Building profitable partnerships

David Emanuel

There is no doubt that whatever the position being filled, Talent is a constant requirement in any organsation. Indeed, within the world of television, the person in front of camera is referred to as ‘The Talent’ – and not always in a reverential way! Indeed, why should they? It is a team that drives output in all areas of broadcasting and not just the person standing in front of the camera. As someone who has spent as much time in the corporate world as the hothouse corridors of television, it seems the two have more in common than you might at first think.

Although it’s tempting to blame a sinking share price on the CEO – or the on-screen Talent – or even to credit rising numbers on Sales Team, the reality is that it is the teamwork that is key to making both areas work.

I thought I’d test my idea by talking to a leading Entertainment Agent who is just moving from London to Los Angeles to delve into even greater shark infested waters within Broadcasting there. Seamus Lyte is more than just a Talent Management guru; he also looks after brands and makes sure that the image of an individual or brand are entirely representative of each other and are seen & heard across the globe.

With different cultural demands I ask, how can a brand remain constant “It comes down to understanding, really understanding, your brand, like one of my most high profile clients, Royal Couturier & Broadcaster, David Emanuel.” For anyone suffering from memory loss or just back after visiting another planet, David Emanuel & his ex-wife Elizabeth are the people who designed Princess Diana’s wedding dress 36 years ago! Now there’s a wake-up call for most of us.

But while the marriage has long since passed into a footnote in history, the designer has gone from strength to strength and with the help of Seamus, David Emanuel’s growth in the US has gone from strength to strength, prompting the move Stateside with David’s role as Host and Creative Director of TLC Discovery’s key brand, Say Yes to the Dress (UK).

Which brings up the question of longevity “Even if you do spot talent in someone early on in their career” says Seamus “you have to be looking at nurturing it for longevity. David, and some of the other clients I have, could easily just have had their moment, but you need to have a really positive 360 approach, as well as passion for the client, AND their brand” but adds “ensuring they are still relevant and desirable 30 years on takes commitment and skill from both parties in the relationship.”

There’s a temptation to talk about a partnership approach in corporate life too but what does that mean in reality? Consulting a dictionary for the definition, I found this; ‘A partnership is a form of business where two or more people share ownership, as well as the responsibility for managing the company and the income or losses the business generates. ‘

Tellingly, we also use the term in marriage and the words in common seem highly pertinent; ‘share’ ‘responsibility’ ‘ownership’ ‘management’. It some ways, it’s easier to track the success of a partnership of an Agent because you can look at the successes and fame of their clients by way of measuring the success of that partnership but can the same approach can be applied to business? Sort of. Start by looking at the rate of attrition of your employees and ask yourself if people really have put themselves through stress and worry of leaving a job, JUST because of pay or lunch hour breaks? Or is it something deeper? Do they feel like Sherpas humping dead weight along a bumpy trail or partners who are both recognised & rewarded for their efforts?

With many agents & their clients, it is a very intimate relationship, based largely on trust – including when they recommend you take part in a show as challenging as ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.’ The trust issues involved are on both sides and many would have questioned the wisdom of sending David into a Jungle not knowing who the other celebrities may turn out to be, and be prepared to do anything for popularity outside the show. Seamus says ‘The shows we work on with Broadcasters demand both ethical and moral standards beyond basic human behaviour’ and he goes on ‘Partners need to Communicate, Co-ordinate & Co-operate within an environment of trust. David did so well on the show for many reasons but the fact that he is a fundamentally decent human being was key so I had no hesitation in recommending he take part. ’ He adds “The decision was obviously the right one not only because he finished second, got tens of thousands more followers on Twitter but we also saw the popularity of his brand go through the roof, enabling new brand extensions in apparel, TV and Jewellery (so far) to be established…But making it happen came down to the trust he had in me recommending he do it.”

Having long term clients is great but leads you to the question of what, or who, next? What happens when they want to set down their jewellery making ideas, interior designs or singing career, what do you do then as your income heads out the door?

Oracle produced this report on their site about Succession Planning which starts with a warning for everyone “Organizations everywhere are finding it harder to get— and keep—the right talent. Intensified competition and rapid shifts in business strategy can quickly create skills gaps. In addition, unrelenting technological advances have fundamentally transformed the way business operates. Changes such as these are driving employers to seek better ways to manage their employees. A flexible and comprehensive career and succession management solution can deliver visibility into your entire workforce.”

The conversation bounces around to take in the changing world ala President Trump as well as the 2 recessions we’ve had over the recent past which Seamus says “It’s is all about building strong relationships that can sustain the ups and downs of economic change, whether show-business or the wider world.” And he goes on to say “Other key skills that are required by the bucket load are determination and resilience” and reminds me “In our business, we learn early on that you will get knocked back far, far more often than you will get work, so you have to learn to take a very pragmatic approach to clients – whether Actors, Broadcasters or Corporates.”

As someone who has never actually been given a job – corporate or television – via an Agent, I can tell you that this approach makes Seamus rarer than a Unicorn! And I suspect, sadly an approach that is often missing in everyday corporate life too. Essentially it all comes down to one of the most basic human feelings of all; rejection. The Balance is a website for Human Resources personnel who have published a list of 7 ways to deal with rejection which anyone can download. The one that stands out for me, is the one we probably all find hardest to do; ‘Learn from rejection.’

For those people who don’t understand the concept of an Agent, let me explain; they are mentor, friend, nanny, nursemaid, business strategist, agony Aunt, joker, Business Manager & Salesman – sometimes all at once and sometimes at 3.00 in the morning. Now, no matter, how challenging you think some of your workforce are during the day, be honest and take a minute to take all that in and ask yourself if you could honestly do it?

Most people would say NO!! and run screaming for a normal job, with normal hours and predictable workloads. Right about now, corporate life is looking a lot easier isn’t it?

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