Every company that aims to innovate must have a culture of game-changers. It is not one person that drives innovation — it takes a team to scale innovation. Today’s guest is Paul Wiltshire, CEO & Founder at Songtradr. Inc Magazine ranked his company #31 on the 2021 Inc 5000 list. The Songtradr group is a one-stop music solution company that provides strategic and creative music expertise to global brands, advertising agency networks, media owners, film companies, TV companies, and content creators. Paul shares his insights on creating a culture of game-changers. We look at modern leadership in this interview. Discover the essential elements of a culture of game-changers.
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Paul Wiltshire: The Transcript
About: Paul is a music and technology entrepreneur with over 30 years experience across the music and media industries. An award winning record producer and songwriter having produced and/or composed music with sales in excess of 15,000,000 records including twelve number #1 albums and singles. Paul founded Songtradr in 2014 and after 2 years of development, the Songtadr platform officially launched in March 2016 and has since rapidly grown to service 250,000+ artists and music creators around the globe, licensing music to advertisers, brands, films, TV and other media. Extremely passionate about democratizing the music industry for all creatives, Paul works tirelessly on providing the tools, opportunity and access for the Songtradr community of artists, songwriters and composers.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
Paul Wiltshire: [00:00:00] Accountability and openness, but we also are very inclusive. So now we have a culture of, of what we, we have a very much a, an aggressive focus on growing, and that is largely driven by the industry’s speed of change and needing to adapt to that change as it happens. We were very passionate about our people and how, and how they’re empowered to be creators as well. And, but also be empowered to say they don’t think that idea is good. No matter if that’s the boss, that’s presenting the idea, but to be able to freely share their ideas and to freely push back is a culture. We try to foster so that we’re actually getting to the heart of problems much faster, rather than just perhaps going down a path that we shouldn’t be. That takes a lot longer to correct.
Intro: Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs, the fastest growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their [00:01:00] growth. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett: We all know that the people in our organization are really the most important aspect of how we scale the business. You, as a leader that are listening in to these episode after episode, want to be a better leader, but you also have to have a culture that really demonstrates what does it take for us to succeed in this market place. Today, we dive into a culture of game-changers, what that really means how they get there. And our special guest today is the founder of SongTradr number 31 on the Inc list in 2021. But they are an impressive company. We’re talking with Paul Wiltshire about this culture of game-changers and really what does that really mean to create this space where people feel included, they share these ideas. There’s a sense of collaboration. And all of this centers around the innovation that is going on inside his business. Now your business may or may not be changing as fast as the music industry, but what could you learn from someone like Paul, who has a mass, a [00:02:00] team of over 300 people that are working together as a machine? This culture of game-changer. Is the topic for today and hopefully you find it as interesting as I do.
Before we get to the key message. Let me just invite you into a special offer. I have for you. If you are a leader of a company and you want to figure out what is getting in the way of you growing, maybe you feel a sense of loneliness, or maybe you feel like people just aren’t getting the message. They don’t feel aligned as much as you want them to. All of this comes back to your leadership. I say this with a, you know, an openness sense of this, and hopefully you don’t take this the wrong way, but it all comes back to you. If you want more alignment, more collaboration, more trust because back to your leadership and how you set the tone, you’re leading by example, and you’ve got to lead powerfully.
If you want to figure out what’s getting in the way of you leading more powerfully and creating the company that you just absolutely adore, then all you have to do is go to GeneHammett.com and schedule your call inside that we’ll have a conversation that will be different than we’ve had before. I will aim to serve you. I’m not here to sell you anything. In fact, we’ll take that off [00:03:00] the table. That first conversation, because I just want to serve you in some way, give you a better sense of awareness of what’s getting in your way, give you a plan to move forward and give you some insight around what’s really going on. All that inside that first conversation with me, it’s absolutely free. All you have to do is go to GeneHammett.com and schedule a call. Now here’s the conversation with Paul.
Paul how are you?
Paul Wiltshire: I’m good. Thanks Gene. It’s nice to be here.
