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Small business lessons from David Bowie

[Originally written January 11, 2016 just after he died. Reposted today because I like his music so much]



By Roger Pierce


I think everyone who loves music felt a personal loss this week with the news of David Bowie’s death. He died on Sunday, January 10, 2016 in New York City.


His music touched us all in different ways. I was the shy boy at the high school dance looking for a partner to hit the floor when the DJ played the hit single, Let’s Dance. His duet with Queen called Under Pressure remains one of my favorite songs today.


Although deeply saddened by death, there are many things we as small business owners can learn from the life of rock star David Bowie.


Here’s a short list of the lessons I’ve learned from Mr. Bowie that will surely help my own business to improve.


Produce quality work


Few will argue that David Bowie produced amazing music (he was also an actor, painter and record producer to name a few of his other talents). From 1966 through 2016, David Bowie produced 25 studio albums – his most recent album, titled Blackstar, being released just two days before his death.


His 111 singles included from soulful tunes like Absolute Beginners to toe-tapping dance-floor hits like Modern Love.


Like Bowie’s fantastic music, the best way to for a small business to succeed is to produce quality products or services. Produce something that's worthy of your time, money, or attention. It’s unlikely Bowie would have become the superstar he was without getting the basics right: creating music people liked.


Get noticed in a crowd


David Bowie made it his business to be memorable. Not your average rock star, he constantly changed his look and style on purpose. He was never boring! Over time his fans learned to expect change – and we loved every persona he inhabited – from Ziggy Stardust to Aladdin Sane to the Thin White Duke. We paid attention to Bowie and bought his albums and attended his concerts.


Standing out from your competitors in order to win new customers (or fans) isn’t easy for small business owners who may lack the kind of creative genius inherent to the likes of David Bowie.


But do try to make some commotion in your industry in order to attract some well-deserved attention to your business: launch creative promotions, hold customer parties, or give fantastic rewards. Like Bowie, being a bit outrageous never hurts.


Collaborate with other talented people


David Bowie clearly enjoyed working with other singers and musicians. He sang duets with superstars Mick Jagger (Dancing InThe Streets), Tina Turner (Tonight) and belted out Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy with legendary Bing Crosby.


It’s easier (and way more fun) to work with other business owners to together build your collective fortunes. For a business owner, collaboration may come in different forms:

  • Cross-promoting two complementary businesses.

  • Teaming up to bid on a large project.

  • Entering a foreign market by working with a local partner.

  • Simply meeting with experienced business owners to learn from them.

Bowie obviously believed there was more success to gain (and more fun to be had) by making music with other talented people. You can too.


Unending passion


As mentioned earlier in this article David Bowie released his final album Blackstar on Friday, January 9, 2016 – just two days before his death. That means he was still making music while battling cancer, a fight he endured for 18 months.


Many fans today believe Bowie, recognizing the end of his life was near, intended to release the album as a final gift to his fans. It’s absolutely inspirational because it demonstrates how committed the man was to his craft and his passion.


Like Bowie, business owners should never stop doing what they love. Constantly creating new products, imagining fresh schemes, reaching out to new business partners or embarking on fresh challenges is the very essence of entrepreneurism. Be true to your inner rock star by always pursing your passion, no matter what that is.


RIP David Bowie. And thank you.


(Photo image courtesy of Flickr)

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