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Why starring in a Broadway musical and founding a startup are not very different.

Why starring in a Broadway musical and founding a startup are not very different.

At twenty six years old, I led a company that (prior to my arrival) raised $14MM of seed funding and was consistently bringing in $1M of revenue per week. What company was that?

The Broadway Company of Beauty and the Beast. Woah woah woah - that's totally different. It's not. Here's why.

My on boarding as Belle was a three week period - in which time I learned the role with limited-to-no contact with most of my coworkers and mostly offsite. As is standard, I got one rehearsal on the stage with the cast. I was in my costumes, but the cast was not. The sets moved, but there were no lights, no sound, and no orchestra - just a keyboard. My first performance in front of an audience was also my first time in the lights, with sound, with the orchestra, with my onstage coworkers in their costumes, and with special effects.

The success of the company (and my life, lest I get crushed by millions of dollars of automated sets!) depended on my ability to prepare myself alone, next with a bare-bones team (learning the role in a very short time), and finally with the whole team and in front of the world. Sound familiar?

(By the way, this is normal Tuesday for Broadway replacements. This is how every new onstage hire on boards.) And this role required more than performance skills - it required constant communication, collaboration, and coordination with every department - general management, company management, stage management, publicity, marketing, costumes, crew, props, sound, lights, music, facilities and cast. 100+ jobs were depending on my job performance, which included my representation of the company in public, in coordination with publicity and marketing. I was the public face of the company.

Also, I was responsible for creating and fostering a constructive company culture and positive workplace. The tambor of the entire workplace got its cues from me. I was intentional about making opportunities for meaningful engagement at work between members of the whole team.

I had the opportunity in my leadership position to strengthen and focus our support for our community's nonprofit, @BCEFA, quadrupling our typical annual fundraise.

1. Hire professional theatre performers anytime you get the chance. They can do anything, and if there's something they need to learn, they will learn it fast and well like their life depends on it, because it used to!

2. That it doesn't matter that I didn't go to Stanford etc. and that I don't have an MBA (or even an undergrad degree!). My education has been thorough and high-stakes.

3. That I have all the tools I need to learn new concepts and acquire new skills, and that I crave this. So do most pro theatre performers with whom I've worked. Performing live eight times per week and dealing with whatever that throws you is an education in adaptability like no other.

4. The hiring process for companies is broken. Software that cuts job candidates pre-interview without any humans to assess translatable skills is costing companies talent. And every Broadway performer has resumé gaps that hiring software would red flag and ditch. You need that interview. It's the opportunity for the candidate to connect the dots for you, and the hiring software is costing you fundamentally different perspectives on solutions to problems stemming from their differing pedigree and experience.

Thanks for reading. Keep reading for more stories about working hard, dreaming big, leadership, support, success, mindset, and lessons learned through it all.