Take Care Of Yourself Before You Help Others

I’ve been saying for more than two decades now that one of the primary elements that needs to change in this field before it can reach the level of success it desires is improving stakeholder satisfaction.

Adaptistration People 053In order to give patrons something worth coming back for, the people who provide it should become an institution’s highest priority. And for clarity, I mean the entire organization, on stage and off.

Holly Mulcahy recently published an article on this very topic that references restaurateur Danny Meyer’s book, Setting The Table. This should be required reading for board members, executives, music directors, staff, and musicians.

Take a look at Meyer’s list of restaurant stakeholders in descending order of importance:

  1. Employees
  2. Guests
  3. Community
  4. Suppliers
  5. Investors

Here’s the list again run through an orchestra field translator:

  1. Musicians and Staff
  2. Patrons
  3. Community
  4. Music Directors, Executives, Guest Artists, and Artist Management
  5. Large Donors and Foundations

Seems like our field tends to invert that list more often than not, doesn’t it? But how will that help us put our collective houses in order to a point where we can become the culture leaders we want to be (and usually think we are)?

Granted, Holly and I don’t spend a lot of time talking shop, but reading this book was an exception. It inspired a great deal of reflective conversation and she did a wonderful job pulling many of those threads together in her article.

Surprise! It’s Not The Customer Who Comes First, It’s The Employees.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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