I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the passing of B.B. King. While I have been to hundreds of concerts in my life, at one point I had seen B.B. King more than anyone (yes, even Springsteen although that’s no longer true). He has been rightfully honored over the last few days by every guitar legend – Eric Clapton being the most prominent – as having been a huge influence on their music. When he wrapped his fingers around Lucille, his guitar, he could say more in three notes than most guitarists can say in an hour.
Of the dozens of times I saw him, one night in particular stands out and as it turns out there is a business point to be made as well. B.B.’s shows always began with the band playing a number or two and then the master would hit the stage. This particular night he played his first song and began his second when a string broke on Lucille. It would have been incredibly easy for him to have signaled the band to stop because it was very apparent that a string had snapped. Instead, as he continued to sing the lyrics, his right hand reached into his jacket pocket and out came a few strings. Singing all the while, he proceeded to change the string, tune it as he played, and finished the song without missing a beat. The audience stood as one when he finished, not because the song was a show highlight but because of the master class we had just seen.
The business point is one that I think we all know. Strings break in all of our businesses from time to time. The customers don’t really care even when they’re aware that something is amiss. The broken string is your problem, not the customer’s. How prepared are you? Can you go about your business of providing an uninterrupted product or service of the expected quality or do you stop the band and make the customers wait? B.B. King didn’t play a different guitar every other song. He stuck with Lucille, so waving a roadie out to swap instruments wasn’t an option (and I could go on here about loyalty and consistency but you’re already there). He probably had those strings in his jacket every show and rarely needed them (this was the only time I ever saw them come out in dozens of shows). Do you have strings in your pocket or are you looking for a roadie to bail you out?
I’m sad The King Of The Blues is gone but thankful for all the joy he gave me and the inspiration he provided to many of the others whose music I love. I’m also appreciative of his professionalism and have learned a little from his broken string. You?