Wednesday 17 October 2018

Business Development and Failure

What has now become an annual entry, leads us to uploading this; A whole year's of creative progression and outcomes, rolled into a few paragraph.
As with so many occasions on our blog, we have approached the age old question of 'how to progress'. 
Every year we ask out actors for honest, constructive criticism. Who else would know better on how to improve a company than those on the front line? Every year we realise something that then seems so very obvious, yet had never crossed our thoughts. This usually becomes an easy addition or fix for the following year. Quite honestly, their feedback helps us grow and maintain a somehow stronger relationship with our highly talented actors and actresses. 
2018 has been our most expensive year to theory. Unfortunately though, theory doesn't pay out as much as practicality does. 
We launched a large campaign to roll out The Tudors. Directed towards the primary age, it incorporated one of Britain's most influential times in history. A month later we launched Shakespeare, aimed towards senior schools. Which included an interactive and educational show, plus thirty minute workshop. Now, when I speak semantics in regards to 'theoretically and practicality', said semantics are quite important. We practically launched both campaigns. Financially vested in both opportunities, with business models, finances and everything else that goes along with putting a show on. Unfortunalty the uptake was so small that breaking even looked like a faded memory. Thus concluding in pulling the plug. Which is never a good feeling, especially when it's your company. But 'take risks' and all that, is what they (they?) Say. 

So fast forward a few months, and the middle of September means all lights are green for our steady succession of teams entertaining children all over the country for the impeding pantomime season. However, I find myself in the middle of a risk taking venture. 
We have secured a theatre, The Stockwell Playhouse, quite a pretegious theatre by all accounts. A weeks run, with seven cast members. A full scale set, lighting rig, tech personal.....But scarier than that, 180 seats to fill per show. That's 360 seats per day. And, HOW.ON.EARTH.DOES.THAT.HAPPEN?? As mentioned on numerous occasions, residency within theatres is where the business needs to go. To be the largest touring pantomime company isn't enough. But to hold residency in theatres across the country would quench a thirst. 
So we start at number one, and when working out the business module and 'attack' plan, it becomes increasingly worrying that this may not be a business venture but a gamble. Now, I can't deny, I love a good gamble. Roulette is the one for me. Number 22. But I've always been one for increasing the odds. Why 22? Well, I always go black, bet the first thirds on the verticle lines and middle third for the horizontal. Then bet on an even. If number 22 comes in, I win big on all accounts. I digress. I think what I am trying to say is I enjoy a bet when I have a bit more influence over the outcome. 

Marketing seems like our biggest investment, but where? And I'll return, when I get the answer myself. So for now we quite quickly find ourselves moving forward. Posters created, scripts drafted, set secured (ish). As well as numerous other jobs in what seems like an endless list. But without leaving too abruptly. Marketing is our next and biggest job to tackle, largely the most important element in any theatrical production. So I'll return, to express our marketing strategy and to redeem this blog to a biannual entry. As ever, give our website a hit! 

Friday 10 November 2017

Countryside Live, Milkshake! and keeping the Arts in Schools.

Panto has once again taken us into a new direction. Branching our knowledge and experience down different avenues. Down Stage Manager ‘Street’ if you will (ok, enough of the road analogies).
We had a stage manager sent down to help out with a wonderful new venture called Countryside Live….any guesses? Well unfortunately it wasn’t a country hoping extravaganza. But it was in this country, and more importantly, THE country. North Yorkshire to be exact. Countryside Live is an annual festival directed towards farmers, locals and their families.

We managed a show for our old friend, Channel 5’s Milkshake! Starring two Milkshake presenters plus the hugely popular Milkshake! Monkey, this high energy, fun packed show will feature an electric mix of Milkshake’s superb in-house produced music, including classic Milkshake tunes, well known children’s songs and some brand new ones! Is what the blurb says on Countryside live’s website. Even with the thunderous rain and actual electricity outside the shows went off with a bang. The team had four shows a day, all lasting 15 minutes. Fifteen long, hard and strenuous minutes. Similar to the show’s we stage managed at Drayton Manor theme park all those year’s ago. 
The event was mostly directed towards a great family atmosphere. Although the stage was positioned at the head of the hall, there were numerous craft tables leading towards the stage. All with their own unique style of drawing creativity out of children. From cooking, to leaf pressing, to candle making.  Milkshake! helped bring those families together for a wonderful fifteen minutes of live entertainment. 
Our role as stage manager was to help with logistics such as meeting the contact, liaising with sound and arrange the meet a greets afterwards. We took a much larger team on tour than usual, seven of us in total. All chauffeured up by yours truly.

