Overheard at Angus Vol. XV: How to measure success.

I haven’t been to Angus in a while, but last time I went in, I heard this little gem of a convo from two businessmen who were not in the business of Broadway.  And you know me, I love picking up gems on business development from other industries, so when I heard them talking growth rates and P/Es and standard deviations, I got all tingly in my special place and started to eavesdrop like I was doing an FBI investigation.

Here’s what I heard:

BusinessGuy#1:  How was your year?

BusinessGuy#2:  Pretty good.  Our customer attrition rate was less than 10%.  Our new customer rate grew by 25% over the previous year.  And our average order size was up $175.  I haven’t gotten the final numbers yet, but it looks like our profit is going to be up about 22%.  How did you do?

BusinessGuy#1:  Haven’t gotten our final numbers yet either.

BusinessGuy#1:  Let me ask you, in your line of work, what number is the most important to you?  New customers?  Dollars spent?  Pure bottom line?

BusinessGuy#2:  Christmas Cards

BusinessGuy#1:  Come again?

BusinessGuy#2:  Every year we count the number of Christmas Cards we receive.  If it’s more than the year before, we know we’re doing something right.

Funny, right?

Yeah, it’s pretty amusing.  But actually pretty true.  Even though I’m not a big fan of the (traditional) Christmas Card, they are a tremendous sign on how your company is doing.

Sure, dollars and cents mean a lot in business.  But relationships mean a whole lot more.


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Overheard at Angus Vol. XIV: Shows are like kids.

I’m at the Broadway League conference for the first half of this week (watch the next couple day’s blogs for some takeaways from this year’s speakers and panelists).  In addition to lots of learning and networking, there’s always room for a ribbing of our beloved biz (or two or three) . . . and here’s what I overheard just a few short hours ago (republished with permission and a royalty of one free drink):

Producer #1:  Shows really are like kids, you know?

Producer #2:  What do you mean?

Producer #1:  The only reason to produce one . . . is because you really, really, really, want one.

Producer #2:  Right.  They are expensive.  They take up years of your life.

Producer #1:  And only one out of five pay you back.

Jackie Mason, look out.  I just offered these guys a contract to play the Catskills next month.  (Thankfully for all of us, they turned it down.)  Stay tuned for more (smarter) suggestions from the conference tomorrow!


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Overheard at Angus Vol. XIII: What if a bomb went off . . .

I didn’t have to work to overhear this next exchange, because I was literally in the middle of the conversation.

Spring is the season of industry events. From galas, to luncheons, to awards shows, you run into the same 100 people just about every other day.  And not just Producers, we’re talking Ad Execs, Union Heads, Actors and just about everyone that does anything in this biz.  (Funny thing is, a lot of work gets done at these things, so it can be a pretty productive time.)

I was in the middle of one such event just the other day, talking to an esteemed member of our community, who has seen a lot, produced a lot, and lived to tell about it.

And tell he did.  Here’s how it went down.

ME:  Wow.  What an incredible story.

ESTEEMED MEMBER:  And it’s true.  Back in those . . .

(Another member of the community interrupts)

ANOTHER MEMBER:  Hello ESTEEMED MEMBER!  Great to see you!  Congrats on SO-AND-SO!


ANOTHER MEMBER:  And good to see you at NAME OF EVENT.  Looks like everyone’s here.  Even Ken!

(I laughed.  Sort of.)

ESTEEMED MEMBER:  Yep.  In fact, you know what?  If a bomb went off in this theater right now, you know what would happen?

ANOTHER MEMBER:  Broadway would come to a screeching halt?

ESTEEMED MEMBER:  No.  We could start over.

(He smiled.  I smiled.  ANOTHER MEMBER did not.)


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Overheard at Angus Vol. XII: The art of negotiation

Listen to this tasty morsel of a conversation I eavesdropped on just last week . . .

Producer #1:  How are negotiations going with the actors for NAME OF NEW PLAY?

Producer #2:  I came up with a really good plan for the offers.

Producer #1:  Really? What’s that?

Producer #2:  Instead of giving them one offer, I gave them a choice.  $5,000 flat per week, or $4,000 per week plus a percentage of the gross.

Producer #1:  Interesting.   How did that work out?

Producer #2:  They all wanted $5,000 plus a percentage of the gross.

Offering options in a negotiation always seems like a good idea.  You’re being flexible.  You’re allowing the negotiatee to choose their own fiscal fate . . . more or less risk . . . it’s up to them.

The problem is that once you throw out options . . . people only see the best of both . . . and then they want a hybrid.  In other Angus-like words, they want to order off the menu.

So, unless you’re willing to say “take-it-or-leave-it”, don’t lay out different paths for your intended to take.  They’ll just see the best of both options and ask for it all.

And then you’ll be on a path to the poor house.

(For a great book on negotiating, check out this classic.)


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Overheard at Angus Vol. XI: Why Spider-Man was so expensive.

I went to the theater this week, and stood next to two lovely ladies who were deciding what show they were going to see together next.

Lovely Lady #1:  My granddaughter is on Christmas vacation.  Let’s take her to a show.  What should we see?

Lovely Lady #2:  How about Spider-Man?

Lovely Lady #1:  Oh no.  Not that.

Lovely Lady #2:  How come?

Lovely Lady #1:  Because, well, I just don’t like how much money they spent on that show.

Lovely Lady #2:  I heard they spent $75 million dollars.

Lovely Lady #1:  That’s true.  And you know what I heard?  The reason it was so expensive was that they used all that money to buy the buildings.  And I just don’t like that the money I’m spending on the ticket is being used to buy them real estate.

Funny, right?

Well, kind of.  I picked this “Overheard” conversation to remind us all that what we think our consumer knows, may not at all be what the consumer knows.

I was so fascinated by these folks that I actually interrupted their conversation to find out a little bit more about them.  They were both women in their upper 60s, well educated, and they saw MANY shows per year.  They often responded to Direct Mail discounts to get their tickets.

My point is that these folks were in the know, yet somehow they got in in their head that the Producers of Spider-Man were using their bucks to buy buildings.

Now maybe this is a fluke.  Maybe they are the only people that think this.

But it’s a great reminder that . . .

Your job as a Producer is to send out a message about a show . . . a message that you want your customers to know.  Then your job is to listen and see what the message is that they are hearing.  And then, if you don’t like what you hear, you’ve got to change it.

That’s what marketing is all about.  If marketing were a computer program written it would look something like this:

  1. Message.
  2. Listen.
  3. Adjust Message if necessary.
  4. Go to 2.

The conversation continued, by the way.

Lovely Lady #2:  Wow.  I didn’t know that.

Lovely Lady #1:  Yep.  And besides . . .I don’t like how they “screwed” Julie Taymor.

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