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Musician teaches business ‘conduct’

Denver Business JournalFrom the September 21, 2001 Print edition – Volume 53 Number 7

By Lyn Berry-Helmlinger
Business Journal Staff Reporter

There was a time when financial consultant C. Stephen Guyer didn’t dare tell potential clients about his musical expertise.

The current president and CEO of Denver-based consulting firm Guyer Management Assistance Inc. kept his masters in conducting from the University of Denver and bachelor’s in piano performance from Metropolitan State College of Denver tightly under wraps.

Financial consultant C. Stephen Guyer says music and business have much in common.

Financial consultant C. Stephen Guyer says music and business have much in common.

“There were certain things – artistic or spiritual – that you just didn’t talk about in business,” said Guyer, who also holds an M.B.A in finance from DU and a B.S. in psychology from McPherson College in Kansas.

However, changing times and perceptions now find Guyer, who has 26-plus years of consulting experience, more willing to reveal that information.

“Lately, more and more clients see that and get very excited,” he said. “Somehow that’s very good news for them.”

Guyer, too, values his musical background as it relates to business, because it’s taught him an essential leadership skill that he now passes on to his clients: analysis.

“There’s a mental process that you go through in preparing a [musical] score, particularly in large works,” he said. “You may have hundreds of moving components at any given time and you must develop the ability to look at each of those components and make decisions about them and their relationship to each other. Business, too, has a variety of components in any of the disciplines.”

Focus is another byproduct of Guyer’s leadership experience in the music world, which includes a seven-year conducting job at St. Luke’s Methodist Church in Highlands Ranch, and assistant positions at DU and Metro.

“In performance, all manner of things can happen and you have split seconds to respond,” he said. “If you’re not plugged in to the picture enough to be able to have that kind of flexibility, then you’re in trouble.”

Part of being plugged in means responding to what Guyer calls the “human element.”

“The real goal in music is not only to have everyone play the correct pitches and rhythms, but to put it in a context where they want to play well,” he said.

The conductor/consultant is currently applying these skills to GMA, which has been up and running for about six months. The company is in the process of signing its first customer.

Guyer, who in the past has worked extensively with a number of clients including Moore & Co. (now Coldwell Banker), United Cable Television (now part of AT&T) and Jones Intercable, expects to add another nine clients to his list within 30 days.

Analysis, focus and attention to people will be a dominant theme for these new clients, as well, Guyer said, especially in light of the difficulties all companies will face following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“Obviously, we’re having an economic challenge right now, along with a political one,” he said. “Companies must remain focused. This is a new condition – not an event – but a condition for the world that has to be incorporated into our larger thinking.”

Eight bars of advice

1. Be brutally honest with investors,vendors, creditors, partners and others you do business with.

2. Watch out for expensive money with back-end hooks – loans with conversion rights or warrants can come back to haunt you.

3. Be aware of covenants in lending agreements withonerous clauses like a change-of-control clause. You can easily lose your company.

4. Don’t let panic or anxiety drive decision and actions – company growth requires a strong, positive leadership. A CEO cannot afford to display fear.

5. The CEO needs to be ateam leader and not indifferent or abusive to employees – people don’t produce in a hostile, overly demanding environment.

6. A self-focused CEO will ultimately bring his or her company down. A company is a symphony of players, not just one person, and success depends on its many parts working well together.

7. The “screw the other guy” mentality will lead to failure as well, as it inevitably repels talent and productivity in employees, vendors, partners and customers.

8. A reputation of honesty and integrity in business will open more opportunities for yourself and the company.Return every phone call and answer every letter.