Establish a set of values that work specifically for your company. Core values are the identity of a company. At Harmony Helper, a lot of our core values are influenced by our vision and mission. For example, we place a strong emphasis on supporting the various singing communities, theatre, choral groups, directors/teachers, etc. This community approach is reflected in our company culture. Every employee is treated like family and are continuously reminded of the value they bring to the table every day.
As a part of my series about about how leaders can create a “fantastic work culture”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew Goren, the founder and CEO of Harmony Helper. As a passionate musical theatre actor, Andrew has been on a quest to develop the perfect way to learn and sharpen singing and harmonizing abilities. With over 10 years of singing/performing experience, his unique insights and vision have led to the creation of the amazing and elegant Harmony Helper app. With his leadership, Harmony Helper is helping singers of all kind effectively practice and improve singing performance anywhere, anytime, removing traditional rehearsal barriers so singers can deliver their best performances.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I was 13, I booked my first professional singing performance in Philadelphia for a musical. I was fine in the rehearsal process and didn’t have any issues practicing my part of the harmony at home. When the tech and dress rehearsals took place, the microphones and speakers were added, and for the first time, I could hear the other person singing in harmony with me, and I could not focus on my part. I was ridiculously off pitch and it was a devastating experience for me.
After the rehearsal, I sat down with the music director and he couldn’t figure out the problem. No one really knew how to solve it so I searched for a solution online but wasn’t able to find one. That’s when I came up with the concept for Harmony Helper. I started sketching ideas at 13, and when I was 16, I approached a friend to get guidance on how to get this company off the ground. When I was 17, I connected with Lindsay Ifill, our product manager, and we began scaling the product. For the first year, we worked with theatre, singing and performance communities to truly understand the pain points these audiences experience. In the past year, we have been developing the beta version of the application, which is set to launch in the coming months.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
When I started to share the vision for Harmony Helper outside of my immediate circle, I knew it was a good idea and it was a pain point that needed to be solved in the industry. We received an overwhelming amount of positive responses from different communities ranging from choral to theatre and Broadway. It was also recreational singers who recognized the need from this type of learning tool. It was at that moment when I realized our team was creating a solution that can actually help people all over the world.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Absolutely! We are working towards launching the beta version of the Harmony Helper app. It will be the first app on the market that allows users to scan sheet music, map their part, and begin the rehearsal process. The app will also include other features such as accurate real-time feedback, vocal part mapping, record/playback, vocal part volume control, and group sharing.
We are thrilled to soon debut Harmony Helper to the singing community. As a musical theatre actor myself, I know the hassles of practicing for a performance can leave singers feeling frustrated and unprepared. My own experiences have inspired me to develop the solution that empowers singers with great rehearsals and helps them feel confident.
Ok, lets jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?
Unhappiness is often associated with an individual’s level of satisfaction at their job. Although there isn’t a blanketed response for why more than half of the U.S. workforce is unhappy, there are certainly bad practices that can lead to this outcome. For example, if an employer has not established a healthy work/life balance, it can lead to increased stress levels, bad morale, decrease in patience and creativity. Recognizing and appreciating employee contributions is another area where organizations often fall short. If employee recognition isn’t instilled within the culture of the organization, employees won’t feel valued for their work and will be less motivated. Another bad practice for leaders is not enabling employees to reach their full potential. If employees aren’t encouraged to reach their full potential, it can become almost impossible for organizations to maintain innovative. It’s critical for leaders to take responsibility for employee well being by establishing a positive and rewarding work culture, creating a healthy work/life balance, and encouraging great work.
Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?
If employees are unhappy with their job, this can significantly impact overall productivity, company profitability and personal health/wellbeing. Employees who feel valued are motivated to complete quality work and deliver impressive results that lead to an increase in company profitability. Money is often thought of as the great motivator in the workplace. Although money is important, it doesn’t influence employee behavior in the long term. Motivating employees through recognition can go a long way and positively impact the overall health and performance of an organization.
Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?
1. Hire the person fit for the job not solely based on background but passion and drive. Invest your time in finding true talent.
○ I am a strong believer in hiring the right person for their talents and aptitude, not solely based on their direct experience or background. If an individual is passionate, curious, and demonstrates drive, that is what interests me. When a company opens up the pool of possibilities and doesn’t limit candidates based on every detail of their resume, their ability to find true and lasting talent increases. At Harmony Helper, I work with a team of creative and smart individuals who all have different backgrounds. Some in tech, some in sports medicine, and even Broadway. Bringing together individuals from different backgrounds increases diverse input and a company’s chance for success.
2. Establish purpose. Remind employees to look beyond to-do lists, but rather look at the bigger picture and the impact of the work they do every day.
○ It can be easy to fall into the trap of scratching off items on a to-do list instead of thinking of the larger picture, the importance of the work, and why it matters in the long run. At Harmony Helper, we allocate time every week to sync as a team, discuss progress/challenges, and talk about the end goal of our business. These meetings are important because it reminds every employee of their value, and the context of what they’re working on and helps keep everyone working toward the same goal. I believe it’s crucial for business leaders to reserve time for these meetings on the calendar and remind their teams of the value they bring to the table. The most valuable part of an organization is the potential of the team.
3. The importance of over communication; Communication and transparency allows team members to more adequately perform with confidence.
○ As a CEO, I have learned that purposeful communication is absolutely critical. It’s important to our company culture and team cohesiveness to ensure that every Harmony Helper employee is kept in the loop effectively.
○ With a globally spread team, it’s essential that we take the time to communicate, as we are not able to all be in the same room at the same time.
