Creative license: When business imitates art

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Phil Martin is very familiar with the term second act, but given the many turns his career has taken, the word “second” might signify dramatic undercounting.

Speaking of drama, Martin has been involved in many theatrical pursuits. He was an award-winning television writer for the Nashville Now television show during its 10-year run on TNT. He is also the author of one book with another on the way, a published playwright who created original musicals, an actor who has performed a one-person show, and a college professor who shares his love of theater with Edgewood College students.

Now, you can add self-employed public speaker to the mix, and local business operators who might sometimes feel immersed in daily drama might be interested in knowing that Martin often speaks on the benefits that business leaders can derive from live theater. The theater’s commercial contributions include the importance of what Martin calls “serious fun,” but it also offers real leadership lessons to entrepreneurs.

Most of those lessons center on the importance of understanding people, a key element of Martin’s public presentations. “A cynic once said that if you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business,” Martin notes. “To that, I add the theater is the business of understanding people because that’s what we do all the time, whether it’s the characters we portray or the actors who are trying to get into those characters.”

Martin’s character is reflected in his first book titled Play Hard – Have Fun: A Philosophy for Life. A second book, already titled Take the Stage: Leadership Lessons from the Theater, is being written as Martin works to build his business. Given his experience and his research, Martin doesn’t take issue with the notion that skills used in theatrical work are everyday business skills, as well.

“You cannot go into any organization and not find some kind of drama, so I’m taking the artificial drama of theater and having people relate to that experience,” Martin explains. “I talk about how that can influence what you do at work and how you handle a tough organizational challenge. In the theater, we have rehearsals, and my job as director is to encourage, to give criticism, to give notes to people about their performance. How can I do that effectively, without raising their anxiety level, and get the very best possible performance out of them?”

Click here to sign up for the free IB ezine — your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.