David Bowie

What David Bowie Taught Me About Business

Randal Wark Uncategorized Leave a Comment

We all love Seth Godin’s “The Purple Cow”.  I can’t think of a better example of a Purple Cow in music than David Bowie.  Here was an artist that truly stood out from the crowd and re-invented himself throughout his career.  Bowie did so by being brazenly different.  With such persona as the far out Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, Thin White Duke to a fashion icon, Bowie always pushed the boundaries of style and creativity.  Seriously, apart from pirates, no one can sport an eye patch quite like him.  He was ready to take risks and create music that was out of this world.

So many companies decide to play it safe, be top 40 so to speak and not make waves.  Their products and services just blend in with all the others struggling to attain success in mediocrity.  Yet, amid all the noise from Top 40 businesses, visionaries have stood out and went beyond the stars.  Steve Jobs and Elon Musk are two examples, among many, that ventured off into the unknown and haven’t returned.  These visionaries have show us that being different and taking risks is what it takes to leave the gravitational pull of being average.

Bowie did not let normality get in the way of his vision.  He trusted in his vision and was able to relate to generations who felt they didn’t belong or felt different.  In business, we call this a niche.  By finding commonality with so many misfits and mixed-up kids, he was able to create a following of devoted fans.

Does your business address a niche?
Does your business have a personality or attitude that people can relate to?
Do you create loyal clients that will go above and beyond to support you?

If you can’t answer yes to one or more of the above questions, it might be a good time to take a step back and examine your business.

If you are a “Top 40” business, great.  Trouble is, so many Top 40 artists are also known as one hit wonders.  Artists with staying power have an identity that is unique to them.  They have deep connections with their fans and their fans can identify with them.  Bowie constantly changed and evolved his art to be relevant.  I have found that in business, one must also change and evolve to be relevant.

Is your business constantly evolving with the times?
Are your products/services relevant or out dated?
Are you working on your next hit?

In the song Space Oddity, Bowie sang: “And I think my spaceship knows which way to go.”  Is our business on auto-pilot?  Are we in control of our direction or are we simply floating which ever way the business is heading?  Taking control of our ship involves having a clear flight plan.  Have we sat down with our team and planned out the destination for 2016 along with the course to take?  Without a flight plan, we will simply aimlessly float around in the business word, hoping not to crash.

“We can be heroes, just for one day” sang Bowie in the song Heroes.  A big part of being a hero is sacrifice.  A true hero is willing to sacrifice his or her own personal concerns for some greater good.  Being a good leader is also about sacrifice for a greater good.

Are we a hero to our staff?
Do we mentor them into becoming heroes themselves?
Are we a hero to our customers?
Are we a hero in our community?

“Putting out fire with gasoline” is a warning that we do well to avoid in business.  What untold harm can come to a great business simply by having a customer service staff respond in kind to a rude comment.  Dealing with difficult customers can be difficult and one must exercise extreme mental and emotional strength to stay calm.  If our staff can adopt this strength, it will defuse even the most difficult situations.

“I’m happy.  Hope you’re happy, too” from Ashes to Ashes reminds me that as entrepreneurs and business owners, we are always striving for the next goal.  We often forget to celebrate our wins and be happy.  The 5-Minute Journal is a great way to remember to daily note 3 things you are grateful for.  This in turns overrides our brains and puts us in a happy state.

“Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am” from Suggragette City makes us reflect on how we treat our customers after the sale.  For Zappos, 75% of their business comes from repeat customers.  They obviously put a lot of effort in creating a customer experience that will last and this commands loyalty.

How is our after sales service?
Do we follow up with our clients and make sure their needs are met?
Do we even thank them for their business?

“If we can sparkle he may land tonight” from Starman begs us to question what are we doing to attract customers?  What is our sparkle?  What kind of strategy do we have with Social Media to capture the attention of potential clients?

“Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes” reminds me a business that is stuck in a loop.  We can sometimes get stuck in a rut and our business Stutters.  We repeat the same pattern over and over again.  Change is good and I personally found that by reading more, going to conferences and working with business coaches, I can change.  I can break the cycle and the patterns that keep me from finishing something.  Embrace the change.

Bowie has left a legacy of music, films and style that will live on in our collective memories.  He once said:

“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.”  – David Bowie

I’m sure that is true, but his loss is felt by those who recognize that we just lost a hero.



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