Gene Hammett: Thanks for being on the podcast. We’re going to talk about a culture of Changemakers before we get there. I want to let you talk about the company. So tell us about SongTradr.
Paul Wiltshire: SongTradr, well, perhaps I’ll go back a step before I explain SongTradr, I started out my career as a musician, so I, I love music. I created music. I was a songwriter and a producer. And through that journey, I discovered just how hard it is to license music. So SongTradr was built on the back of creating wanting to solve the problem of how to license music efficiently in the music industry. And so SongTradr is a marketplace for connecting music, creators and music owners to B2B music [00:04:00] licensees, which advertises film, TV brands, gaming, anyone who uses music and content.
Gene Hammett: I know that the whole industry has made a huge revelation. I’m kind of curious, what do you see as the innovation around the corner for music?
Paul Wiltshire: Well, with all saying the innovation on the B to C, which is on the B to C aspect of music where we have seen Spotify and apple music really changed the way we consume music, where we’ve got access to the entire library of all music and in history, the B2B works quite differently in that it’s all about matching music for two particular content. And there is complexity in the, in music rights that has made it largely inefficient and in need of technology to, to really be a change maker so that that efficiency can exist for all. So we, you know, we, we see the opportunity as, as an enormous one because of how music plays a role in just about every touch point in life. Like we’re on an app or on TV or watching Netflix, you know, at [00:05:00] least on a. On a Peloton to meditation. It’s music touches everything we do. And so we’re Al our destination is to be at the forefront of that of transactions between businesses and music supply.
Gene Hammett: Fantastic. Your company has been recognized by Inc magazine number 31 on the Inc list over 9000% in a three-year period. Your employee count around 300 plus what do you think are the, the keys to the culture that have made this possible?
Paul Wiltshire: Well, we, we definitely have a culture of accountability and openness. , but we also, we also are very inclusive. So you, we have a culture of, of, well, we, we have a very much a, an aggressive focus on growing and that is largely driven by the industries speed of change and needing to adapt to that change as it happens, we know we’re very passionate about our people and how, and how they’re empowered to be creators as well. And, but also be empowered to say they don’t think that idea is good. No matter if that’s their boss. That’s presenting the [00:06:00] idea, but to be able to freely share their ideas and to freely push back, it is a culture we try to foster, so that we’re actually getting to the heart of problems much faster, rather than just perhaps going down a path that we shouldn’t like, that takes a lot longer to, correct?
Gene Hammett: No, you just rattled off quite a few of the, the keywords around principles that I’ve been talking about for years. And I know you’ve probably haven’t listened to too many episodes of this because we’ve just been introduce. But I have done hundreds of interviews with founders and CEOs like yourself, looking at the patterns across culture and leadership that get people to grow a company fast. You mentioned accountability, openness growth, adaptiveness, and powerness sharing ideas. The there’s no coincidence. I think you just have your finger on the pulse of what these things are altogether. Where did it come from for you?
Paul Wiltshire: It’s a good question. I think possibly it relates to my previous life as a songwriter and a record producer. It’s all about collaboration. So, you know, if you’re recording a band or you’re working with a a young artist. [00:07:00] To develop a song that, that they hoping is going to be that hit song that everyone relates to. You have to be working together and listening to each other’s ideas and encouraging each one, each one’s ideas so that the best creative result comes out of that. It, there is, it’s so easy for insecurity to get into that, to that dynamic. And that insecurity can have so many negative effects and consequences. So perhaps it’s, it’s embedded in that previous life. And my wife, who’s Chief People Officer was also my partner in that previous life. We were both, you know, songwriters and constantly working with with other musicians and artists in that space. And it’s all about collaboration to, to get the right result.
Gene Hammett: You know, we talked about this a lot with my clients, collaboration. They all want more of it, but they have a tough time to get there. Yeah, you, you hiring people that are very good individually, the competitive, in some cases that works, but when you want more collaboration and that’s not natural to them, it can be difficult. You had talked about some stuff hall with my research team [00:08:00] about a culture of change-makers let’s start by just describing what that is.
