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As an entrepreneur and creator, you’ve got to stand your ground. Why? Because sometimes industry experts are actually wrong. The following story should inspire you to stand your ground and as a leader it should also inspire you to trust your people.
It starts two years ago. During an interview I conducted with Jon Loba, executive vice-president of BBR Music Group, Loba shared an example of how he trusts his artists even when he doesn’t see eye to eye with them on something. He told me that he listens to the artists because they’re the ones on the front lines night after night, getting customer feedback in real time during shows.
Loba’s rule is a great lesson for every leader, about trusting and listening to your people on the front lines.
Audience tested, audience approved
Specifically, Loba gave the example of a conversation he and Jason Aldean had in 2014. Aldean is one of the artists on BBR’s record label. Aldean wanted to release a song titled Burnin’ It Down as the lead single for his album Old Boots, New Dirt. But the label’s executives had envisioned a different song from the album as the lead single.
Their rationale came mainly from the fact that Burnin It Down was sonically different from any other song Alden had released as a lead single. Typically, Aldean’s lead singles have been high-energy, guitar-driven tracks. Burnin’ It Down was a more laid-back, groovy kind of song.
Aldean explained to Loba that he, the artist, understood the label’s concern with releasing this as the lead single; but he said he also felt that his decision hadn’t been made on a whim. He said he noticed that when he tested the music by performing it in live shows, Burnin’ It Down always drew a great audience response. Fans would sing along word for word, wave their arms and display their cell phones lights, Alden said.
The end of the song, he added, was met with a massive round of applause.
I can relate to Aldean’s stance about this track because, while completing the final edits on my book, Stadium Status, I had a similar conversation with my editor Susan Lauzau. She wanted me to remove a story from Chapter 4 about a prospect named Stephen. Lauzau said she felt the story was confusing and didn’t fit well with the theme of the chapter (titled “A Rising Tide”).
I had made every single change she’d asked me to, to the manuscript, but I wasn’t about to budge on this one.
Understand that I’m not criticizing Lauzau or saying “I told you so.” I love Lauzau; she’s an incredibly talented editor. And I believe she made my book shine brighter than anyone else could have. But I also view this experience as teachable moment, which confirms you should “field test” your product or service on your audience.
Related: Why ‘Trust Your Gut’ Is a Myth
Then, if the feedback is positive, you have every reason to go with your gut and stand your ground regardless of the expert opinions.
Stand your ground
But back to my story . . . I agreed to edit and rewrite the story a bit but wasn’t about to remove it as she’d requested. Why? Because that story perfectly embodied what is perhaps the biggest takeaway from my book, which is the value of embracing an abundance mindset over a scarcity mentality.
Stephen was a 17-year-old college prospect I recruited who, in a tug at the heart strings moment, taught some grownups a powerful lesson on how a rising tide raises all ships, so to speak.
The “Stephen Story,” like others in the book, had been audience tested. I’d told it countless times during speaking engagements, and without fail, audience members had shared with me that this particular story was their most memorable takeaway from my remarks.
As a result, like Aldean, I was confident that the story’s message would resonate with my readers. The proof rolled in early, in the form of the first Goodreads.com review the book received.
Shortly thereafter, two additional pieces reflected similar sentiments: An article by David Lee, “Servant Leadership Lessons From A 17-Year-Old,” about the story was so well written that it captured the attention of columnist Marcel Schwantes, who in turn also covered the story.
Smart, top performing artists test their music before a live crowd before they permanently put it on their albums. And comics like Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld are famous for testing jokes in small clubs before taking them to the big stages. Speakers/authors, meanwhile, test material before making it a permanent part of a book or speech.
So, do the same: Gauge your audience’s response to new products and services. This can be a highly valuable and inexpensive experiment. All of the feedback you gather should get factored-in and discussed when you’re deciding whether or not to formally launch that particular offering.
Related: Know When to Trust Your Gut
When you do this and are armed with the ammunition that your customer feedback provides you can better “stand your ground” in order to maximize your results.