Music superstar Oliver Mtukudzi, who passed away last week, was a renowned singer-songwriter, actor and entrepreneur. He had his own music label, Tuku Music. His illustrious career spanned over 4 decades with a whopping 67 albums to his name. We take a look at 6 important lessons that businesses can learn from Tuku in this article.
Many business textbooks will always encourage you not to rely on one business but to diversify and invest in many other things. This is a good way of ensuring that when your main business suffers, you will have other sources of income to keep you afloat. Tuku did just that. Cognisant of the fact that his music career was not going to last forever, he ventured into other businesses. His Pakare Paye Arts Centre is a perfect example. Founded back in 2003, Pakare Paye boasts of a recording studio, lodge, conferencing facilities, bar, curio shop and restaurant all in one place. Now that he is no more, his family can continue to survive on the business. Apart from that, Tuku also sold branded merchandise like t-shirts and caps. He also had a shoe label, Haikobo. While the information on how these ventures are performing may not be readily available, it is commendable that Tuku managed to get them off the ground in the first place. That is the lesson. Do not put all your eggs in one basket, spread your risk. Invest in many things.
2. Be professional
Many people who spoke about Tuku before and after his death touched on his professionalism. He is one of the first musicians to hire a Band Manager. Tuku’s first Manager, Debbie Metcalfe was instrumental in him gaining an international footprint. He played in the United Kingdom, USA, Canada and other nations. His professionalism earned him recognition by the United Nations who made him UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in Eastern and Southern Africa for children development and HIV awareness. In 2011, he made the Forbes Magazine Top 40 Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa. Tuku has been described as someone who was always punctual for all his appointments. He was rarely late for shows as well. This is an important lesson not only for artists but for all business people as well. Professionalism, the way you dress, interact with others and how you behave in public will make everyone to take you seriously.
3. Revamp and recreate your brand often
Over the years, Tuku did not remain stagnant. His performances on stage were not monotonous and boring. Several times, Tuku changed his band members. The same Debbie Metcalfe who is credited with catapulting him to international heights was replaced at some stage. Although some of his decisions were unpopular with the fans, the net effect was a revamped band. New band members and management always brought renewed vigour and a fresh breath of new ideas, a better sound. At some shows he would play alone and at others he would focus on traditional instruments like marimba. That is how business should be run. Stagnancy is a weakness. The world is moving, adapting to new things. So should your business.
4. Partnerships are important
In business, it is not always easy to go it alone. Effective partnerships are essential. They compliment you, making up for your weaknesses in certain skills or even resources. Oliver Mtukudzi did several collaborations with different artists from different genres. Locally, he collaborated with Matthias Mhere, Jah Prayzah and Winky D among others. You can see that his choice of artists was not based on which genre they belong to. He would do a gospel song or a dancehall song depending on who he is partnering with. Outside the country, Tuku worked with the likes of Steve Dyer (a world renowned saxophonist), Hugh Masekela and Mahube, a group of the best African artists. This gave him the opportunity of breaking into markets which he would not have managed to break into alone. For business people, this is the way to go. If you want to open an office in Kenya, it is important to understand the environment and perhaps partner with Kenyans because they may have important information and capabilities which you as a foreigner may not have.
5. Be unique
Tuku never sounded like anyone else. He sang his own type of music, created and popularised his own brand. He maintained traditional African instruments despite having travelled the world. The same brand made him one of the most sought after artists at international festivals around the world. He dared to be different and this almost always pays off. In business, your products may be similar to those of your competitors but you must always strive to have your own identity, something that differentiates you from the next business, your value proposition. Your uniqueness will set you apart and gain you respect and profits along the way.
6. Invest in real estate
While chatting to a few friends, I came across someone who says he rents one of Tuku’s properties. I thought to myself, even if this is his only property, this is a huge lesson. They say you can never go wrong with real estate. Property value always appreciates. Earning passive income in the form of rental income is a smart way of doing business. Businesses need to invest in their own offices. They also need to have a real estate portfolio safeguarding their savings in the exciting world of property.
Tuku’s life was a lesson for many. He has done his part. It is now up to us to decide how to use the lesson. May his dear soul rest in eternal peace.