I have watched rock-and-roll legend, Bruce Springsteen, perform for more than 35 years. When I went to his concert this month at Wrigley Field in Chicago, I realized what he can teach small-business owners about growing their own businesses.
1. Address the hard issues. Springsteen’s music has always connected to the working class and its struggles. In recent years, he has written ballads on 9-11 and the Great Recession. From his latest album, Wrecking Ball, the Democratic National Commitee played the song, “We Take Care of Our Own” after President Obama spoke this year. In 1984, Springsteen’s “Born in the USA,” which shined a light on the problem of unemployment among Vietnam veterans, was used by President Reagan on the campaign trail. Lesson for small business: Springsteen's music is popular because it takes hard issues head on. Likewise, your business solutions should recognize and address your customer’s worst pain.
2. Jump off the stage and into the audience. Springsteen is famous for his three-hour-plus performances. He dances into the audience and brings fans up on stage. At his concerts, he always seems like he is having a personal dialogue with each audience member. Lesson for small business: Get out of the office and go talk customers wherever they are. Don’t just broadcast a message through company advertising. Instead, have a dialogue with customers online through social media. Talk to them offline at conventions, personal meetings and via telephone.
3. Work even harder after success. Springsteen has been a major financial success since he released Born to Run in 1975, his third album of a three-album record deal. Even though he has recorded more than 35 albums and reportedly makes over $200 million a year, he still works just as hard on stage as when he launched his career. He never has a warm-up act and does not rest between songs. Lesson for small business: Don’t sit on your laurels. Successful business owners work even harder to stay where they are.
4. Always innovate. Imagine how surprised I was to hear a bit of rap music at Springsteen’s Wrigley Field concert. The Boss, who has been rocking since before anyone ever heard the term "rap," still manages to stay current by incorporating new genres and influences into his act. Lesson for small business: Constantly innovate your products and services while staying true to your core brand.
5. Appreciate what you have. At the Chicago concert, Springsteen said, “As I get older, I appreciate each of these evenings that much more.” Lesson for small business: Pause and realize that owning a small business is one of the greatest opportunities in the world.
6. Enthusiasm is contagious. It is obvious that Springsteen still loves what he does. It is evident in all of his lyrics and every song he performs. He is always the last one on stage even after three encores. Lesson for small business: Find a way to stay passionately connected to the business. Customers can feel it.
7. Focus on customer service. Springsteen is known for obsessing about every detail of the album and the concert experience. It defines his product. Lesson for small business: No amount of marketing can help a small business as much as a reputation for excellent customer service.
8. It’s never the end of the world. Springsteen once said “when you go on stage, you have to think like you’re the biggest rock star in the world. At the same time, you have to remember you’re not saving lives out there; it’s just music.” Lesson for small business: It is important to put 100 percent into a business, but remember at the end of the day, it’s not life and death. Let go and try again another day.
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