Why you should drive like there’s someone behind you.

I bought a car two years ago.  It’s the first car I’ve owned since I was 16.

And ok, I didn’t buy it.  I leased it.  And, actually, I’ll be giving it up at the end of November and not getting another one for a while.

I’ll miss it, because I love driving.  I just hate drivers.

So much of NYC traffic is caused by selfish drivers.  There are the double parkers that could pull over into an empty space, but nooooo, because it’s five feet farther away from their stop.  There are the people who don’t use turn signals so you get stuck behind them when they surprise you as they try to turn right.  You know what I’m talking about, right?

These people drive like there is no one behind them.  Like they own the road.  They forget that their actions have a ripple effect on everyone that is following them.  And when they pull some selfish move, everyone behind them suffers.

Conscientious drivers, who think about the people behind them as well as the people in front of them, make the road a better and safer place for everyone.  And, we all get to our destinations faster.

And the same is true in business.

Too many people in all businesses pursue their goals selfishly . . . without thinking of the people coming up behind them.  They make deals that serve their purpose but set horrific precedents.  They treat potential partners with disrespect, turning them away from the industry as a whole.  This selfish approach to success makes it harder for the next generation of people pursuing the same goals.  And it makes it harder for the industry as a whole.

Pursue your goals, your dreams and your success with unwavering passion and perseverance.  You can even go a little bit over the speed limit down the highway of your career.  But never get too enamored with your destination that you start to forget that there are a lot of people behind you trying to get to the same place in their own time.

Oh, and use your turn signal.

 

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A simple savings game for your show, your business, and your life.

When it comes to spending money for shows, my philosophy is this . . . get the very best, for the very least.  Simple, right?  Get the best for the audience, and save the most for the investors – it’s the secret of coming in under budget and producing a great show.

Harder done than blogged, for sure.  So here’s a fun little game that I play every day on my shows, with my company, and even in my personal life.

It’s called “Save 10/Make 10”!  (Or as your budgets get bigger, “Save 100/Make 100,” and you keep adding zeros.)  Ready to play?

Here are the simple rules.

Every day you try to find a way to save $10 or make $10 that you wouldn’t have saved or made unless you thought about it.  So if this were your personal life, maybe it would be not going to Starbucks one day.  Or just ordering a tall instead of a venti.  There’s a couple bucks.  Maybe you walk to work instead of the subway.  And so forth.  You’ll save $10.  Do that every day and ch-ching.  You’ll save $3,650 a year.  At the same time, you look at seeing how you can make $10 a day.  Do you put something on eBay?  Do you ask your boss for an hour of OT?  What can you do to make just a few extra bucks?  If you can figure out a way to make $10 a day, then you’ll add $3,650 to your bottom line.

By saving and making, you’ve just changed your life to the tune of $7,300 a year.  Not bad, huh?

On a show, do you look at cheaper batteries for your microphones?  Print a program that’s a page less?  Check out cheaper dry cleaners?

And to make a few extra, is there a VIP ticket to add to your ticket menu?  A new piece of merch to sell?  Do you make some calls to potential group buyers yourself?

Doesn’t take much to add $73,000 to a show’s bottom line (“Save $100/Make $100″”).

You won’t always win this little savings/making game.  Some days you’ll save/make more than others.  But either way, it puts you in the right frame of mind every day to constantly be looking for the most efficient ways to run your shows, your business and your life.

Try it today.  It will work.  And it’s the perfect example of how setting a small, achievable goal in the short term and then repeating it can be much more effective than setting a larger goal for the long term.

Because it’s often a small change that can add up to a heck of a lot more than just spare change.

Good luck!

 

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My favorite moment of the Mad Men series finale.

Spoiler alert!

I was a big fan of Mad Men for the first several seasons.  The series started with my favorite foundation for a story line for any drama (remember this, kiddos): show the viewers a world they’ve never seen before.  The average TV viewer doesn’t know what it’s like on the inside of a high-powered ad agency (never mind one from the 1960s), so instantly you’ve got ’em on the hook (it’s the same trick behind shows like The West Wing or any mob-based movie/play/TV show).

And for the first few years, the show balanced the drama in the conference room with the drama in the coitus room.  And then it jumped the shark, spent less time on the advertising stuff that separated it from all the other shows out there, and just became another Desperate Housewives.

So, did I like the series finale that aired on Sunday night?

Eh.

I did like the closure on all the characters.

And I did love the mixture of fact and fiction in the final fifteen seconds, knowing that Don would stop his whining, get his sh$t together, and create one of the best ads in the history of advertising (I just wish he didn’t have to spend so much of the episode in that weird commune with all that group therapy (therapy sessions are such a writer’s cheat, in my opinion – you can’t think of another way to get a character to talk about what he’s feeling?)).

But none of that was my favorite moment of the episode.

And it wasn’t the dripping Stan/Peggy phone call either.

Nope.

It was a throwaway line after Joan convinced Peggy to do a little moonlighting and write a commercial script for her.  It went something like this:

“Sorry, Joan, I don’t want to moonlight.”

