Episode 39: Navigating Event Production in Canada Feat. Jeremy Elliott

by | Jun 13, 2023

Jeremy Elliott, General Manager at PSI, dives into the lesser-known challenges confronted by Canadian production companies compared to their American counterparts. He highlights the significance of work-life balance and value of building and maintaining industry relationships.

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Key Takeaways:

Challenges and Opportunities in the Canadian Production Industry

  • Understanding the differences between the production industry in Canada and the US, including tour schedules, exchange rates, and gear availability.
  • The Canadian production industry is like a small town of small towns, with a relatively small group of people.
  • The pandemic highlighted the issue of not having trained replacements for senior technicians who retired.
  • Obtaining work permits for technicians in the United States is costly, time-consuming, and restrictive compared to the entry of American technicians into Canada.

What the events industry needs:

  • Colleagues willing to collaborate and bounce ideas off each other when managing projects. 
  • Need for better identification and communication of technician career paths.
  • More opportunities for entry and advancement in the industry. 
  • Work-life balance and sacrificing family time for the job.
  • Importance of interactions and respecting relationships.

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Read the Transcript 📚

Intro: Welcome to Corralling the Chaos Podcast, where we talk publicly about the things you’re worried about privately. My name is Angela Alea, and I’m your host. This is the event industry podcast for companies and crew where we’re gonna dive deep into things like, what does our industry need that it just doesn’t have?

[00:00:18] What are the things you wanna know, but you’re just too afraid to ask? And what are the biggest opportunities ahead for our industry? We’re gonna go deep and nothing is off limits.

[00:00:36] Jess Cook: Hello and welcome to another episode of Corralling the Chaos. I am your guest host, Jess Cook, head of content at lasso. And today I am joined by Jeremy Elliott. Jeremy is a project manager at PSI Production Service Industries. Which is based out of Ontario, Canada, and he has seen the business for many different vantage points.

[00:00:58] Having worked in the production [00:01:00] industry one way or another since 2002 as a production manager, event producer, tour manager, and musician. And he believes that the successful execution of any event is a team adventure and is always impressed by the talent and ability of his colleagues. Jeremy, we’re really excited to have you today.

[00:01:16] Thanks for joining

[00:01:17] Jeremy Elliott: us. Oh, thanks for having me, Jessica. Absolutely.

[00:01:21] Jess Cook: Let’s hear first about p s I. If you wanna tell us a little bit about P S I and your role there and how you got into the events industry. Yeah.

[00:01:32] Jeremy Elliott: So P S I is based in St. Catherine’s. Ontario. But that is a function of some quick decisions we had to make during the pandemic when we had to make a quick decision to close one of our warehouses, which was in Toronto.

[00:01:50] So we centralized everything in St. Catherine’s. So that’s where we are based. We’re primarily an audio company, but we do provide, in my view, [00:02:00] world class lighting and video solutions, staging solutions, whatever our clients need. We’ve got about full-time staff of 12. But our active roster of technicians is just north of 180 to service our various venue, clients, and our own shows.

[00:02:19] Jess Cook: Amazing. And how did you get into the industry? Oh, how

[00:02:22] Jeremy Elliott: did I get into the industry? I’m a drummer. And so I think when I got my first kit, the first thing you have to fig out, figure out after you learn to play it is how you’re gonna move it. And as a 10 year old, that required some logistical thinking, relationship building and all the rest.

[00:02:37] So I think that was sort of my start because You know, through practical considerations with that instrument. And then fast forward, I was touring as, a drummer, and we hired a sound guy. And so we did this great thing for about a year where, when we were on the road, he would mix my band and then when we were off the road, he’d hire me to work in the warehouse, the production company that he worked for.[00:03:00]

[00:03:00] So that was how I got I, started to, you know, marry the two worlds. Were both sides of the mic, as I say.

[00:03:08] Jess Cook: Very cool. I love that. It’s, amazing how many people in this industry started out as a musician and just by necessity kind of had to learn how to like themselves, you know, set up the sound, set up the stage and, it just kind of brought them into this, world, which is really cool.

[00:03:26] Jeremy Elliott: I think some people you can see that it’s sort of a default, you know because the, reward for caring was more work. You know, I often wished that I didn’t care as much cuz then I wouldn’t have thought it was interesting to load up a trailer with more gear or, you know, get there earlier to make sure that we had enough time to sound check or, you know, become the tour manager when we couldn’t afford one.

[00:03:49] Just because it was, it mattered to me that things went as well as possible. Yeah. And then I saw other people who just didn’t care. And, you know, even after 15 years of [00:04:00] touring, were kind of, didn’t know the difference between any PA systems. The microphones, they’re singing in two every night. You know, it’s just a, there seem to be kind of two mindsets.

