If you’re not busy, you’re in trouble.

I walked into a restaurant over the weekend (ok, ok, there may have been buffalo wings on the menu), and it was emptier than a Saturday matinee of Dude.

The hostess was reading US Weekly, and when I walked up and asked to be seated, I got the ol’ ‘sighing-eyes’ of, “I was so happy to be reading about Kim Kardashian’s bad fashion choices and big butt, and now I have to stop what I’m doing and help this guy who kind of reminds me of Mike Dukakis.”

I saw a managerial/owner-type working a cash register nearby (or not working it, I should say, since there weren’t many people paying or ordering anything).   She, unlike her “over-it” employee, looked a little worried about something.

And when she practically jumped up and down and did a Bring It On-like cartwheel at the sight of me, an actual customer, I realized what had her so worried . . .  and it was the exact opposite of what the employee was relishing.

The employee loved it when it wasn’t busy.

The manager was scared poop-less.

You’ve been there, yourself, right?  Annoyed that your phone rings.  Bugged that you’ve got to rush something for your boss for a new client.  I know I was like that at times, back when I was working for a company, and not running one.

But the truth is, if your company isn’t busy, your job could be in jeopardy.  Gulp!

It’s common for employees, especially those that are long term employees (think long running shows), to forget that down-business, could mean that your business gets shut down.

Did that hostess at the restaurant really want it to be dead? So dead that maybe she gets laid off and the bartender, or the manager seats people?  No.  She had US magazines to buy (and in all seriousness, she had tuition to pay, as she told me later).

This is why I’m such a believer in open-book producing.  Making sure your employees understand when you are doing well (and rewarding them), and when you’re not (so you can ask them to help get back on top) is an essential part of running any risky business.  They need to have a general understanding of the numbers and why you do the things you do . . . how many tickets do you need to sell to break-even?  What is the cost of a full page ad in the Times?

A lot of people (and by people, I mean my producing peers), are too nervous about revealing this kind of information.  But I’d much rather my employees read up on the business that they are in, and how they can help make it better, for all of us . . . than read how Kim Kardashian’s big butt may be cosmetically enhanced.  Seriously.


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  • Ron Bruguiere says:

    Quote:”…and it was emptier than a Saturday matinee of Dude.”

    You look far too young to have been there.

    Here’s something from my memoir COLLISION: when reality and illusion collide.

    The play at the ANTA I wrote about was “Wilson in the Promise Land.”

    “The alteration of the ANTA Theatre brought about my cordial reunion with Gerry Ragni and Jim Rado. [I was company manager of “Hair” during its first year on Broadway.] They were doing a new musical, Dude, and had come to see what Eugene Lee was up to. Apparently liking what they saw, Eugene and Franne Lee were hired as the production designers. With music by Galt MacDermont, direction by Tom O’Horgan, Dude opened in October 1972, at the balcony level of the Broadway Theatre using the Wilson… stage concept with scaffolding over the orchestra. Unfortunately, Dude didn’t do it for the critics. It closed after 16 previews and 16 performances. Utilizing the same idea, the Lee’s then designed Hal Prince’s revival of the musical Candide at the same theater in March 1973.”

  • Kevin says:

    So someone else saw Dude! I still have the Playbill.

  • I always enjoy reading your blogs, Ken. You sound as though you might have attended the College of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell. You “get” it. I’m passing this one on to my fellow alumni so they can see that theater producers can understand employee relations. This holds for the employees in your office and those who have been hired for a particular production. When i produced the unions were a help not a hindrance as many believe them to be.
    Your employees and you are looking for the same result – a winning production.

  • Ken, you are exactly right. I was in an off-Broadway show a couple of years ago, and two weeks into the run we had a cast meeting. At that time they told us we were closing a month and a half early, no warning or mention of trouble before. Us actors were helpless to do anything at that point. Producers need to realize it is a team effort and we can ALL help the bottom line. I may not have a marketing degree, but I along with the rest of the cast could’ve done some legwork, especially if it meant staying open longer.

  • John Shorter says:

    Thanks for the reminder, Ken. As an owner of a small business, everything you said hit home. Also, can you include more pictures of Kim K. in your Blogs. It motivated me to read carefully rather then just skim it.

  • Zanne Hall says:

    Along a parallel track regarding your blog story: employees can ruin businesses by treating the customer like crap. Managers need to be ever-vigilant and weed out employees with “Why do I have to be here to wait on you?” attitudes. I can’t tell you how many places I’ve not gone into because of this attitude. Or is it a sign of the times? Don’t understand – economy stinks, hard to get jobs – and there are employees out there who play Russian Roulette with their jobs.

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