Jeremy Elliott, General Manager at PSI, dives into the lesser-known challenges confronted by Canadian production companies compared to their American...
Episode 45: How to Enable Your Team to Do Their Best Work Feat. Mark Eicher
Mark Eicher, Product Manager at LASSO shares tips on improving workflows - avoid outdated processes that cause mistakes, implement scalable systems to integrate new members, and prioritize efficiency for smooth event production.
1️⃣ Don't get trapped in the "we've always done it this way" mindset.
Being open to change and constantly evaluating your processes is crucial for growth. Remember, if it ain't broke, don't fix it, but always be willing to make improvements.
2️⃣ Don't develop processes in a bubble!
Involve your team. Mark emphasizes the importance of empathy and understanding each specialist's viewpoint. Save yourself hours of wasted time and grief by seeking input and creating a collaborative culture.
3️⃣ Look beyond your team and tap into the industry.
Join LinkedIn forums and community groups where event professionals share their problem-solving strategies. Learning from others' experiences will save you time and keep you from spinning your wheels.
4️⃣ Avoid the costly mistake of not designing for scalability.
Your processes need to be adaptable to growth and new hires. Create clear processes that are not tied to specific individuals but instead to roles. This way, you can easily integrate new team members.
Guest Information 🎙️
Read the Transcript 📚
[00:00:00] Angela Alea: Welcome to corralling the chaos podcast where we talk publicly about the things you're worried about privately. My name is Angela Alea and I'm your host. This is the event industry podcast for companies and crew where we're going to go deep and nothing is off limits. Welcome back everybody to another episode of corralling the chaos.
[00:00:23] Today I'm super excited about this topic because We talk about it all the time. You all talk about it all the time. And so we figured we should invite somebody to help us really kind of solve this problem once and for all. And that topic is short and long term improvements you can make in your event production process, right?
[00:00:41] That word workflow is something that is really central to what you do day in and day out. And really optimizing that workflow is so important because it can make such an impact on that. So today, We have asked Mark Eicher to join us, and prior to becoming a product manager here [00:01:00] at LASSO Mark actually spent over 15 years in live events leading creative projects and process improvements at a mid sized company called Ovation, where he worked on a wide breadth of services, such as video production, scenic, environmental design.
[00:01:16] Presentation design, print production, opening experiences, and so much more. So as you can imagine, he had his hands in a lot of different pieces of that workflow. And because of that, he's seen and done a little bit of everything in the events industry. He worked on big tours from Dolly Parton to Paramore and big corporate events for companies like Salesforce, Walmart, a lot of the big names we all know and love.
[00:01:42] As LASSO's product manager though, he is now focused on new product development and refinement. And he's been instrumental in our most recent product launches, including project management and inventory. Because again, he is sat in your seat. He understands the challenges [00:02:00] of having bad workflows, broken workflows.
[00:02:03] And so super excited to have you. Thanks so much for joining us, Mark.
[00:02:07] Mark Eicher: Yeah. Thanks for having me.
[00:02:09] Angela Alea: So first of all, tell us a little bit about yourself and your career and kind of what led you to do what you're doing now.
[00:02:17] Mark Eicher: Yeah, well, I fell in love with live production way back in college and kind of realized that was my calling.
[00:02:22] I love the, the thrill of it. The you know, the, the show starts at 7 PM. You got to get everything ready by then. I love that deadline. And so I kind of fell in love with, with live audio production specifically, and then from there. Just the, the paths leading one to another, to where I am today.
[00:02:40] I've had a lot, as you mentioned, that was quite the intro had a lot of random experience. And I, the way I would describe myself is as a generalist. So I was able to work with all the different experts in, in various arenas throughout the event production industry. And. [00:03:00] A lot of my role was taking the different pieces that the experts were working on and getting them all together.
[00:03:07] And so that's given me a really, I think, valuable perspective that, that really, when it comes to processes and how, how do companies operate in different teams different areas of expertise, how do we all come together? I really, really love putting those things
[00:03:21] Angela Alea: together. Well, I love how you say generalist right, because everyone's like, ooh, specialist, specialist, and, and you're so, I mean, I've had a front row seat to see how you do this, you are so methodical, so process driven, and I think what makes you good is because you do have a really good understanding of the big picture, right, and, and so that's where that generalist comes in, and a lot of times you do, you have to have the context of understand The full picture to figure out how to put the process of workflow in place versus specialists, man, they can go really deep in their particular silo, but [00:04:00] that doesn't solve the workflow problem, which is more of a generalist, high level overview.