It gave us an idea of larger scaled tours, albeit for three days. But the system is the same. More importantly, the children loved the shows. We’re almost coming to an end of our own bookings, as teams become fully booked up. Rehearsals will be next and teams will then be on the road. Entertaining around 200,000 children across the country. With five teams, 120 shows and spanning over two weeks, you could say we’re entering another busy period(!)

It is always great to see the impact of live theatre on children. How they lose their inhibitions and dance merrily away for their own entrainment. The entrance fee for Countryside Live was very reasonably priced. So those children got to experience the magical event for a minimal financial investment. We try to price our pantomimes as competitively as we can, so that children can experience that same magic. Magic that due to their surroundings or finances, may not have the privilege of experiencing again. Keeping the arts in schools is of upmost importance. 

Monday 5 January 2015

A Successful 2014...but what does 2015 Bring for Panto in a Day

Wow! So just as quick as it comes around it ends!! Another successful Pantomime season for Panto in a Day. Having performed to over 27,000 children all over the country our actors are exhausted. And unfortunately spent the most of their Christmas break ill. 

As managing director I can say that I trod the boards again. (Or more like, the sticky post lunch PE room). But my team and tour was just as enjoyable as six years ago when I started the company. I am certainly getting a lot older though, and felt that with all the driving, performing, get ins…and outs! 
There was a great amount of twitter buzz created around us, with actors competing over where Tiddle’s (Dorothy’s dog) would end up throughout the day. More importantly all the actors seemed to enjoy themselves and happy actors equals happy shows!

But where to go from here? Our usual January itchy feet need scratching. And that scratch needs to come in the form of company development. As ever, not only do we have itchy feet but we’re also scratching our heads.
 (this is not me). But we're really scratching.
Like all small business's the question echoes…How can we become bigger?! Bearing in mind it is far more important that you would never over stretch yourself. Of course our focus remains on that wonderful, magical and festive time that is Christmas. Which seems a distant memory now, but we need development throughout the year.  
There are thoughts flying around that we may be looking into theatre residency for 2015! Now there is a thought that if flying around needs some very big wings! It has always been the branch that we’ve wanted to grow out on. And I think we’re ready! 
Of course we will be looking at adding yet another team to rostra. But the inevitable question that follows that up is ‘where’? And that we’re not too sure of yet! 
So as of now, we’ll relish in the success of December but not for too long. As 2015 is the year for Panto in a Day. A year that shall bring even more success! And if we could we pass that success on to each and every one of you. Enjoy your year! 

Thursday 11 September 2014

A Panto in a Day Round-up 2014. The Year of a Pantomime Company

Well we have had a very busy year. From collaborating with Samsung and Channel 5’s Milkshake we’re happy to be getting back to pantomime.

After the success of Cinderella last year we started to take the year easy. But came across a very good contact based in Drayton Manor theme park and have since been working there most weekends. 

However, we are now gearing up to our fifth year and this years show is. [Drum roll and Fanfare to be played…NOW] The Wizard of Oz! And seeing as this is now our fifth show that means next year we will be on rotation and Dick Whittington will make a return. 
Every year we have our sets hand painted, and I am sure you can remember, last year we upscaled all the set. Making it larger and sturdier….well, that all needs to change, again! And yes, there is an element of bitterness there. However, we have all agreed here that it’s for the best. It’s the way forward in making Panto in a Day the largest touring theatre company in the country! (Seems like the first time we have thrown that gauntlet down). Well, we stand firmly by it. And from strength to strength up is the only way. Our set designer moved from Milkshake to the BBC and unfortunately we had to say goodbye to her…leaving party stories to follow. 
So, we have been in contact with the same guy that designed our logo and given him the big job of designing everything digitally. Sure, saying ‘designing everything digitally’ sounds pretty high spec. It means, he’ll sketch out our sets and then draw them on some wizardry computer program. Then once we own those images we can do what we want with them. i.e. send them to the printers. We’ll have our lovely designs printed on large canvas’s and hung around the school using frames that come with a ten year guarantee. [Sounds like a challenge for us to outlive them to me]…and we will. 
Once he’s done The Wizard of Oz he’ll then complete; Dick Whittington, Aladdin, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella and a secret one that we’re in talks with. Fortunately the transaction has been signed off as it’s only now he’s realising the huge amount of work involved! 
So that’s the first big news regarding the company. A massive set change. 
Ready for the second one? I can hear you all gasping for air in anticipation. We’re adding yet another team. I know, worth turning purple for! We will now have four teams touring the country and performing to yet thousands more children. From Lands End to John o Groats. [DISCLAIMER] We cannot guarantee we have shows in Lands End…nor can we John o Groats, but you get the idea. 
And the best part about our extra team? Mark, our CEO is dusting off the plimsols and warming up the jazz hands. He is going to be in one of the teams. From the years of 2010 when he gave himself the role of Dick in Dick Whittington he has been purely office based. Working on the logistics and taking bookings. From what he’s been saying he is very excited about taking to the boards again. We’re under the impression he is relating it to when Rocky came out of retirement in Rocky 3 beating Mr T and winning the World title, but that’s just our take on it. 