[00:04:09] Yeah, absolutely. One required less work, that’s for sure.

[00:04:13] Jess Cook: No good deed goes unpunished. You know, it’s tough deed. It’s very much like that saying. So tell us a little bit about your role at P S I.

[00:04:22] Jeremy Elliott: PSI is a really great place to work because everybody there has, kind of played themselves onto the team in a way.

[00:04:29] You know, it’s not we’re not a highly structured corporate environment where roles are this, I mean, they’re defined, but not in, in the, sense that people can’t step out of it and, follow paths that they find interesting or So I initially started doing some staffing work and working as a technician for psi, and I should back up.

[00:04:53] Actually, PSI was my favorite production company when I was an event producer. They were the company I would always hire [00:05:00] Steven vn, the owner, and I stayed friendly. And I got in touch with him in about 2018 and said, you know, do you need any help? And he said, yeah. But neither of us really knew what that looked like.

[00:05:10] So I started doing some staffing for some of our municipal clients. Supervise a satellite operation that we have. We acquired the assets of another business. So I went and did that for a while and then I was general manager of the entire operation and now I’m focusing on individual projects and key accounts.

[00:05:32] Very

[00:05:32] Jess Cook: cool. I wanna go back to something you said, cause I think this was really important. It stood out to me that they were your favorite production company. Talk to me a little bit about what made them your favorite, what differentiated them from others?

[00:05:45] Jeremy Elliott: There were two things. One was, first and foremost the, people that I encountered.

[00:05:49] So it was unlike any experience I had with other production companies. So I felt like I had a face. I felt like I had a name. [00:06:00] And there seemed to be a real common goal to, to make the event great, which was different from what I’d experienced previously with others. Where there was an idea that, you know, get in, get out, who cares?

[00:06:12] Just another band. And I think some of that comes from, you know, like we were talking about with musicians, you know I, don’t see musicians who found their way into the production world as failed. You know, musicians, they see them as sort of enhanced, you know, it’s like they, they know things that other musicians don’t, but I think sometimes I.

[00:06:29] You know, musicians whose hopes and dreams rested on success in that way feel that they’re kind of slumming it when they work for a production company. And so there’s a sort of resentment built in to be artist instead of, you know we’re, both pulling in the same direction. So that was something that I thought was, different, is that we were all real.

[00:06:49] I felt like I was part of a team just by virtue of showing up. And PSI being the provider. And then, I don’t, later I came to realize that the other half of it was what [00:07:00] wasn’t there and how the little things mattered that you don’t see. You know, so cable management for instance. You know, I don’t think any, tour manager has high-fived the production company and said, you know, really actually cable management.

[00:07:14] That really made a difference. But, you know, at least it wasn’t a distraction or something that got, you know, like when everything was neat and clean and tested and ready. It’s amazing what flows from that. You know, those are lessons that I learned from PSI that I’ve, tried to bring with me to every, event that I’m, a part of, you know, because little things really matter.

[00:07:37] You know, like not having the artist on stage or around when we’re ringing out the pa, that’s not always gonna be possible just by scheduling. But, you know, if they can walk into the room and go on stage, and we’ve already got a basic monitor mix kind of happening for them. I don’t expect that they will recognize that is something that we’ve worked really hard to do for them, [00:08:00] but the performance, you know, by virtue of their anxi anxiety levels may be being reduced.

[00:08:06] They’re not distracted, but I think the performance will be better as a result. I love why. So I think that’s something that PSI taught me that I yeah. That’ve carried with me ever since I heard

[00:08:17] Jess Cook: once, you know, some of the best solutions you don’t even notice are there. And I think it’s something like that where, It’s so good.

[00:08:25] It just kind of stays invisible. You don’t actually ever notice it because there’s no reason to have to worry about it or, you know, try to fix something with it. And so I think that’s a really, great point.

[00:08:37] Jeremy Elliott: Well, you absolutely I, think, what did I read? Yeah. When you, know, that a custodian is doing a really good job cuz you never see them doing anything.

[00:08:45] Yeah. You know and, I’ve al I’ve thought about that, but it extends also to demeanor. You know and I, expressed this to some of our younger technicians that how you interact or your choices about when to interact are really [00:09:00] important and not something that will necessarily get recognized or, new, a high five or an attaboy.

[00:09:05] You know it’s, but, and that’s something that we’ve learned from working supporting our casino clients in particular, you know, which are often highly regulated environments. And so that extends right down to You know the, relationships that we have to understand and respect in, those particular venues.

[00:09:22] And it’s something that I see in particularly smaller small production companies in, in, you know, regional production companies. I, of, I, I think of them as narrators and we’ve all encountered these people, but they’re the technicians who are describing every thought they have and everything they see.

