I never dreamed that one of my personal passions would not only infiltrate my firm's culture but also become a source of revenue. That passion happens to be stand-up comedy.
I first viewed performing stand-up comedy as a bucket list type of thing. It would be a one-and-done. But, after staggering through my first performance, the emcee made the mistake of telling me I wasn't half-bad. He suggested I perform the very next week in his show. I was smitten.
About two years and 100 stand-up gigs later, I know two things:
1. I should keep my day job.
2) Performing stand-up slowly, but surely, was making me a better business executive. Comedy hones one's storytelling and listening skills and trains you to build rapport with a crowd (or else). And, in my particular case, stand-up forced me to learn best practices for dealing with a negative or, even worse, totally impassive audience.
It dawned on me that these same skills are also critical in business. So, at the end of one of our management retreats, I invited my comedy coach, Clayton Fletcher, to lead a stand-up session. If looks could kill, I wouldn't be penning this piece.
But, after some quick coaching on Clayton's part, my executives dutifully went through their performances. Two things occurred:
1. Our executives proved to be very adept storytellers (and some were quite funny).
2. They immediately saw the potential benefits for our firm.
Today, stand-up and improvisational comedy are core components of our management training. In addition to the benefits I mentioned above, the stand-up comedy training sessions (which we hold at New York comedy clubs), began forging an even tighter, more collegial and fun culture.
In fact, when Crain's New York Business cited us as the best workplace of the year in 2012, they specifically called out comedy as a deciding factor.
Last, but not least, comedy workshops have become a revenue stream for us. We've conducted half and full-day training sessions for law firms, pharmaceutical companies, consumer brands, and, yes, even a large group of doctors and nurses.
Sometimes, when all other things were equal, we won new business simply because the prospect told us we seemed like we'd be more fun to work with.
All of this is an outcome of a personal passion. While comedy may not be your thing, I do suggest you think about ways your passion might somehow influence your professional development or the way in which you conduct business. I promise it will bring a smile to your face.