Everyone is smarter than you…
I have made many mistakes during my career in the music business. And they are indeed numerous. I often realize these mistakes in the least likely of places, at the most odd times.
But something I learned early on is that everyone is smarter than me, at something. No matter what business you are in, the most valuable asset you have is realizing that everyone is smarter than you, about something. The moment you forget this, you lose.
Your job, whether you are a musician or not, is to pay attention. Listen to people. Spend less time talking and more time listening. And you’ll be amazed at what you can learn.
One of my more memorable mistakes was 5 years ago when I opened a bar in downtown Raleigh. I opened with the statement I would not be hosting live music. “No live music”, I said with confidence to my friends who would ask.
My mistake was a common one among new bar owners. I opened a place that I would enjoy personally. A place at which I would like to hang out. Mistake. You should open a bar for the public’s needs, not your own. It’s not that I don’t love live music – I do of course. It’s just that I’m around live music all the time, so I was hoping to have a bar that would be something opposite of that – just a corner neighborhood bar.
One lonely Sunday night, about a year into my bar’s opening, in walked the Godfather of the Bar Business in this area – A guy named Niall Hanley. Niall is a very successful bar and restaurant owner in Raleigh. He came in to support me and my new venture.
Our bar was dead that night. He sat down next to me at the end of the bar.
Without hesitation he said with a smile, in his thick Irish accent, “Dave. You’re a dumb f**k!” (Those who know Niall know that only he could say this in a way that doesn’t make you angry.)
Surprised I of course wanted to hear more. He went on to say “You’re the biggest music company in the area and you’re not going to run live music in here? I’ve got to say – That’s just stupid. You should run live music.”
He was right. It was stupid. And it’s absolutely something I should have realized long before sitting next to Niall in my empty bar. The next day I called a meeting with my staff and we started the process of hosting live music. Since then we’ve been successfully running live music 7 nights a week.
Niall is not in the music business. He’s in the bar and restaurant business. It would have been easy for me to dismiss his input. It would have been equally as easy for me to put my guard up when he called me a “dumb f**k”. But I didn’t. I listened. And I took the advice of someone who was obviously smarter than me on this topic.
Thanks to Niall Hanley, I own and operate a live music bar that has been open for over 5 years.
I will be forever grateful to him, and ever since that life-changing encounter I have continued to seek any wisdom I can obtain from other bar owners.
Listen. Stop talking and listen. Everyone is smarter than you at something. Never forget this and you’ll be amazed at what you can learn.
Note: This story came to mind because Niall’s Hibernian Pub was the product of a devastating fire today in downtown Raleigh. The entire community is sad by this as The Hibernian is a Raleigh landmark. But all of us that know Niall, know that he is smart and whatever his next step is will be a good one. I’m honored to know Niall Hanley.