The 1990s were golden years, where I worked for some amazing multinational giants from banking to audit, and life was skyrocketing. Music and the arts were simpler, happier, brighter.

Perhaps the vibes were all in line with the universe. I managed to create some works that reached thousands of people in classrooms, to thousands of people on stage, and took me round the world in many gigs.

Recently, I was cruising on the highway with the radio on, and a familiar tune breezed past my ears, flashing the 1990s back at me again. It was the late George Michael’s “Freedom! 90”.

I suddenly remembered what an amazing song that was, not because of George’s vocals, but the lyrics. 3 lines from the song leaped at me, and I am sure you can learn a great deal, or at least be reminded of, these somewhat synergistic timeless ideas for marketing, managing people, and sustainability. Rather than quote the lyrics directly, I will be paraphrasing the 3 lines in the song (hear the song for the original lyrics).

1) “Window dressing does not make a business”

All too often, we have seen companies which place emphasis on how their offices “look”, rather than what they DO or how they PERFORM. This line teaches us that window dressing is pointless and worthless. Be true to your own soul. And for a company, be true to your corporate soul. Be authentic. Your business is nothing but a veneer if it is sugar-coated with mere window dressing. Grow and develop real substance.

2) “Trash the lies and be authentic”

Unlike generations before, the Gen Z and the Millennials look for companies that are socially conscious and authentic to work with, and to do business with. They are utilitarian, are less brand-conscious and can easily switch brands. They are great human “lie detectors”. So, to engage and retain them, whether as employees or customers, your job as a leader or business is to skip lies and “half-truths”, and be real and authentic.

3) “We don’t own each other”

Customer loyalty is fleeting, just as employee loyalty is a thing of the best. You need to engage external paying customers much as you need to engage internal customers (employees) as well. Keep people close to you, tell the truth, be authentic. No one owes you a living. No one is your servant or slave. Rather than indulge in data, analytics, and computer systems, get out there and shake your customers’ hands, take them out to a good and deep discussion. It is not about wining and dining, but about genuine and deep relationships. We have served customers for years and even decades, simply because we put our hearts in the open with our customers, and served them with diligence and honesty. No fluff, just good old-fashioned dedication.

A toast to the late George Michael, may your memory be eternal, and thanks for the 3 timeless tips from your song.

Dr Seamus Phan is the Head of Content and CTO at McGallen & Bolden. He is an expert in branding, marketing, leadership training, crisis management, and strategy. This article may appear concurrently on his blog. Connect on LinkedIn. ©1984-2018 Seamus Phan et al. All rights reserved.