[00:09:41] And it’s exhausting, you know, after five minutes. At a, you know, at a local fair stage and, you know, going on, well, that’s the monitor that Johnny kicked off the deck last spring, and you can’t use that for, you know, put that behind the drummer, you know, that snakes got, and honestly, I, that’s [00:10:00] exhausting for anybody to be around.

[00:10:02] That was the other thing just to put a bow on that idea about Yeah. What wasn’t there, you know anytime I was approached by anyone on the PSI side the, contact was important. It was considered, and it was only later as I, again, as I got deeper into the production world, when I started to understand that, you know, every choice was really considered and thought out and how, that matters, you know?

[00:10:25] Jess Cook: That’s so great. Love to hear that. Let’s, dig into I think what you bring some expertise to all of our listeners here, event production in Canada. So when you and I were kind of talking about Hey, what do we wanna talk about on this episode? You know, I think something that really struck me was people in the US probably don’t think about, you know, production in Canada very much, but on the opposite side, folks in Canada, Have to think about production in the US and kind of the differences quite, quite a lot.

[00:10:57] And so I wanted to talk to you a bit about, [00:11:00] you know, the differences that maybe people don’t realize. You know, what are some of the ways it’s different and how does it infe, how does it affect production companies in Canada?

[00:11:10] Jeremy Elliott: Yeah, I think the, simple math, and this someone I’m sure will, correct me, but the simple math is that the United States represents 10 times more of everything, right?

[00:11:20] So there’re 10 times more people, 10 times more gear, 10 times more production companies, sometimes more gigs. So there’s an abundance that we don’t wake up and, live in, Canada. And I think that makes our assumptions a little different. For instance, it might manifest itself as the drive between cities, right?

[00:11:42] So Canadian tour, for instance is an eight to 10 hour drive every day between towns. So that, you know, if you do that every day for three weeks, you can imagine at the end of three weeks What that does to a person, [00:12:00] but also what it does to costs. So we’re, dealing with kind of two challenges.

[00:12:06] One is that it’s expensive and the other is that it. It’s long. So whereas, you know, I, I remember meeting American Techs, you know and, they’re like, yeah, you know, like we, we kind of got rolling around 11 for, you know, one o’clock loading. I’m like, wow. You know that sounds amazing. And that’s a luxury.

[00:12:28] Wow. You know, unbelievable. And then, and you know, in the United States, that’s something that’s achievable, you know, every day. And, you can stay closer to home. You know, like in Canada a five week tour is about the max. That you can do, you know, and then there’s a limit to how often you can do that.

[00:12:44] So some artists will do that once every two years. You know, whereas, you know, in the United States you’ve got all the different areas that are, possible. You know, like there are successful acts that may manage to stay on the eastern seaboard, you know, and [00:13:00] rarely might cross the country. In terms of equipment it seems that production companies, you know, we, the exchange rate.

[00:13:10] Shave the American dollar. So I think like an American dollar’s worth a dollar 34 Canadian. So when we buy equipment we’re, doing that, we’re, we earn Canadian dollars, but we’re paying in American dollars. Sure. So there’s a premium associated with, buying equipment. And so I think that’s bred an idea along amongst production companies to take.

[00:13:34] What I, describe as the emporium approach. We’ve got everything, right? We need to be self-contained because we can’t necessarily go get something very easily or inexpensively. And so that means you have multidisciplinary production companies who do everything. You know, they do lighting, they do audio, they do video.

[00:13:53] Whereas in the United States, you know, when we work with production companies, they’re often a bit more specialized. [00:14:00] And larger. So not only are they bigger, but they only do lighting. Yeah. And like that. Yeah. That to the Canadian mind is, really interesting. You know, that there’s enough work to sustain.

[00:14:12] That kind of business approach. I think in, and in terms of touring any of our technicians going into the United States need work permits. And those are expensive to obtain and take a long time. And depending on the type of permit are associated with a particular artist. So you can’t necessarily jump onto another tour once that’s been approved.

[00:14:38] Whereas American technicians don’t need any permission to work in Canada in the same way. We have a disadvantage in that respect. Like we can’t, our techs can’t just go into the United States and work assembly that Americans can’t come into count. But there’s a lot less work in Canada, so it’s, I mean, the problem might take care of us, [00:15:00] take care of itself.

[00:15:01] Yeah.

[00:15:02] Jess Cook: What about universal healthcare? How does that affect

[00:15:04] Jeremy Elliott: things? On the one hand it, it, helps because it, means that people can enter the business. You know they’re not like, there’s a certain freedom I think that, Canadians have as a result in terms of their professional choices, cuz they’re not They don’t have to stay necessarily with an organization because of the healthcare that’s provided.

