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Music by VICE

Groupon's Former CEO Made an Album About Business, and It's Amazing

This record brings a totally new meaning to the term "Rockstar CEO." ZING!

by Kyle Kramer
Jul 10 2013, 2:50pm

Visionary Groupon founder Andrew Mason has always been a disrupter. Back in 2008, he disrupted the idea that people should pay full price at struggling restaurants or spas with weird gimmicks by launching a daily deals site. Soon, he disrupted the idea that college grads with English degrees couldn't get a job in Chicago, hiring thousands of them at a pace so intense it made Groupon the fastest-growing startup in history. He disrupted fashion norms, gaining a reputation as the kind of CEO to show up to work in pajamas or flip flops. He later disrupted the idea that tech companies should make money, boldly leading Groupon from a $20 stock price at its IPO to a price of $4.53 on the day of his February departure. With experience like that, everyone was wondering what he would do next, and many were clamoring for more of that Andrew Mason magic.

In May, Mason silenced his haters and thrilled his fans by announcing that he would be releasing an album of business advice songs. Once again, he had seen an opportunity for disruption: Even though, in the rapidly changing world of business, we could all use some advice, there aren't many places for professionals—or even executives—to learn what it takes to succeed when the only options out there are boring, jargon-filled leadership books.

His brilliantly titled album, Hardly Workin' (now that he's no longer CEO, he hasn't been "workin'" too "hard," GET IT???), disrupts the idea that business wisdom has to come in books, as well as disrupting the idea that an idle executive's self-funded rock project has to be an exercise in useless vanity. Chock-full of generous wisdom and killer tunes, Mason's album gives new meaning to the term "Rockstar CEO!" (ZING!) Any professional who leverages the ideas on these recordings is sure to achieve enhanced productivity, streamlined workflows and all-around success in workplace key performance indicators (KPIs). Stream the album below, and check out our track-by-track guide.

Track 1: "Look No Further"
If you're thinking that the way to generate shareholder value is to continue rehashing the tired business maxims of the past, it's time for a wake-up call. Fortunately, Mason provides just such a jolt here, with a rocking sing-a-long reminding us that there's no better way to kickstart original insights than to reach outside of traditional business channels for inspiration. For instance, looking at a painting or going to a beautiful place can help thought leaders develop a new perspective. If you thought art and business couldn't achieve alignment, "look no further" than this song, which reminds us that business "is the finest art." Get painting, you future Kinkades!

Track 2: "The Way to Work"
Why do we pursue business? Sure, we all want to maximize revenue while minimizing expenses, but what do we really want? On this carefree, uplifting track, Mason reminds us that business is all about the journey by highlighting the parallels between the trip to work and the trip we are all on as business professionals. As any student of Zen philosophy can attest, one of the most relaxing times of day is the commute to work, when one can truly reflect on how the meetings of the day ahead tie into the greater purpose of building an enterprise culture worth being proud of. Some may dismiss Mason's new-agey message as nothing more than watered down Enya schlock, critiquing that any compromise in productivity is a net loss. However, as Mason notes with rocking aplomb, sometimes a clear head can be the best way to facilitate problem solving. Conveniently, if you're looking for a way to let go and relieve some stress, this catchy anthem may be the perfect solution.

Track 3: "My Door is Always Open"
Facilitating the next great idea in an enterprise is all about fostering a dialogue among parties throughout the organization, and Mason perfectly captures this idea by turning to a duet for this slow-burning ballad about maintaining an open door policy. Talent is becoming every company's greatest resource—and we're not talking musical talent, although there's plenty of that here! An open door policy builds employee engagement and trust, which ultimately contributes to enhanced performance throughout the organization. On this track, that idea is communicated by the way the voice of the worker joins in with that of the senior manager to achieve a harmony both musically and in terms of business alignment—a true "win-win."

Track 4: "Risin' Above the Pack"
As young professionals, all of us dream of the day when we'll become C-level executives, but true business leaders know making it to the top requires some inspirational tunes, whether that means "Eye of the Tiger," "Rocky Theme Song," or now, this power ballad about the importance of competing with your peers from the moment you show up at employee orientation. Just as any NBA star listens to music to get ready for "the big game," you too can listen to this song as you climb your way up the leaderboard at your company! But don't come to it expecting the same old staid advice, with wacky lyrical curveballs like "Don't make the mistake of believing/That management is the only road to the top of the company" that remind us that there are many vectors for career-minded individuals!

Track 5: "K.I.S.S."
There's something downright sexy about a great user interface (UI), and Mason recognizes that fact with this soulful number reminding us that "The best things in life are clear without instructions." It can be tempting to pile features onto any new product, but, as innovators from Apple to Twitter have shown is, less is often more. Build the minimum required to ship your product, and remember: The only thing that should be more agile than your design and development process is this song's funky bassline!

Track 6: "Stretch"
In music, like in business, it's important to make a strong first impression, and Mason certainly accomplishes that here with the powerful opening salvo of "Now we all know that you've gotta have goals every quarter/ Nothing better to drive the org to align around the metrics that really matter." Defining KPIs is essential to the success of any organization—nothing worse than a poorly targeted business intelligence program!—and Mason makes sure anyone can remember that key advice with this catchy jingle advising managers to limit themselves to tracking three to five metrics to begin with and recalibrating accordingly during subsequent quarters. To really drive the message home, he enlists the rapping talents of noted hardline negotiator and former Dr. Dre associate Bishop Lamont, whose very presence on this track would demonstrate his good business sense, even without quotable gems like "Control those controllables/ Close those accounts/ Ship my product on time/ And let's make large amounts."

Track 7: "It's Up to Us"
In his blog post, Mason suggested managers try ending their next hands-on meeting with this rocking, inspirational slow burner, and it's hard to imagine a more fitting song for such an occasion. In it, Mason references one of the most historical disrupters of all time—George Washington. You might think, "Well gee, our organization could never be like the first president, even with our great idea, incredible team, proven critical mass of customers and killer market positioning," but Mason and his chorus of believers want to remind you that the most important thing is hands-on execution. George Washington never accomplished anything by relying on anyone else, and if we just remember how he founded the greatest free market economy in history by sailing across the Delaware Sea by himself, we can achieve great things by relying on ourselves, too. These lessons really sink in as the album draws to a close, and any listener can definitely come away inspired to effect real transformational gains when faced with lyrics like: "The opportunity to disrupt an industry/We'll all look back and feel so lucky/To have helped make history." Whether you're working on designing the next killer app, raising capital for your world-changing startup or simply disrupting traditional analog workflows in your legacy enterprise, these are the kinds of words that can give you chills and truly position you for history-making, industry-disrupting market success. By closing on a track like this, the album truly cements itself as a classic for lovers of the business advice genre, garnering an unimpeachable five out of five star rating and a strong "buy" recommendation.

Kyle Kramer is an invaluable source for insane business jargon, which is superior blog KPI. He's on Twitter - @KyleKramer

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