Starting a company

At first, you are the orchestra. You play every instrument. Running from the cello to the keyboards before scrabbling across the floor to perform a quick saxophone solo. You pick up instruments you’re not good at playing, but you practice.  It’s slow and exhausting and painful to listen to but, in time, you learn to hold a tune. A stuttered, clumsy, disjointed ensemble.  It’s no symphony, but there’s promise.

Enough promise, perhaps, to get you noticed. To generate momentum, or support so you can hire musicians. Specialists. Experts at their craft. You build groups of them. On strings. Woodwind.  Brass. Percussion. And all of a sudden you have to adapt. Put the oboe down.  Stop playing their instruments. Your job now, is to compose. To lead. You must play the orchestra.

It takes time, and some getting used to. At first you stumble. They look at you, like, “does this guy know what he’s doing?” But you speak to other conductors, or empathetic musicians that have worked with good conductors in the past. “What made them good?  What could I do better?”

You fumble. Worrying that you’ll never get the hang of this. Swearing at your inadequacies while the weight of imposter syndrome sits heavily on stiff shoulders. Just as you think you’ll never score a sonata, you fluke a melody. A musician you hired turns out to be a star. It’s a little win but it lifts you and motivates the troop. You can do this.

You persevere. You start to play. You’re enjoying it. But it’s clunky. The timing’s off. The cadence out. There’s beauty in the struggle though. It energises you. So you focus. You listen. You watch. You find bits you can fine tune; bring in stronger talent.  Tweak. Learn. Coach. Tinker. Improve.

And then one day, surreally, you’re conducting a full-size symphony orchestra and you don’t quite understand how you got there.  (Those that know you probably haven’t got a clue either.) You’re no maestro, but you did it, and you’ll never look at the world in the same way again. Enjoy the journey.

Originally published 17th January 2018