[00:15:29] On the other hand, it means that, you know, sometimes retention might be more challenging than it is in the United States where people might choose to stay with an employer because the, healthcare benefits are, so good. It’s certainly something, you know, I think we do talk about healthcare here, but mostly because, You know, there seems to be a common belief that it’s not funded very well by the government.

[00:15:54] I think if you ask most Canadians, they tell you that we should be paying more into the system. [00:16:00] But other than that, we don’t really think about it. But I know that it’s a major topic of conversation when I talk to other technicians who work for production companies in the United States that yeah, it’s very real.

[00:16:12] And if they attach themselves to a role, That provides them with a healthcare package and they wanna raise a family. Unless they can replicate that somewhere else, they’re never leaving that employer. I’m glad that it’s not a barrier to entry up here to the business, but a young person can, tomorrow decide they wanna work in the production business.

[00:16:32] And that’s not a consideration. A and I think

[00:16:36] Jess Cook: we need that. You know, especially after Covid, so many had to leave. We need that new generation to come in and. And start learning these trades and learning, you know, all of this information of how to do it correctly. And, so that’s, great to hear that’s so much less a barrier in Canada.

[00:16:56] Talk to me a little bit about a, having maybe a [00:17:00] smaller talent pool as well.

[00:17:01] Jeremy Elliott: Yeah, it’s You know, smaller roster equals more opportunities, right? And so that’s a balance that we’re always trying to strike. And I think this is universal and commentary production company, but Canada is truly, you know, in the production world, a small town of small towns, you know I know it’s true in the United States as well, you know, like at any of the trade shows, everyone knows everyone even though they’re from opposite sides of the country.

[00:17:29] But in Canada particularly those who continue to work in Canada, Yeah it’s, a fairly small group of people and I think that’s manifested itself on the good, you know, so on the one hand that means that the standard is really high, you know, because I think it’s, when you have a small reference point, it’s easy for everyone to understand what it means to achieve that.

[00:17:57] Because there, there’s one, one kind of [00:18:00] standard. On the other hand it’s challenge because, and this is changing and I’m working to do what I can to help this change. There’s been some real gatekeeping where once technicians have hit that level they seem to hold on really tightly and are not interested in training anyone who might threaten them.

[00:18:21] Position. Ah, and we saw that particularly during the pandemic when a lot of ii senior technicians who were doing the Broadway styles for those in Toronto decided to retire. And there was nobody, there had been, nobody trained in waiting to take those positions. So anecdotally, there are all sorts of challenges.

[00:18:45] Without approach, they would’ve been much better off if they’d. Had someone who had, you know, they were working with to assume that position when the senior technician did decide to move on or change their position or retire. [00:19:00] Yeah,

[00:19:01] Jess Cook: that’s fascinating. What so kind of knowing all of those differences, what you know, if you had any advice for, you know, hey, someone.

[00:19:11] Decides they wanna start a production company in Canada or someone in the US wants to kind of expand. What do, what would be like your advice to them? Of how, to find success

[00:19:23] Jeremy Elliott: in Canada? Yeah. Like for Americans coming to Canada

[00:19:28] Jess Cook: Or, someone in Canada who’s, you know, starting so new.

[00:19:33] Jeremy Elliott: We’re, in the midst of a, sort of generational change, right?

[00:19:36] That affects every industry, like every, I don’t know, 15, 25 years. You know the, way the business was structured when I started, you know, who the key players were the, top, you know, that no longer exists, I don’t think any of those companies are around anymore. But at the time, you know, that was the firmament.

[00:19:52] That was, you know, that was where it was. And then through the pandemic, there were some, business failures, a sort of reorganization [00:20:00] And a reduced capacity in the industry in Canada. So there’s never been a better time to, join. There are almost no barriers to entry, you know yeah, to the business.

[00:20:18] There are great training programs offered, but ultimately those need to be paired with some real life experience. So I think if someone was really interested in. Joining becoming like an audio or lighting or video technician or, something is actually just to, start somewhere with a production company rather than waiting for the position they think they want.

[00:20:44] Wow. Because most successful technicians I’ve seen, or even, you know, people on, the project management or administrative side sort of started down one path and then as they traveled that path, saw something that. Interested them. And then, you [00:21:00] know, if they were fortunate enough to find themselves in the situation that allowed it, they pursued that and sort of, you know, took that turn and followed that path and found themselves in a role that not only do they enjoy and is challenging, but they kind of created for themselves, which I think can be a big part of, staying interested.

[00:21:17] You know, often when a young tech will approach and say, are you hiring? It’s yes. And they go off for what position? It’s well, you know, Everyone you meet who’s here at some point showed up and were aware enough of their surroundings, interested enough in the people around them that they, made themselves useful.

