What Small Businesses Can Learn From Djs

Don’t worry, I haven’t lost my mind... rather I’m challenging yours to think about where you draw ideas and inspiration from in your business.

By way of some background, in addition my work in cybersecurity and a small business owner, I’m also a DJ. Not the kind you hear on the radio (although I once did that, many many years ago!) but the kind you’d find at a bar or nightclub. Proof that not all DJs tour the world in private jets.

So how does this apply to the world of small business?

Let me decompose what a DJ (at least my type of DJ) does. It’s our job to find other people’s music and curate it in such a way that we can deliver a performance. One criticism that DJs get frequently is that we’re not musicians in that we are simply playing other people’s work. I’d agree with that to some degree, but I’d also challenge it. The DJ has at his or her disposal some basic tools to work with. We can adjust the volume, tempo (speed), pitch and modulate certain frequencies to highlight or de-emphasize certain frequencies. We can also decide which track will flow nicely into which other, and when in the song we’d like to cut over. Perhaps we really like the intro to track A, but the chorus from track B and if we adjust the pitch correctly they can both be in the same key allowing us to blend one almost seamlessly over the top of the other, in essence almost creating a new track, C.

Let’s say we give the same 10 records to 10 DJs. You’d probably end up with 10 unique blends of those tracks, different orders, different takes on the same set of songs.

As small business owners, we are always taking and adapting other people’s ideas. What works for other small businesses might be a fit for us as-is, but quite often we also take part of an idea from one place and another part from somewhere else. We might find these parts don’t quite fit together perfectly so we make some adjustments until we get something that works for us. Just like the DJ can mix tracks to produce something new, so too can small business owners blend ideas from across the spectrum to find something unique.

Big businesses do this too. Let’s think back to the launch of the Apple iPod. At the time it was launched, it was not the first portable music device, not even the first digital portable music device. Portable music devices fit in your pocket and gave you the ability to listen to maybe a hundred songs—certainly enough to get you through the day. Your computer at home could store thousands of songs, probably most (if not all) of your music collection, but it wasn’t portable. What Apple did was to combine these things. They took the portability of those earlier music players, and the storage capacity of your computer (made smaller by technology) to give us a device that could store a “1,000 songs in your pocket” which became the iPods first marketing slogan.

When you’re looking to solve the next challenge in your business, it might be worth looking for parts of the solution rather than the solution as a whole. This can lead you to a new approach, and in some cases may even lead you to discover new commercial ideas.