But filtering almost everything as I do through a small business lens, it also occurred to me that American Idol actually has much to teach we entrepreneurs.
Deliver on your promise: American Idol knows what its job is. The promise of the show is this: Give us an hour and we will entertain you.
But in fact, don’t we all make an implied promise with our customers? From the convenience store that promises, well, convenience, to Starbucks, which promises that, for a little extra, you will get a nice place to hang for a while and an excellent cup of Joe, businesses make promises.
What is your promise to your customers? Whatever it is, you need to deliver on it every time, or you will be cancelled.
Tweak – around the edges: Once you know what your promise is, what your core competency is, and as long as you repeatedly fulfill it, you can then begin to tweak things that are not as critical.
In the case of American Idol, they now allow contestants to play with a musical instrument. It’s a nice change and makes the show better, more interesting. By the same token, bringing in a fourth judge seemed to be a change for the better as well.
For the small business owners, the lesson is this: Don’t be afraid to change things, but be careful about changing things too much.
Don’t mess with success: American Idol does what it does, and it has been doing it for almost a decade with astounding success. They found a formula that works and they are riding it as far and as long as they can.
Successful small businesses have their own success formula. I compare it to a bread recipe. By using the same ingredients and doing the same thing again and again, you get the same result, again and again. It might be an ad that works or a social media blitz, but whatever it is, your success recipe is, pardon the pun, how you make your dough.
But whatever your recipe is, while it is smart to tweak around the edges, it is not smart to upset your core competency. Do what you do, but be careful about stretching too far. I once heard the CEO of a major company explain why they never bought the naming rights to the stadium in their hometown: “We are in the computer business,” he said, “we don’t know anything about sports management.”
Get rid of the deadwood: Not only did bringing in Ellen for Paula liven up the show in another good way, it also seems to have served the purpose of raising the game of the other panelists: No longer can Randy mumble that it just didn’t work for him and have that pass for constructive criticism.
Bosses should not be tyrants, but employees should also know that the boss is the boss and no one is indispensible.
Have good partners: In the case of Idol, Ford, iTunes, and Coca-Cola have been great partners. For these partners, the co-branding opportunity is amazing, and for the show, the co-branding opportunity is amazing. Everyone wins and everyone gains.
Small businesses have partners too. Whether it is a strong brand that you can highlight and sell in the store (people do like brands) or advisors who can help you grow your business, tapping into your own resources and partnerships can yield similarly positive results.
And if I am going to be perfectly frank with you, that is how you create a small business moment.