by Michael Sansolo
As any casual MNB reader knows, we love to find metaphors for business lessons in any place you can and might never imagine. But for today’s lesson, I even surprised myself.
For more reasons than I can name, I have never been a fan of Howard Stern, the well-known, well-compensated and both widely loved and detested shock jock. His style of humor just never worked for me. But balancing that with my love of Bruce Springsteen’s music, I decided to checkout Stern’s recent interview with The Boss as Springsteen is known. (Kevin wrote about it a couple of weeks ago; You can find it on HBO Max and no doubt on the Sirius radio stations dedicated to both Stern and Springsteen.)
The spoiler is this: the interview is fabulous and at no point does Stern behave unprofessionally or rudely, as used to be his wont. Instead he comes across as a knowledgeable Springsteen fan who can’t believe he gets to ask an endless array of insightful questions. And Springsteen answers everything in his trademark style of humility, self-reflection and authenticity.
Late in the interview they get on a topic that should resonate or at least challenge any business. Stern recalls that Springsteen once likened his career of music making to a continuous conversation with his fans, listeners and audiences. And as they discussed the topic, Stern admitted that his long career is basically the same thing.
Honestly, your business or mine is the exact same as well. You have a long-running relationship with your customers whether you are running stores, offering services or producing products. Your hope is that they’ll stay loyal and keep buying from you.
But you also know that your consumers (like Springsteen’s) change. They age, their tastes shift and your hope is that you move with them, retaining their business in the process even while you try to enlarge your audience. (Quite honestly, all the same might be said about what Kevin and I do here on MNB or what we continually do in our speeches. I promise you this: what we say and write today is miles away from whatever we were saying in 2001, when MNB began.)
Springsteen’s take on that long-term conversation is especially fascinating because he knows that his concerts (and they are legendary) must include his standards be they "Born to Run," "Rosalita," "Born in the USA" or "Thunder Road." But he talks about how his music and messages have shifted as he aged from a young rocker into a long-married senior citizen with adult children. In countless ways his lifelong conversation with his audience has evolved with him. Stern said the same applies to him.
And it applies to all of us. We have to constantly challenge ourselves to find paths to reinvention, so that our offering is always fresh, relevant and current, yet at the same time, stays true to who we are. It’s not hard to think of companies that failed to do one or both parts of that challenging mix and no longer matter or even still exist.
So whether or not you like Springsteen or Stern or whether you get to see the interview, take with you the concept of a lifelong conversation or relationship with your customers and question of how your conversation has evolved and grown to make it stronger today than ever.
And remember, it still has to keep changing tomorrow and beyond.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at email@example.com.
His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available here.
And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon here.