Small business owners are like an orchestra conductor

Latest posts by Joel Welsh (see all)

My new bride and I went to the symphony this past Saturday night. Music from Chopin, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, and a special appearance by Lang Lang, a 23-year old pianist. It totally rocked.

There is something very special about a live music performance that takes hold of you as the evening goes on. While I was thankful for the intermission to get up and stretch my legs (absolutely no leg room in the front row of the balcony at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall), I was really starting to get lost in the performance. No worries. After a quick break & glass of red wine I was back into it in no time.

I am not a classical music aficionado. But sometime during the final piece I noticed 2 things, and then, of course, thought about how it applies to entrepreneurship. The first thing I noticed was the timpanist. I’ve never ever even thought about a timpanist before while listening to classical music on the radio or from a CD. But there he was, way in the back, raising his arms and dropping them onto the 4 kettle drums. It was because I SAW him that I started hearing the drums. And it was beautiful!

Then I (finally) started noticing the conductor. I mean, I’d NOTICED him all night, but I began to study him. Here’s what I realized … his arm motions are one step ahead of the musicians.

Ok, at this point many of you are saying, “Joel you idiot. Of COURSE they are. He is LEADING the orchestra. You know, conducting!” Hey, I told you I’m not an aficionado, and now you know that I don’t know much at all about music.

What does this have to do with running a small business? Well, I found myself wondering, “Does the conductor know how to play ALL of the instruments that he is conducting? Maybe so, but he certainly is not expertly accomplished in all of them.”

BINGO! That’s how to run a successful small business. As an entrepreneur you might be a world-class violinist but that alone will not make your business successful. You need the contribution of the woodwinds and the drums and the other string instruments.

AND you need to conduct, er … manage, all of those players into a cohesive unit that plays beautiful music.

Later this month Suzanne and I are going to the art museum to see the photographs of Annie Leibovitz. I wonder what entrepreneurial insights I’ll find there??

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