THE MUSIC AND ENTERPRISE METAPHORE
And what may the right thing to do be? Some compare music to architecture, a discipline in which you need to define foundations, structure, functions, ornaments, services, security, facilities and finishing touches. Create a research form of the main areas of your business, identify the contents and start adding the details. In music, it is not enough to decide whether you want to create an Opera or just a 3 minute song, you need to define the overture, the chorus, accompaniment, arrangement, solos, riffs, toccatas and fugues not to mention every note!
Franco Marzo - smart management Coaching & business development
Composition, what is it? The vision of the future!
In this article we will discuss “composition”, or what musicians play when they want to thrill their audiences. In business terms, it represents what entrepreneurs decide to do to win the approval of their “audiences”: customers, employees, partners, suppliers and shareholders. If tone, harmony, rhythm and melody have described different ways of being a company, it is now time to decide what to do or "what to play": songs, symphonies, soundtracks, musicals?
In order to create a masterpiece, classical music got the inspiration from the ancient art of public speaking including its first leading figure, Cicero (106 B.C. - 43 B.C.), according to whom the secret for a successful speech lies in accomplishing three objectives:
- Probare: to prove your thesis to the audience;
- Delectare: to delight the audience;
- Flectere (movere): to emotionally move the audience.
To prove (probare) musicians use intonation and harmony, fully aware that everyone will recognize false notes; to delight (delectare), they amaze and thrill the audience through melodies and refrains, while moving the audience emotionally (flectere) is done through interpretation (a topic that we will cover in our last article in this series).
Similarly a businessman must decide:
- Which products/services is he able to provide better than others (probare);
- Which audiences is he able to delight (delectare);
- Which instruments/tools can he use to conquer new audiences (flectere et movere).
Before creating a business masterpiece, a little self-examination is needed:
- What are you able to do better than others? What are you able to provide? Without you, what would be missing on the market?
- What range of clientele are you trying to appeal to: low-cost, mid-range o luxury? Local, national or international? Novelty seekers or traditional? Do you want to pamper them or give them strict necessities at the lowest price?
- What makes you different from the competition, do you have a unique and recognizable style? Why should someone change and start trusting you?
Try to answer these questions, write the answers on a piece of paper and re-read them after a few days. That is a lot of food for thought! Are you credible? Appealing? Are you able to change people’s minds? If so, for how long? What will you be in a few years? Imagine reading a newspaper article that speaks of your results in 5 years. What will it emphasize? What will you be remembered for? Write it! It is your vision of the future, not quite a dream but more than just a goal, uncertain, but not impossible. It helps in directing your gaze in the right direction. You have not decided "what to play" yet, but the direction is clear. Now you know whether you want to create a symphony or an opera, if you want to participate to X Factor or sing on Broadway.
What is it good for? Mission and business plan!
After defining the vision, plan your mission, or what you really think you can do better than anyone else. Like missionaries, you have to believe it! If you do not believe in your vision, no one else will. You are still not “playing” anything but you are planning what needs to happen:
- Your target audience;
- The theatres where to play (the markets, the competition);
- The instruments and the musicians (the necessary organization);
- The value you can offer;
- The Lead Time.
The audience (stakeholders) includes all those who are interested in you and your destiny, not only customers but also employees, suppliers, contractors, partners, shareholders, and business "neighbors" . In theatres, "the fourth wall" is the imaginary “wall” at the front of the stage. Musicians do not know who is behind it, but they know they will have to get everyone’s applause. Even a company’s scenery has become rather obscure. If it was once possible to imagine needs, requirements, customer expectations based on socio-demographic parameters such as income, age, education and family status, well now this has become almost impossible. Rich people reason like poor people, youngsters behave like older ones, women behave like men, and the other way around, no offense to anyone. Market segments are gone, which means that each customer is now absolutely unique, and must be surveyed, studied and treated individually through personalized digital marketing, one to one.
Defining the boundaries of the area in which you want to operate (city, province, region, country, continent, world) and where you want to be found is paramount: in shops, supermarkets, trade fairs, on the internet. Anyone who thinks that on the internet you can only get songs and books, is wrong. I personally know a company that sells, online, 100kg stainless steel flanges all over the world. Recently, Tesla has "sold" 400,000 automobiles on the internet , more than the number of cars produced in Italy in 2014!
