By Dan Golden, is a digital marketing executive and currently serves as President & Chief Search Artist at Chicago's Be Found Online (BFO).
Back in 2003, I got a side-gig in digital marketing while I focused on my day job as a touring musician in a jam band. While it was a lot of fun playing gigs and booking shows, I ultimately found my "jam" as a digital marketing entrepreneur. I learned a lot of lessons while on tour that I've been able to apply to business. They've helped me build an award-winning digital agency with sustained growth and an amazing culture.
Practice. Prepare. Practice.
When you're prepared, you can handle anything. You can sit in with any band. Broken strings, malfunctioning amps and key changes don't phase you. You've probably heard it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything. Whether it's actually 10,000 or just a lot, the more you practice, the better you get. That goes for entrepreneurship as well.
A great performance isn't all about skill. My band was good enough to headline many shows and there were plenty of times guitar players for the opening bands were much better than I was. And yet, it was my group that headlined. It's not always the player with the best chops that gets a room moving. As an entrepreneur, you need to trust yourself and your skills. My agency has gone up against a lot of competitors with big shiny pitches and won business. Be confident. It's not how many slides you have -- it's how you use them.
Surround yourself with the best.
I always thought I was a great musician. Then I got together with a group of guys who were truly great musicians -- the better they were, the better it made me. Find the top talent in your field and find out what it would take for them to work with you. They'll make you and your business better. Remember, you don't need to be the best to lead. You just need to lead.
Magic happens when you trust your skills and just jam. As a business leader, constantly practice so that when you need to "jam" in a given moment, you're comfortable doing so. Unless you are in outside sales, sticking to the script only gets you so far.
Listen to your team.
Some of my best guitar music came from what I heard in a drum beat or a saxophone lick. When you're in a meeting and have a response ready to blurt before an employee or client has finished speaking, you probably missed their point, their ideas and their opportunities.
Ride the coattails.
Over the years, many of our rockstar moments happened when we opened for other bands. When my agency was just starting out, instead of going after clients directly, we found some agencies and partners whose services we complemented. This helped us find our way and grow up quickly. As an entrepreneur, don't try to do everything for everyone right away. Know what you're good at, focus on it and work with others who can do other things better. This will make your clients happy, build valuable industry relationships and keep you profitable.
In a band, you have to like those you're touring with. You'll also get better gigs if you get along with booking agents, site managers and everyone in between. To become a business leader, you need to aim to make everyone you meet a friend. It doesn't always work out, but it keeps you focused on the right things and building real relationships.
Be gracious. Be professional.
Treat everyone with respect and carry yourself as a professional. Nothing dooms a band's (or company's) reputation more than trashing others with words and rudeness. Treat everybody like your most important client. In a year, they just might be. We've won one of our biggest clients ever when a web development intern that had worked on a client project moved over to a big agency and brought us in as their SEO agency of record.
Business should be fun. Entrepreneurship has been worshipped as an ideal, but it comes with its own challenges. Find the fun in every challenge and obstacle. Only then will you truly live the rockstar lifestyle, no matter what you do. And now, without further ado, here's a montage of my band's first sold-out show at Chicago's House of Blues back in 2003.
Dan Golden is a digital marketing executive and currently serves as President & Chief Search Artist at Chicago's Be Found Online (BFO).