As you may or may not know, the end of 2017 marks the end of my first full year as improve it!’s Director of Operations full time. In many ways, I wasn’t entirely sure how or if I would make it here. As with any adventure, at first the path seemed hidden and the destination didn’t yet exist. As a Type-A obsessive this bothered me, but as an improviser it delighted me to no end.
Yes – being inside my head is exhausting, thanks for asking.
As we teach in our workshops, being an effective business person and a good improviser doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t!) be mutually exclusive. In fact, the same qualities that make up a good improviser also make up a good business person. So, we took those qualities and put them to work! Using Bravery, Support, Confidence, and Creativity, we here at improve it! worked our way through an exciting and prosperous year.
Ladies and Gentlemen, improvisers and bosses. I give you: The Year 2017.
The simple act of a small business staying in business for another calendar year is brave. Ask any entrepreneur or business owner: you can set a plan, hone a strategy, budget for success all you want – you are never guaranteed success.
Some of improve it!’s bravest moments this year came from us getting outside of our comfort zones and bringing our own folding chair to a table that may have not been initially set for us. From those risks we found ourselves onstage at The Chicago Theater in front of a sold-out crowd, conducting 300-person workshops, and presenting to a former President of the United States.
As Erin likes to say, “No risk, no champagne!”
But that risk also comes with the inevitability of failure. Some of our gambles haven’t entirely paid off – we’ve had some lessons learned, we’ve had to eat some humble pie, we’ve had to return to the drawing board. And let me tell you – our “cozy” 10 by 15 foot office feels mighty small when the cards don’t fall in your favor.
But, there’s always another day, another opportunity, and more to learn from your mistakes.
We like to say that improve it! was once a baby and is now growing into a toddler. Seriously – play hide-and-seek with us and see how much we freak out when you disappear behind your hands!
A great deal of our growth is thanks to the amazing support system we have around us. From our growing internal team of 5, to our 17 incredible improv professionals, to our everyday cheerleaders – we would not be who we are and where we are without our team. They weren’t joking when they said “it takes a village to raise a professional development company specializing in improv comedy as a training technique”! (That’s what they said, right?)
2017 was absolutely the year of the “Team”. We continue to learn the important lesson of investing in your teammates to benefit the group overall. As a result, our 2018 calendar is already filling up with events from some familiar faces and our full time internal team is one more employee strong. (Have you met Jenna yet?) Thank you all for being such a great part of the team – we truly wouldn’t exist without you!
Have you ever heard the phrase “Fake it ‘til you make it?” We here at improve it! like to take that a step further: “Fake it ‘til you make it, then figure out what you were faking in the first place.”
On a personal level, 2017 was a huge professional growth year for me. Not only was I challenged to be the second of two full-time internal staff members, I had to wear many hats that I’ve never worn before. Although I was hired to be the “Director of Operations” (“Directing – yea, I can do that! I’m good at that!”), my real title ended up being “Director of Operations/Financial Services/IT Department/Sales Manager/Human Resources/Legal/Occasional Delivery Person”.
A year ago I couldn’t tell you how to program a printer, set up a client agreement, link a PayPal account to Squarespace, network at a trade show, grow a client list, or create a sales funnel. Sitting here now – I can confidently help you accomplish all of those things.
Bob the Drag Queen says that confidence starts small and grows from there. I don’t think I could have grown professionally as much as I did in a year if I didn’t have so much confidence in our product. I’m 100% certain I wouldn’t be able to get through a sales call if I wasn’t completely confident that our workshops help people develop professionally. While much of what Erin and I do at improve it! involves false confidence in – let’s say for example – figuring out which fuse in our shared office blew so we can flip it back on and finish a client call, it all stems from a real and passionate confidence in what we do and why we do it. I’m positive, as long as that confident fire is still burning – we can fake everything else and make it.
My first year as a full-time improve it! employee felt in a lot of ways like what comedians describe their first year at SNL to be like: keep your head down, do your work, and learn where the bathroom is.
But, of course, the passion that Erin brings to work is nothing short of infectious. Every day we come to work excited to talk about an idea we had while blow-drying our hair or to share a podcast that pumped us up that morning. All while I was too busy being anxious about seeing the path in front of me, I forgot that not having a predetermined path allows you to create your own destination.
What’s there to look forward to in improve it!’s 2018? I’m so glad you asked.
- More of our ten, off-the-shelf Corporate Workshop offerings.
- Our six new improve it! Tracks to help you with your Bravery, Support, Confidence, and Creativity.
- A chance to join improve You! – Our newly developed one-on-one, DIY Coaching Series.
- Four new opportunities to join us for our Public Workshop.
The rest? I’m not sure. We’ll just have to improvise.