[00:04:04] So I think that's, I think that's a really important characteristic. You know, when you're talking about solving workflow, is having a generalist approach to it, with a little bit of a slant of leaning on your specialist to help inform some of those decisions. So I love that you said that. And I've really enjoyed watching you, and I think I've known you for, gosh, Eight years, maybe maybe longer, but a long time.
[00:04:26] And so it's really been fun to kind of watch you kind of apply your methodology when it comes to problem solving. And that's what I really wanted to dive into today is to just kind of peel back a little bit about your thought process, how you make decisions, how you kind of see things. And so when it comes to companies that are trying to build their workflows and processes, which my hope is.
[00:04:49] All of you out there are continuously doing that, right? I know a lot of times in the last couple of years, people said, we took the time to really get efficient, rethink our [00:05:00] workflows, which is great for that period of time. But guess what? Hopefully your business is evolving and that workflow needs to constantly be evolving and changing, which is, It's frustrating because you feel like the finish line was done and in reality, there is no finish line when it comes to building software, coming up with workflows and processes.
[00:05:17] So based on all the things you see what do you think are some of the costliest mistakes that event companies make when they are setting out to build their workflows and process?
[00:05:28] Mark Eicher: So I'd say one of the, maybe this is an opposite, right? But something that I I've seen a lot is just continuing to do something.
[00:05:35] Cause that's the way we've always done it. And that can be a dangerous line of death. Yes, exactly. Because if you're not willing to evaluate what you're doing and, and find efficiencies, then. You're never going to really accomplish the growth that you, that you want to. And so I just, I always encourage you to have an open mind to change.
[00:05:53] Of course, if something's don't broke, don't fix it. Right. But you want to be willing to at least evaluate and kind [00:06:00] of create that culture because that, that, that is a culture mind thinking or a cultural. Mindset of being willing to, to make the changes. And along with that, developing that culture is don't develop processes in a bubble.
[00:06:16] So work with your team again, me as a generalist, that's where, and I think those, those types of rules has a lot of empathy. So being able to place yourselves in the experts or the specialists chairs, if you will, or shoes and and. And they have answers that you don't have. So you know, I've been, most of the things I'm going to talk about are things that I've been guilty of.
[00:06:41] And so, and learned my lessons from them. How we learn best. That's it. So I try to come up with a process and realize, you know, if I just would have asked the person, Hey, what do you think is the best solution here? It would have saved me. Hours of, of whatever and the grief of trying to you know, dictate something and without any buy-in.
[00:06:58] And so that's just a waste of [00:07:00] time. And usually the, the process then changes everything you did, you have to kind of redo so that, that can be costly and that, and that can be a big impact depending on what you're trying to tackle. So I definitely involve your team in that, or else there's a lot of bumps down the road.
[00:07:13] And, and kind of beyond your team looking to out outside your team to the industry. So I think this is another area where a lot of, you know, there's a lot of opportunity costs where, you know, get on LinkedIn forums there's community groups out there of others in the industry, like, Hey, this is the problem having, how have you guys solved it?
[00:07:35] How has, how have other people solved it? And that's a good starting point that will save you a ton of time. And you know, a lot of spinning your wheels. Another big area in terms of cost or mistakes related to cost is not designing for scalability. So you have your process that might work for today, but you, you know, business, you never want to stay in the same spot, right?
[00:07:56] You want to be growing. And that means you have a bigger team and different people do the [00:08:00] role. So you want to develop processes that are clear, not tied to a single person, but maybe tied to a role or multiple roles. And that way, as the team builds, it's easy to inject new people into that process.
[00:08:13] And so, also along those lines. That's such
[00:08:15] Angela Alea: an important one, right? Because I, I think it's a skill set. So many people, they're trying to solve what's right in front of them. And if you find yourself trying to solve for what you see, You are solving the wrong thing, right? And, and there is a skill set. Some people are just, they're clairvoyant.
[00:08:33] They have the ability to see around the upcoming three corners, right? Not just the corner that's right in front of them. And that can really kind of help with sustainability. And if you are not that person that can see around the corner, bring the, invite others into the process because they can see that.
