From struggling musician to tech start-up

My story as an entrepreneur begins with the birth of a child. Prior to my son being born, I was pretty well contented living the life of a bohemian poet and musician, with big visions for my art, but not any real sense of urgency to pursue any type of career.

How ironic you might think, that I now run a technology company designed to do that very thing: help artists gain control of their careers and learn how to develop a business around their music.

Matt Urmy
Source: Natalie Brasington
Matt Urmy

The vision for Artist Growth, a cloud-based data-management platform to help artists manage events, flights, revenue, ticket sales, etc., did not come overnight. My co-founder (also a new, young father) and I did not really begin to pursue the idea seriously for a couple of years. The trouble we ran up against was that we didn't know anything about running a business, and no matter where we looked, we couldn't find a tool that could help.

That's when we learned many of the hard and unforgiving lessons of entrepreneurial life, and what it takes to start and run a company…especially when it's your first rodeo. It's no secret that entrepreneurship is on the decline in the U.S. Here are some timely tips for those trying to change that dynamic.

1. Soulmates: the product and the need. The first question I was asked in my very first conversation with a successful entrepreneur and investor was, "Does your product solve a real need?"

Now, that seems easy enough to answer. The natural response is to say, "Yes, of course it does!" However, it is a really sobering question. It requires a lot of research to verify, and if you can come out of that and still say yes, you can move on to the next challenge.

2. Relentless waters: building your team. You might be the visionary explorer, but do you know how to operate a ship on the high seas? If it's your first rodeo, then let me go ahead and tell you that, most likely, you do not. You need to put some salty dogs on your team who know how to weather a storm without getting knocked off course.

This is where you start looking for people who complement you. Then it's up to you to inspire them to be willing to climb aboard your vessel and go on a journey. Bottom line, don't try to be the smartest person in the room. Find people that are smarter than you in their area of expertise.

3. Leadership: Read the signs. A big part of leadership is learning how to read the environment and discern when you need to get involved in daily team activity, and when you need to stand back, smile, and watch your team do what they do best.

But never let an employee stay on when they can't keep up with the rest. Nothing will kill morale more than having someone who can't do their job on a team with a bunch of A-list rock stars.

It's inevitable that you'll hire someone like this; you can't read every one perfectly. Sometimes no matter how much professional development you give someone, they are just in the wrong role. The important part is that you are able to deal with it swiftly when it happens, in a compassionate, professional way.

4. Balance: work and life. In a start-up, you can count on the fact that work will bleed into family time, and family will bleed into work time, no matter how rigid you are with time management. So, what do you do in those situations?

The key ingredient to work/life balance is being able to stay in the present moment, and have an awareness of your state of mind.

For example, if you have been trying to get a key prospect on the phone for three weeks, and they text you in the middle of Sunday dinner to tell you they have 20 minutes to talk, chances are you're going to pick up the phone.

The key is that when you come back from that 20 minute phone call, you are present and self aware enough to not stay in work mode the rest of the night. It's very challenging, but in the end, managing work/life balance, for me, comes down to presence and self awareness.

Artist Growth
Gary Burchell | Getty Images

Commentary by Matt Urmy, 37, founder of Artist Growth, a cloud-based mobile app that helps musicians keep track of finances, inventory, tour schedules, promotions and just about every other aspect of running a band. They are based in Nashville, TN. Urmy recently published a book of poetry titled 'The Rain In The Bell'. Follow him on Twitter @artistgrowth.

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