small business processesGood small business processes are necessary in virtually every type of business; even rock ‘n’ roll!

Those who know me as a systems guy are often shocked to learn I was once an arguably well-known rock ’n’ roll singer; at least regionally. It’s true!

Before hanging up my microphone, I was a long-haired, glittery-vested screamer, who—along with a band I called “Naked Wilson,” then “Riverboat” and later, “Philip Paul & Patrol”—drew packed houses, and spent more money than I ever made. Given the current economy, it seems some of us have come full circle!

Stay with me now! I really am getting to the importance of having GREAT SYSTEMS.

However, if you’ll indulge me, I think this walk down Memory Lane might give you a clearer picture of why I needed systems. Why I eventually built them, and now tout business systemization to others!

Show Business Also Needs Small Business Processes

My trek to hoped stardom began in high school in the 1970s—playing in a Top-40 band for countless events and small nightclubs all over Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Those were exciting times for a bunch of young guys facing the future without fear!  Launching our new venture, we jumped in with big dreams of having success and prosperity one day. Unfortunately, we had no clue about the business of running a business, especially show business!

Reality soon set in, of course, and the tedium of packing, unpacking, setting up and tearing down could be chaotic! Traveling in an old van, high gas prices, agents fees and cancelled dates, often made our travels less than glamorous. And then there were those unpredictable events!

Everything our band did had to be voted on, even where we stopped to eat. We argued over what songs to play, who got to sing first, etc. Problem was, everyone wanted to be a “star,” but nobody wanted to do the work of the roadies we could not yet afford!

You get more than four or five people in a band (or a small business?) with equal say, and you get four or five arguable opinions!

Leadership is Essential

As in any business, someone needed to step up and LEAD—be the “bad” guy!  But, in those days, I didn’t know a leader from a fishing lure, and there were a lot of disagreements and hurt egos.  At times, our ‘happy band of troubadours’ almost came to blows.

Many of our blowups happened at the end of a gig, when it was time to tear down the equipment. We had some homemade light trees, well-worn speakers, and 40 miles of cable and duct tape that held it all together. It all needed a bit of teamwork, before we could head for home.

I must admit, it was hard to pull away from the usual small group of stragglers (we called “our fans”) who flattered us then. “Great sound…sure to be Rock stars!” they stroked our egos. Now, that was a HIGH! The fact that we were covering other people’s music (you know, the REAL rock stars’ songs)—even imitating their dress and best moves—didn’t dim our big dreams.

Looks like a Job for Small Business Processes!

As I said, someone in the band had to lead; to insist we stop posing for snapshots and pack up the equipment. That “someone” turned out to be me. I was attending school and had a printing job, to bring me back down to earth each day.  I  owned, and generally drove, our large touring van. So, many times I was the spoiler of the band’s good times. The guys even nicknamed me “Bummer.”  I suspect that’s how many employees view their boss!

Ultimately, I was elected the official band leader, since I not only booked our gigs, but also owned most of the equipment. Still, I had no real authority, other than my one vote. So, arguments continued to break out, and someone was always threatening to quit.

Many times, I would just clam up and start loading equipment; usually, with just my big brother Billy, who played keyboards. I didn’t want to lose any band members, so I didn’t press it.  I felt responsible to those who had booked us, because I had sold them on how “great” we were. “We always arrive on time and give you the best show [product] ever!” And, I have to say, we did that!

Considering Small Business Processes

I did a lot of thinking about better-organizing our band business, one night! We were driving home from one of those “glamorous” gigs (a frat house party in the un-airconditioned basement of Mississippi State University). There, many funsters had spilled beer all over us and our equipment. It didn’t seem to bother the rest of the “rock stars” who snoozed in the back of the van, as I drove into the night.

I would call a meeting with the band the next Monday to resolve some of the issues we were having. A BIG one, of course, was the setting up and tearing down of equipment at each job. Before the meeting, I made a detailed list of each piece of equipment we had, including things as small as an extension cord. I typed out a list, even down to detailing how things were packed and stored in the trailer. I made a few carbon copies on my 1970s IBM Selectric typewriter. Remember, those? Then I took the list and divided it up into five different lists, one for each band member.

Each list included the items or equipment each member would be responsible for, setting up and tearing down at our shows. I made sure to add more items to my own list, to prevent any arguments.

Are you seeing similarities with your own business?

The Real Me Emerges—Systems even for Rock ‘n’ Roll!

At our meeting, I handed the lists out to everyone. I assured them that, if we worked in a systematic fashion, we could tear down the equipment in half the time. “And no one will be left pulling most of the load,” I said.  They all agreed and, with a little tweaking, I distributed new lists at our very next show.

Even I was amazed at how well it worked!  We really did cut the time we spent handling our equipment, by half! The band started getting along, and we even played music better, together.  We actually had little turnover of members for the next decade; moreover, my credibility as bandleader went up, and we rock ’n’ rolled until 1988.

You can click and listen below to judge the results and our “product” then!

A Simple Written System Saves the Day

That simple list (actually, a simple written system), had worked so well, and I started organizing other things to move our band forward. We expanded our territory, playing from New York to California, and across Canada. We especially enjoyed opening for BB King at Harrah’s in Nevada, at one point!

Some real organization (aka systemization) had helped us to give it our best shot, even in the music business. We were happy to have a record out in 1981 that netted us a mention in Billboard Magazine. It was played by some 80 radio stations throughout the south. For us, that was big time, even if the record wasn’t a million-seller!

By the time I got music out of my system, I had found my REAL calling…

Did I mention? Great system work!  Even for a rock ‘n’ roll Band from the Past!

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