Paul Wiltshire: So I think having a culture of change-makers for us is it’s, it’s partly about what we do to change the industry. And the music industry is an interesting base because it it’s been around for a long time and it’s, and it’s gone through such a huge transition from a physical product to a digital product. And there, most of the innovation has come from technology companies building on top of the industry. And I think our approach has been we’re musicians using technology to transform the industry. So at the heart of what we do, we kind of know how the industry works, rather than trying to tell the industry how it should work using technology. We’ve building collaboratively and it’s that same process with the industry to, to make that change. And, and I th and there’s sort of so many elements to that week you get to dive into, but perhaps pause there for, for another question.
Gene Hammett: Well, I want to dive into the, the collaborativeness. Again, I was talking about this in an [00:09:00] earlier question. A lot of founders want more collaboration. It’s natural to you in what you’re doing. How do we inspire this across the company?
Paul Wiltshire: It gets it’s inspired throughout the company by really, really encouraging people to, to own certain aspects. So we have very clear accountability. We actually use a system that also helps guide this process. It’s a system called EOS. You may have come across. And, but it allows you know, very much for example, rock setting every quarter, so that everyone’s very clear on what their focus, their key focus what’s going to change. What’s going to change the environment. So them and the company and the product that they may be working on with that core focus that, that month. So setting rocks that all ladder up to the overall company targets and goals for the year. So that the, the entire organization is working in humming this one. It’s not to say that, that, that sounds like a perfect scenario with it’s never like that right. There’s always things to fix and improve and change.
But [00:10:00] I think at the heart of it, it’s, it’s really alignment on vision alignment on execution and, and. And having sort of underlying cultures, like freedom to be able to talk about any issues, freedom to build a culture of inclusiveness, a culture of being able to contact the CEO. If they feel like they want to bring up something, not that have to go through many, many different layers. So we are just that a very open. Yeah, we haven’t sort of read books to determine are our ways of working. It really is about being open, being, being approachable, being, being, understanding as much as possible. So you’re still you’re listening to people’s issues or listening to people’s concerns and being able to really, really assist them in when, when it comes to problems, when they arise.
Commentary: Now, Paul just talked about alignment on vision. There’s a lot of things inside that conversation, but I want to just dive into this one little piece. How do you create alignment on vision? Well, there’s a lot to it. You have to hire the right people that have a vision for where you’re going. But one of the things I know that gets in the way of a [00:11:00] lot of leaders is communication of that vision. They need to communicate it in a very powerful way. They need to do it in a way that really gets people aligned around the emotions of the vision. What we’re trying to create here, you can’t do this from a logic standpoint, you got to make sure your message connects to their hearts. And the second thing is you want to do it differently. You will have to talk about the vision many times. Some people will see it in, in certain ways, some people will need a little bit more data behind it. You want to talk about the vision differently. So the connect with different people in different ways, everyone perceives things differently. I’m a visual person. I want to see the vision of the vision, if that makes sense. And then finally, there’s something that always gets in the way of people communicating their vision effectively. I shouldn’t have to repeat myself. Well, I’m going to tell you right now, you will have to repeat yourself because you want to make sure that your saying it enough, that people really understand it. They could repeat it back to you. You could even be an inside joke about how often you talk about the vision and what we’re creating, because that is a guidepost, a north star. If you will, of how you’re going to get to where you’re [00:12:00] going to be. And you want to have to repeat it as often as necessary until everyone finds that sense of alignment. That’s my 2 cents on this. Back to Paul.
Gene Hammett: You’ve got a pretty big team most of the ink companies are smaller than you. I guess you probably know that maybe you don’t, but you’ve scaled up to, to this size team. You have, your wife is the Chief People Officer. What would we see inside your organization that you feel like it might be unique or different than, than other companies.
Paul Wiltshire: I think we’ve always had a focus on experience within, within the company. So it’s been a challenging time the last two years that, you know, when COVID hit and suddenly we’re not, you know, an audience in an office together. And that sort of really think created the challenge of having to create an inclusive feeling connected company online. Now we’re not alone in that. Obviously there’s been many, many companies that have done that, but our we’ve always had this focus on culture and what it means. So defining our core values and very much hiring by those core values, ensuring that everyone that we bring into the company is [00:13:00] aligned to those core values.
