5 Lessons in 5 Years (of Audio Blood)

Every day, I get to wake up and go to work at my favourite place in the world with my favourite people. Every day I shake myself and say – HEY THIS IS REAL LIFE. YOU AREN’T DREAMING!

My brand and artist development company Audio Blood is turning 5 years old next month and I can’t help but do some reflecting. 5 years somehow feels like it has just flown right by. I can see 10 in the not so distant future, and 15 and 20 thereafter. But, when you look carefully at each year it also feels like it’s been so long since starting out on my own in my little bedroom on Salem Ave in Toronto to our new downtown office with 7 full time staffers. It kinda blows my mind.

I truly have grown up running this company (and still am). I started it when I was all of 18 years old. All of my mistakes and learning curves have been on display for the industry and community to see, and boy have I made many. There have also been some amazing highs mixed between the heartbreaking lows. I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. I never forget how lucky I am to get to live out my dreams every single day, and for those of you considering starting your own company or debating if it’s the right thing for you – here’s some quick lessons I’ve learned the hard way after 5 years of Audio Blood. Hope they help to save you some time on whatever path you choose.

#1 – The only person standing in your way is you. 

Outside barriers and factors that come up and mess with your plans are inevitable. It’s all about how gracefully you deal with them. A roadblock is only a detour and with the right mental attitude it shouldn’t take long to get back on track. Blaming the outside factors and throwing your hands up ensures you’re the only one that loses. There is ALWAYS a way, only few are willing to go searching for it. The feeling of defeat isn’t always easy to fight off but getting what you need out of every situation is worth the battle.

#2 – Trust your gut. 

Sometimes your gut is confused, so this one isn’t always as easy as it sounds. But when making difficult decisions think back to your core principles – what standards do you maintain while approaching these situations, what are your personal values – sometimes the decisions become easier to make this way. If you make a mistake, but it was based on what your gut thought was best at the time, forgive yourself quickly and move on. It’s not about your emotions or your ego – leave that stuff at the door, it’s about what is best for the company and the client. Always.

#3 – Lead by Example. 

You can’t expect others to maintain standards you yourself cannot uphold. That means you better check yo’ self, so to speak. As a leader you are on a stage. Your actions speak loudly to your team, your clients, and the beautiful people you surround yourself with. Inspire them to work harder and become the best versions of themselves. Inspire them to fight for what they believe in and do their best work every single day. It’s not always easy to live in that space, sometimes you might slip up, you are only human, but fighting for consistency goes a long way.

#4 – Care enough to do it right. 

There are some VERY unglamorous elements about running your own business and working in the music industry. Don’t let that messiness scare you away and get you frustrated. Push through boldly and remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. Working hard is not meant to be easy. Research, execute, and review endlessly and take it very seriously. Loving music is one thing but giving it the backing it deserves is what the industry exists for. Learn how to do every element well. And watch out – there’s a lot of them.

#5 – Surround Yourself with the Very Best.

Luckily, like-minded people attract like-minded people, but it’s easy to take that for granted. Never let yourself. Fight to keep the best of the best people close. Take the time needed to develop relationships personally and professionally. Show them love at every chance you get and never forget you would be nowhere without your community, team, and family. You are only as good as they make you look. Give them your best, always and be there for them. And please god, figure out how to use your iCal and stick to meeting times. There is nothing that says I don’t really value our time together than not being able to coordinate your shit – no matter how busy you are.

Thank you for the endless support for the last 5 years. Cannot wait for many more great years ahead.

Much love,
s.

*Photo above: Wildlife at Record Store Day secret party April 2013 by Geoff Stairs

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