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This blog features Carol Roth's tough love on business and entrepreneurship, as well as insights from Carol's community of contributors.
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What Tango Dancing Taught Me About Small Business

 

I caught the tango dancing bug years ago in Chicago. Every night, there are several places that you can go to dance the night away. It is a magical obsession with music, mood, parties, shoes, and yes, dancing tango. People who have been to my website always comment on the video of my last dance in Buenos Aires. It’s a good conversation starter with both men and women.

Argentine tango, as I learned it, doesn’t have much in common with what you see on Dancing with the Stars, but it has taught me a lot about running a small business. Here are just some of the lessons that I have learned.

Choose the partner that makes you dance better.
If you get the chance, make sure you dance with someone who is a little better – or even a lot better – than you. It will help you to up your game. I work with Carol on this blog because it keeps me sharp and focused.  

Find your balance.
I can be a control freak. In tango, I had to let go and let my partner lead, as the woman traditionally follows. This was a shock to my system initially, but over time, I even learned to enjoy it. Following can be very challenging in that you need to always be balanced and communicating to your partner with your body so that he can move you appropriately. At times, it is easier to dance with your eyes closed! The business lessons here are the give and take of ideas between partners, vendors, and clients, and getting used to the ebb and flow of the energy in your business.

Know where to embellish and where not to.
Sometimes, you just need to concentrate on making the right steps. Other times, you can embellish a little and do some fancy footwork. Know when you need to focus and when you can be a little creative and playful. Also, know when you are just reworking the same old stuff and when it is time to ship already.

Be prepared to improvise.
The style of tango that I learned is all improvised. When I dance with a new partner, I have no idea what steps he will pick unless we just finished a class and are practicing a new combination that we learned. Just like starting a business, there are steps (business models, strategies, etc.) that you combine together, but basically, you are improvising and putting the pieces together as you go a lot of the time.

If you need to go in another direction, pivot.
Sometimes, the floor gets crowded and you need to change direction. Sometimes, you chose a strategy that didn’t work quite as you had hoped, so you have to move in another direction. Successful small businesses become masters of executing the elegant business pivot.

Those are the big lessons that I have learned. I am sure that I will discover more as I continue this beautiful and challenging dance that is called being an entrepreneur. Not unlike dancing tango, I hope that the music won’t end, and I will be able to continue building and growing my business for years to come.

What lessons would you add? What have you learned from your entrepreneurial dance? Please share your thoughts in the comments bellow.

Article written by
Catherine Morgan is the editorial director for CarolRoth.com | Business Unplugged and the founder of Point A to Point B Transitions Inc. She is a business consultant to consultants and a career transition coach. Catherine is an engaging public speaker who frequently presents on several topics, including career transition, growing a solo service business, and productivity.
9 comments
MaryLouFloyd
MaryLouFloyd like.author.displayName 1 Like

Who knew the Tango would such a great analogy for a business partnership.  I've taken one Tango lesson and realized how much commitment of time it would take to become good at it.  Hopefully I will go back to it and I desperately want to travel to Buenos Aires!  Your 5 points are quite helpful.  Currently my partner and I are pivoting.  Thanks.

PointA_PointB
PointA_PointB

 @MaryLouFloyd Thank you so much for the lovely comment, Mary Lou. Tango IS a big commitment - but so is running a business :) In my snarky moments I refer to it as "the cult of tango" as those who engage tend to get completely caught up in it.

sharonoday
sharonoday like.author.displayName 1 Like

Catherine, with my background in Brazil, it's samba instead of tango for me.  And what I've learned in all the years of entrepreneurial adventures is that businesses have a life of their own:  for unknown reasons, sometimes the pace is faster and sometimes slower.  Like with a good samba, you have to be in shape, keenly aware and ready to react to whatever presents itself.  ;-)

PointA_PointB
PointA_PointB

 @sharonoday Now samba is something I have never been able to count properly, much less master. I can see how that would work well too, Sharon! 

sharonoday
sharonoday

 @PointA_PointB We can't have that, Catherine, so I've sent you (separately) the best instructions I've seen ... ;-)

TheRelationshipInsider
TheRelationshipInsider like.author.displayName 1 Like

Catherine, I could see you "dancing" as you wrote this piece. My hubbie is a disco dancer, and I have two left feet. Something I learned that fits both dancing and developing a small business is you're going to make mistakes, and they can be the best learning tools.

BradShorr
BradShorr like.author.displayName 1 Like

Hi Catherine, I really like this post. The point about giving up control really hits home with me. It is so hard to let go -- especially if you run a small business. But your ebb and flow analogy is so perfect: it's so much easier to ride the wave of a trend you don't control. You can move faster, straighter, and with less effort! 

 
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