FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Nova Southeastern University professor Barry Barnes tells his management classes the Grateful Dead can teach us a lot about business and personal finance.
Mr. Barnes, 68, a former IBM and John Deere executive, followed the band for decades to learn the secrets behind the Grateful Dead's marketing genius.
He recently published his findings in a book: Everything I Know About Business I Learned from the Grateful Dead: The Ten Most Innovative Lessons From a Long, Strange Trip.
Band members managed to thumb their noses at the established music world and "become one of the longest-lived, most-beloved, and top-grossing acts of the late 20th century," he writes in his book. Even now, 16 years after breaking up, the Grateful Dead remains a formidable business empire.
Mr. Barnes was working at IBM in 1969 when he heard his first Grateful Dead album. But it wasn't until attending a Dead show (he's been to 200 concerts) in 1985 that he realized the band had "some important lessons to teach the business world." Mr. Barnes quit his job at John Deere to get a doctorate, focusing on the Grateful Dead's business acumen.
"I have a passion for music, and something about the Grateful Dead really got to me. I had to understand their ability to change and their improvisation," Mr. Barnes said.
Both are crucial in today's tough economic times, he said.
Three examples of Deadhead principles that can help others:
Disrupt old habits. The band members didn't trust the music industry, so they started what turned out to be a lucrative record company, merchandising company, and mail-order ticketing business. Get rid of bad habits, such as spending your paycheck before you have a chance to save.
Embrace caution. You can be a free spirit while being careful with money. Remember the Dead lyrics: "When life looks like Easy Street, there is danger at your door."
Accept your errors — but make adjustments. Learn from your mistakes before going on. For example, the Grateful Dead trusted someone to handle the band's money, but the employee stole $150,000, Mr. Barnes said. Band members learned to monitor their money more carefully.