Startup as Orchestra. CEO as Conductor.

Startup as an Orchestra

Let’s start with the bloody obvious … startups are hard, and messy, and risky … and many times a cacophony of discordant noises..

So, as CEO, don’t make it harder than it already is.


Sit down, I’ll explain.

The great majority of startup founders are techies – no DIRECT sales experience, or finance, or HR, or, or, or. In fact, most founders are deep in a single domain or function, and – if somewhat rounded – will be familiar with the other, either as collateral osmosis, or from the oracle that is Google.

And, because as a founder you are hard core type-A, you’ll likely want to deep dive into sales (if you’re a techie) or development (if you’re not a techie).


Let me explain that … DON’T.

Whether you are the CEO of a F-10 company, or of a pre-revenue startup, think of yourself as the conductor of an orchestra, NOT the lead violinist.

Do you think Leonard Bernstein (he was the conductor of the New York Philharmonic) – a pianist – Googled YouTube for tutorials on how to play the violin? And if you are a developer turned CEO, don’t think you need to learn how to become a violinist. But what you DO need to learn is how to conduct:

  • What are the range of sounds and emotions that a violin can create?
  • How do those sounds “play” with the sounds of the cellos, or the timpani?
  • Can my lead violinist create the full range of his/her instrument?
  • Will the violin section sound as one, or will the third violinist always get late to their score?

Or course it helped that Bernstein was an accomplished pianist, but he became a world-renowned conductor because he knew how to deliver the capabilities and emotions of every instrument in a composer’s creation, to produce a symphony.

I trust the analogy is gob-smackingly obvious.

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