2010: The Year in Review

I haven’t quite made good on updating this blog more frequently. But I haven’t let two years pass again either, so this isn’t so bad.

The year 2010 brought a few changes for me. Rather than working on several consulting projects, one project has become nearly full time for me.  In February, I became involved in helping to develop an after-school theater program for the Consolidated School District of New Britain at Trinity-on-Main Performance Center in downtown New Britain. Within a short time, this project developed into New Britain Youth Theater. By March, I was not only incorporating NBYT, but had become Executive Producing Director.

With the support of the school district, fiscal sponsorship from Vision New Britain, Inc., and funding from the Greater New Britain Arts Alliance and the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain, NBYT is now conducting programs in three New Britain elementary schools. A program for homeschool students is held weekly at Trinity-on-Main. Beginning in January, acting classes will be offered on Saturday mornings for ages 4 to 12. Summer programs—which began small in 2010—will also expand in 2011.

Productions have also begun at NBYT. Earlier this month, we produced A Children’s Christmas Carol with thirty children from New Britain and ten other Connecticut towns. NBYT’s spring production is going to be Babe, the Sheep-Pig, based on the book that also inspired the movie Babe. In its first nine months alone, NBYT has already served over three hundred kids!

Aside from New Britain Youth Theater, I’m also an approved consultant for the Peer Advisor Network (PAN) program of the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism. The Commission also invited me to serve on a grant review panel for arts project support grants. My work with the Commission is a relationship that I hope will continue to grow.

Here’s hoping that 2010 was as good to all of you, and wishing that 2011 will be a strong, successful year for the arts!

Why Hire a Consultant?

Consultants today are hired by major corporations, small businesses, government agencies, and nonprofits.  Often, the reason for hiring a consultant is a temporary and very specific need for specialized skills or expertise.  When they’re hired for a specific period of time or for a special project, consultants are also a cheaper alternative to hiring a full-time—or even part-time—employee.

Employees might sometimes consider a consultant to mean major corporate restructuring and downsizing; they might think that they’re getting an Office Space shake-up.  But that’s not always—not even most often—the reason or results of hiring a consultant.  Using consultants to supplement and support the staff for strategic planning or project management is much more common.  Sometimes, a consultant’s help may even involve only a couple conversations or one day’s work.  Consultants can help theaters of any size or type, because all theaters, no matter how large or small—and like any other business—face challenges in both management and production every day.

What are the benefits of hiring a consultant?  Here are just a few.

Consultants can offer a new perspective.  A fresh and objective point of view—from someone who’s already dealt with similar issues—can lead to creative solutions that anyone too close to a situation might not have considered or be too involved to suggest. Consultants can review anything from season programming to staffing to marketing and fundraising plans to offer feedback that adds ideas and presents all of the consequences—potentially positive and negative—that a decision might cause.

Consultants can motivate and inspire.  When consultants offer feedback to a theater, they’re not only giving their own objective opinion, but can motivate a theater’s board and staff to work harder and think more creatively too—the board and staff should even be inspired to work and communicate better on their own.  Even consultants working on new programs or initiatives can help boost staff morale throughout an organization.

Consultants can be quick and thorough.  Often, a consultant can complete a project more quickly and more thoroughly than a staff member.  This isn’t because the staff member isn’t capable or valuable—it’s simply because the consultant can focus full efforts on the project while the staffer probably has a workspace covered with other issues to deal with.

Consultants can handle unfamiliar situations.  Because theaters and other arts organizations depend so heavily on creative staff, they’re often organized without all of the management expertise they need to sustain them over the long run.  Even theaters with skilled managers can benefit from consultants when they face new issues such as unfamiliar contracts or agreements, board and staff development, long-range planning, or transitions.

Consultants add to the workforce.  Consultants might be hired for a special project, for review, input or motivation, or even as interim or temporary management during a transition.  In any situation, consultants add to your workforce and allow everyone to best focus on their own jobs.

So, why hire a consultant? Maybe you need some specialized experience, want a fresh outlook, or just have too much work to handle.  Whatever the reason, working with a consultant can have advantages you might not have even thought of.