After this column, the next one will appear on January 12th. I want to wish all of my readers a happy holiday, and I hope you take some time out from your pursuit of a successful business life and spend some time with the family and friends that you cherish. Remind yourself, and them, that they are the true source of your strength; reenergize your soul. Otherwise, any success you achieve will be suspended in a vacuum.
How Clear Is Your Vision?
The story goes that when the Beatles were depressed because of a lack of momentum in their career, usually after a long night playing the bars in Hamburg or another long and depressing ride in a van, John would yell out, "Where are we goin,' fellas?" Paul, George, and Ringo would then respond loudly, "To the top, Johnny!" Then John would continue, "And where's that, fellas?" To which they would scream back, "To the toppermost of the poppermost!"
How simple. How unified. How straightforward. How perfectly correct.
When Twisted Sister started in 1973, we sat around at the very first rehearsal and voiced our vision for the band. (Not that we knew that we were doing something that would be described in Inc. 40 years later!)
We all wanted the same things: to be in a great rock band, become very popular in the local bar scene, get a record deal, make great albums, tour the world, have girls chasing us, become very rich and very famous. All of us were in lockstep with that goal. We were all very clear and very committed--we had clarity of purpose.
I am approached everyday by new bands to give them advice. The first question I ask is: What is your vision? This question really is the only one that matters when starting a new venture, whether it's a band, a software business, or a construction company. If you are committed to success and that success means you are doing this with partners, the group vision has to be as clear as day.
Because the music business has shifted so dramatically in the past 10 years, the answers I get these days from bands generally lack the kind of singular focus and clarity that I know is absolutely essential for success.
I hear just about everything ...
"I just want to make great music." (That's admirable.)
"I just want to earn enough to make a living at it." (That's possibly doable.)
"I want to sell millions of records." (Those days are over.)
"I want my band to be on tour as the opening band for [fill in the blank with a really big headliner]." (Because record labels don't give bands tour support, those days are way over!)
The problem is that I hear this from members of the same band! This is a big issue: no clear, unified vision. It is not the musical differences that kill bands early on; it's the approach to success that can do bands in.
Creativity Is Not Enough
Besides the obvious (it's not called "the music business" for nothing), any business that doesn't take a "dual track" approach that really involves the integration of creativity and vision will absolutely fail.
Remember this: If you don't have a unified vision up front, you won't last very long. You may have that moment of spiritual oneness--that special once-in-a-lifetime event when a creation is made by the confluence of energy and inspiration that occurs when humans come together to write that great melody and hit that "lost chord"--when you collectively see the "Stairway to Heaven" in what you believe in your heart was a "meant-to-be moment."
But if you don't make sure you are all on board for the exact same goal, then that wondrous moment, within months if not weeks, will most surely dissipate, like dust in the wind.