[00:08:52] Otherwise you're going to be sitting in the same seat you are now trying to solve for the problem that's right in front of you every three months. Right. So solve for the bigger [00:09:00] picture, not just what's right in front of you. I cannot, I think that is such a great call out because so many companies make that mistake and they burn out, right?
[00:09:06] Cause they don't feel like there's any momentum or progress being made, which is really how burnout happens because they're just solving for what's right in front of them and they're right back at it 60 days
[00:09:16] Mark Eicher: later. Yep, exactly. And along with scalability. is complexity, right? You want to keep, you want to go with the simplest answer that you can, because as you do scale up, you want to be able to train your, your new team members or as people move around.
[00:09:32] And a lot of times if you're, if it's too complex, that's also goes along with scalability where you can't really scale into it. So it's kind of definitely a multifaceted approach that you've got to be looking at it and, and kind of all those little pieces put it together.
[00:09:48] Angela Alea: Yeah, so much, so much to think through and and consider as you're kind of building workflows.
[00:09:54] Well, where do you see, specifically in the production process, Where do [00:10:00] you see the ball get dropped most often?
[00:10:02] Mark Eicher: Yeah, I would say it starts with having no single source of truth. So, especially in today's age, and we talk about it a lot, how everybody has multiple software solutions that they're using to manage all parts
[00:10:15] Angela Alea: of the process.
[00:10:15] I think like 12. 8, and yes, I'm going to say 0. 8. In a survey we did where we said how many, Pieces of software does your team work in from RFP to invoice and they're popping in and out and yes There's a 0. 8 because we divided by the number of responses. So that's why some people are like well, how did you get the 0.
[00:10:31] 8? Well, that's how so let's just round up and call it 13 But if you think about that your daily job you're popping in and out of 13 different pieces of software to accomplish You know the production of a show and that's that's a lot. So I think that's that's a great one
[00:10:46] Mark Eicher: Yeah. And I'll probably harp on this a couple of times, but again, with the specialists that we have in this industry, which they do amazing work, right?
[00:10:54] Lighting designers, technical directors, producers, A1, everybody really across the whole game of this [00:11:00] game, the show done, I, my goal has always been. And, and this is why it kind of came to LASSO is to enable those people to do their best work as often as they can. So when they are, you know, with this no single source of truth, when they're spending their time looking through multiple pieces of software, did I, where did I put that file?
[00:11:18] What is the latest piece of information? What are the actual dates of the show? Anytime there's they're doing that, they're not focusing on doing what they do best. Which is producing an event. And so that always drove me nuts. And, and so that, that's, you know, that's a big one for me 'cause I want to enable those specialists to do what they do best.
[00:11:37] Angela Alea: Yeah, that's a great one. Any other balls that, like when you think about everything that's involved and that, and there's so much behind the scenes that I know people from outside of our industry can just never really appreciate all that goes into the production process. But are there any other cut bottlenecks or, or things that not enough [00:12:00] companies are addressing in that process?
[00:12:02] Mark Eicher: Well, I, I'd say another one is, and it's kind of along the lines of no single source of truth, but also in silo tools there, the reason that we have different tools is that, you know, especially in, in this industry, we're accomplishing a lot of different things for a one singular end event. Right. So I've seen a lot of, I guess opportunities missed but just from the sales process, from that handoff to the production team and pre production planning and that handoff to the actual onsite execution team, right? Kind of have those three different main core groups. And there's a really, you know, the, in, in each of one of those handoffs, there's a lot of information that needs to be transferred and, you know, Different people within those different areas, they have different mindsets and different skill sets.
[00:12:48] And so trying to align those handoffs can be really challenging and lead to a lot of costly mistakes too. I mean, you know, it's, it's
[00:12:55] Angela Alea: like the telephone game, right? It is right. You know, sales tells, you know, operations, one thing [00:13:00] operations told, you know, the people on site, something different. And so by the time, you know, that chain of command without one central place to what is the source of truth?
[00:13:07] What is this word or phrase in the telephone game? Things get lost, changed, you know, these little iterations of things can have big impact. Yep,
[00:13:15] Mark Eicher: and it's not any one group's fault, right? It's just that each one has their own focus of what they, they are looking at and thinking about that the other group just that they've got their own, right?
