Business Tips from the Music World

I attended an orchestra concert tonight for the orchestra I will be joining in January and it made me think about how playing in an orchestra is just like being on a business team. Here are some tips I thought about:

  1. If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re late, you’re fired. This is a mantra I’ve heard from several conductors. Now, the last part of that may not be true for most orchestras not playing at a professional level, but for the most part, if you are playing in a professional orchestra, you will most likely be fired. Same goes for work. Show up late often enough and sure enough, you’ll be fired
  2. Follow the leader. In business, you usually have a boss. In orchestra, that boss is usually your first chair. The conductor is your one-over/skip-level (manger of your manager).
  3. Rehearse for that big presentation. Never go cold turkey into a meeting with a leader or executive.  Same goes for orchestra. Never go to a rehearsal without practicing and never perform in a concert without having at least one rehearsal.
  4. The final product is the only thing that matters. You may have spent a week without sleep working on that deck for the executive; five seconds into the presentation, he rips it apart. You spend months developing that new iPhone app, but the customer finds it overly complex and you end up making no money. Same goes for orchestra. You may have spent countless hours in rehearsal and self-practice, but the only thing that matters to the audience is that final concert. If you sound bad, they think you’re bad. No second chances.

I’m sure I’ll have more soon, but these are ones I wanted to record.


Business Rule #2: Accepting That You’re (Almost) Never the Smartest Person in the Room

I once had the privilege of hearing Peter Grauer, CEO of Bloomberg, L.P., speak about his career. Although the story of how he had met Bloomberg was quite intriguing (their daughters attended the same horseback riding class), the most important lesson I got out of the speech was that Peter Grauer knew he was never the smartest person in a room.

You are never the smartest person in the room.

If you start taking this approach when you come to meetings, work, or anything really, you will soon realize that you have a lot to learn from everyone else, regardless of how much you think you already know.