Gord Downie, the amazing front man and lead singer for The Tragically Hip lost his battle with brain cancer last week. It was a sad day for family and fans. He fought through surgery, radiation and recovery to do one final tour last year. What a memorable final concert from the band’s hometown of Kingston.
He was a great Canadian. I am a huge fan of the band. I have seen them 10 times, including 4 with my oldest son who is also a huge fan. Tylar and I saw the Winnipeg concert on their final tour thanks to a great friend who got us into his suite. Thanks Kevin.
But this post is not about my life as a fan or about the life of the band. This post is about how the band were a well-led and well-run organization and how they were astute marketers.
One of the first decisions the band made was about song credits. Every band member got equal credit for every song the band published.
Now think of your business. Do people fight over credit for IP and other improvements? Do managers and supervisors understand that it is the employees doing the work that should receive a large part of the credit?
Battles over song credits have destroyed many bands, friendships and careers. How is the battle for credit in your organization tearing you apart or building you up?
The boys in the band checked their ego at the door and did what was best for the collective not the individual. In fact, even if a member didn’t write the lyrics, until they put their stamp on the song (guitars, base or drums), it wasn’t a Tragically Hip song. In reality, everyone did have an important part of the overall value of the song.
Their road crew and security were with the band almost from the beginning. Imagine, when you treat people with respect and ask for and act on their inputs and ideas, they become engaged and are lifelong advocates for your organization.
Do you appreciate all the things that your employees do that puts a stamp, no matter how big or small, on your product or service? Do you tell them?
The Hip wrote about mostly Canadian things. Not always high profile things either. I never heard of the town of Bobcaygeon before the album Phantom Power. What was a 50 mission cap? Although a team mate in hockey over 20 years ago had an actual 50 mission cap – that was cool!
How did this focus on Canadiana fit with the band? The whole band was on the same page relative to their purpose, areas of interest for their songs and knowledge about their primary customers – Canadians. Even “occasional” fans could relate to the words of certain songs and this broadened the total customer base.
They had some success in the U.S.. I remember their first appearance on SNL. Dan Akroyd introduced the band and they opened with Grace, too. The show was outstanding.
They never tried to over commercialize and sell out just to get a bigger market share of the U. S.. They were comfortable with their level of success and where they achieved it.
How do you relate to your customers? Do you really know them well enough that you could write a song about them? Or at least a song that would interest them?
The Hip’s knack for introducing new topics for their songs and new approaches to their music was a way that they innovated for continued growth. Peter Drucker said businesses have to focus on marketing and innovation to be successful. How about you?Are you growing or standing still?
Or is your company like the song Boots or Hearts that features the lyrics “cause when they start to fall apart, they really fall apart“? If you don’t have values and goals to share, if you only have fingers and toes in common, then chances are you won’t have the long term success that the Tragically Hip worked hard to achieve.
And hard work and respect for each other were hallmarks of the band’s approach to life.
There is clearly a lesson for all of us, personally and in our business, about strong values, and a commitment to ourselves, family, friends and co-workers. We can enjoy our time together and achieve something that will be appreciated by those we have a relationship with.
Be like Gord and demonstrate “Courage”. And whatever you do, do it “Fully Completely”.