[00:13:25] And so trying to find that middle ground and identify, hey, what's important in this group that I've got to communicate and then down the line. And that, again, that's where I've seen a lot of times where stuff has fallen through the cracks. Good process helps with that. So
[00:13:39] Angela Alea: yeah, good intentions with a good process.
[00:13:41] So how, how do companies start to fix some of these broken processes?
[00:13:45] Mark Eicher: Yeah. I mean, real practically I'll just, you know, right at the beginning I look at what are the same things that we need to do every single project. And it's probably boring things, but that's, that's where you start. [00:14:00] Right. And I would, I would sit down with a piece of paper or Excel spreadsheet, you know, just.
[00:14:04] You know, tab it out of every single time we've got to send a certificate of insurance to the venue. We need to book labor. Okay. How far out do I want to book that labor based in going through that process? You're, you're going to start to identify, okay. You know what, if this is the same problem in every single show.
[00:14:20] Why don't we just create a, you know, a quick process to, to tackle it each time. Yeah, I bring up the certificate of insurance. Every time a project is awarded, I know I've got to go to accounting and say, Hey, can you issue this certificate? Or that shouldn't be a surprise at any point in the process, because now we've identified it for every single show.
[00:14:37] So that, you know, any, any moment that you can identify. And then work ahead that eliminates the panic, right? And we know we, we love our deadlines in the event industry, right? But you know, leave the excitement to, to onsite and, and getting the show done, but all the stuff that you can eliminate, so you can focus on the actual performance, that's, we want to get rid of first.
[00:14:57] So kind of stuff,
[00:14:58] Angela Alea: those small, not [00:15:00] small details, but automating the repetitive
[00:15:02] Mark Eicher: functions. Yep. Yep. And you know, from there the kind of along those lines is. Information gathering, right? So every single show you need to have the same amount of, you know, the same information. What's the venue? Who's the client?
[00:15:18] How, how big is the audience? You know, down the line, there's a list of information and that's where just as a simple, you know, a simple start is creating a form. Whether that is literally a, a Word document that you're filling out as simple as that, or if you want a Google form or depending on, you know, if you've got project management software, they might be able to input forms.
[00:15:36] That you have your training, your sales staff to input the same information that you know, the operations team needs in order to start executing. And so again, identifying the same steps that you repeat, identify the same information you need to gather. That's just real simple stuff. But it's part of that process is, is start to look at being consistent in your tools.
[00:15:55] So I get, I I've been there where is the file in box? Is it in Google drive? Is [00:16:00] it in one drive? Is it on my computer? You'd have to be really strict and start to get everybody working in the same ecosystem. I've definitely seen that where producers have all their own ways of doing things. I like my notes here, like my files here, but then from the team that's helping now they have to tailor, you know, their workflow to each individual.
[00:16:18] That doesn't work. You've got it. You How do you, how do you do
[00:16:20] Angela Alea: Mark? I have my own opinion, but I would really love to hear yours on. Because you've worked with a lot of different types of events, right? And to your point, everybody brings their own set of unique skills, their own unique set of preferences with how they like to work.
[00:16:35] So if there, if there's an organization out there that's listening, that's like, that's really great. But how do I get my people? To work in the same system. How do I create that consistency and standardize things, even though nothing's standard in our industry? How do you standardize things within the company?
[00:16:52] Like what, what advice would you have for them?
[00:16:54] Mark Eicher: Yeah. I mean, it's, it's a balancing act, right? We don't, you don't want to micromanage, especially as we're [00:17:00] saying, but we're working with. Fantastic people in this industry that have amazing skillsets. So the last thing they want is to be micromanaged and they shouldn't be right.
[00:17:07] That's inefficient. But you know, it's a balancing act where we, you've also got to work with the team. And so we'll probably get into some of this a little bit later, but one of the things is you, you've got to sell the value of it, right? Like, Hey, if you're putting your file on one drive and really everyone's working in box, how many times do you get hit on teams or Slack or email or text?
[00:17:29] Hey, do you have that file? Imagine if you just have the file available in box where everybody else is. Now that no one has to talk to you, it's not a meeting, it's not a phone call. And that probably just saved you and the other person five minutes, 10 minutes, whoever long they were searching before they called you.
