We talk about putting out fires in our day-to-day business; but what about when your job description really does include fire suppression techniques and practical application?
Here are ten lessons I learned from my first business endeavor, as co-owner (with my late husband) of a fire performance troupe.
To be clear; I had no performance background before this, so everything was learn-as-you-go. I became co-owner after my husband decided to spin off on his own, after spending time with another troupe; good people, but my darling diva-boy didn’t exactly do well with sharing the spotlight.
Suddenly, I found myself responsible for making a success out of the endeavor; rehearsals, bookings, safety training, and coordination with local authorities, insurance, and permits. Five to seven performers, three to five support staff; two truckloads of equipment, including fire suppression equipment, sound system, and lights.
This was my life every other Friday night for three years; before an event, it increased to every Friday night. We had to be hyper-vigilant about safety as well as skillful so that a flaming ball didn’t fly into the crowd like a satanic pop-fly during a live performance.
Here’s a list of the lessons I learned as an owner and member of a fire performance troupe.
1. Things will go wrong
Hours of rehearsal and practice, carefully-laid plans; no matter how much you prepare, you can be at the mercy of the wind, weather, performers, family emergencies, or forgotten equipment. Always stay flexible, and have a backup plan (or two), and be ready to change your routine at a moment’s notice.
2. Talent without discipline is useless
I can’t even remember how many talented performers we auditioned. However, even if they’re brilliant soloists, if they couldn’t work with the rest of the troupe, make it to practice, or didn’t take our safety rules seriously, they weren’t invited back. It takes discipline to get (and keep) a good business reputation.
3. Hair grows back
There are times that in order to pull off something really spectacular, you have to take risks. Take every reasonable precaution possible, but at the end of the day, you may have to push the limits. Just make sure you don’t risk more than you’re prepared to lose.
4. Leather is cheaper than skin grafts
The right tools are critical to your success. We had many people question the requirement for leather clothing, due to cost or ethical reasons; the simple fact was that it was the least flammable, least likely to show singes, and the best way we could keep our performers safe while letting them put on a fantastic show.
5. Insurance is a wonderful thing
It’s not easy to find an insurance company that will cover a fire performance, especially in a building considered to be of historical interest. Being able to present insurance to cover the venue puts the venue management at ease and shows your professionalism.
Related Content: Are You at Risk?! When to Insure Your Home-Based Business
6. A good reputation opens doors
We worked hard to build a solid reputation within our community, with our clients, and with local law enforcement. Having a proven track record for performance and safety allowed us to work in venues that didn’t initially feel comfortable with an open flame, and minimized red tape with local fire safety officials.
7. Not every “rock star” is seen by the audience
Amazing technicians and people who can keep their cool in a crisis are worth every bit as much as a flashy performer and will save you a ton of money in the long run.
8. Delegation is the key to not losing your mind
With so many moving parts, and so much going on at any given time, if I hadn’t learned to delegate responsibility to others, we would never have been able to have a single live performance.
Related Content: How to Outsource Tasks When You’re on a Budget
9. Leverage technology, but be prepared for the human factor
I have a very vivid memory of burning our playlist to CD the day of a performance because the primary copy was lost after rehearsal the night before. I will be forever grateful to those who kept me sane and learned to make duplicate backups.
10. Keep your sense of humor
Equipment failures, no-shows, inadvertent halos, near-concussions, diva personality clashes – at the end of the day, sometimes all you can do is take a deep breath, laugh, and move on, and appreciate the success that follows.
I still look back at those days fondly, and with some amazement that I survived them. I will always appreciate the business lessons I learned from the experience.
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Carole Bennett is the founder and primary voice of IndigoTea. As a professional IT consultant, Carole has provided solutions for companies as diverse as Verizon, Frito-Lay, Capital One Auto Finance, and Zales Jewelers, parlaying a unique talent for acting as a translator between the worlds of business challenges and technology solutions. After nearly two decades of experience in providing business and technology solutions in the corporate space, Carole chose to dedicate her wealth of experience towards creating outstanding results for her small business clientele. She considers her skills gained from simultaneously managing a fire performance troupe, raising a family, and working as a full-time IT consultant excellent preparation for her current career incarnation as the driving force behind IndigoTea Small Business Solutions. “Fire-breathing redhead on a mission” is not just a metaphorical description!