Every month in Slagkracht, letters to business leaders , a pressing question from a business leader is answered by a fellow business leader. This person then passes the pen to an inspiring colleague by asking a new question. In this series we get to know a variety of business leaders who give substance to their work in their own way. What dilemmas are there within the profession? And what views are there on these various themes?
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Ray van Santen, business manager at De Parade, replies to Merel Mathey’s letter
Thank you for your inspiring letter and your question about how you as a business leader can stimulate innovation and development in changing situations. To be able to give a good answer to this, I will first explain the principle of De Parade, which is quite unique for a Dutch theater festival.
How does it work?
De Parade is a traveling theater festival that temporarily sets up its tent camp in five Dutch cities during the summer period. At De Parade, about eighty theatre, dance, mime and music performances for young and old are staged in theater tents. The majority of the performances have been made especially for our festival and can only be seen at De Parade. Every day there are different performances on the stage. These last about 30 minutes on average, so you can easily see two, three or even four performances in one evening. In addition to the evening performances.
There is an extensive KinderParade every day with theater performances, music performances and workshops. Live bands play every evening and are free of charge. Artists who perform at De Parade make a “parade” in front of their tent with the aim of selling their performance. The visitors of our festival see small short performances and can choose where they want to go. The Parade attracts an average of 225,000 visitors in 2.5 months. But perhaps more importantly, in these correspondences between business leaders, how does De Parade make its money,
The artists who play at De Parade are there on a partage basis. There is a share if two entrepreneurs perform one composite performance for joint account and risk. And here we hit the nail on the head. We, De Parade, supply the hardware, a tent in a park with a set of light and sound, online ticket sales, a marketing team and set up a fine production team so that the machine can run. The artist plays his or her performance in the tent and this is how the two entrepreneurs generate their income. With this fact we are not there yet because more income has to be generated to put our temporary village in a park. There is a fence around our event and the public buys an entrance ticket to visit the festival. We earn some money from the wet catering industry and the restaurants that are there pay partage.
The artist in high esteem
To go deeper into your question, which is to stimulate innovation and development, it is of the utmost importance that what we bring, namely art and culture, should not be taken lightly. If you look at our revenue model, you could put superficial and very accessible programming there. But this would be a big mistake that we can’t, but especially don’t want to, afford. It would be death in the pot. Our program team is looking for performances that deepen, amaze, surprise and move and do not shy away from the often difficult social themes. Not exactly, I would like to say. In addition to the entertainment that can be seen, there must also be contemplation and reflection on the complicated life we lead with all the joys, but also the misery.
We take our audience very seriously and we are aware that De Parade is a mirror of our society: a temporary cultural village in one of our five major cities. Let the artists flourish in our tents, let them tell stories about everything they encounter in our complex society. In this way they give our festival a huge boost and we see the artists as our greatest asset and we can do what we do best: make the distance between our artists and the public as small as possible. By giving the program team the space for innovation and development, our audience sees an enormous variety of interesting performances and artistic expressions, which keeps our festival attractive and special for young and old.
Everyone understands that we sweated carrots when corona broke out. Our buffer evaporated because we couldn’t run in 2020 and the editions in Amsterdam and Rotterdam were canceled in 2021. Our employees became discouraged and it was difficult to manage a ship without a compass, because where would it go?
Now it came down to it. If we hadn’t done anything during the corona crisis, we would have been gone. Together with our artistic director Nicole van Vessum we came up with the simple idea: visibility. Even if you can’t run your festival, make sure you are visible even though you are not there and that you know that this will cost a lot of money. That way, the audience will continue to see you, remember you, and ultimately reward you. What we didn’t want were plays that you could see on your computer via a login code. At De Parade you almost sit on the lap of the actress or actor, so watching a performance via a screen was not a good idea and certainly not an advertisement for our festival. We started with the campaign “De Parade continues” and photographed our artists for the socials.
We commissioned Jan and Keep Groenteman to compose a song, approached the experienced director Erwin van den IJssel, booked a professional sound studio and hired a large film crew to record the video clip “The Last Float” that was launched Christmas 2020. We gave our webshop a huge boost to sell Parade items there. During this summer in 2020, when we were not allowed to run, we painted our footprint in the parks as if we were there. In Amsterdam we organized a benefit gala evening at a distance of one and a half meters where our artists performed. Visibility was our goal with the motto: show yourself first, receive later.
The remote artists
In 2021 we organized De Parade at a distance of one and a half meters. There were fixed tables and visitors did not order separate tickets, but could choose from a number of Parade packages containing two performances and a dinner. We played Eindhoven, The Hague and Utrecht with a lot of effort and dedication. Unfortunately, Amsterdam and Rotterdam could not find a passage because the government forbade us, covid-19 came up again.
We know it, a business leader must have a financially healthy business, ensure transparent budgets, account for, manage, motivate and coach, shape personnel and volunteer policy and end up with a positive bottom line result at the end of the financial year . In addition to all this, I believe that you should make all your employees feel that there is an opportunity to grow in every department of the company. That employees can take leadership and initiative themselves in order to stimulate development and innovation, while you as a business leader keep an overview. That’s called being an entrepreneur. By doing this, everything described above has been achieved and our organization will continue to exist.
Percussion group The Hague has recently been able to bring in one of the nicest business leaders of the cultural Netherlands: Yeltsje in der Rieden. She knows business with a good mood and a healthy dose of perspective. That is why I would like to ask Yeltsje:
As a business leader, there are quite a few tasks on your plate. Financially sound business operations, budgets, accountability and so on and so forth. This can often be difficult and hard work. But there are also very nice aspects to this profession. What are the nicest aspects of your work for you and where do you get the most energy from?