[00:21:37] And that right now, like just to anecdotally, we were the production supplier for the Canada Games last summer in Niagara. And on top of everything else coming back that was a major project, an opening ceremony, closing ceremony all the various athletic venues [00:22:00] that needed to be equipped with.

[00:22:01] Yeah, with the audio system. I mean, it was a lot. And what that meant for some of the younger techs is that they were elevated really, quickly. You know, they might have started Delivering small speaker systems to athletic venues, and then within a month we’re operating. And that is brand new because when I started, you know, it was years of moving analog consoles before you were allowed to touch a fade.

[00:22:31] You know, maybe if it was a corporate event, you know, and the lead audio guy needed a wash and break, you might get to put your finger on one fader for a bit, and that was thrilling. Yeah. So I think I would say that there are very few industries that you could as a young person join and advance really, quickly and find, a part of it that you found really interesting and it pays really, well.

[00:22:56] If you attach yourself to the right organization. That’s great. [00:23:00]

[00:23:01] Jess Cook: I’m sure there are people out there who will be very, excited to hear that. So thank you for sharing that. Jeremy, you are a project manager and we all know how chaotic that role can be in the event space. So let’s talk about what are some of your keys to success

[00:23:16] Jeremy Elliott: there?

[00:23:16] I think the successful project managers can, are time travelers. Yeah. And so one of the things about time travel is it’s not just a linear forward or back in time, it’s often a, place, right? So when people so I think the successful project manager when they find out about an event or they’re providing the quote for the event, control their mind forward into that day in that place, and look around and see what they’re going to need to see, what questions they’re gonna need to ask.

[00:23:51] And you know, that is not always possible if it’s a completely new venue somewhere you’ve never been before. But some needs never change. [00:24:00] Like I remember when I was first tour managing, it was the sixth or seventh show that I realized the singer always needed to use the bathroom 10 minutes before the show started.

[00:24:15] And you know, it was a small in indie band and so it wasn’t like there was always a washroom in the dress room if there was a dress room. So I learned that I would always need to know where that was, cuz that was gonna happen. So when I would advance a show for that artist, I would always ask, you know, think, okay, well I’m gonna start standing in the venue.

[00:24:36] It’s 10 minutes before stage time. What do I need in this moment? So I think that would be what, I would say to someone who wanted to be a successful project manager is, figure out how to time travel and throw yourself into that moment and ask yourself, what am I going to need to execute this?

[00:24:54] I would also say rely on your colleagues for their expertise. [00:25:00] You know, I think there’s, sometimes an An idea amongst project managers that it’s only their project if they do it all right. The truth is there are really talented audio lighting, video staging technicians, logistics people, and I would say, you know, I learned to bounce ideas off people and just Hey, what do you think about this?

[00:25:27] And have them check my thinking, you know? Because I’ve often encountered project managers who are holding all the marbles, you know, and they’re holding everything so tightly that by the time there’s an issue, they haven’t, there’s nobody else in their world who knows anything about the event.

[00:25:46] And it’s often difficult when you need to solve a problem in real time if that’s sort of awareness doesn’t exist. I love

[00:25:53] Jess Cook: that. Yeah. I, think, you know, On any project, the earlier, the more often you can [00:26:00] bring people in and share your thinking and kind of deliver that to people. One, I think you just, you’re gonna have champions a little faster, right?

[00:26:08] Than if you just don’t share until the end, or until you really, need their help. And so I think people are way more likely to, you know, partner with you, find that solution when you need it.

[00:26:21] Jeremy Elliott: The pandemic taught me to challenge every assumption. You know, that I had, and there are often efficiencies that can be found if you communicate with your colleagues.

[00:26:32] Like in, in our, in my case, you know just on our team chat, if someone is able to flag that a track is going from A to B on a certain date, you know, that could potentially save a lot of time and effort and expense if, you know there’s another pickup that needs to happen along the way. Yeah. But that requires communication.

[00:26:54] Yeah. And trust.

[00:26:56] Jess Cook: Absolutely. What do you think some of your biggest challenges are as [00:27:00] project manager?

[00:27:01] Jeremy Elliott: Well, I mean, I think we were just, before we, we came on, we were talking about weather, you know, so I think the there is a politician who said, you know, there are known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns.

[00:27:18] And I think the unknown unknowns are always, The challenge. And so I try to hold space for those knowing that they will exist. So I see my role as a project manager really is as mitigating as much as possible so that when those unknown unknowns do occur, we have some capacity to handle them. So I think that’s just an ongoing challenges, just trying to get ahead of as much as possible, knowing that we’ll never, you know, we’ll always be 10 feet from the summit, you know, it will always be just that, brass ring we’re just trying to grab.

