As you grow, efficiency is key.
Maybe not what you'd expect a rock n' roll lifer like me to say, but it's true. When the Wall Street Journal and USA Today both profiled my company Jingle Punks this month, the flashy, gritty, rocker nature of our team got all the attention. But it was efficiency that got us there.
Let me explain.
You'll notice that bands often grow from four guys playing local stages carrying their amps to each gig, to eventually being a massive military operation: an army of roadies, supplies of picks taped to microphone stands, and everything from glue to Vasoline (and, um, who knows what else) in a tool kit.
Why do they do this? Have they left behind their DIY cred?
No, it's simple growth. At some point a band, like a business, has to grow. In fact, a band becomes a business. And like when a business grows, the value of assets evolve. The lead guitarist, responsible perhaps for writing memorable, valuable riffs and melodies, probably shouldn't waste time shuffling his or her own gear around. That time can be better spent writing, practicing, collaborating, or playing -- or relaxing before playing for 50,000 people. Songwriting = money. Songwriting takes time. Time, therefore, is money. Music proves that old axiom true! Besides, is it worth it for Slash to break a finger lifting an amp? A small accident like that could cost hundreds of people their livelihood... hence roadies.
After founding Jingle Punks, I spent the first few months like many other entrepreneurs overseeing fledgling companies, involved in every possible aspect of the business. Of course, if your business grows, this becomes impossible to maintain. Micromanagement isn't efficient. And efficiency, of course, is the key to successful growth. You want your sound guy to know how to you like to sound the same way a businessman likes his ops team to be in synch with the company's needs.
So as much as I wanted to load in my own amp, my own guitar, my own gear, I realized that I had acquired a team around me to help, a group of over 70 specialized employees with unique skill sets that could help grow our business far better, and more efficiently, than I could on my own.
So when a small band outgrows its local confines, gains fans, and acquires, necessarily, a bit of infrastructure, one might think that they don't seem like the band they were--they've changed, man -- but the truth is that they needed to become more efficient as they grew.
Here's something that happens when small things grow: the people that recognized the greatness of that thing -- a scrappy band, a hidden gem of a restaurant, or yes, a company -- get upset, and almost feel slighted, when success leads to growth. That awesome band? Yeah, I dug 'em when they played tiny places that only I knew about. Hey -- I was into that bistro when I was the only guy there. Now it's popular, and I need to make a reservation? Pshhhh, forget it.
Hey, we ALL like things when we have them all to ourselves. It feels like an exclusive club. Your own little secret. But if something's good, it's gonna grow. That's generally good for everyone. And the key to good growth is good efficiency. That may not sound so rock n' roll, but the biggest stars on the planet will tell you that it's the ***ing truth.
With that in mind, and speaking as a former band leader and current business owner, I'd like to share with you efficiency tools that I use as I oversee my business on a day-to-day basis.
Number 1: Mailbox app. It's been said that email is nothing more a distraction -- not a proper form of communication. I only sort of agree. There's so much noise and clutter in my inbox that efficiency apps like Mailbox help me achieve zen: a clean inbox.
Number 2: dictation. What is this, the 1950's? Who dictates anymore? Well, I do. I've gone backwards, using the old fashioned technology of dictation. An example? My team and I take a meeting. A quick voice memo to trusted assistant Michelle or a fellow team member afterwards gets thoughts down fast, allowing for a speedy follow through with the potential client. Don't let a keyboard or insane road schedule foster procrastination!
And similarly, Number 3: Pling. For short, direct, one-on-one communication, I love Pling. It's a hybrid between iChat, phone conversation, and a walkie talkie! I've found that it's the best way to communicate with busy people. You have a short amount of time to convey a quick message: you hold a button, speak your message to one of your contacts, and the other person can Pling back. It's texting but with voices, and it's as fast and efficient as it sounds. I spend so much of my day away from my desk, looking for new business, that it would be impossible for me to meaningfully address emails in an effective way from the small typepad on my phone. Try it. It's cool and it works.
Dictation and messaging apps might not sound so hip and cool, but if it gets the job done, that's as rock n' roll as a double encore. Much like a major band on tour, my business is a rolling force of nature. As we grow, and as I -- like a band! -- tour across the world, I rely more and more on these efficiency-growing methods. And I'm always open to learning, so leave your own efficiency methods, whether they be tools, methods, apps, or whatever, in the comments below.
My band never got big enough to warrant a road crew... but Jingle Punks certainly has. Seventy employees working in harmony is something I marvel at each and every day.
Jared Gutstadt is the co-founder and co-CEO of Jingle Punks, a global licensing and commercial music production company based in New York. Follow him at @jinglejared and follow Jingle Punks at @jinglepunks, and on Facebook.