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Guest Commentary: Bring Back the Days When the Biz Was Fun

Sep 29, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Whatever happened to the days when there was a level of excitement, energy, creativity and innovation that made the entertainment industry great? Are those days gone forever?
With the enormous consolidation that has taken place, the countless jobs that have been lost, the levels of insecurity rising to unparalleled levels and the use of technology to make our business even more impersonal, the picture is not a pretty one. How often have you spoken to people in our business who have said, “It just isn’t fun anymore?”
Why are things this way? Well, consolidation eliminated many of the midsize and smaller companies that gave the majors a run for their money in terms of creativity and innovation. They also made the majors better because the competition was intense and the majors needed to rise to the occasion. Those days are gone.
The people who have lost their jobs are another reason for the industry’s decline. So many good people who served our industry for years and remain among the “best and the brightest” are now unemployable by the powers that be because of age or expense-reduction considerations. Why can’t we use their knowledge, experience and skills in some meaningful way?
Insecurity runs rampant. Executives who five years ago would not hesitate to make a decision in minutes now take days. The fear of making the wrong decision and risking job loss is just too much to bear. Our industry is becoming populated by executives who are not willing to commit even though they know what is right.
It is hard to clearly define the role of technology in our society. On the one hand, it raises productivity levels significantly by allowing us to communicate in a vastly accelerated way. On the other hand, it has reduced our contact to e-mails and totally eliminated the person-to-person interaction that is at the heart of our industry. The days of looking in someone’s eyes, watching their body language and having a conversation, to some extent are gone.
How do we bring the fire and fun back into our business? Provide funding for smaller companies that want to be a part of our business and populate them with executives with an entrepreneurial spirit, whether employed or not and regardless of their age. Out of this could come more creative ideas and a more intense competitive environment that would be healthy for the majors as well.
Reduce the level of insecurity by making management unafraid of taking risks. Establish a reward system that encourages new ideas and lowers the levels of potential job loss. Acknowledge success and do not punish well-intended attempts to make business better.
Finally, do not use technology as a substitute for interpersonal contact. No computer can ever replace people sitting together, talking and getting to know each other better. Set aside time to do this not only with employees but with customers as well.
Let’s bring back the days when you sat in a meeting and the energy level and ideas flowed, when people argued with each other about how to do things and constantly challenged one another to take an idea to the next level. And when they left the room, they still had enormous respect for one another.
Those were great days. Can they return? For the sake of our industry, I hope so.
Dick Lippin is chairman and chief executive of The Lippin Group, a public relations and marketing organization.