As I was growing up in the Philly suburbs in the '70s, Bruce Springsteen became that one voice that cut through all the clutter and talked directly to me. Years later, most people know him as one of the world's biggest rock stars. But it didn't start that way, and at one point early in his career, he had to make two serious changes to his team.
Springsteen was signed by Columbia records in 1972, and over the next two years released two albums that generated average sales. He relied heavily on his New Jersey musician friends when it came time to record those albums. These were friends he had played bars and clubs with, and some had toured relentlessly with him. By 1974, however, he was desperate for that breakthrough album that artists hope for.
As he began to imagine his third album, he heard a sound in his head that was bigger and more powerful than what he had recorded to date. And to achieve his goal, he needed new bandmates. Out went good and loyal musician friends--but less appropriate--drummer Vini Lopez and keyboardist David Sancious. In came Max Weinberg and Roy Bittan.
Does this feel like a startup business to you?
Your idea has been funded, and you bring in the people you trust the most to get it off the ground. You then work hard for a couple of months or years creating product that meets a small niche audience. But you have not broken through to the big leagues yet.
So you start to imagine a new product that builds on the success of your current product, with enough differences that make it unique. The problem is that the team you have on board does not fit that new product.
Therein lies the CEO's dilemma and one that you will invariably face again and again if you are going to be that successful CEO we all dream to be.
The bottom line is, the company (band) comes first. Ask yourself over and over again, will the company be better off with these changes?
Go ahead--you know the answer already. Tramps like us, baby, we were born to run.