Ben Burgess Executive director of WA Youth Music (3 years)
WABN: What has been the most challenging event in your career? What did you learn from it?
BB: "On my first day as general manager of a well known but small eastern states festival, the chairman told me I had to find $30,000 of sponsorship within a week. I managed to do it by working with an existing sponsor who planned a lunch for reps from 20 businesses (including some very left-of-field businesses) at which I pitched the festival and asked for a $2,000 investment. We made $30,000 plus some more, and six years later some of them are now big sponsors of the event. I learned that sponsors and partnerships can be in places where most wouldn't bother looking."
WABN: How do you deal with egos in your workplace?
BB: "Luckily we do not have time for egos, as with only a staff of four we deliver 60 events a year with 500 young members to annual live audience in excess of 30,000."
WABN: What frustrates you the most about your sector and what would you do to change it?
BB: "In the arts, it's the perceived high level of elitism. We work at changing it by programing accessible concerts, including large scale outdoor ones, keeping ticket prices affordable and having information about our concerts written in plain non-patronising English, among hundreds of other tricks of the trade."
WABN: What are the specific hurdles that you meet on a daily basis in your sector?
BB: "Trying to do more with less, and being in a continual growth phase. We deal with it by making our operation efficient, and also by building relationships with our sponsors so they can grow with us."
WABN: Who is someone you dream to work with?
BB: "Henry Boston from the Australian Business Arts Foundation (AbaF). He would be my exclusive sponsorship director."
WABN: Have you read a good book on leadership that you can recommend?
BB: "I'd be lying if I said I've read one since university. But I have referred to some of Philip Kotler's not-for-profit publications regularly over the years."
WABN: What is your favourite hobby?
BB: "I collect authentic Buddha statues - I have over 200."
WABN: Which personality inspired you the most throughout your career?
BB: "Andre Rieu, definitely not for his musical ability but for how he single handedly built a billion-dollar empire by making people feel happy at concerts and working to a simple accessible formula - as well as some mighty fine product placement and marketing."
WABN: Who has influenced you professionally?
BB: " Bruce Finlayson (head of arts management at WAAPA) as well all the CEOs of Australian arts companies who innovate and play an active part in the wider community instead of just presenting performances to an elite few."
WABN: What were you doing before your current position?
BB: "I was concerts and events manager for the ANU in Canberra, and before that I was classical music manager at the Perth International Arts Festival."
WABN: What is your education background?
BB: "I have a bachelor of music (oboe major) and I later did a bachelor of arts management, both from WAAPA."
WABN: Describe a day at work.
BB: "Doing everything and anything in a day, from finance, HR, sponsorship, marketing, strategic planning, artistic programming, tour planning, event management, ticketing and taking phone calls from a pushy parent."
WABN: What is the best piece of advice you can give someone to motivate a team?
BB: "Listen, lead by example and do your best to understand from your staff's point of view and perspective of what they have to do and achieve daily, monthly and yearly."
WABN: What's best measurement of your performance, and can you name a highlight in your career?
BB: "Audience development, sponsorship growth and achieving long-term financial stability. I am very proud to have done this at WA Youth Music without increasing staffing."
WABN: Is there an organisational model that you strive to achieve/reach?
BB: "Having such a small staff, I strive to reach a very flat, non-hierarchical model underneath me - in which all my staff can understand and even do parts of each other's jobs."