Also the choice of the right instruments deserves to be mentioned. After many years of out-sourcing many have reached the conclusion that insourcing is better. But there are also cases in which production plants are expensive, old or require full time specialized skills. It may worth, therefore, looking elsewhere. These are personal evaluations and strategies. Does your organization have all the tools, skills and the "musicians" you need?
Another aspect of the composition relates to pace (tempo),or time in business terms. The past, or reputation, adds credibility to your company and creates expectations about you even inadvertently; the present focuses on what to do today: opening and closing hours, public holidays, when to advertise, when to participate in trade fairs, when to check the results and how often; the future, on the other hand, calls for a prospect: when to launch a new product or service, where to direct research and medium- to long-term development.
And finally, during this “composition” phase, the different forms of value the enterprise offers its clients should also be considered: If you have never done so, try reflecting on these three features:
- Tangible value
- Intengible value
- Correlation value
Tangible values relates to the product’s performance, price, durability, the advantages it offers over the competition, the benefits it provides to the user. “Tangible value" in music does not exist, it is immaterial, but just think of how real is the wealth generated just using sounds. Quite differently, intangible values satisfy emotional, social and cultural needs: the beauty, design, exclusivity, sustainability, respect for the environment, workers’ safety, geographical origin (the made in Italy logo, for example, in many countries around the world is a value in itself), philanthropic or charitable initiatives in the territory. A value that is strongly emerging is that of correlation (in statistical terms the relation between two different elements). For example, think of an estate agent who, before selling an apartment to a client, speaks of all the important people living nearby. Every product or service creates a dense network of potentially interesting invisible relationships between customer and supplier. Enhancing them through a series of promotional initiatives, effective communications and awards creates a sense of belonging, of community and loyalty. Remember that man is a social animal and that loneliness is one of the most serious threats to our future. Organize meals, rallies, forums and open houses, convention and neighborhood social networks and good results will be almost immediate. Furthermore, if you interview your best customers and post their faces on the internet you will be surprised about how many new contacts you can generate.
Play by ear or follow a plan?
A music composition largely depends on the composer’s calling, his/her sensitivity, ambition and vision. But for companies we must speak in terms of business calling, which stems from its leaders' voices, their stories. Those who are able to define a business plan or strategy are no more than three or four: production, marketing, administration, plus anyone in charge of finance, IT, organization or research divisions. A company's calling comes also from experience and passion. The result will be a synthesis of knowledge, expertise and common sense, and will provide needed clues on products, services, marketing methods and strategies, market positioning in relation to the competition, not to mention prospects for growth and earnings.
But how do you create music? Where does it all start? Every musician has his own style. Some are aware of the process, others prefer playing it by ear doing the right thing without actually knowing music. Some are famous like Gershwin or Paul McCartney, Armstrong and John Lennon just to mention a few. To do the right thing you do not need to be aware of how music really works, however knowing this will greatly increase your chances of success, especially when managing a lot of people and you need to plan and organize their work.
And what may the right thing to do be? Some compare music to architecture, a discipline in which you need to define foundations, structure, functions, ornaments, services, security, facilities and finishing touches. Create a research form of the main areas of your business, identify the contents and start adding the details. In music, it is not enough to decide whether you want to create an Opera or just a 3 minute song, you need to define the overture, the chorus, accompaniment, arrangement, solos, riffs, toccatas and fugues not to mention every note! This is what creating music means. Every complex activity needs a definition phase, a general strategy, in other words, a plan. Once the overall picture is clear, go on to the business plan, and fill up the score. Establish what needs to be done in the next six to twelve months and then in the next two to three years: what will you sell, which channels will you use and where? What about promotions, prices and profit margins! Experts advise a markup of at least 2.6 - cost 100 sale 260 - in fact, you have to take into account, besides the variable costs (100), all fixed costs as well in addition to the initial investment, overheads, research, marketing costs and taxes as well as considering a “healthy” profit. Music and mathematics are in a sense quite similar! Therefore, consider carefully your raw materials, suppliers, currency fluctuations, able to devastate entire markets within a few days, aging machinery, new skills and the reliability of the partners you choose.
Finally, do not rely on your talent only, or your employees. The world has become rather complex, and it is impossible to take everything into account. The success of some of the biggest music stars comes from the contribution of managers and producers, sound engineers who create innovative sounds and effects, arrangers able to transform the most ordinary piece of music into a big hit, set designers and technicians who create large concert stages for stadium shows. Music is a great team effort!
So, now, start creating your own piece of “music”, and we will look at writing a score and performance in the last two articles of our "concert".