“My model for business is the Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other’s kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. That’s how I see business: Great things in business are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people.” – Steve Jobs
Read enough biographies of successful people and you’ll notice a pattern emerge. Nearly all of them had a partner and team who supported and elaborated upon their vision. This kind of partnership, in which two or more people with the same goals work in tandem to make their vision a reality, is known as a mastermind. For me, Ed Duncan was the co-creator who shared a vision. In our years of working together, we have disagreed but have never had an argument. Today I consider him one of my best friends. I trust him completely just as he trusted me to assemble our first band.
No matter your industry, choosing your partner and then your team is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. Choose wisely and you’ll increase your chances of success. Choose poorly and you’ll be doomed before you start. Most important, don’t settle.
When I started assembling my team for Party on the Moon, I judged auditioned candidates by how well they matched three criteria that I envisioned for the business:
- Nice people. It sounds pollyannish but this was my first priority during the auditioning process. I knew I’d be spending way more time offstage with these people than onstage. It was important to me that I surrounded myself with nice people whose values were similar to mine. The people in Party in the Moon and Galaxy Party Management bands are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.
- Talented people. This is a no-brainer. But with talent comes baggage, and no baggage is heavier than ego. I wanted artists who were talented and humble. Fortunately, the auditions in Atlanta were an embarrassment of riches. Musicians came out of the woodwork looking for an opportunity to make a living making music. They were everywhere, drawn to the city by its affordability, beauty, central location and quality production facilities that attracted major superstars. I continue to receive calls on a regular basis from musicians who have moved to Atlanta.
- Part of something special. To want to be part of Party on the Moon meant to be willing to roll up your sleeves and do what it took to be the best in the country. I wanted people who wanted a career, not just a gig. What I was creating was special and I wanted people who understood my vision and would help to create it.
When I chose my team, strong values were also extremely important. For instance, Jeff Thimas, our male lead vocalist, is a foster parent whose mission is to keep siblings together. He and his wife have fostered four sets of children and keep the children as long as it takes for their parents to get on their feet or until they get adopted. When he auditioned for the band and told me this, I knew he was the right guy for Party on the Moon.
Mark Brown, our drummer, is another great example. Mark has been with me from the start. He’s a former marine and a veteran of Desert Storm. He now works for the department of corrections, mainly with young offenders. I couldn’t ask for a better guy to lead the charge while we’re onstage.
I also chose musicians who were more talented than me. Earl Fleming, our keyboard player, has worked with Rick James, Ohio Players, Teena Marie, Gloria Gaynor and Tyler Perry, to name a few. Members of the band have worked with Mary J. Blige, The Isley Brothers, Keith Sweat, Arrested Development, Chaka Khan, among others. Jim Boling, our producer and sound engineer, has recorded Prince, Natalie Cole, Gladys Knight and the Commodores. It’s a treat to be on stage with these talented musicians. Don’t be afraid to surround yourself with people with more talent or skill than you.
I cannot stress enough the importance of choosing your team wisely, whatever your business. Be very clear on what you are looking for. Be patient. Don’t settle. These things may very well determine your success.
Your team doesn’t have to be big, but it does have to be unified. I can’t imagine being successful without my team, which includes sales, marketing, sound and video production, tour bus company, t-shirt printers, costume designers, accountants and choreography. Oh yeah, and some of the best musicians in the country.
For more excerpts from Dennis’ book, “Rock ‘n’ Roll, Martial Arts and God,” please visit Amazon.