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Recovery – Where to Begin?

Menzie Pittman • October 2020Small Business Matters • September 28, 2020

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

As a musician my true nature is to see and seek potential and possibilities, as well as solutions for any resistance I encounter. That formula is also the backbone of the music industry and has carried me though many a challenge enabling me to remove whatever resistance is in my path. Fortunately, or unfortunately, there are always steps in that process.

Identification, Perception, and Admission

All successful problem-solving starts with admission. First, we must be honest and accurate in identifying the characteristics of any problems we encounter. In the case of COVID-19 this is a harder challenge than normal; it is difficult to solve a multi-dimensional problem when it is morphing daily. Another consideration is the fact that the perception of COVID-19 often differs from person to person and from region to region. Perception is a lens through which we view things.

What we perceive as accurate becomes our reality – and although we believe it to be real, it may not be factual. Therefore, when the specifics of a problem are continually changing, and the perceptions of that problem vary, identifying the best solution becomes more difficult. So, starting with that admission is healthy, and it allows us to move forward.

We can now freely admit that since no one knows exactly what we are experiencing or exactly what we should do, it gives us a free pass to experiment in finding productive solutions to our current business challenges, and allows us grace in our mistakes making them more acceptable. My advice is to label it a “jazz moment,” and revel in the improv!

Sobriety

Remember that time at the frat party when you were the cool guy? You woke up the next morning hosting a splitting headache, you didn’t remember too much from the night before, yet you desperately tried to recall the details of the prior night, and you searched madly for your dignity. Well, that’s how COVID-19 has left most of us feeling – especially the smaller independent dealers.

New Thinking, and Green Shoots

Now, after the initial train-wreck of COVID, creative dealers are furiously pursuing resources, productive partnerships, solutions, and new ways of presenting their business offerings. We can no longer continue to depend on what we did in the past. And just as the mythological phoenix rose from the ashes, so we will emerge from something that has been destroyed. Think about the situation with public education. The fresh ideas we had, that may have been shunned (even recently), don’t seem quite so crazy now. To survive this awkward time, we need to entertain a new level of cooperation. We must embrace a new “old fashioned way,” but with the important new twist: civility!

Civility, cooperation, empathy, and inventiveness coupled with technology will be the new cocktail.

The Revival of the Tool of Networking

Taking a cue from the past, revive the art of networking. For those who have truly developed that skill, networking has really paid off recently. When a storm like COVID hits, everyone is humbled, and civility and cooperation become the new cryptocurrency. Networking is the vault where they are stored. In the past week I have had long conversations with several well-run music stores, and music educators at every level, from individual musicians to college professors. I have spoken to software developers, product reps, families, schoolteachers, local leaders, college students, and the list goes on. Everyone is looking for fresh ways of thinking, relief, and effective ways to rekindle commerce and, lastly, a sense of stability in their business.

Surprise! Every crisis brings unexpected good news!

For many, the news isn’t all bad. Here is a quote is from an article published in the New York Times entitled “Guitars are Back – Baby!”

“A half-year into a pandemic that has threatened to sink entire industries, people are turning to the guitar as a quarantine companion and psychological salve, spurring a surge in sales for some of the most storied companies (Fender, Gibson, Martin, Taylor) that has shocked even industry veterans.”

So, if you were postured correctly with an excellent online presence, you may have enjoyed an unexpected increase in sales. I personally have seen an increased interest in education, but there is a catch to that last statement. The customers expect perfection. Due to personal stress, there doesn’t seem to be much empathy from customers. They are dealing with all the odd cancellations and restrictions, too, so the increased interest in education doesn’t come without a cost. However, I also believe that that level of good service should be the norm.

In Closing

Recovery is a long and challenging process. I’m sure everyone in the music industry is working harder than ever before just to maintain “normal.” I feel compassion for the performing musicians whose livelihoods have been abruptly interrupted – and let’s not forget all the service businesses who have suffered because of this event.

Many have come to realize that perhaps we, as a society, have been moving too quickly without considering the personal cost. Now, most of my industry friends are riding bikes, hiking, increasing their family time, and re-examining their priorities and values. That’s a positive in all of this. To truly embrace recovery, you first must start with yourself.

Menzie Pittman is the owner and director of education at Contemporary Music Center in Virginia (CMC). Following a performance and teaching career spanning more than 32 years, he founded CMC in 1989 and continues to perform, teach, and oversee daily operations. He has 50 years of musical experience as a drummer and drum instructor. Menzie is a frequent speaker at NAMM’s Idea Center, and a freelance writer for MMR’s “Small Business Matters.”

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