Let's Blog This Out
I’m sure you’ve been here at some point. You have a favorite band. You know every album by heart. You can play air guitar to every riff and proudly wear their latest tour t-shirt and even more proudly wear their oldest tour shirt. You feel that you actuallyknow them through their heart-felt, insightful and inspiring work. You have a real connection to their art. So, by complete surprise...you get to actually meet them! But---when you get to see them in person, they disappointingly fall short of their persona. They aren’t as beautiful as you’d imagined, or maybe they brush you off and you get the feeling that they are too busy to shake your hand and give you a genuine smile. A total let down!
This happened to me recently in a work situation. In my particular circumstance, our company, Blue Nova, is beginning to see more of the landscape of the scenic stage design industry and it’s players. We’ve come to see a side of a company that prior to now we have esteemed as a leader among us. No doubt, their place is still as a leader, but with a tainted reputation in my mind. there was a particular interaction that shed light on a facet of their corporate culture that I hadn’t been aware of before.
To my surprise, there was an interaction with this large company quite out of the blue. Feeling very disappointed, the whole communication felt very impersonal, suspicious, and aloof. It made me think about our industry as a whole and if this is how our industry leaders did business. Since this company is one of the heavy hitters, it made me wonder if this is how you survive in our industry. Would I have to become like that to “make it”?
Talking with a photographer friend about this situation, she offered her perspective. She said there were certain photographers who kept everything to themselves. They didn’t share their creativity with other photographers. And when they were booked, they didn’t refer clients to other trusted photographers who might have time for their event. They pretty much kept everyone at arms length to protect themselves from other photographers who might steal their creativity and their clients.
Then there were photographers who were also quite successful who had a different perspective on doing
business. One particular photographer who was outstanding, shot some of the most famous people around the world. When he was booked, instead of feeling the panic of “losing a client” he actually met his clients needs by referring them to other respected photographers who might be available. This certain photographer even taught others by sharing camera settings and shot perspectives. He didn’t feel threatened by community and other talented people being around him.
Though both photographers were successful, I bet the one who shared a community was happier! He didn’t feel the need to padlock every idea that he had because he was full of creativity and the Lord would bless him with new ideas!
Somewhere brewing inside of me, she had just described what I was trying to sort out--two successful photographers and two very different ways of doing business. What drives our actions and responses to these type of every day challenges? These small decisions that build over time to set our course. My answer came---Culture. The way I see it, culture is to a company what character is to a person.
Each of us has a part of the world in which we decide our culture: whether it is in our homes, leading a team, or leading a business. Often times this responsibility is overlooked, opting for an off-the-cuff reaction to getting work done--a culture that just “is.” I’d like to take the tact that the culture in our company is deliberated over as an important vision-casting responsibility. Culture is like building character--earned and shaped over time as we are faced with life’s teaching moments. One of the most important things we can do is set our culture.
In my situation, looking at our industry, both types of companies exist: community-based and protect-my-ideas-based companies. But the question is, “What kind of company are we going to be?” At its basic level, it is a question of are we going to do business with suspicion, cynicism and litigiousness or are we going to live in community by trusting, sharing and connecting with the amazing people around us.
The two photographers were diabolically different. Admittedly, there are risks and benefits to both ways of thinking. When it is boiled down in simple terms like this, there is there is absolutely no doubt what kind of company I will lead: It will be one of trust and collaboration, as opposed to fear and isolation. The benefits of living life with trust and cooperation far outweigh the drawbacks. I will gladly be different and lead others to be different as well. I’m sure that our perspectives will show through to our customers, employees and to those who we do business with--in fact, I’m counting on it!
Even through my disappointment interacting with this industry leader, I am thankful for it. It brought me to dig deep. It caused me to hear my answer. My answer that was rolling around inside but wasn’t yet verbalized. Answering this question has formed and galvanized my position. Answering these questions is the only way to really shape our culture, our companies and provide a really great place to work and do business.
And let’s hope that some day when we are a rockstar company, that we won’t disappoint a new comer who is just trying to get a glimpse of their favorite artist! Haha
Over the next few months, I will be interviewing other industry leaders who believe in elements of these ideas. Leaders who have decided to live by these core values. Please join me as we delve into our business and sort through our answers together.