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Part II - Good Business Attitudes & Practices

Last month I gave you the formula for creating your authentic and unique Personal Brand backed by your very own powerful Personal Mission Statement that supports said brand. This month I want to talk to you about how you and your business will be able to grow and change in tandem as you put into action this useful new tool when entering the professional arena of our industry.

The first thing you need to understand is that business first and foremost is not emotional or personal; it’s about creating and maintaining relationships including the one with yourself. It’s important that you understand how this new endeavor, this process, is best learned. It is done by repetition. You have to know what has to be done and how to best execute the routine you put in place, and know it will be learned by trial and error. It’s about getting that job done with more efficiency and confidence each time you go through the routine. And by doing so, you continue to strengthen your own Personal Brand, the product you are selling. This practice allows you to remain flexible, curious and willing to consider “failure & mistakes” as part of this process. All successful business people embrace these ideas. They know that learning something about your business or you personally often involves figuring out the lesson within the “failure or mistake” and then moving on as you adjust your thinking to include this empowering new concept. You might consider that this in turn may spark a whole new additional sense of reasoning as you grow and change giving you an opportunity to analyze and gain the understanding that you have been waiting for. Others will notice and you might perhaps even start getting some really good feedback.

Know that singing is only part of what those hiring are looking for. At this professional level they want to hire a performer that is confident with their performance, their product and their business. They are no longer looking for someone with great potential. You have to have more than a beautiful voice and intrinsic performance skills. You have to be able to do business, your new job without getting bogged down in your emotional behavior.

Each successive time they hear you, even if it is unconscious on their part, they want to see how you have grown as a person, what you have learned from your failures and mistakes and how you have transformed that knowledge by having parlayed it into an even stronger Personal Band that is more than ever ready to perform at a more consistent professional level and ready to do business at that same level. I’ll say it again, these three elements, professionalism in your Personal Brand, performance and business practices, have to be synchronized and in balance so your total presentation is congruent and in harmony with one another. In other words you can’t be at a professional level with just one of these elements and expect to get hired. You need the depth and strength of these three elements, these three strands woven together into one strong representation.

"Regardless of how you feel inside, always try to look like a winner. Even if you are behind, a sustained look of control and confidence can give you a mental edge that results in victory." - Arthur Ashe

Here is the #1, the most important ingredient in doing business: It’s called networking and follow-up. How many of you are consistent in following up on any recent auditions you have done? When you get to this stage of the game, it’s imperative that you start putting some really good business habits in place so that instead of making each follow-up an event, it is just another part of your routine, what you put on your weekly “to do” list. You have all the necessary stationary, thank you cards, stamps, envelopes, addresses, etc. in place making this an easy task. And you check and re-check all spelling. Yes, I mean snail mail with a stamp that goes into the mail box. This kind of correspondence needs to be completed in a timely manner, usually no later than 2-3 days after an event because snail mail does take longer to get to the intended party. This is just another example of presenting and representing your Brand showing them you have that congruent professional package.

Networking requires an ever growing “A” and “B” list of personal and professional contacts. The “A” list will be made up of all the influential and important people you know or have worked with in this industry, general/artistic managers of companies, stage directors, assistant directors, conductors, more experienced colleagues, major patrons of their opera companies, judges at an audition, etc. They get short, with correctly spelled, email updates periodically about what you have coming up performance wise, any prizes, competitions you have won, etc. This helps keep your name in the forefront of their minds which is where you want it to be. Even if you never hear from them, it still lets them know that you are a professional continuing to move forward with your career. It also gives them an opportunity when chatting with their colleagues, to bring your name up if it is relevant or perhaps someone else (a patron, colleague, stage director, conductor, etc.) mentions your name and they put that away in their memory bank with your name on it in their own brain. That is how you help establish value in their minds. That shows them how you might benefit their program, or company. They might then think of you when casting an opera or even unbeknownst to you recommend you to some other company or program. You never know. That is why it is so important to represent and present your unique and authentic Personal Brand at all times by doing business all the time.

