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Friday Report ~ July 31, 2015

Oysters and Pearls - If you have been following the Friday reports, you have learned that I am a huge fan of music. I routinely have something playing in the office and always in the car. I love a creative melody and an intelligent lyric. As I am headed off on vacation, and there will be no blog next week, I will take this time to provide you with a slightly longer blog, and celebrate vacations with a discussion on the greatest artist I know, Mr. Jimmy Buffett.

On a trip from North Carolina back to Maine a year ago, I burned several CD's and forced my 10 year old daughter to listen to hours and hours of his songs. This was not torture, but an educational opportunity. By the time we had crossed the Maine border, she was convinced he is a true musical

Jimmy was born on Christmas day in 1946 and grew up in Mobile, Alabama and other locations throughout the south. He graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi with a history degree in 1969. Shortly after, he began playing on street corners in Nashville. It was a whim of a trip to Key West with Jerry Jeff Walker that changed his path. He felt at home there and promptly moved to Key West permanently to live the "beach bum" life.

Jimmy Buffett has never recorded an MTV music video, never had a #1 hit, and has only received one award (a CMA for "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere," with Alan Jackson in 2003). Jimmy didn't play by the rules. In an industry driven by marketers, producers and record labels, he has written and recorded over 30 studio albums, including a song describing a hotel room. These recordings resulted in eight gold records and nine platinum records. For a guy who made his own path, he has done okay. His music and his other efforts have contributed to a net worth of $450 million.

How is it that this flip flop wearing beach bum has become so successful? Hard work and focus. It's that simple. Jimmy Buffett has toured every year for the last 39 years. He never passes up an opportunity to connect with his fans. He continues to give his customer exactly what they want; an opportunity to forget about the hum drum life that they may be living. The dream of having your toes in the sand and a boat drink is one we can all relate to. In addition, he does this better than anyone else.

The songs about beaches and boat drinks would likely be enough, but they work best because he balances the fun songs with the works of art. He is a truly gifted writer. His "non- partying songs" are insightful, expressive and thoughtful. Whether you are a fan of the funny songs, (Math Suks or Fruitcakes) or the truly touching sounds of the ballads ("Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On" or "Someday I Will"), you will find his lyrics are intelligent and creative. He has a knack for finding a common thread in all of us.

The other key to Jimmy's success is in diversification. Jimmy Buffett has built an empire that steps way outside the music world, but stays within his theme. He has written three bestselling novels, multiple children books, created two chains of restaurants (Cheeseburger in Paradise and Margaritaville Café) and even has his own brand of beer "LandShark Lager." This multi corporate enterprise is of course supported by a merchandising machine that will sell you everything from blenders to key chains to any type of apparel you wish.

But it always comes back to the music. Jimmy has surrounded himself with incredible talent and believes that individual success helps the band. His long time bandmate and co-writer Mac McAnally won the CMA "Musician of the Year" award for the 7th straight year in 2014.

In addition to learning how to relax a bit more, care about each other and laugh at ourselves, Jimmy has also taught us how to succeed. If you weren't paying attention, I'll summarize:

Follow your own path - If you have a dream, chase it, and find a way to succeed despite the "status quo."

Work hard - Make sure you are providing a unique product for your customer, find something that makes your product special and become the best at it.

Have fun - Show how much you enjoy your work, but make sure your product or service is backed by quality, and be dedicated and serious when it matters.

Diversify - Find ways to take your empire to the next step. Look for opportunities to add to your
portfolio and expand.

Hire the right people - Look for those that are successful at what they do and make sure that they blend with your team, then work hard to keep them happy.

Love what you do - Really investigate how you want to spend your life and career. Find that thing that makes you smile and do that.

Take a minute to sit back this coming week (I know I will) and listen to some Jimmy Buffett. Reflect on your life and your business and take a piece of advice from a "Parrot Head" -

"Through all of our running and all of our cunning, if we couldn't laugh we just would go insane." - JB Changes In Latitude

Sincerely,                                                                  Parrothead 7 31 2015

Ross H. Cunningham

President & CEO
Kennebec Valley
Chamber of Commerce
PO Box 676, Augusta ME 04332-0676