Making Sweet Money Music – Part 2

Last week I talked about how to get everyone in your organization on the same page, just like an Orchestra. (Click here to read it)

Now here’s Part 2. The sad finale to this symphony and what you should NEVER allow your people to do. 


I’m at the Symphony Orchestra and the intermission is coming to a close. The members of the orchestra are starting to come back onto the stage with their instruments. They are sitting down and running through a few warm up exercises and then it happens again, just like it did earlier in the evening.

The Oboe begins to play the A note. And again, the string section starts tuning up. Next, the brass section. And then again, the lights go down…the conductor walks out to center stage…the audience applauds, his hands go up and for a very, very brief moment…complete silence. 

Here comes that tingle of joy and anticipation again at the base of my spine. The conductor’s arms come down, the orchestra plays, the tingle runs up my spine and once more I hold back a tear of joy.

I look out over the crowd of more than 2,000 people and they are all smiling a smile of joy. I realize that Orchestras are in the joy business and if you could poll this audience right now it would be 5 stars across the board.

It’s profitable to be in the joy business. And the good news? Any business can be in the joy business.

But here is the sad reality of it all.  In the April 1996 issue of Harmony- Forum of the Symphony Orchestra Institute there is a referenced study by Jutta Allmendinger, Richard Hackman, and Erin V. Lehman (1994), Life and Work in Symphony Orchestras: An Interim Report of Research Findings.

The article in Harmony by Seymour and Robert Levine that quotes the above study has a catchier title. “Why They’re Not Smiling: Stress and Discontent in the Orchestra Workplace.”

The study, and article, show that, while orchestra musicians’ internal motivation is higher than any of the other groups studied, their level of general job satisfaction is quite low- below that of even federal prison guards.

I would not have known by the performance they gave. In fact, I wish that I didn’t know that now.

I was buying a part for my car the other day. As I was standing at the counter, two employees behind the counter were talking about an order that had just come in for a customer and he was on his way in to pick it up. The one said to the other, “You better hurry up and go peel off all the labels on the box.”

I have no idea why they would feel like they had to do that, but my imagination could come up with a few reasons and none of them made me feel better about that local business.

Two weeks prior, I was in a suit shop looking for some new threads. It was a slow day and no customers were in at the time, wait…I was a customer and I was there. Two of the employees were talking a little trash about one of the other employees who wasn’t there that day.

Look, no matter the quality of your hires, no one is perfect and there will be times of discord and frustration between you and them, between them and them, and between them and you. But if you intend to be in the joy business then this point must be perfectly clear – while in sight or sound of a customer, NO ONE WILL SPEAK NEGATIVELY ABOUT ANYTHING.

During company meetings, away from any potential customers, is a perfect time for everyone to have an opportunity to express concerns with the purpose to resolve.

Which means if run your business like an orchestra, whenever there is a customer present, you are performing. During your performance you will sing the praises of the boss, the suppliers, and your fellow workers. You will, without hesitation, let the audience know that they are enjoying the best performers in your field.

You will send chills of joy up your customer’s spine and they will reward you with 5-star reviews. Which in turn will reward you with even more market share.

It’s profitable to be in the joy business.

– Zac Smith, VC