Entrepreneur and the Conductor – 6 Areas of Symmetry – Part 1

On reading an article published by the Houghton Mifflin Company, I was immediately struck by the tight similarity between the entrepreneur and the orchestra conductor. Now, I am not the first to notice the parallel between orchestra music and dynamic business as The Music Paradigm demonstrates in the way it mixes the conduct of the orchestra with the conduct of business.


“The Music Paradigm uses a symphony orchestra as a metaphor for any dynamic organization, particularly one dealing with a period of exceptional challenge or change: a merger, a restructuring, new leadership, change initiatives, stretch performance goals, and many more. The interface of the musicians with the conductor is similar in many ways to the relationship between an organization and its leaders. The conductor may be viewed, for example, as a CEO or team leader, and the instrumental families (strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion) may be business units or teams. Together, they find the best solutions for working together and producing an effective outcome.” The Music Paradigm is the brain child of Roger Nierenberg


So detailed below is the article written by Miles Hoffman about a conductor of an orchestra delivering a successful performance, but adapted by me for an entrepreneur of a founding team delivering entrepreneurial success for a commercial enterprise. In large part I have simply replaced conductor with its entrepreneur equivalent. The original article relating to conductors was published by Houghton Mifflin Company and entitled “The NPR® Classical Music Companion: Terms and Concepts from A to Z by Miles Hoffman and National Public Radio” Copyright © 1997

The Entrepreneur as Conductor

The entrepreneur directs the planning and implementation of a new venture via either a strategic alliance, networking cluster, founding team, venture partners, or other commercial group. In the most general terms, an entrepreneur’s job is to shape a commercial opportunity; to form ideas about the most compelling way to exploit the opportunity and to lead a group of diversely skilled individuals in such a way that those ideas are realized. Entrepreneurs often serve as the “innovative directors” of their organizations, as well. An innovative director’s duties include choosing the opportunity and key resources and hiring (and firing) the professional and technical support.

In shaping a commercial opportunity, an entrepreneur has many specific responsibilities, which are similar no matter what kind of group he or she leads. (In this discussion, venture partners is assumed for the sake of convenience.) Ryan Kavanaugh

Their responsibilities (entrepreneur/conductor symmetry) may be grouped as follows:

  1. Accuracy – The entrepreneur must ensure that the business model and plan are faithfully carried out. At the very least, this means making sure that everybody is following all the right strategies and tactics.
  2. Ensemble – The entrepreneur must make sure everyone works together, in precise timing and commercial coordination. The entrepreneur is also responsible for giving “cues,” directions, emphasis, or statement that indicate (or confirm) the right moment for a key individual player or group to make their appropriate play.
  3. Tempo and dynamics – Again, the entrepreneur’s job is to ensure the realization of the business model and plan, but also to interpret those intentions, which means choosing general levels of roll-out pace and emphasis as well as supervising all the fine shadings, which affect the shape and coherence of commercial phrases or passages.
  4. Quality of service – The entrepreneur is at all times responsible for the kind of service the venture partners produce. Whether its personalised, structured, informative, lay back, forced, experience based, pick & pay, intense, complete, minimalised, after-sales orientated, or “individualised” the venture partner’s service should always suit the target market.
  5. Balance – The entrepreneur must make sure that what should be delivered is delivered, that different but simultaneous commercial “positions” are at the proper emphasis levels relative to their importance, that one aspect, key player, or group of stakeholders doesn’t inadvertently overwhelm any others.
  6. Style – The entrepreneur must elicit from the venture partners an overall character of performance that is best suited to the entrepreneur, the commercial environment, and the opportunity

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