And we use those core values to really test. All of our decision-making so that we’re all so that we try to avoid. I think people that are not compatible with the way we work, generally, it works out that if, if we hiring on that basis, that we have a much more connected community and that’s moving in the right direction. Now that is that wholly unique. I don’t don’t necessarily think so, but that’s something that we a hundred percent believe in and follow.
Gene Hammett: I’m a huge fan of, you know, the core values from our sense of living them day in and day out. You mentioned the term testing decision-making is there an example that you can share with us to make sure we understand what you mean by using the values to test that decision-making?
Paul Wiltshire: Well, it might be testing our decision-making making a choice, whether we hire person, A or person B is personally or aligned to the person B may have more qualification may even yeah. Perhaps just in all ways, rate’s a little better from skill, but doesn’t align to our core values where person A does. So it’s, it’s, you know, choosing between making that [00:14:00] as a sort of guiding light as to what, who, who we decide to work with. And we don’t just, it doesn’t, it’s not just limited there. We’ve done a lot of MNA over the last in particular last year. So we did a five, I think, six transactions last year. And so those core values. , also use to determine whether a target acquisition is going to fit when we bring the, bring the companies together.
Gene Hammett: You know, that’s one of the hardest parts of any MNA is making sure that the cultures mixed together. So what I’m hearing you say is we’re actually looking at the core values of these potential mergers and seeing if they’re a fit beforehand. And is that really one of the requirements that you have or a good target?
Paul Wiltshire: It’s a, it’s a key deciding factor. So it’s not, you know, we don’t, we’re obviously not just looking for core value fits as, as a, as a guide to what we acquire. We’re acquiring businesses to plug into our ecosystem and exhilarated growth. But we won’t just buy a company. That’s the perfect match, but the core values done align because we know that’s going to cause friction that will, that could impact impact how [00:15:00] technologies work together, how successfully we’ll be able to roll out a collective product offering how well the teams would can collaborate. So it’s, we’re very careful about that aspect. And that’s part of the journey we go on in the preliminary stage, but also throughout the DD phase.
Gene Hammett: Well, I’m kind of curious on the core values as it relates to this culture of makers, how did you come up with your core values and have you refresh them over the years to get to where you are today?
Paul Wiltshire: So it was an exercise. We, we started, it must be almost three years ago and it was, you know, the leadership team around that the team was quite small back then. I think the total team was probably 20 people and the leadership team was probably four or five. And it really was around defining who we are, what, what we are, what, what that looks like and where we’re heading and how, how do we, how do we ensure that the core values of sort of built to last, but they always, they always need refinement. And they’ve, I think the definitions of have changed over time. All and and all the, the sentiment and the meaning has not it’s [00:16:00] it’s remained largely consistent with, without, with our first initial, the first initial incarnation.
Commentary: Paul was talking about the core values of the company. And I think you have to do this work. If you want to create the alignment that he’s talking about. Culture of game changers, but I really want you to think about this. One aspect of it are your values are a reflection of who you are now. Are they aspirational? Because this is one of the biggest questions you have to answer. I think it’s mostly about the who you are now. You want to hire people that are in alignment with who you are now. Not the aspirational values. The aspirational values can fit in there when you have one or two of these no more than 50% of who you’re becoming as an organization. If you have too many aspirational values, meaning something you hope to be someday, then you will feel like you’re never going to get there. So you want to make sure you’re attached to some of them. I have one of my clients who has a value. We are transcendent. That’s very aspirational and you know, they’re not there yet. They are hitting on the other three values, very consistently. That’s who they are. They’re [00:17:00] compassionate. They’re partners. And they truly do support each other. Now these values are very important to them, but the transcendent one is aspirational. You have to decide for yourself, how many are you today? And how many values are aspirational? Just something to think about as you put together your values and begin to live them on a day-to-day basis. Back to Paul.
