The CEO is the head honcho, the big cheese, the decision maker. This was very evident in my role as founder and CEO of InTouch Theatre Productions. InTouch Theatre Productions was founded in 2002 when I’d tired of sending out my original plays and waiting months and months for a response. Being the CEO of my production company brought great freedom; I could do the shows I wanted to do, where I wanted to do them, when I wanted to do them. I enlisted the help of many fine actors, actresses, directors, technicians, and other playwrights and made many friendships which have endured. Just like anything, though, with great freedom comes great responsibility, and I learned many lessons along the way. Here are five lessons in business which translate from the back office to the stage and into the real world.
Remember Your Limitations: One of the biggest lessons I learned as a theatre producer is to remember I am only one person. When I was first producing my own shows I would try to do everything and the shows would suffer from it. Remembering your limitations and enlisting the help of others who can help make your work shine is important in the business of theatre as a theatre production company CEO.
Surround Yourself With Brilliant People: One of the ways I was able to learn and let go was by surrounding myself with brilliant people. Or, maybe brilliant is the wrong word. Strong people with vision different from my own. People who have an opinion and are not afraid to share it. when you deal with “yes men” (and women) then your work will never get any better. It’s true of life, it’s true of art, and it’s true in business as well. Just because you’re the CEO doesn’t mean that you know everything.
You Are the CEO: Even though you should be open to others ideas and suggestions, you can’t let too many cooks in the kitchen. As a theatre producer I had my then girlfriend and one other impartial friend who’s council I would seek out in extreme decision making situations. I actually had to fire an actor who could not get off book, never showed up to rehearsal on time, and exhausted my patience in terms of doing what I’d asked him to do. it was tough and I had to take on the role at the very last but at the end of the day I was the one who had to stand up for my work as a playwright and my work as CEO of the theatre production company.
Full House/Empty House: One more fact I learned as a theatre producer is that even the best shows go unnoticed if there is no one in the house. You need to have a show which runs in long enough of a stead and in enough different times of day so that you can maximize your audience. To that end, I’d like to believe my shows would have been much better noticed had I had the benefit of online media tools like the tools we have available now. Still, the theater is one of the remaining organic media. That is, handing out post cards, hitting the street, word of mouth, and inviting reviewers to come in and see your show.
The More the Merrier: One of the types of shows I liked to write were two character psycho-dramas. I began to have a lot more success, financially, when I produced others shows along with my own. I found a niche in the off-Broadway theatre season, accepted submissions, and invited as many shows that I thought were worth staging. In truth I could have been even more open in accepting submissions and I could have done more theatre shows to galvanize myself to theatre producing success. However if you have a great product or service and you don’t invite anyone to share in your experience, then you will never have any success.
I have gotten out of the theatre producing set for a time but hope to come back someday. Being the CEO of a theatre production company is one of the most thrilling things I’ve ever done and has taught me a lot about business, about people, and about being a CEO.