Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Play’s the Thing

I firmly believe that nothing holiday related should happen until after Thanksgiving.  Some people think it makes me a bit of a Scrooge, but I simply refuse to allow the holiday season to intrude on my annual saturnalia of unapologetic sloth and gluttony.

Of course, with Thanksgiving now behind me, I’m free to go whole-hog into the holidays.  So this year, in an attempt to jumpstart some holiday cheer, I crawled out of my turkey stupor the Sunday after Thanksgiving, washed the gravy out of my hair, and went to see A Christmas Carol.  

The Guthrie Theater here in Minneapolis has been staging the show for 41 seasons, through various iterations.  The Guthrie cast and crew put on a polished show, replete with merry songs, solid acting, and a particularly impressive set display.   There’s a reason many families find it to be a holiday tradition: whether for the humor, the message it conveys, or just the spectacle of it.  By “spectacle,” I’m thinking mainly of the fact that the set spins around, and that the Ghost of Christmas Future made the poor woman behind me actually shriek in terror. 

I also had the chance to take a backstage tour after the show with one of the performers. If you ever receive an offer to do this, absolutely take it.  The machinery it takes to stage these productions is incredible, particularly when running multiple simultaneous productions over three stages.  And it is all the more impressive for being invisible to the audience. 

Behind a successful theater production is a good team that knows how to work together—whether we’re talking about the actress in the spotlight, the kid pushing set pieces around, or the guy who sits in the basement and runs the trapdoor elevator, they all need to do their jobs in sync.

Being an entrepreneur usually involves fewer ghosts descending from the cat walks, but it’s the same general concept.  Nothing works if someone forgets their blocking and falls into the orchestra pit. As soon as the production stops being invisible, it loses some of the magic.  

As an entrepreneur, you might start out as one person in a garage, but eventually you need a team. And that team needs to work off the same script, and on the same clock, or the whole thing is going to be a mess.

This might mean paying close attention to your software developers, your accounts receivable group, or your legal team, depending on your business and its current posture.  But in the end, it’s about finding a cast you jive with and getting everyone on script. Mistakes will still happen—Tiny Tim is going to knock his cane over at the wrong time, or one of the ghosts will get stuck in his flying harness and need someone to untangle him while he runs his lines. Or, in business terms, your app is going to have trouble running on Android, or your key supplier is going have trouble sourcing materials. But a good cast and crew at your company can keep the show going despite the bumps and ensure that your customers don’t walk away at intermission.

And that should help you look good on whatever stage your business takes you to. 

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