Three Lessons Punk Rock Teaches Us About Being a Business Leader


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have an extraordinarily high appetite for risk. Both understand that failure is an inherent risk … and they don’t care. They zealously pursue their passion anyway, as if they were made that way and there’s no other choice.

To tackle any business problem you need those two things, especially if you’re in the early stages of growth. Passion is paramount because you’ll be working for no pay. Most people are afraid of failure, but failure is good because pain is instructive. You uncover areas of improvement that way.

That purity of drive is what galvanizes both the best artists and entrepreneurs. A musician who is just in it for the money or is content to remain on the beaten artistic path is likely to suck, and, really, the same goes in business. If you are doing a startup for the money, you’re in the wrong place. Try investment banking.

Be humble

All of the punkers I’ve been around are down-to-earth and modest. This goes for Flogging Molly, Offspring, Green Day, you name it. Every single musician that I have had the privilege to support or meet on the road is simply happy to be playing music.

I’ll never forget a moment when Dennis Casey, Flogging Molly’s guitar player was about to take the stage in front of 30,000 people at Pukkelpop in Belgium, and said, “This is a lot better than painting houses.” Dennis was always humble and appreciated that the fans—the customers—were the ones making his dream happen.

It should be the same in business. No matter who you are in a company, from the CEO to an individual contributor, no one person is more or less important than the other. Everyone must work together toward the same goal, and as a founder, your main focus is to serve and to help others.

Some of the bad stuff you see in business, like leaders who practice the “kiss up/kick down” style of management, would never be tolerated in the punk world and they shouldn’t be in companies either. Make an effort to let your employees know how much you value their contributions.

Fast forward to today, and as co-founder and CTO of a database automation software company headquartered in Austin, one of the hottest music meccas in the world, I can’t help but appreciate the irony. As my past and present collide, I still haven’t forgotten my roots or what inspires and motivates me. The road may be long and weary at times, but regardless of whether you’re selling music or software, if you understand that your customer and employees are the priorities (and in that order) then you’ll do just fine.

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Robert Reeves is co-founder and chief technology officer of Datical in Austin. Follow @robertreeves

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