What Tactical Retailers Can Learn From…Taylor Swift?

While money certainly helps motivate hard work and loyalty, it’s not the only way to show your team that you care. Just ask Taylor.

What Tactical Retailers Can Learn From…Taylor Swift?

John Hafner

Four years ago, when I talked with Wright Thompson about his book The Cost of These Dreams, he called Taylor Swift  “the most incredible person in American life.”

As Thompson said, Swift experienced global, nuclear success at a young age. And she’s continued to be incredibly successful. Yet she’s never had that “teen star” meltdown. Her success is amazing, but even more incredible is that she’s mature, well-rounded and happy.

That accomplishment is truly staggering. Also staggering is the estimated $1 billion-plus her latest tour was predicted to gross. Granted, gross is one thing, net is another.

And there is a lesson to be learned by small business owners from Swift’s story of financial success and gratitude shown to those around her.


Follow the Money

Say Swift’s average show generates $10 million in total revenue (even though some estimates place that number as high as $13 million). With 130-plus shows planned for the tour, that’s well over $1 billion. Then there’s merchandise. And album sales. And streaming. And money from Capital One, the tour’s presenting sponsor. Some estimates put the total gross at $1.4 billion.

But stadium fees, promoter fees and expenses eat into that gross.

And so does another expense Swift willingly incurred. Swift reportedly gave bonuses to everyone who worked on her show. Dancers. Sound technicians. Riggers. Caterers.

And truck drivers: According to Michael Scherkenbach, founder and CEO of Shomotion trucking, Swift’s father, Scott, made a short speech and then handed each driver a handwritten note from Swift, along with a check for $100,000. All the bonuses — and the impact on Swift’s bottom line — reportedly totaled $55 million. Which you could argue is (relatively) insignificant.

The estimated gross for Swift’s tour may be conservative, since dates kept getting added to the schedule. Pollstar estimated ticket sales alone grossed $1.4 billion, a number they call “conservative.” After expenses, stadium costs, other fees, etc., Swift likely nets between 40% and 60%. To be conservative, let’s call her personal earnings $4 million. That means Swift will net somewhere around $500 million from ticket sales alone. Add in merchandise sales, sponsor revenue, album sales and streaming fees, and even after expenses, Swift’s net worth will likely go up more somewhere between $300 million and $400 million.

In that light, deciding to reward the people who help make her tour successful doesn’t seem that staggering.

But still: It’s $55 million dollars. No matter how much you make, $55 million is still a lot of money.


Recognizing Teamwork

But maybe that’s another reason Swift is so successful. No one ever does anything worthwhile on their own; it takes 50 truck drivers just to haul all the equipment from one city to another. Staging the spectacle requires hundreds of people. Without Swift, there is no show, but without them, there is no show.

At its core, employment is a transaction. Your employees work for a paycheck. (As Don Draper in the series Mad Men replied when writer Peggy Olson said he never thanks her for her work, “That’s what the money is for!”)

But we all want to feel part of a team. We all want to feel a part of something bigger than ourselves. Feeling a true purpose starts with knowing what to care about, and why. And, most important, that we are cared for — that we are valued, respected and important.

Want your employees to care about your business? First prove that you care about them. Maybe, like Swift, that could mean rewarding their hard work in a tangible way.

But for many small business owners, especially those bootstrapping their way toward profitability, that might not be possible. However you can still prove you care in other ways. Asking for suggestions and input, and acting on that input. Providing recognition and praise for specific reasons, not just a generic “thanks for your hard work.” Creating informal leadership roles that show you respect the employee’s judgment. Granting not just responsibility, but authority.

You don’t have to be the most incredible person in American life to make a difference in the lives of your employees. You just have to want to — and then act on that desire.


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