November 7, 2018
Finding a Place in Your Business
“So what is it, you say, you do here?”
That famous quote from the movie Office Space has been uttered in jest a million times in corporations and small businesses across the country. It is a great way to mock jobs where perhaps people don’t feel a purpose or a sense of being.
For Jay “Hart” Stanley, it is a crass way of looking at how he fits into the business he is currently trying to build.
Hart and business partner Alex St. Cin own Lighthouse Sounds in Alton, Illinois. As one of the six featured businesses in Season 3 of Small Business Revolution – Main Street, we get to know their business struggles and long-term goals for the burgeoning recording studio.
Their arrangement is unique, but not atypical of many business partners. Alex is the engineer, the “talent” who works with bands and recording artists to bring their music to life. Without him, Lighthouse Sounds doesn’t exist. Hart is the business side, the one with the money. With dollars he inherited from his late father, Hart is investing in the business and bringing a new studio space to life not only with money, but his labor as well. Without him, Lighthouse Sounds doesn’t exist.
Yet early on in our conversations with Hart and Alex, our team of experts noticed Hart’s trepidation with his place in the business. As he says to Juanita Copeland, president and chief operating officer of Sound Emporium Studios in Nashville, Tennessee, “I want to create a retail space, so I have somewhere to go in my own business. I need something that I can do.”
“You can be me,” Juanita shot back at Hart, challenging him to think differently about his role.
Juanita Copeland has built one of the most successful recording studios in Nashville, where the who’s who in music come to lay down their tracks. Copeland relies on her engineers to create superior sound, but she is the boss, running the numbers, creating the experience, building the brand. Her challenge to Hart: be the business end of Lighthouse Sounds.
The arrangement between Alex and Hart is not unique. Friends often go into business together. How they handle their sides of the business will help them thrive. With Alex working with musicians, Juanita encouraged Hart to find his voice by handling the day-to-day activities. Create an experience bands and musicians will want to share; work the books; invest in equipment; bring in new engineers. Running a retail shop isn’t the only thing he can do.
For many small business owners, the dream is often clouded by a lack of vision. Hart is investing time and money to make Lighthouse Sounds a destination recording studio. Yet without a musical background, his vision was limited to only selling merchandise. By finding others in the industry – mentors like Juanita Copeland – he is exposed to different ways of imagining his role within the business. How he embraces that role is up to him.
For any partnership, respect for what each partner brings to the business is critical. Alex’s expertise and skill sets the tone for bringing in recording acts. Hart’s ability to learn the operational end of the recording business becomes his path forward. If one day either decides to leave the partnership, then the other isn’t left without a business.
As with any business, the people make the difference. But in this case, with a partnership, the business can still thrive with different players. Hart and Alex are Lighthouse Sounds – they are building and cultivating and making it into the image they want. Their personalities will dictate the success of Lighthouse Sounds. At the same time, if either of them departs, the business remains. Sure, it changes, it evolves, but it remains.
With Juanita’s direction, Hart will evolve, finding his place from his vision, to his position. His ability to embrace a role as the business end of Lighthouse Sounds will go a long way toward determining their overall success.