Lessons Learned from the Sight and Sound Theater – Part 1 of 5: The Mission Statement

by Tom Grandy

The Sight and Sound Theater in Lancaster, PA presents 11 two-hour live shows each week depicting a different Biblical Story each year. Shows are presented March through December. The theater has 2,069 seats and all shows are sold out months in advance. The average seat costs $75.00. Now do a little math. 11 shows a week times 43 weeks times 2,069 seats times $75/ seat. If my math is correct those numbers equate to annual gross sales in excess of $73,000,000. In addition to the actual play they also have a few “add on” sales as well. The theater offers behind the scenes tours once a day. They conduct five daily tours, all at the same time, with about 30 people on each tour. I won’t bore you with the math but trust me, those behind the scenes tours generate an additional $2,000,000 plus in gross annual sales not to mention the gift shop income! With that kind of continuous success there just might be a few key business principles the average business owner could learn from them.

I have had the pleasure of attending two presentations over the past few years. The last program I attended was Noah. Since this was my second show I signed up for the behind the scenes tour fully prepared with the Notes section ready on my iPhone and a long list of questions to ask. Before the tour began I received permission to take notes as well as a few photos. My objective was very specific. I wanted to glean as many business tips as possible to pass onto our readers.

If I were to share all the notes I took this would be a book rather than a series of articles. The following format will be used. I will share how the Sight and Sound organization handles different aspects of their business and then I will make a few comments and/or observations. Hopefully this will serve to move your company forward in some practical and profitable ways.

Mission Statement
The company didn’t just decide to present Biblical Stories in order to generate as much profit as possible. They had a very specific reason for creating the company which is summed up in their Mission Statement. The mission of the Sight and Sound Theater is:
“Our purpose is to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ and sow the Word of God into the lives of our customers, guests, and fellow workers by visualizing and dramatizing the scriptures through inspirational productions, encouraging others, and seeking always to be dedicated and wise stewards of our God-given talents and resources.”

Now a mission statement isn’t of much value if it’s not conveyed properly to all the employees until it becomes part of the underlying culture. That culture, conveyed through the mission statement, must be clearly presented to the customer both in word and deed. The Sight and Sound organization has done an amazing job of accomplishing this in a variety of ways.

Initially, it is clearly conveyed to potential employees through the hiring and training programs. Each potential employee clearly knows before they even apply for a job what the mission of the organization is. Once the mission is clearly understood by the employee it is purposely conveyed to their potential and actual customers. Potential customers will see the mission statement on the website and/or through the company’s marketing efforts. When potential customers become real customers by attending a show the mission is then resold, over and over again. All customers are able to view the Mission Statement as they enter the building as it is physically posted in various places for all to see. Each behind the scenes tour is led by the theater actors who provide a detailed explanation of the mission and vision of the Sight and Sound organization before the tour begins. Each person on the tour is issued a badge on a lanyard. Guess what? The Mission Statement is actually printed on the lanyard! Few customers will leave the grounds without fully understanding why the Sight and Sound Theater is in business.

Ok, how about your business? Do you have a mission statement? Do you know why you are in business? If the answer to the above two questions is yes, that’s wonderful. Now that you know why you are in business the question shifts to your employees. I don’t just mean your key employees; I mean all of your employees. Do they know what your mission is? If they do, how is that mission statement conveyed to your customers? If you and all your employees can’t easily answer the above questions then it may be time to take a couple steps back to clarify why you are in business. This could be a wonderful catalyst that initiates a discussion towards clarifying the vision and direction of your company for years to come.

The next post will continue by taking a look at the Sight and Sounds hiring and training practices. The process is truly amazing with lots of food for thought in terms of how their principles may pertain to your business.

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