There is so much to learn from Queen and Freddie Mercury.
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Recently, I took my 16-year-old son Tyler to the movies to see Bohemian Rhapsody. One-on-one time with teenagers is precious, so you always want it to go well. And it did.
We both enjoyed the movie, but the better moments happened afterwards. When Tyler asked me what I thought about the film, I told him that it was inspirational. In a way only a teenager can, he replied, “Are you going to start a rock band and die of AIDS?”
There is so much to learn from Queen and Freddie Mercury. Here are eight lessons for entrepreneurs.
“Under Pressure”: Preparation generates luck.
Imagine handing a couple songs you’d written to a band, then hearing them say their lead singer just quit. What big break are you hoping for? What company do you need to pitch?
If that magic moment happened now, would you be prepared? Do you know what you would say, do, or ask for?
“Killer Queen”: Different is better than better.
A self-proclaimed “hysterical queen” led a rock group to become the most popular band in the world. Every super-successful person I interviewed for my bestselling book has a similar story. These are not the top 1 percent. These are people whose millions of dollars of annual income put them in the top 0.01 percent of our population.
When Gordon Logan wanted to start a hair cutting business for men and boys, everyone said, “That already exists. It’s called a barbershop. It will never work.” With more than 1,700 Sport Clips locations and a Joe Gibbs Racing car with his logo on it, it’s safe to say his critics were wrong.
Trust your gut and do something different.
“Don’t Stop Me Now”: Think bigger.
When a local band gets a chance to tour Japan, they say they want to tour America. Your investors, partners, friends and employees will all compare you to someone in your industry. If you only think about being better than your immediate competition, you are missing the opportunity. Consider ideas from other industries and incorporate them into your business so you can dominate your space.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf once said at a Harvard commencement speech, “If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.” Did she practice what she preached? Sirleaf became the first elected head of state in Africa, when she was elected as the 24th president of Liberia in 2006.
“Somebody to Love”: See your negatives as a positive.
Having extra teeth makes for a strange appearance. It also allows you to open your mouth wider and to have greater range as a singer. What challenges have you turned into excuses?
I used to own a boutique insurance agency. When I had a chance to pitch one of the nation’s more successful law firms, I was up against some heavyweights. So, I offered to help the firm create its own agency and eliminate me from the equation after a few years. I ultimately landed the account because I was willing to show them how they wouldn’t need insurance people in the future. I made millions of dollars from the relationship before I was replaced.
Too small to compete? You are nimble and can react faster to changing customer needs. Don’t have brick-and-mortar locations for new customers? You can go set up shop inside your customers’ offices and provide better service. Write down three things that you think are holding you back, then write down how those things could be positives.
“I Want It All”: F*** formulas.
If Queen had listened to their record label, they never would have released “Bohemian Rhapsody” as a single. It was too long. It was weird. It was heavily criticized. It was also a global No. 1 hit — twice!
A mentor of mine in my early year taught me a valuable lesson. When doing roll-ups, he would hire senior management exclusively from other industries. When I asked him why, he replied, “If I do things like other people in the industry, I won’t be creating any real change or any real value.” Where do you find your creative ideas?
“We Will Rock You”: Give the people what they want.
The key to Queen’s success was their ability to connect with the audience. They understood this even better than their producers and record labels did. Most people focus on what other companies have done, in the past, to sell to their clients. Sometimes, they overreact and completely misjudge their customers’ desires. Remember “New Coke”?
Instead, prepare to sell your clients what they will need in the future.
To paraphrase the late Steve Jobs, people don’t know what they want until they see it. It’s your job to create and sell it. Jeff Bezos took this idea and ran with it. Amazon wasn’t just the first place to sell books online. Amazon sold clothes before online retailers were on board. Amazon even put the toy giant Toys ‘R Us out of business. Kids loved going to toy stores, but parents hated the experience.
Do you know what your clients love and hate about your industry?
“I Want to Break Free”: Take the blame.
Calling your friends into a room and admitting you were an asshole takes guts. Taking full responsibility for a bad situation, offering to make amends and being willing to consider what others suggest is the sign of a great leader.
Even Mark Zuckerberg may have changed his tune lately. After a history of news reports indicating a lot of finger pointing and not much thumbs up, he seemed to take some responsibility in front of Congress in April.
You are supposed to have the answers and see the better path, but you are not perfect. Think about what you needed to handle better in the past. Go take the blame, apologize and ask for forgiveness. Do it this week.
“We Are the Champions”: Do good. Be good. Make good.
Freddie Mercury’s father, Bomi Bulsara, had a quote that came up over and over again: “Good words. Good thoughts. Good deeds.” If you say what you think, and do what you say, you will be authentic. If the true goal of what you do is to help other people, there is no limit to the amount of success you can achieve.
Over the last 10 years, the insurance industry has been pretty stagnant. During that same time, National Life Group has doubled in size while focusing on serving teachers and middle America. It sponsors a “Life Changer” program that awards dozens of scholarships and receives over 900 nominations. It practices what it preaches and put its money where its mouths are.
Commit to helping others. Speak you mind. Do what you say you will do. When you do, you will rock everyone around you and become a true champion.