We have the wonderful Laura Darrell back on board directing teams and manning the phones. She has again spent most of the year in the Lake District performing within the depths of hills, lakes and trees. 
We had our first booking before we even knew which show we were performing back in March and have even got one booked for Christmas Eve! We’re currently trying to crack a whole new market with our extra team and hope that pays off. So here we are, just about to send our emails and letters out to everyone and let the bookings roll in!
Maybe this years first entry to the blog was a ‘trumpet blowing’ session, but it’s always good to start on a positive. We hope you have had a good year and stay tuned for more!

Thursday 21 November 2013

Rules To Working From Home...

Hello and welcome back!

I’ll briefly do a roundup of what has happened recently with Panto in a Day and then I’ll move onto the body of this blog. I realise it has been a near millennia since the last blog update, but we have been busy! Great for us, not so great for our ocean of readers (sure, maybe it’s a puddle, but who’s counting)!?
We have jumped in leaps and bounds since we last wrote about Panto in a Day and the lead up to this Christmas. We have had over 250 applicants apply to work in teams travelling around the country performing Cinderella. We have auditioned in the two biggest cities in the country. Both London and Manchester has helped us cast this year’s pantomime. We’ve visited our home from a home, The Three Minute Theatre and are looking forward to starting rehearsals.
I met with Laura Darrell the new addition to Panto in a Day, hopefully someone here to stay. She’ll be managing the new team and will be a stand in for any complications. We have had the set created, costumes accumulated and realised that the price in car hiring has inflated hugely over the last year! Gosh, there is a business start up there. We’ve spent a ludicrous amount on car hiring this year. Soon we will have our own branded vans travelling around the country. The script is finished and is another exiting, fun and interactive show prepped for some pre-Christmas hyperactive children. We are 10 days away from starting our first day of rehearsals and we have 11 people on the payroll this year! As you can tell from my excited drivel of letters stringing together words of positivity things are ‘kicking off’! We of course will not be getting too complacent until everything is to the high standard expected of the company...Which is a very high one!
Since our last addition a lot has developed, one of which was my talk at Exeter University as an alumni. I spoke to undergraduates from 18-23 years old. We went through their aspirations and future goals. I’ll try to cover my exact talk and through line in another blog addition. However, one thing that did come up was; How do you keep yourself strict enough to work as your own boss. It is something that has come up in the past and I thought about putting words to paper through this blog. In short, the answer is discipline, and I spoke to these undergraduates as if I was worlds away from putting off an essay to go to the pub. But as you grow so do your thoughts, sure it sounds obvious and a classic father son conversation but it is true. I have tried to go through and break it down with sub-headings in taking the first steps to working from home and becoming your own boss.

Know Your Weaknesses
As we just mentioned, discipline is one of the most important aspects. It is so easy to say, ‘I’m working from home, I’ll start a couple of hours late today. No! Our office hours are 10:00-18:00. That means, we are in the office from that time and very frequently work beyond that 18:00 (which maybe we shouldn’t). But at the weekend, we don’t send a tweet, an email or even think about schools. After 18:00 it is rare we’d reply to an email. (Believe it or not we have received e-mails from teachers on Saturdays, Sundays and a couple of times past 10pm!!) It would look highly unprofessional to reply. We work hard and we work within office hours. If the phone goes off on the Friday evening the messages won’t be picked up again until Monday. But the other side to that is you need to put the hours in where necessary, there is always something to do. Even if it is the dreaded tax return or receipt filing.
Distraction is of course the second biggest black hole to fall into when working from home. ‘Check facebook for five minutes’, very quickly becomes 20! And you’ll never just watch one YouTube clip. If you know you’re going to get distracted go out. There are so many working spaces out there, coffee shops being the most obvious. You can run any small business anywhere with the internet and a calendar.

