5 Things to Learn from Lionel Richie

That’s right. I said it. I love Lionel Richie and I’m not going to apologize for it either.

Truth be told, I forgot that I loved him. He was HUGE in the eighties, and he was just so present it was like I really didn’t think about him too much. His songs were always topping the charts, never mind that he was the co-mastermind behind, We Are the World, the USA’s answer to BandAid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas that you hear 10,000 times a day at the holidays.

But I digress. As luck would have it, Lionel went on tour recently, and I was fortunate enough to surround myself with the kind of people happy to take in his show. And as I was rocking out to All Night Long and Dancing on the Ceiling, it occurred to me that we all have a lot to learn from Dear Lionel. Here are a few, in no particular order…

  1. Surround Yourself with People as Passionate as You—He didn’t have a huge band, or tons of sexy backup singers. Just a handful of clearly talented musicians, many of whom could play multiple instruments and looked like they were having a ball. It was so fun to watch them because you could see that they loved what they do. And that kind of energy is palpable and magnetic. If you and your co-workers love your company and act like you care, your customers will feel it and be compelled to work with you.
  2. Take Good Care of yourself and you Just Might Live Forever—Honestly, I think he looks as good today as he did (gulp) 30 years ago. So go for a run; take a yoga class. That energized bliss will show on your face and you’ll feel better, and as a result DO better. I promise.
  3. Love What You Do—Sensing a pattern here? What was great about him was he didn’t shove a lot of new stuff or self indulgent stuff our way, either. He knew we were there for the hits, and he gave us the hits. He embraced what his fans loved, and was happy to oblige. Knowing what your customers want from you is key to your success. So discover it, and then spend every day trying to deliver.
  4. Continue to Hone Your Craft and you Will Never Lose it—Have you ever seen an artist several years after his/her heyday and been forced to wince because they lost their talent? Not so with Lionel—he sounded just as good in 2013 as he did in 1982. And I bet that means rehearsing and keeping the pipes well tuned. For us, that means continuing to hunt for new business even after we’re well established so that we never get caught unprepared when we lose a huge chunk of business.
  5. Whenever Possible, Travel with a Smoke Machine—This one, I believe, needs no description.

So there they are. Some life lessons from a soul/pop legend! Jambo!

Now working as a consultant, Kelly sold digital printing for 15 years so she understands the challenges, frustrations and pitfalls of building a successful sales practice. Her mission is to help printers of all sizes sell more stuff. Kelly's areas of focus include client recovery, retention and acquisition, and marketing communications projects.
Kelly graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Political Science and, among other notable accomplishments, co-founded the Windy City Rollers, a professional women's roller derby league.

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  • PatMcGrew

    Saw Lionel a few yesars back and I had exactly the same reaction!

  • Bill Farquharson

    Just can’t get myself to admit learning anything from Lionel Richie. Would love to know what it was like to be married to Madonna, however. Oh wait, that was Guy Richie.

  • Dave Wacker

    Great analogies Kelly! My wife and I were fortunate to see him on his opening night last month. We were amazed by the passion he brought to the stage and resulting energy that filled the arena. He immediately connected with the crowd and kept everyone’s attention throughout the entire evening with his various anecdotes.

    One thing that really stood out to me was the preparation. It was clearly evident that he and his entire crew were completely prepared for the entire show – especially since he hadn’t toured the U.S. in 8 years. I couldn’t find one flaw throughout the 2+ hour performance.

    As our greatest industry pioneer, Ben Franklin, once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” One should never underestimate the importance of preparation – especially when an opportunity presents itself with a new client. More often than not, it’s the difference between winning and losing.