CEO of a scaling business: Are you the composer or conductor?

If you’re the CEO or MD of a small business that’s now ready to scale, then it’s very likely that the first step is shifting your view of your own role.  In musical terms you have been the composer/conductor/orchestrator/lead violin and also dabbled in playing every part in the symphony orchestra.

It’s time for you to stop playing, and even stop being composer for a while and focus on being the conductor.  As CEO /MD, that’s how you’ll get your brand, marketing and sales to sing from the same hymn-sheet, stay in tune and fill the concert hall with customers who will give you a standing ovation.

I wrote my book The Brand Symphony for CEO and MDs, using musical principles to lift you out of the specific detail of your day to day business and to build your marketing strategy. It helps you find an external perspective and also highlights the internal politics that might be getting in your way.  When I’m working with clients to build their value propositions and marketing strategies, I use musical analogies to help them understand why they’re needed.

Let me explain. Imagine, as CEO, you’re conducting a classical concert. The orchestra all arrive on stage individually and choose any seat they like. Some of them enjoy playing Beethoven, some have a personal preference for Handel, some like more contemporary music so they choose a piece by Ligeti. They all start playing at different times and you can’t conduct because they’re all playing at different speeds. They are all meeting the objective of “play your part in a symphony concert” – but each is playing to their own personal agenda.

It sounds awful and definitely not what you composed! So, you decide to try and play some of the instruments yourself to make it sound better. You’re running around the stage playing small bits of each part or each piece, but it just adds to the noise. You know what you wanted to perform but it just isn’t shining through. Because each part has very different instrumentation there are too many people on the stage. It’s probably costing a lot to put this concert on and in some places there are people sitting doing nothing. Which feels stressful.

Eventually the Beethoven people all find each other and move to sit together.  Beethoven was what your business first played so they’re the most experienced players. The Beethoven starts to dominate and the other pieces struggle to be heard – those that the audience today actually want to hear.

Meanwhile, your marketing person is asked to sell tickets for this concert. Each person has briefed him on their part and their piece. He now has to tell three different stories at the same time. Or he has to try and make sense of the whole with a very convoluted narrative – then Tweet it in 280 characters! He also has a limited budget and everyone insists they have ‘a bit of their part’ included in the marketing plan, so it looks fair to everyone. Which means, in reality, nothing has enough impact or gets traction.

He actually has a bigger problem. Who wants to come to this concert?  The Beethoven people don’t like Handel and hate Ligeti. Some of the Handel fans might suffer Beethoven but not Ligeti. Some might try Ligeti but don’t like Beethoven.  The Ligeti fans think they’re coming to an avant garde performance and they like lots of discord not harmony. It’s a tough sell.

Of course I am explaining an extreme situation.  But is there any truth in this scenario in terms of what’s happening in your organisation?  If you’re struggling to choose where to focus your marketing and how to explain what you do, there might be a bit of this going on.

There could be several reasons for this:

– You’re trying to be everything to everyone. 

– You’re no longer clear on which song you really want to play.

– You have a clear tune, but you didn’t write (or brief) the other parts in enough detail

– You have a score but didn’t test or rehearse your service. 

– You’re not targeting a whole performance based on the value the customer wants.

Thinking about your world and your challenges in this musical way, with your team, makes it less personal. Asking your team to write their song is more fun than asking them to construct a value proposition. Guiding them to make sure the score has the right amount of harmony and counterpoint in it and isn’t dominated by one part is a good way to plan. Rehearsing the whole before asking them to learn their part off by heart will make sure it adds up. And aligning the goals of the performance to ‘getting a standing ovation’ rather than ‘getting to the last note’ will allow you to get the sound you want.

Involving your marketer throughout this process will allow them to bring your symphony to life.  And attract the audience that your team all agree should be there.

The Orchestrate Method has five steps that will build a brand position and marketing strategy that you can execute at scale – your Brand Symphony.

With you as conductor.

Make 2020 the year that your #BrandSymphony gets a standing ovation.  I can help you via workshops, coached programmes or 121 consultancy.  I’m booking now for December/January/February now so get in touch via my website or on LinkedIn.




We help service businesses focus and orchestrate their brand and marketing strategies as well as providing workshops, coached marketing orchestration programmes and 121 consulting.

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