The “B” list will be more for fans and family, those that will support your performances and eventually buy your C/D’s, etc. This list might contain someone who was responsible for picking you up at the airport, those from the opera guild, someone you met after the performance who seemed of like mind, those you meet at a reception after a performance, etc. These folks, who support their local opera company and are from many different towns and states, help show management that you can really help put butts in the seats of their opera houses. Each time you return to that particular opera house or event venue, because you have been keeping in touch with these new acquaintances through Face Book or just by occasional email, starts creating the process of a fan base. They will want to bring their friends and family to see you perform and that is a win-win situation all the way around. This kind of activity is noticed by management and also goes into their memory banks with your name on it because you are helping to expand their business as well as your own.

Example of email to list “A” which is sent to your own email address and blind copied to everyone else: “Sending you a quick up date. I wanted to let you know that I will be singing the role of Mimi with the Arizona Opera, 4.9.2011. The stage director will be…… and the conductor is……… Very much looking forward to these performances. Reviews to follow. Carol

Example of hand written note after a production: Dear ---, I just wanted to say once again how much I enjoyed working with you. You helped me understand the role I sang at a much deeper level for which I will be forever be grateful. Thanks so much for your extra time and attention. Carol

Example of hand written note after an audition: Dear ----, It was a great pleasure meeting you and I am grateful for the opportunity to have sung for you. I look forward to the possibility of working with you sometime in the future. Thank you. Carol

Some of you might think this is too much work or you don’t have time, or perhaps don’t think it really makes any difference. O’ contraire, mes ami!!! Let me give you a scenario:

You have been asked to sing for the Opera Guild’s annual fund raising event. You aren’t getting paid. It doesn’t even seem as if those attending are listening to the program you are performing and you wonder what you are doing here.

Scenario I: You leave as soon as you can, go home and that is that. At least they paid for the accompanist.

Scenario II: You stay after your performance and mingle. You have brought your business cards and have a plan to at least say “hello” to each person always presenting and representing your Personal Brand at this event and give them one of your business cards, collecting a card from each of them if possible. You go clock wise around the room greeting each person or group and introducing yourself. You start getting many wonderful comments about your singing. You meet some very interesting potential patrons for you own business and promise to keep in touch. You then move counter clockwise around the room saying your good-bys and find the Host/Hostess/President of the Guild to thank them for this wonderful opportunity to perform for and meet all these wonderful people who love opera. You go home and enter all these email addresses into your computer in list “A” or “B”. The next day you spend time goggling those that were of interest and those you put on your “A” list. You create a file for each of them. You write a hand written note to the president of the Opera Guild for the wonderful opportunity to sing for and meet so many wonderful patrons of opera. It is months later and you have stayed in touch with several of these folks. You need a plane ticket to San Jose because you have managed to arrange an on stage audition with their company but you don’t have the money for a plane ticket or an overnight at a hotel. You email all your local contacts (including the Opera Guild members) and tell them of your good news stating that you wonder if anyone would be interested in helping you out financially or with frequent flyer miles, or Reward Points on a credit card that can be used to secure you a hotel room, so you can follow through on this amazing audition opportunity. They do come through for you and you then follow-up with emails and hand written thank you notes to the Guild and those personally responsible for making this financially possible. If you do get the job, you keep all these folks in the loop as your career unfolds. This is called networking and following –up. It does work but you have to make it work by doing the work.

This is your job now. Networking, creating and maintaining relationships, and following-up, these business elements are what you will spend the majority of your time working on now if you want to have a successful career.

"When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. " - Anonymous

So, no more time, energy or excuses for floundering around in the ocean of not knowing how to handle the business aspects of the performance industry. There is no down time for you as an entrepreneur running your own professional business. You do have tools and skills to use. However, they are only available and consistent in proportion to the time and energy you put into practicing them. And as I just said and it bears repeating, there is almost never down time for an emerging artist or young professional. Go get’um!

Avanti!! Ciao until next time.Carol

PS – Remember that if you run into trouble or get stuck, I am just an email away.

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