Blue Rodeo, an iconic Canadian band headed by Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor, has been around for 30 years. It has been an impressive and long journey that has seen a string of hit songs, changes in the band’s players and personal ups and downs.
While watching them perform recently at Massey Hall, it struck me that startups could learn some important lessons from looking at the partnership between Cuddy and Keelor, who have stuck together in an industry where marriages and hits are fleeting.
Perhaps the biggest lesson is how partnerships are dynamic and evolving creatures that leverage strengths and weaknesses. Cuddy is the more happy-go-luck, upbeat character, while Keelor is the cerebral, deep thinker. It’s a combination that gives their music different shapes and shades.
For startups with multiple founders, it is important to capitalize on what each party brings to the table. While differences in opinion and vision are part of the mix, it is also good to appreciate how different approaches and skills are powerful forces to drive a startup’s growth and focus.
Another lesson from Blue Rodeo is how the journey has its ups and downs. Some of Blue Rodeo’s albums have been widely acclaimed while others have been less enthusiastically received. The key takeaway is recognizing this is how life often unfolds.
There will be days when a startup is riding high, and days when things look bleak. If a startup wants to succeed, it has to keep moving the ball forward. A startup needs the patience to know it is heading down the right path, even when it might seem lost.
While Cuddy and Keelor have been together for three decades, the people playing behind them have changed. People have come and gone for a variety of reasons. Some have pursued other projects, while others have likely been replaced to bring in better players.
The same approach applies to startups, which can have strong leadership but need to make sure there is a strong supporting cast to take the business forward through different phases along the way.
It could mean parting ways with good employees who don’t have the skills to help drive the business forward. It could mean making a decision to part ways due to philosophical reasons.
At the end of the, the leadership team must make decisions best for the company’s future, even if means leaving good people behind.
If you needed a good excuse to put the focus on Blue Rodeo (as if a good excuse would be needed), there are key lessons that startups can benefit from.
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