[00:27:57] And as project manager who’s involved [00:28:00] in staffing, I think talent acquisition and retention is, gonna be an ongoing challenge because I think the there is, there are older technicians who don’t necessarily want to hear what the younger technicians are saying. I think an important part of our future is listening and adapting.

[00:28:19] You know I’m, asking some of the younger technicians to please be patient cuz just because something isn’t happening as quickly as they’d like it to, doesn’t mean we’re not doing our best to Make the change that we recognize we have to make if, we’re gonna be viable and, profitable into the future.

[00:28:37] So I think that’s an added layer, you know we can’t just operate the way we always did if we’re going to be a successful business. So I’d say that as project manager, that’s a sort of overarching challenge that we’re trying to address every day. Yeah.

[00:28:55] Jess Cook: I love your, thinking around there’s always going to be surprised.

[00:28:58] Don’t let them [00:29:00] surprise you. And I just think that’s, a good way to put it. Yeah. Just be prepared for those make sure that all of your other ducks are in a row, because there’s always gonna be this other thing that you’re gonna need the type energy

[00:29:11] Jeremy Elliott: for. I’m always amazed when I’m working with somebody who’s been in the business for a while and they’re surprised that something has gone sideways that they didn’t expect.

[00:29:20] Like I always think what? What are we working in completely different businesses? Like what? You know, or Has your experience been so different from mine? You know, that you actually find this surprising. Yeah,

[00:29:33] Jess Cook: I know PSI went from a roster. Three techs after Covid and grew to over 180 in less than a year.

[00:29:41] And one that’s incredible. And I’d love to know, you know, what did it take to manage that

[00:29:48] Jeremy Elliott: feat? A really committed small team of people. Most of the credit. For that [00:30:00] goes to my colleague Les who had experience with staffing that many people previously. So he came on board before we had some of the contracts that were gonna require, that many technicians.

[00:30:18] But he really has an amazing ability to understand. Different people, different skill sets, different inclinations, you know, where they want to be and really seize, I think people, for people. I think one of the things I’ve noticed from some staffing companies is they, think they are engineers and that people are water.

[00:30:40] And if they just put an elbow, you know, like Anand in a pipe, that the people will go this way, that way versus understanding that everyone has, you know, individuals have different ideas about. Their lives and work. Les is really gifted at seeing people, knowing [00:31:00] where they need to be. And and people really like him, so he was a really important part of that.

[00:31:08] Now, on the admin side You know, we needed to onboard a lot of people really quickly and make sure that they had everything they needed. So in, in Ontario, that’s their worker. Four Step safety, their women’s training, which is hazardous materials you know, working at Heights, all sorts of stuff that doesn’t happen overnight.

[00:31:30] But is really, important. So there was a, real team effort just to make sure that those training opportunities were organized in time, that everyone had what they needed. And I have to say, Without the lasso platform. I don’t know how I can’t imagine doing it any other way. Like I, it’s just, it’s, you know when, we were staffing 10 or fewer people, lasso seemed like a really nice to have, you know, it was a nice interface, but nothing we couldn’t have probably accomplished through Google [00:32:00] Calendar and email.

[00:32:02] But now that we’re staffing this many people, I can’t, I don’t understand how anyone would’ve done this without a platform. Like lasso.

[00:32:11] Jess Cook: Yeah, absolutely. And so you’re, onboarding them through Lasso?

[00:32:16] Jeremy Elliott: Yeah. Do, yeah. We haven’t done the, full dive into the, like the document sharing or the signature Sure.

[00:32:23] Side yet. I’m sure that’s coming. Lasso gave us the ability to approach people with our arms wide open. And say, look here’s how we communicate. We don’t do cattle calls, right? So we’ll often reach out to individuals ahead of time, say, are you available? And then we’ll use lasso to I guess put a bow on the call, make sure that they’ve got all the information they need.

[00:32:47] That allows us to approach people with a rate, you know, and the time and say, look, you know, here is what we’re asking you to do. But I think my favorite feature when we approach someone is go, is the calendar. [00:33:00] Feature because for the first time in a lot of these technicians lives, they had complete control over what we see in terms of their availability.

[00:33:11] It took us a while to get you, you might edit this out cuz this is pretty granular in terms of the platform, but so it defaults to midnight if you click on availability. Oh, if you don’t take that extra step to say, I’m actually unavailable from midnight to whatever time, it will show you as unavailable for exactly one minute.

[00:33:35] And so as we were getting our heads around, this has caused some, confusion for some of the texts. And they express some frustration like, Hey, you know this is crazy. It’s too many steps. But when we explain to them like, this means that say you had an obligation in the morning, this gives you the ability to block off just that time.

