What can Whitney Houston teach us about business?

What if Whitney was on to something? What if the answers about how to run your business exist within your walls? What if you’re committed to following your own path? Jeff Bezos followed his and now he has one of the biggest companies on the planet and one of the highest net worth of any human being.

The music industry is very different from other businesses. Do you think Katy Perry wants me – a 43-year-old man – standing in a sea of 30,000 teenage girls at her concert? Of course not – that’s just weird. The interesting thing is how that industry’s marketing works. Some say that it’s simply based on want, but I believe that it’s based on talent, evidence, and relevance. Katy has talent – easily proven with evidence – so she has something to offer. But if she wasn’t relevant then the stadiums would be empty. Do her fans care if she can read music? What instruments her band is playing? If she is the best singer or dancer? No! It doesn’t matter. Think about your business. Are you focusing on things that don’t matter or are you focusing on talent, evidence, and relevance?

So where do you start? Back to Whitney Houston. In her song Greatest Love of All she talks about self-worth, about empowering children and instilling a sense of pride in themselves and their abilities. She talks about looking inside yourself and finding your greatest asset – the Greatest Love of All.

Here is the thing – in business, we’re taught that external shiny objects are great! We’re taught to follow our passion. But wait a second – and this is big. What if your passion isn’t relevant? What if you aren’t good at it? Sure, you can improve your skills but let’s be realistic. Will you learn to sing like Whitney Houston by taking some lessons?  Maybe, but probably not.

Will reading Richard Branson’s books will give you the ability to run hundreds of companies from an island? He can provide insight but that is it. Stop. Follow your path. Do not walk in someone else’s footprints, or as Whitney puts it, Shadows. Richard has a talent for running multiple companies and the evidence strongly supports that – it’s something deep within his personality and character. He’s also very good at creating relevant companies. Wow, he has the trifecta – do you? Your past defines you and don’t let anyone tell you different!

Think about these three concepts individually and understand their interdependence

  • Talent: What are you good at?
  • Evidence: Do the facts support your claim? (I don’t mean sales)
  • Relevance: Do people want or need it?

After establishing those, here are three things you can do to improve your business.

  • Think in terms of tacit knowledge. Does your team have key attributes which are not documented? Document them as best you can.
  • Examine your past openly and honestly. Talk about it with your team. Expect some pushback, since many of us have been taught to focus on the future with reckless abandon.
  • Create 15 questions about your company that should be easy to answer. Send them to your core team and insist they send all the answers back to you. Then bring everyone together to talk through the answers, paying particular attention to where people have differing points of view.

You will be amazed at what comes out and what kind of insight it will provide into your business.