“It pays $1,200.”

“Ok, I’ll do it.”

“Great . . . “

And here it comes . . .

“I’ll drop off the research.”

That’s right, even at a fictional ad agency with fictional copywriters and fictional clients, they knew that not one piece of copy should be written without doing and analyzing research on the product that was being sold.

Broadway shows are one of the few commercial industries on the planet that spend $10mm, $15mm or more building a product, but won’t spend $10k to research it before going to market.

I do some sort of research on every show I do, whether it’s quantitative studies done online, or qualitative in-person focus groups, or even dial-testing.  And often, I do all three!  (And yeah, I did it for the art for Daddy Long Legs, which I announced on Tuesday.)

Now, is the data you get from all this research meant to be taken as gospel?   No.  It’s not gospel, it’s a guide.  It’s a picture of what the market thinks about your show, and it gives you suggestions on how to get the market closer to making a purchase.  And in an industry like ours, with a high failure rate, and a high fast failure rightit’s imperative that you know your strengths and weakness right away.

So listen to Joan.  Do your research.  Know what you’re working with.

And then you can add your personal dash of creativity and get all Don Draper on it.

 

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If I was applying to college again, this is what I’d do . . .

I only applied to five colleges.

And ironically, I didn’t graduate from any of them.  I spent a year at Johns Hopkins University as a pre-law dude and ended up spending more time doing theater in the local dinner theater circuit than going to class, so I transferred to Tisch at NYU.

But if I had to do it all over again, I’d apply to fifteen schools.  Heck, maybe even fifty.

The more options you have as a high school senior, with so much of your life before you, the better.  Especially when you’re not going to get into every school you apply to, right?  So apply to many, and apply to a wide variety to make sure you have plenty to choose from when it comes down to D-day.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “When did TheProducersPerspective turn into TheCollegeAdmissionsPerspective?”

Options are good when applying to college, for sure, but also for writers applying to festivals, producers looking for stars, actors looking to audition, or even guys looking to pick up girls.  I talk to way too many people who say things like, “I must get so-and-so to star in this,” or “I must get so-and-so to produce this,” or “I must marry so-and-so or I’ll die.”  The one-or-none approach may feel super targeted and super passionate, but it’s also super naive.

Don’t be so narrow minded when you’re just starting out as a producer, an actor, a writer, a salesperson, or a girl-picker-upper.  Cast your net wide, create more options, and you’ll not only be able to make better decisions, but you’ll also feel a little more confident when you have several folks interested in what you have to offer.  Life, like sales, is a numbers game.  The more leads you have, the more you’ll sell.

But go after that one thing, and well, no, you won’t die.  But, most likely, your project sure will.

 

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What does solving a maze have to do with your show?

One of the most fun stocking stuffers I got this year was one of those Money Mazes.

Don’t know what I’m talking about?

The Money Maze is a 3D cube with a marble inside.  Get that marble down the right path and it opens a secret door, and out pops . . . money!  (Click here see a sample.)

It’s super fun, and let me tell you, if you’re staring at a $100 bill or a Discover gift card trapped inside that cube of plastic then you are pretty incentivized to solve that puzzle.

It ain’t easy, mind you.  But I’m a guy, like you I’m sure, that likes a challenge.  I sat down with that thing and analyzed it, studied it, tried all sorts of tricks, even refused help from someone who had solved one on their own.  I could have taken a hammer to it.  But no.  I had to figure it out.  I had to solve it.  For the $100?  Nope.  For the pride.

And as I was entering my second hour of trying to figure out what the eff I was doing wrong, and after I had developed a stigmatism and a half from staring at it so closely, I got to thinking . . . was I spending too much time on this thing?

The answer, when you’re talking about a game,  is no.  It’s designed for fun.

But the problem is that guys like me and folks like you treat too many things like puzzles, including shows.

I know too often when I hear about a new media option or a new accounting method or even scenic technology, I want to learn the ins and outs myself.  I find myself down a rabbit hole on Google, or spending hours creating a crafty formula in Excel, or God forbid trying to figure out Photoshop.

All because I want to crack it.  And hey, maybe if I do it on my own, I’ll save a few bucks too.

And I lose hours in the process.  Hours that I could have spent on something else, for sure.  Hours that probably would have been more “profitable,” both fiscally and artistically.

While sure, learning is great, as you get busier and busier, you have to remember that business is not a game.  It’s not a puzzle.  It’s important that you get to the prize the most efficient way possible . . . and sometimes that means letting someone else do it, if it means getting it done quicker, so you can spend your time on something you already know how to do exceptionally well.  And ok, it may cost you a few bucks to hire someone to “solve your puzzle” for you, whether that’s a Photoshop guru, or a book doctor, or a direct mail specialist.  But if that frees you up to add more value somewhere else, then it’s a net gain.

Some people like to call this delegating.  I like to call it letting someone else take out a hammer, and crush your problem with one swift blow, and then you go shopping on Amazon.com with what’s inside.

 

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Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

I'm on a mission to help 5000 shows get produced by 2025.

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