[00:17:46] And so it's, you really just have to explain the ROI to each individual. This is how it's going to help you. I know it's, I know it's a change. I know it's different, but again, that's a cultural, the culture that you're trying to create of. You know, let's be a [00:18:00] culture of change. Don't be afraid of it, balance it, but you know, together we can, we can make things better and make your job easier.
[00:18:10] Angela Alea: I love that culture of change. I think that's important. Really important, right? Because if you're not changing that, it gets stale and stagnant and. With even the way technology is evolving, these companies are evolving, your client's expectations are evolving, right? And if you just continue to just stay where you are, you will miss out and you do lose.
[00:18:29] So I love that, that concept of creating a culture of change. I know being in a fast growing technology company, I think we talked to you about it, too, Mark, when you were considering coming over, is like, hey, things change fast, you know, what we say on Monday, we might hear something that's happening macro or within the industry, and we might pivot by Thursday, you know, and you have to be comfortable with that, which, let's face it, that's the nature of the event world, right, technology or not, like clients, Are constantly changing things, right?
[00:18:58] The, the, the event specs in the [00:19:00] beginning are very different from the final output, right? And so you have to be comfortable if you're okay to change along with your client, you've gotta be okay to change your internal processes too, right? And constantly iterating on that. So I love, I love that concept of culture, of a culture of change.
[00:19:15] I love that. Well, any advice for event company leaders on how to. better manage changing systems because it's really hard, right? So if you're going to get, you talked to us about the workflow and building processes, that's, that's number one, step one, right? Is what should our workflow be? And then the second one is what tools are going to enable us to do that.
[00:19:39] And then the third is how are we going to get managed through the change management and the get people to adopt it. So when it comes into purchasing and bringing in new tools to help these companies, Work better, smarter, faster, like you said, enabling them to do what they do best. What are, what's some advice you [00:20:00] have for some of the event leaders out there on how to manage through
[00:20:02] Mark Eicher: that?
[00:20:02] Yeah, so, kind of from a, I'm going to step back from a, more of a higher standpoint, or a higher point of view. I think the most important thing that company leaders can do is invest in their team. Right? Cause these processes are all for the team in order to do better work. And so what I mean by that is find somebody, whether they're on your team already, or maybe it's a new hire, but give them the responsibility of looking.
[00:20:30] process improvements is now in your job description. And you have to be specific about it because that is a, to that person, they know what they're responsible for, but also to the rest of the team, they know, Hey, this person's leading the charge. And so when they're asking questions, Hey, what about this?
[00:20:43] What about that? I know that's part of their job to make my life better. So I think it's really important as leadership to, to invest in their team. And also that means if you're going to add that to their job description, you might have to remove something else from the job description to give them space to do that.
[00:20:57] Right. Every, everybody operates their own way, but [00:21:00] that's something to consider is if you're adding responsibility, think about what they can take off so they can actually focus on this. I would say in smaller companies, usually this is a, you know an added responsibility to an existing role. And so you just have to be considerate of that to actually give them time to focus on if you're asking them to do so.
[00:21:16] But I think investing in your team is kind of the biggest impact you're going to have because it's all for them anyways, so that they can do better work. And down the line, of course, make more money for the company, right? Like all, all comes back to bottom line. And a couple of ways of doing that too.
[00:21:32] And so investing in your specific team member is also incentivizing the whole team. So I would recommend considering, you know, a bonus program or some sort of profit sharing or something along those lines of. Hey, we're going to work to make these improvements and these efficiencies, and they should have real results in how we're producing our work.
[00:21:51] And if we all do good work, then we all win. I think that's just a really big impact that, that company owners and leadership can have [00:22:00] on the rest of the team and, you know, and down the line, right, everywhere from, from sales down to in the warehouse there, there's efficiencies improvements being made and, and people should you know, be able to contribute and, and then reap those rewards.
[00:22:15] Angela Alea: you know, when you talk about that, I've also heard you say this phrase there's kind of two phrases, you know, perfect is the enemy of great. And done is better than perfect. So what do you mean by that?
[00:22:28] Mark Eicher: So the reason, I'll go way back, the reason I got into live sound is because I started playing in the studio and I, it drove me nuts.
[00:22:36] I could not get the perfect sound that I wanted and you could spend hours and hours and you're and pro tools trying to mix and get the perfect sound and I can never do it. That's the perfectionist in me and I can never finish an actual recording until I found live sound and realized, oh, seven o'clock, that's the show.