Gene Hammett: I see that a lot of people do this differently. When you came up with this, did you guys in the executive leadership team come up with them first and then roll them out to this, the rest of the team for feedback? Or did you take a different approach?
Paul Wiltshire: We rolled it out. I mean, we were such, such a small, tight team back then. So it was, it was easy to get feedback. You know, we could all meet in a room around a table at once. It’s a little different now and we’ve, we’ve also shared this you know, in, particularly with a recent acquisition was quite large for us, it was almost a hundred people and they largely aligned to who they were anyway. And we, you know, part of, part of our presentation, we, you know, whenever we’re doing an MNA transaction is what we want to present the company to them to see who we are, [00:18:00] what we are, where we’re heading and if they, if they believe they align with this as well, but no, it’s we we’ve always had feedback. And we always take that feedback on that’s part of our collaborative nature and it lets us better define them over time.
Gene Hammett: What have I not touched on here that helps you create this culture of change makers?
Paul Wiltshire: I think empowerment is a really important thing. So it’s, it’s I think it’s and going back to my past, you know, as, as a record producer, I was very much a control freak, so it’s like, even though I would be very collaborative, I would always want more. I kind of want the final say. This is going to sound like him. And just now we’ve done the initial part, the recording, or the composition, let me do my thing to finish it. And I think what I had to learn through the journey of building a company is really empowering people to go give them the top line and say, this is the intangible, the effect we’re trying to create. What do you think that should be? How do you think it should work? And I think when, when someone has ownership like that. And they’ve got freedom to create and [00:19:00] there, and their brief is not within an inch of its life and, and then not being micromanaged and, and, you know, every single decision they make, they have to check with with someone, then, then you get the best result out of their creativity.
And I think you attract people to, as part of that, that are aligned to working like that. So we’ve certainly found that that in our experience gets the best results out of people.
Gene Hammett: Again, you’re hitting on all these core principles of of the work. And I don’t think I actually explained this but many times when I talk to people, just like you, they talk this about the sense of ownership. They want people to feel like owners and many times it’s, even if they don’t have a financial stake, because in some cases you can’t have everyone gets options or profit sharing or whatever the financial tools available. But do you talk about ownership of projects and ownership of their roles across your organization.
Paul Wiltshire: We do. I mean, often it’s in the, under the, in the form of accountability. And so defining what their role is, finding what they’re accountable for, and that ownership often comes out of what our third tip before is rock setting. [00:20:00] So they’re actually working towards goals that they’ve participated in identifying, which is partly, you know, them being responsible for their journey.
Gene Hammett: This is such a cool interview. I really appreciate you being here. Paul, we’ve been talking about a culture change makers. SongTradr is really impressive with their growth. Really thank you for sharing behind the scenes here.
Paul Wiltshire: You’re very welcome. It’s been great to spend time with you.
Gene Hammett: Here’s what I want to do when I, I always like to reflect a little bit about these interviews and I do this while Paul’s listening in, so he can see where he’s made an impact on me and others. It’s really? What does it take to grow a team? Well, it’s not just one person. It takes a true team that is able to work together. , we’ve been using the word collaboration a lot. I think if that’s something you want more of, you want to use that, but you want to dig underneath it. You want to really create space where people feel empowered, feel safe to share those ideas. And that you are have some, some guidelines. I think these core values are the guidelines when you’re not there. They’re the ones these tools can be used for hiring and selecting and onboarding, but also [00:21:00] developing people and rewarding and recognizing them.
A lot of the work we do here is helping you understand how to become a better leaders. If you have any curiosity whatsoever, what takes, what is it going to take you to be a more powerful leader, inspires sense of ownership. I love to talk to you about your business. About what’s really going on and reflect back and give you some feedback on where that’s going. It’s absolutely free. And I don’t want to sell you anything.
I truly want to serve you if you’re an audience listening to this deep of the conversation. So just go to GeneHammett.com and schedule a call when you think of growth and you think of leadership, think of Growth Think Tank. As always lead with courage. We’ll see you next time.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
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