[00:33:54] So if you had like a dental appointment that ended at 10 in the morning, and then we had a call that started at [00:34:00] 11, this means you don’t have to blow off a whole day of work because you had a single, you know, commitment ear earlier in the morning. So part of the, our talent acquisition was being able to go to people and go look, like not only do we want you to work for us, not only.

[00:34:15] Do we wanna provide you with training opportunities? Not only do we want to make sure that you’re challenged and have opportunities but we also give you control over your professional life, particularly if you’re a Lance technician. And so that was a big, part of it. And, you know, as we went we refined positions, we refined rates, we refined how we were communicating.

[00:34:39] But yeah, lasso was the, you know, it’s not just a fancy app. It’s sort of our entire staffing business. Really.

[00:34:49] Jess Cook: That’s amazing to hear. We love to hear those kinds of things, so thank you for sharing that. That’s, awesome. Jeremy, as we are prepping for this episode, I had asked you to name your biggest [00:35:00] frustration in the industry, and you had mentioned that you didn’t think we were doing enough to attract younger people to the business, so I would love to hear.

[00:35:11] You know, what are your thoughts on how can we better usher in this new generation?

[00:35:16] Jeremy Elliott: So I, had the opportunity to meet a lot of students at one of the theater techno technical programs at a local university. And they all had resumes and. Seemed enthusiastic. And, but when we spoke, I realized that it wasn’t good enough for me necessarily to say, and I’m, I know it’s gonna, it might sound like I’m talking outta both sides of my mouth here, but it’s not good enough to say, Hey, you know, jump in and find find your way.

[00:35:47] You know, like for a young person considering a, professional career, I know that, can be difficult. So I think we need to do a better job of. Identifying what it is we’re asking people to do, and not just the [00:36:00] tasks, but what their lives are gonna look like. Wow. And I think that’s been really challenging because I take it, you know, I, you know, I just assume it’s a 16 hour day.

[00:36:12] And I think there’s a, sort of tendency from some of the older technicians to fake, well, you know, that’s just the way it is. You know, but through the pandemic, a lot of people who had never, you know, they’d missed every one of their son’s birthdays, you know, or like they’d never because we’re working when everyone else is relaxing.

[00:36:32] They’d never been to a Thanksgiving dinner. And through the pandemic, a lot of people had the opportunity to do that and came out of it, realizing there’s this whole other side of life. Yeah. That’s, really wonderful. You know and the, all the wonderful stuff that flows from that, you know, like they were able to contribute more fully to their households, right?

[00:36:55] They were able to share tasks, they were able to do things like that. And so I think outta [00:37:00] the pandemic, we’ve identified that as a reasonable and natural desire in that there’s no reward for hero days that cost you time with your family all the time, or. You know, come with that sacrifice. You know I often think about, you know, at the end of someone’s career, you know, they’ll be remembered for their, skills you know, some events that they worked on.

[00:37:25] But I don’t think anyone’s gonna clap anyone on the back and go, man, you know goods for you. You, missed everything. Yeah. Yeah. So I think we need to If we’re going to attract young people, we need to really think about how we’re going to support a work-life balance that is reasonable.

[00:37:45] And that’s, that that’s, really hard to do, you know events load in at, eight and they load out at two. And so how do you do that? How do we not ask someone in their [00:38:00] twenties to not, you know, Not enjoy a single Saturday. And this extends to every part of the business. My brother works in musical theater for a Shakespeare’s festival and asked for a single week off in the middle of a five month contract and was told no initially.

[00:38:18] Wow. So I think that’s, I think that’s the big part of it is we need to really think about what it is we’re asking people to do, what that looks like. And then we’re gonna be in a much better position to, to speak to young people because I think we’ve benefited from that lack of clarity. I think the production businesses.

[00:38:41] I think the reliance on freelance labor and staffing has been a pretty sweet deal for a lot of production companies for a long time. We’ll hire you when you need you and then when we don’t. So I think young people you know, need some sort of commitment that [00:39:00] through the January month or something, that there’ll be opportunities for them and that they don’t have to sort of store all their acorns in the fall for a long bloom Lincoln.

[00:39:11] Yeah, I think it’s on us. I think it’s on us to figure out what it is we’re offering and asking people to do, and then we are in a good better position to approach young people and get, offer them something reasonable.

[00:39:20] Jess Cook: I love that. And I think that is all. And you know, I think we’ve all had that realization through Covid that work is not the most important thing no matter what industry you’re in, right?

[00:39:31] There are some things that just you can’t miss. And that should be extend. That courtesy. Courtesy should be extended to, everyone. So I, love that answer. Thank you for sharing that, Jeremy. We ask everyone this very last question. I’m very excited to hear your answer. What is it that you hope for our

[00:39:52] Jeremy Elliott: industry?