[00:22:53] You know, you're in an imperfect room with an imperfect sound system with imperfect musicians. That's okay. I know it's imperfect. That's okay. [00:23:00] And so what I mean by that is you can, you can spin your wheels forever, trying to have the perfect process when really you just need to get something done.
[00:23:08] Right. And if, if it's never done, then of course it's. Perfection isn't even part of the, you know, you can't, it'd be part of the discussion. So
[00:23:16] Angela Alea: sometimes, and even if it is perfect, it might only be perfect at this moment in time. Mm-hmm. . Yeah. One thing changes and that perfection is now imperfection, right?
[00:23:25] Yep. So you're chasing something that isn't a real thing. Yeah. Or at least not a long-term real thing.
[00:23:30] Mark Eicher: Yep. Yep. And we see that not to get. You know, LASSO, but we see that that's, that's a product management at its core is done is better than perfect. Well, there is, there is no perfect piece of software out there that will solve all of your problems exactly how you want it solved.
[00:23:46] That just doesn't exist, but we have to try to solve the best that we can with you know, with, with the resources that we have for the. And, you know, for people developing their processes, that's kind of a similar mindset you [00:24:00] have to have is you want to create the best process that you can with the resources that you have for, for the people in front of you.
[00:24:06] And it won't be perfect, but you've got to make those improvements.
[00:24:10] Angela Alea: Yeah, such, such great nuggets in here. Well, I want to wrap up with one final question that we ask every guest on the podcast, and that is, what do you hope for our industry?
[00:24:21] Mark Eicher: Yeah, well, as I mentioned a couple of times, I love watching.
[00:24:26] The experts in this field doing what they do best. So my goal and why I came to LASSO was I want to help provide the tools that removes as much noise of the, the, the messy process that this can be. I want to remove that noise so people can do what they do best most of the time. They'll never reach a hundred percent because work is work.
[00:24:48] You gotta do an expense report from time to time. Right. But as much as we can remove all the noise of managing the event, making that flow better so that a lighting designer can be designing the lights. [00:25:00] Most of the time, a TD can be doing his drawings and work with the vendors most of the time. To me, I mean, I think there's first very real value for people just who are doing that work that they can enjoy it more, but that makes the teams more efficient, right?
[00:25:13] And so when they're more efficient, they can take on more business. When they got more business, that increases your revenue, increases your profit. And in the end, like, you know, the way that I see that going is the further that the dollar can go, the more that brands will invest in events. Right. If you can do a better event.
[00:25:29] And for, you know, the same amount of money you might've been, they might've spent last year. Brands are going to continue to invest. And then again, everybody, everybody wins in that scenario and technicians, the experts you know, everybody makes more money and has a better life doing it. That's, you know, that's a really grand idea, but that's what it is.
[00:25:47] Angela Alea: I love it though. I mean, there's that theme again, right? Enabling your people to do their best work. Yep. Yep. Absolutely. You're not going to have turnover. You're going to have job satisfaction. You're going to have happier clients, happier teams, to your point. [00:26:00] healthier bottom line all those things and so if we can kind of rally around that idea of How do you invest in areas that enable your team to do their best work?
[00:26:09] I think that's I think that's phenomenal. I don't and I don't think that's grandiose. I think that's completely achievable. So I think you've done You've really painted a good picture for people and what I love about this particular episode is you've given them some really tangible things To think about today and to go back to their management teams and talk through and there's a lot of actionable items in here So I appreciate you coming on and talking through this I mean I always think of you as you know a process driven person because you are so methodical and you and you start with solving the Problem first like I love how your brain has always worked with What's the problem we're trying to solve and then let's work backwards in a methodical fast Way to get to the best outcome the fastest and again done is better than perfect, right?
[00:26:57] Like it's always you're always iterating [00:27:00] always changing based on what again you or your team might see around the next corner So I think that's really great insights today, and I appreciate you joining us. I really appreciate it. I enjoyed this conversation
[00:27:10] Mark Eicher: Yeah. Yeah. Me too. Thanks for having me.
[00:27:13] Angela Alea: Well, thanks everybody for tuning in. If you like what you hear, don't forget to hit subscribe. And if you have any questions, comments, or feedback, reach out to us at email@example.com.