the opportunity to do that. At the break and especially after the concert, Taylor spent time at the edge of the stage, shaking hands, making pictures, and signing autographs for the crowd pressing against the stage. He shares his energy with his customers, and they don't forget. A friend of mine who saw Taylor play in Denver years ago e-mailed me to say, “I got a nod from James Taylor at the Rocks 30 years ago.” She hasn't forgetton that and still feels the rapport.
- Acknowledge and trust your team. Throughout the concert, Taylor took moments to give publicity to his band. One by one, he introduced them not only by name but also with a little personal history. He promoted each member, acknowledging their own talent and contribution to his performance. Taylor easily shares the spotlight with those who help him perform. He doesn't play the prima donna. Taylor also trusts his stage managers. I noticed before the concert began that one of his team came out, tuned and placed his guitar, placed a water bottle, set the mike precisely close to the stool Taylor was to sit on. Unlike many musicians, Taylor came out, picked up his guitar, and lauched. He didn't fiddle about with placement of his stuff, he didn't spend 5 minutes checking to make sure his guitar was in tune. He focused on what he does best, and trusted his team to do what they did best.
- Show all your wares. While Taylor pleased the crowd with some of his many old hits, he also took care to perform newer pieces that showcased how he has changed. He showed his breath across ballads, blues, and soft rock with equal skills and to great applause.
- Assume the sale. At the end of the evening, Taylor said “thank you, Nashville, and I'll see you next year.” He was acknowledging the crowd but also letting us know he'd be back, already setting a tone for repeat business.
How can you weave these 5 lessons into your business? I'd love to have your comments below.