As a kid growing up, I idolized Rock Stars and was a fan of a bunch of old rock bands. I’m still a fan of Kansas, Boston, Yes, U2, Jefferson Starship, Fleetwood Mac, Queen, GNR, etc. I dreamed about becoming a rock star and played in several bands, I even owned a really cool red “key-tar” (a guitar looking keyboard for those of you who don’t remember). We would practice for hours, play gigs, and try to hit it big by sending in demos to the record lables. We would dream about getting that elusive record deal and become rock stars. Although it never happened, I found that some of my fondest memories and happiest times were when we were “in the zone” practicing or playing in front of small crowds. Have you ever felt like you were “in the zone”? For me, that meant everyone in the band was on the same page, feeding off of the energy of each other, and making great music - it was raw and pure joy! The same can be said for a business that is “in the zone”.
How do you get your business “in the zone” and really working on all cylinders? I can honestly say that it doesn’t happen often and you absolutely know it when it happens, the team is all on the same page focused and energized on the vision, customers are happy, investors are excited, and you are absolutely on a mission. Here are my thoughts on the three ways to get “in the zone”:
1) It takes a spark. Someone in the band has a creative moment and starts a simple chord progression with a rocking tempo and the band starts jamming. That’s all it takes is someone with initiative to start it off. That of course, should be you. It’s your inspiration, your creativity, your energy that everyone will feed off of. However, you’ve got to get off your butt - and execute against your idea and inspire a team around you. Get the ball rolling, stop listening to music and make your own.
2) Move until you Groove. A lot of times, a drummer or a guitar player will start a jam session with a simple beat or a guitar lick and the band just starts feeding on it until everyone is in a groove. However, most times, people just aren’t feeling it or just don’t get it and you’ve got to start over and take another direction. Recognizing when something just isn’t working and moving on is a great skill, move on too quickly and you just might miss a great opportunity, move too slowly and you lose valuable time. The underlying lesson is always be moving because you will hit a groove - too many entrepreneurs just plain give up when things aren’t going right. Things mostly don’t go right, you’ve got to keep trying. It’s worth the ride to get the groove on - several of my companies took at least 2-3 years before we got it right.
3) Build energy or momentum. Once you’re in a groove, don’t let up. Hit the gas pedal. It’s just getting fun, everyone has got energy, executing on all cylinders. You’re moving downhill, take advantage of it. People feed off your energy and you feed off theirs, so keep your energy level high. For example, the best time to sell a deal is right after you close a deal - you’re on a high, you’re confident, and you’re on a roll! When we were in a groove jamming away, we would try to keep it going as long as we could.
4) It takes the right band members. It’s impossible for me to get a tone deaf person to be the lead singer just like it would be impossible for me to teach a drummer how to keep a beat. If you have those people in your company, let them go. Once you have them though, trust that they can do their jobs and provide the right environment for them to thrive and to get into a groove. When we were jamming in a band, we had to trust each other especially when we’re performing - focusing on our own role.
5) It’s all about rhythm. Music wouldn’t be music without rhythm. As human beings we have rhythm as well, a pulse, a heartbeat - without it, we are dead. Business without rhythm is undisciplined, likely to be dead quickly. What do I mean by business rhythm? Do you have critical processes that help keep everyone aligned and accountable (board meetings, huddles, etc)? How do you keep a rhythm of high energy (celebrations, parties)? How about a communicative rhythm (investor updates, company updates) to keep key folks thinking about your business? Keeping a regular rhythm helps you stay disciplined and accountable.
When a business is totally cranking, energized, and everyone is aligned - it is a real joy for everyone involved. One of my favorite rock stars, Bono once said “Joy is a subject I go on and on about. It’s one of the only emotions you can’t contrive. It’s impossible. Despair and anger are easier to convey. Great rock ‘n’ roll, the raw stuff, is pure joy. It’s that sense of being alive, of being grateful for your pulse.” I love rock ‘n’ roll, and like music I think great businesses can also bring real joy and fun for not only you, but everyone you come in contact with.