Reputations can rise or fall in the blink of an eye in today’s hyper-connected world.

Yet one of the best examples for classy (and profitable!) A-Lister behavior comes from last century. The Grateful Dead.

You heard me, The Grateful Dead. To your relief, or perhaps disappointment, I’m not a Deadhead. I’ve never attended one of their concerts. I’ve probably only listened to a handful of their songs.

You probably never saw them in concert either. Yet both of us know about The Grateful Dead. I respect the heck out of how they handled themselves after they became famous.

No matter how big, how widespread, how influential you become, that success (and the money it generates) can come toppling down. If you turn your back on those who made you, on the values that you built upon, you’ve just set the clock ticking for the beginning of the end.

Fear not! The example set by The Grateful Dead is easy to understand and emulate.

This post is part of the October Word Carnival. The topic is A Call to Arms for Decent Bloggers: What Carnies Want to Tell the A-Listers. This month’s topic is more exciting than the fire breather, fortune teller and strong man rolled into one!

In honor of Halloween, imagine each rule being read by the Count from Sesame Street.

Grateful Dead A-Lister Rule #1

Don’t take your base for granted.

Grateful Dead fans (a.k.a. Deadheads) made the band. I remember first learning about them while working as a waitress during my college years. One of the managers was a huge fan, and would recount his vacation time spent following the band on tour.

The Dead never advertised. They never needed to. Their fans would talk about The Dead with anyone who would hold still for 60 seconds.

Did I mention that The Grateful Dead could fill stadiums for their concerts?

No advertising.
Before social media.
Before the internet as we know it today.

How did they do it? How did they create AND maintain that devotion? They never took their base for granted. They rewarded them.

Some Deadheads literally followed the band to every single tour stop. To cover expenses these fans starting creating tie-dyed Grateful Dead T-Shirts and selling them at concerts. Instead of complaining, asking for a cut or shutting them down, The Dead encouraged this behavior.

Yes, The Grateful Dead encouraged their fans to sell T-Shirts with their logo and didn’t take a cent of the proceeds. They realized that this hyper-dedicated group needed a way to support themselves. The band gave up a sizable chunk of money (think of it, people were living off these sales) simply to reward their most loyal fans.

Wow. That alone was enough for me to admire them.

But wait there’s more (hey when did we switch over into an infomercial?)…

Grateful Dead A-Lister Rule #2

Don’t abandon your values.

A little earlier I mentioned my former manager who was a Deadhead. When he discovered I had never heard a song by The Dead he whipped out a cassette and started playing their music for me. (Yes a cassette, don’t let that distract you). I noticed it was a homemade recording, and asked if it was bootleg.

If possible he became even more excited as he explained no it wasn’t bootleg. He (my manager) had made the recording from a live event. The Grateful Dead encouraged their audience to make recordings and share them with others. This policy helped fuel their popularity. Think about it – my manager could share a recording of his actual experience with anyone. It made it personal (again this was back before the internet was even a thing).

Once they became famous, and had established a large following, the band could have started to curtail those recordings. Or at least tell people not to make copies for others. They didn’t. They knew that allowing their fans to freely record and share recordings was part of their foundation. It was a core value, one they never abandoned.

As tempting as the additional profits may be (or as big as your ego may get), NEVER turn your back on your core values. Your bottom line will surely suffer.

Grateful Dead A-Lister Rule #3

Have fun. Share the fun.
I admit I was intrigued by the picture my manager painted of the experience to be had at a Grateful Dead concert. It sounded fun. They sounded fun.

You started your business for a reason. Don’t forget it.

Your clients are people, and people like to enjoy themselves. Wouldn’t you rather do business with someone who can make you laugh over a dour stick in the mud? Me too!

Final Thoughts

Do you know that there are even more business lessons you can learn from The Grateful Dead? Check out my book, “How to be a Finance Rock Star: The Small Business Owner’s Ticket to Multi-Platinum Profits” to read about the rest.

P.S. The irony of posting this on Halloween is NOT lost on me.