Lessons Learned from the Sight and Sound Theater – Part 2 of 5: Hiring and Training Employees

by Tom Grandy

In the first post, we looked at the Mission Statement from the Sight and Sound Theater. This organization generates over $75,000,000 in gross sales each year so there just might be a few tidbits we can each pick to apply to our businesses. Remember that the Mission Statement drove the sales, not the desire to make money! That is worth pondering all by itself.

As we begin this discussion let me clarify one thing. The actual production of Noah had approximately 50 on-stage actors. However, there were 450 additional support people without whom the show would not go on. That includes the sound booth staff that produces over 700 sound changes during the performance, the design teams, the fabrication staff, the animal trainers, costume designers, lighting technicians, stage crew, and literally hundreds of others the audience will never see. For now, however, let’s focus on the fifty on-stage actors.

Actors do not simply apply for positions at the Sight and Sound Theater. All actors consider working at the theater as part of their personal ministry. Yes, they are highly skilled actors but their personal vision lines up with the vision of the theater and they simply want to be part of it. Becoming an actor in one of the productions is a not a haphazard process. Let me highlight just a few specific details:

• Multiple Scripts – All actors must learn a minimum of four scripts. When a show runs for nearly a year it is inevitable that someone will be sick, on vacation, or gone for some unexpected reason. Properly trained backups at every position are essential. Role assignments for any actual performance are not made until one hour before show time so the actor had better be prepared.

• Role Practice – Each actor begins practice six months before show time. Seven weeks out they practice with the team from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM six days a week. Dress rehearsal begins seven days prior to show time. Training is intense which ensures a top quality performance. Do you see any applications to your business yet?

• Rise and Shine – Most actors will have at least one singing role. Actors with singing roles are required to be up at least three hours before their performance in order to warm up their voice. That means if the individual is performing in the 9:00 AM show they must be up by 6:00 AM to warm up their voice.

• Job Security Is Not Guaranteed – There is no job security! Remember the TV ads for stocks. The byline says “Past performance is no guarantee of future performance”. At the conclusion of each season ALL actors must re-apply to be chosen to be part of the next production. If they have performed well over the past year they will be considered as part of the new cast but there is no guarantee of future employment simply because they may have done a good job in the past.

Now, what can we learn from the theaters hiring and training practices? First of all they do not simply hire warm bodies to fill a position. The individual must “catch the vision” for where the company is going and “want” to be part of it. They must understand it is a team effort. They may be the one on stage but without the team the show will not go on. Each employee has a healthy respect and appreciation for other team members.

When you are the owner of a company you are fully aware that you may be called upon to perform any job at any time. Just like the actors learning multiple scripts in order to fill in where needed, a company’s employees need to be cross-trained to fill a variety of positions when the need arises. They must learn to accept working in different positions as needed without grumbling and complaining. It’s the “team” effort that creates satisfied customers. The actors accept responsibility for making the extra effort on their own time. No one is watching to see if they are up at 6:00 AM to warm up their throat but guess what? Lack of warm up will reflect in their performance……just like it does with your employees.

How about the no job security thing? What a unique idea to require performance at a high level before you can be considered for re-employment for another year or season. I’ll let your mind dwell on that a bit to see how it might have application in your business.

Let’s recap for a moment. For a company to grow and prosper, like the Sight and Sound has, it will require top quality employees who catch the vision of where the company is going and want to be part of it. Outstanding employees must be willing to work hard during working hours and after hours for the good of the company to excel when it comes to exceeding the customers’ expectations. The team really is only as good as the weakest link!

We have now covered the Mission Statement and hiring and training practices. In the next post, we will look at the value of long range planning.

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