Dress Up
Get showered and dressed for your days work. Most people have this misconception that we sit here in our pants and bed clothes. I only wear boxer shortrs to bed, so it’d not only be cold but highly inappropriate. Shower, dress and turn up to the office. I’m not talking a tuxedo but whatever clothes you feel comfortable in. Personally I love wearing a suit, usually it’s only for weddings though, but there is a certain self respect that comes with donning a fitted shirt and smart trousers. Our new branded t-shirts and hoodies are clothes I now live in.

Create an Office
You can’t sit on the couch. Why? Well that is where you sit of an evening, sipping a beer, watching a film or just slobbing about. The connotations do not point at work. Sit as a desk, a separate chair. Somewhere you wouldn’t normally sit in ‘leisure’ times. Usually facing away from the TV. Are you someone who can listen to the radio when working? It works for some by creating an atmosphere and falters others because they’ll constantly be shazaming every song. I know where everything is in my office, usually because it is positioned within an arm’s reach. Surrounding myself with the things I’ll need throughout the day means I don’t have to leave the chair.

Stick to Deadlines and Lists
I am a person that has always created lists. I love lists! Do they work for you? Have the niggling feeling or just remembered a small yet important e-mail you need to send? Make a quick note of. And although I seem to constantly add to an ever growing list it does feel good crossing something off. A physiological victory but PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) creates a positive environment.

Stay in Touch
Are you the only person in your small business? Do you know anyone else with a small business? E-mail them every now and then. Knowing there are other people outside your front door makes it all worthwhile. We all love to bitch about the boss and other colleagues, but if you are the boss, or the only colleague it can be difficult. But you can share success and failures of your business. Sharing what you’ve done and saying things out loud makes everything real and relish in the fact you’ve just crossed a job off your list!

These are just a few pointers that will help you change from a social working environment to a secluded self disciplined working environment. I get more work done from home than I ever would in an office.  These sub-headings help create a far more professional feeling with you and your own company. And this in turn exudes from your skin and passes a level of professionalism onto your customers. 

Thursday 5 September 2013

Finding Inspiration. ‘Starting a Business Speech’ with Panto in a Day.

After racking our brains at Panto in a Day over yet another addition to our well received blog it came to us in the form of an email. 

We were talking within the office about the importance of keeping in contact with our old Universities and Drama Schools. So after we contacted Exeter University and CentralSchool of Speech and Drama's alumni office we revelled in our good deed. Keeping your old institutions up to date is important. They helped shape us and give us the drive to be here today. It could also be seen as a helpful business move. If Panto in a Day gets publicised through a website or magazine we'd be highly grateful. 
We had a return email from Exeter. After it bounced around a little bit through different departments we had a reply from the drama department. Which was our home ground so we felt more....well, nervous! We're certainly not a self proclaimed entrepreneur and feel even that word gets thrown around too much. Surely that’s never a self proclamation but a term of endearment given by others. Ten years on from graduating it certainly seems a long while ago since we wore the graduation gowns and threw a sharp edged hat in the air. Yet here we are, still working within a business that our studies focused on and enjoy what we do-the essence and sole of a self starting business. And within that line I suppose that I can feel more confident in delivering a speech about such a topic. Theoretically. But we'll be talking to adults, some of which maybe 10 years younger than myself but still regarded as the elite of the educational institution. 

We'll continue to ponder our lesson in 'becoming self employed and starting a business'. But currently focus on what we are now achieving.  

If you've not been following our tweets, why not? You'll notice that we have decided on this year’s pantomime. Cinderella had been decided. Clues towards this decision couldn’t have been derived from our blog on the ‘History of the Dame’. So we're busy writing and data capturing as Panto in a Day will now be visiting Basingstoke, Winchester, Brighton, Lewes and many more southern towns this year with a fresh and third team on the road. And with that we can see that our business is ever growing and helping a younger generation (albeit having to cruelly admit we're now the older generation) is invaluable. We'll keep you updated with how our talk with a University goes, and as ever return next week with a less rambled blog.

Panto in a Day