[00:39:53] So I hope that it kind of steps out of the sh I mean, so ironically that it steps out of the shadows a little bit. [00:40:00] I think the pandemic, particularly in Ontario, revealed just a lack of understanding about what. It is we do. And you know, we don’t fit neatly into are we part of tourism? Well, yeah.

[00:40:13] You know, in the sense that people travel to go to shows. Are we part of hospitality? Well, yes. You know, because we work in venues that people, you know, go to be entertained. But, you know we, occupy this other, space. And I think I hope for the industry that, it, it’s, you know we, were fortunate to be invited to provide some support for A Rigo Star All-Star Band show here.

[00:40:40] Production company needed an extra tech. I think someone who got sick and. The young tech who, went knew, you know, of course who, Ringo Star was, but I was just, I couldn’t, you know, oh my goodness. Ringo Star. And the more I thought about it, you know, I realized that we have jobs in the production world because of the [00:41:00] Beatles.

[00:41:00] Not just because they were famous, but because they had to stop touring because PA technology could not keep up. You know, with the, S P L, you know, like it was too loud. They couldn’t hear themselves on stage. They couldn’t, the audience couldn’t hear anything, so they stopped touring, right? Because PA technology wasn’t there yet.

[00:41:17] So we all have jobs because the Beatles had to stop working, which makes me think we’re still a young business. You know, it’s still a young industry. We’re still in like early stages, you know, of Development. So there’s a lot of opportunity to, change and adapt. And I, think we’re, in that sort of final stage where the cowboy days are behind us.

[00:41:43] Yes. You know the, sort of the, wild west of terrifying rigging and, you know, no regulation and you know, Sketchy electrical scenarios, you know are, sort of what we there are like industry heroes who, [00:42:00] got us to this place. You know, they risked their life, their lives personally, physically, you know and, here we are.

[00:42:08] And now, we’re in a position to sort of create the business that we want. For the next, generation. And so my hope is that idea is recognized sort of universally and that we can skip some of the conversations that are exhausting. You know, like I, I’ve had them, I’ve had to resist temptation to be the old man yelling at clouds.

[00:42:30] You know I promise myself as a young tech, I would never be like that. And then I hear myself saying something and I have to check it, you know you know, in my day. And it’s like when I hear myself describe it, it’s like in my day, that was awful. Like it was terrible. You know, it wasn’t cool, you know, so that’s my hope is that there’s a, sort of common recognition that we’re in a moment.

[00:42:56] And then on the other side of this moment is a more mature business. [00:43:00] That’s a, that’s continues to be a great place to, to work. I love

[00:43:05] Jess Cook: that. That was a fabulous answer. And, absolutely. You know, I think I would share that hope with you. I think that sounds incredible. And, I think, like you say, this new generation that’s coming in Can help us get there.

[00:43:22] You know, I think that, that’s absolutely their hope as

[00:43:24] Jeremy Elliott: well. Well, they’re forcing us to, you know, because I it’s, yeah, like the assumptions, my every assumption I had is being challenged. And also, I mean the, other side of it too, and the, beautiful part of this moment we’re in is like, when I started.

[00:43:40] You were basically hired cuz you could lift a heavy sack of potatoes. You know, that was sort of how you were useful. And if you were slightly smarter than the bag of potatoes you were carrying, you might have the opportunity to, mix something at some point. So for a long time the industry was dominated by, you know, maybe not [00:44:00] the best and the brightest.

[00:44:02] You know, and so the barrier to entry, you know, kept a lot of people out the business who would’ve been influenced it in a really positive way. And now that everything’s digital and networking is you know, so much a part of what we do lots, you know, it’s sort of widened it’s thrown the doors wide open in terms of who came to work in the business.

[00:44:24] Yeah.

[00:44:26] Jess Cook: There’s a new level of sophistication and the, group of people. Kind of coming in definitely mirrors that as well.

[00:44:36] Jeremy Elliott: Yeah, well, it drives like old lighting techs crazy that, you know, a 20 year old can use an online editor, render an arena show, and come in and plug that into a console and, you know, go, all right, I’m a lighting tech.

[00:44:49] And the, you know, the older lighting tech is you haven’t moved a dimmer rack, so you don’t, you haven’t run any feeder yet. You, know, you don’t know. [00:45:00] What it means. And so while yes, there’s value and you need to understand, you know, loads and you need to understand electrical distribution and, all of these things, you know, it’s not like the sort of pointless suffering forever is gonna make a better lighting.

[00:45:16] Jess Cook: Yeah, absolutely. Jeremy, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you. Thank you so much for joining us today. Thanks so much for having me. Listeners, if you enjoyed what you heard here today please subscribe. And if you have any questions, we are always around. You can hit us up@podcastlasso.io.

[00:45:38] We’ll be there for you. We’ll talk to you next time. Bye-bye.

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