I accidentally became an entrepreneur at the age of 15. Let me explain...
I was a budding jazz musician, booking myself for string quartet and jazz gigs left and right. As I became more known — and more successful — there were times when I would be asked to perform three or four times on the same night. Obviously, I couldn't be in all those places at once. So, I had two choices: 1) I could turn down offers due to my own bandwidth; or, 2) I could see this as an opportunity to manage and book other musicians to perform in my place. I chose the latter. Little did I know, however, that my company, Entire Productions would soon be born.
Today, Entire Productions is San Francisco's go-to experience design and entertainment booking company — now with offices in Los Angeles and London, too. We’ve worked with clients like Apple, Google, Gap, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co., Salesforce, and more to bring their entertainment-driven experiences to life in incredible ways.
Even though my journey as a musician took a somewhat unexpected turn, the same rush I got from performing is what excites and inspires me about running my own business. So, for all of those aspiring entrepreneurs out there, here are four important lessons I learned along my journey that I hope can help you on yours:
The early stages of my business were all about juggling being both a musician and an entrepreneur. It wasn't easy to manage. It came to a point where I had to make a decision about which passion to pursue. Obviously, I ended up letting the performing go in order to focus on growing my business. I had already made my mark on the music world. Who knew that this lesson had also prepared me to be a business owner and burgeoning entrepreneur.
I quickly learned to prioritize my new passion (i.e. running a business). I also learned the importance of "letting go," as both a founder and a leader. Entire Productions grew because I had built an incredible team and invested in them to help me grow my business. The most important thing I learned through this process was to trust their talent and to give them the space to grow the business. I couldn't be a micro-manager. I had to let them do what they did best - because I knew deep down that would be a recipe for success. Fostering that kind of trust and allowing my employees to take ownership and pride over their work is how Entire Productions became the company it is today.
You can have a great product, great service, or great automation (or even all three). However, at the end of the day, your customers want to connect with people they like and trust.
We do this by setting clear expectations for our customers right from the start versus trying to chase down their expectations. Our goal is to surprise and delight them every step of the way. We love coming up with new ways to blow their minds with the events we plan. Our customers have come to expect creativity and ease when they work with us. Fortunately, that doesn't put the pressure on because our team – along with our tech investments – make it really manageable for us to do. When we make a promise, our customers rely on it. We make it possible for them to truly enjoy the experience they've planned with us. Our customer relationship management (CRM) system has made this possible for us. Whatever we plan, we know for certain that it will happen according to plan.
In 2013, I realized Entire Productions was using a lot of paper. We were also doing double, triple, or quadruple data entries. Fortunately, we weren’t a big company back then; we had one employee and a part-time accountant. Still, it was obvious at that moment that we had to get our systems and processes in check, whether we stayed small or decided to grow. Little did I know that by adopting a paperless system (i.e. Salesforce CRM), I was priming my business to scale and grow exponentially without the kinds of growing pains that many small businesses have.
To do this, we customized our Salesforce CRM to fit the needs of our business and allow us to be successful in a rather competitive industry. For example, we hosted 500 events last year and had thousands of artists participate in those events. That alone can be tough for a team of 15 to handle. However, by eliminating paper and all that manual data entry, we essentially eliminated a workload equivalent to four additional full-time employees. Our move to paperless technology, therefore, allowed our small team to be more productive. It also helped us focus on the right activities: managing client relationships and ensuring our vendors were well prepared for their scheduled events.
Clients who have 10 artists performing at an event, for example, will get at least three to four automated emails asking questions that allow us to make their event more successful. From these emails, we’re able to extract important details that might get overlooked, such as where the loading dock is, how to enter a venue, or what security is in place. Our system captures everything. When an event happens, artists know exactly where to go and what to do. No confusion occurs. In fact, our clients love that our system can pinpoint and avoid potential “cracks” in the process early on. Otherwise, who knows what kind of problems we could run into. Our CRM system keeps everyone updated and on the same page at all times.
Personally, my favorite part about this technology is the automation. A light bulb went on when I learned that our account executives were regularly making reminder calls to talent. It was a waste of time. So, we hooked our system into SMS, and now our artists automatically receive a reminder text message the morning of an event. We do the same for our clients at various stages of the planning and production process. What a huge time-saver and a boost to our team's productivity. It’s seamless!
Natasha Miller is the Founder and CEO of Entire Productions, an entertainment production and experience design company that provides talent for corporate and special events.
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