Small Business Tips

A lesson in leadership from the Rock Boat

Dayna Steele

A Rockstar entrepreneur interview with Sixthman’s Andy Levine

What happens when you put a couple of thousand fans on a cruise with their favorite rock stars for an entire week? You get a magical thing called a “rock boat” created by Andy Levine of Sixthman and former manager of the band Sister Hazel.  

Since 2001, Sixthman has set the stage for moments that make life rock, serving more than 250,000 guests unforgettable vacations at sea with their favorite bands and brands. These curated and intimate events bring non-stop performances, artist collaborations and truly immersive experiences that celebrate community and aim to change expectations of what a vacation can be.

As a featured speaker on Sixthman’s most recent Melissa Etheridge Cruise, the customer service I experienced—along with the organization, teamwork, attitude, ease of use and so much more—made me search out who was in charge. An event this smooth and this good doesn’t just happen by chance. I knew this type of successful experience had to come from people who know what they are doing. Something like this only happens when leaders listen and learn from customers as well as employees and act on what they learn.  

I sat down with Levine, now the chairman of the Sixthman, to find out how the company maintains its success and growth while still keeping customers happy and retaining longtime staff and vendors. It all comes down to a checklist created by Andy and four others that defined special as in, “how do we keep these cruises special as we grow more and more each year?”  

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Engage the customer

These are the points Sixthman strives to hit with each customer in everything the company does. Does the customer feel:

  • Invited
  • Informed
  • Excited
  • Welcomed
  • Amazed
  • Looked after
  • Appreciated

The key to this list, Levine explained, is to apply it to each guest as well as everyone performing and working on the cruise. Equally important is the success and happiness of the Sixthman staff and vendors.  

“We had like this evolution. We went from thinking we were in the concert business to the festival business to the hospitality/vacation business to the community business. Those were the four stages we had to work ourselves through to realize what business we were really in. And, it took us about five years to do that.”  

– Andy Levine

The success of the dozens of themed cruises and land events Sixthman now does is a testament to this checklist. Any company would want the Sixthman 60% return rate. And, those who do return? Most return with friends as new guests who then become new Sixthman customers.  

How does your business stack up to this checklist?  

The Melissa Etheridge Cruise truly was customer service and experience to behold. Oh yeah, and Melissa rocked as well …!

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