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Business Savvy: Applying Common Sense

Planning is the only shortcut to success in live sound

Focusing on one area of the business to the exclusion of the others. Your business ­ even a one-person company ­ has five functional areas that make up another “chain”:

1) Marketing and sales
2) Finance and accounting
3) Product development
4) Production and operations including information systems
5) General management

Weakness in any of these areas jeopardizes overall results.

How to deal with it? Go for balanced strength in each of the key areas of the business.

The first step is one that you have already taken.

Be aware of what it takes to run a business. You now know that a business has five functional areas and the marketing chain has seven links.

If you pay attention to each of those elements, be confident that you’re covering the bases.

Lesson 3: The business stuff –­ especially sales –­ is a full time job.

If you already operate a live sound business, you know how true the above statement is.

When was the last time you worked a 40-hour week? Even if you work for someone else, you know that operating a business is demanding and time-consuming.

Many audio people work day jobs and pursue their live sound business interests on a part time basis. This is fine if your goals and objectives are consistent with practical realities.

There’s a point at which you will need to quit your day job in order to focus full time on your sound business. Additionally, you’ll need to hire or contract with additional people as the business grows.

Focus, expertise, and image with customers all come into play here. While it’s tempting to let someone else handle the business, you need to understand the risks. Here are common mistakes made by small audio businesses.

Hiring friends or relatives on a part-time basis. There’s nothing inherently wrong with hiring friends or relatives, or with using part-time help.

It’s all too common for audio technicians to have a spouse, relative, or friend do booking, bookkeeping, or other support functions, only to find out that the person lacks the skill or time to make a long-term difference.

Assuming that contract paperwork, marketing, and sales magically take care of themselves. I know I’m stating the obvious, but someone in the organization (even a one-person organization) needs to get the gigs, write up the paperwork, and keep the promotion machine going in between projects. It does not happen by itself.

What to do? Recognize immediately that no one person has all the skills and time needed to build a live sound business.

If you try to do everything yourself, you may succeed to a point and then find that you can’t grow ­creatively, financially, or personally ­ beyond a certain point.

Build your team consisting of people who are well qualified in their respective areas. Examples range from bookkeepers and accountants to equipment maintenance people and live sound engineers.

Lesson 4: It all comes back to you.

Does someone else already handle your business for you? If yes, remember that it’s still important to understand what’s going on, especially if it’s your name on the company. If not, you need to handle all the business stuff for yourself.

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Take heart, and remember that there are no gimmicks or tricks to making your live sound business successful. From my standpoint, the secret to success in live sound stems from common sense applied to our uncommon industry.

John Stiernberg (deceased) is founder and principal consultant with Stiernberg Consulting and author of Succeeding In Music: A Business Handbook for Performers, Songwriters, Agents, Managers, and Promoters.

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