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band playing on stage

Introducing the Band

One of Tom Hank’s early movies, That Thing You Do, is a personal favorite of mine. If you haven’t seen it, it’s great. While Hanks is in the movie, he primarily helms the directorial duties, so it’s not specifically about one of his characters…which is nice.

The plot goes something like this: Midwest boy is a drummer; boy teams up with other local, midwest youth to form a band; band hits it big with their first single; band signs with a label; band goes on a massive tour and becomes instantly famous; band subsequently implodes. See? Simple, but great.

Del Paxton: “Ain’t no way to keep a band together. Bands come and go. You got to keep on playin’, no matter with who.”

Del: “You guys any good?”

Guy Patterson: “Yeah, man, we got–Jimmy and Lenny and me and…Faye–”

Guy: “We got something snappy. I really think we do.”

Del: “I’m sure you do, but sooner or later, something makes you crazy: money, women, the road. Hell, man, just time.”

Guy: “Well, we’ve only been together for two months.”

Del: “Some bands I been with, that’s two months too long.”

The dialogue above takes place near the end of the movie in which the main protagonist, Guy Patterson, receives some sage advice from his favorite jazz musician, Del Paxton. The moment is somber, a distant cloud on the horizon promising thunder and rain, but frames well what Guy has already come to realize about his band—they can’t work together and their days are numbered.

I’ve had occasion to think of this scene many times as I move through the day-to-day flow of managing and building our design studio—especially of late. As an entrepreneur, risk is essential and change is inevitable. Opportunities will constantly present themselves, but they won’t always work out the way you might hope they will. While Patterson and Paxton’s dialogue is set in the musical context of the movie, the sub-text of their words can be applied directly to entrepreneurship, partnerships, and opportunities.

I think designers and developers are the new bands of this era—insulated tribes of skilled individuals who come together, hunker down, and try to create magic.

We live in a glorious time, technologically. To be a designer and developer at this stage in history…well, I’ll just say it…there’s few other time frames I would want to live in. We have everything at our fingertips and a broad, talented community to team up with to get some beautiful work done. I think designers and developers are the new bands of this era—insulated tribes of skilled individuals who come together, hunker down, and try to create magic. Yet, as with many bands, there can be challenges.

Your team can have all the skill in the world, but if people don’t gel, then hope and possibility take a back seat. Perhaps you manage to eek out a project or two that are really promising, but the partnership in the long term is doomed if there’s no personal chemistry. The difficult part of this is that you probably won’t know things aren’t working until you’re in the thick of the collaboration. It’s not impossible to get things back on track, but open and honest conversation is at the heart of getting things back on track.

I’ve been fortunate during much of my career to work with a solid group of creatives. My current teammates are some of the best studio mates I’ve ever collaborated with. Much of that chemistry came from knowing them for quite sometime prior to working together. The rest of that comes down to hard work on everyone’s part.

The point of all this is, getting to know your partners is important. Long term collaborative or business efforts are, many times, like a marriage. The best one’s, the most successful ones, are a relationship between good forgivers.