○ As a leader, it’s important to know how to communicate when you’re inviting feedback and when to make a call and move forward.
4. Establish a set of values that work specifically for your company
○ Core values are the identity of a company. At Harmony Helper, a lot of our core values are influenced by our vision and mission. For example, we place a strong emphasis on supporting the various singing communities, theatre, choral groups, directors/teachers, etc. This community approach is reflected in our company culture. Every employee is treated like family and are continuously reminded of the value they bring to the table every day.
○ Developing a set of core values for a company isn’t a mandate developed in a boardroom. Leaders must identify their vision/mission and align and exemplify the values they want to establish. Rather, it is continuously practiced and nurtured. It’s a ‘show me, don’t tell me’ process. Successful companies not only establish their values, but truly live what they believe in on a daily basis.
5. Why fun should be part of the work culture equation.
When people think about work, they aren’t typically thinking of how much fun they are having Monday through Friday. To create a successful work culture, fun should be part of the equation. At Harmony Helper, I am responsible for ensuring the success of our work culture. As a recent high school graduate, I am still reminded of the fun before the corporate world, which is why I chose to balance the office with things that bring employees joy. For example, we have a gaming room in the middle of the office complete with a pinball machine, and other fun games. Adding fun to the work equation is important because it reminds employees that they are not just work machines, they are human.
Although to some this may be stating the obvious, it is critical to celebrate the wins by having fun. In turn, your business will increase its successes. Employees who feel valued often demonstrate greater drive, go above and beyond and are happier. We not only celebrate wins together, but we share our failures as well. We don’t believe in pointing fingers. Rather, we believe in dusting off the failure and determine as a team, our next step. Setbacks and failures are a part of striving for any goal. I know it’s been said by others a lot, but it’s not about failing, it’s about how you pick yourself back up and learn from it.
It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce work culture?
As a society, different industries can ban together to establish a standard for workplace culture expectations and form a set of ideas that not only increase employee wellbeing, but as an end result, increase employee productivity and efficiency. It is up to the leaders of an organization to establish a set of ideas to instill a healthy and successful workplace culture, as every organization differs and not every organization has the same priorities.
In the theatre world, “that is just the business,” is a common phrase. In the workforce, people often assume that if the approach to work culture has always been the same, then it is automatically right. However, this is not always the case. It is the responsibility of the leaders to establish a work culture where employees feel they can grow and know that they are being looked out for.
How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?
My leadership style is a combination of transformational and visionary as I am deeply involved in day-to-day operations of the business. At Harmony Helper, I try my best to lead by example and inspire every employee to reach their full potential. Not only is productivity and efficiency considered important traits from an organizational standpoint, I also highly value work/life balance. For example, in our office, we have a game room where employees can take a break, play a game of pinball, and allow the creative juices to continue flowing.
For me, it is also equally important that every employee is treated like family. We work as a team, we create ideas as a team, we celebrate wins as a team, and we work through challenges as a team. We often participate in team outings to help strengthen our existing work relationships whether we are going out for a night of pinball or attending a Broadway show together.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
It is hard to identify a specific individual that I am grateful for as I received help from many individuals including: my father Dr. Larry Goren, Rob McClure (Harmony Helper artistic advisor), Lindsay Ifill (Harmony Helper product manager), Aya Felling (Harmony Helper social media manager), Anthony Petraco (Harmony Helper CTO), our development team, the BroadwayCon community, and the many individuals that helped test the app and provided our team with feedback so we could improve and best solve the challenges singers experience while rehearsing for a performance. I am forever grateful to everyone who helped Harmony Helper become a reality.
●If I were to choose one individual, it would be my father. A lot of teenagers have ideas and visions for how they want to impact the world that no one pays attention to. I have to give credit to my parents, especially my Dad for partnering with me and bringing my vision to life. As a successful surgeon and entrepreneur, he’s always there to reinforce a can-do attitude. A lot of my leadership style comes from watching how he effectively manages his teams.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Over the past few years, my team and I have been wholly committed to helping singing and theatre communities solve challenges and manage hurdles when rehearsing for performances. With Harmony Helper, we are aiming to become the great equalizer and help beginners to professionals take back the control in an industry where this is little to no control.
We are also dedicated to providing individuals with equal access to theatre education. My father established the Goren Family Foundation, in association with Harmony Helper, which provides both service and financial support to organizations such as the Paper Mill Playhouse, a not-for-profit theater that provides theater classes and performance for people with autism and other developmental disabilities. The Goren Family Foundation also provides charitable assistance to other organizations including: Bancroft Neuro Health — a not-for-profit organization that provides educational and clinical resources for children and adults with developmental disabilities and brain injuries — the community based learning program at Drexel University, and SIS — a breast cancer charity dedicated to improving the quality of life for those facing breast cancer diagnosis. Harmony Helper, a Goren Family endeavor, participates in supporting the work of the foundation through service participation and financial assistance.
Can you please give us your favorite “ Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My grandfather always told me, “do what you say and say what you do.” This quote speaks to me because our vision, which has been expressed to theatre, choral, and Broadway communities, is to develop an app that will put the control back in the singer’s hands. We want to make sure we are on the ground honoring our promise and staying extremely focused and following through with what we say. Honoring and following this work ethic will lead to great success later down the line.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
My team and I are heavily invested in providing every singer and every performer with equal access to tools to develop their singing skills and deliver their best performance. Our hope is to alleviate the challenges singers and performers of all types experience before a rehearsal or performance.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you continued success!
About the author:
Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.