Natasha Miller is the Founder and Chief Experience Designer of Entire Productions, an Inc 5000 corporate event planning and entertainment management company. She is also the author of the Wall Street Journal bestselling book Relentless: Homeless Teen to Achieving the Entrepreneur Dream. We talk about the power of delegation in business, why musicians make great entrepreneurs, and how to become a relentless entrepreneur.
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Automate Your Workflows with Natasha Miller
Our guest is Natasha Miller, the founder and chief experience designer of Entire Productions and Inc. 5000, Corporate Event, Entertainment, Production, and Marketing Agency. Natasha is the voice feature best-selling author of Relentless, and she’s a classical violinist and jazz vocalist. Welcome to the show, Natasha.
Thank you, Steve. It’s good to be here.
I think you’re the first musician or former musician who has been on the show, so that’s definitely a first. So, very interesting origin story. You already referenced a couple of things. So, how did you get here? What turned you into a business owner and leader, Natasha?
I think music got me to where I’m at today, period, end of story, but also my relentless tenacity, which someone recently said to me, which was pretty funny. But I studied violin at a young age, not as young as the Suzuki Method kids starting at four years old. I started in fourth grade, and it was able to get me a full-ride scholarship to three different universities. Even though I didn’t graduate with a degree, which I didn’t need, it really did propel me into a professional world. At a very young age, I was playing professionally at 15 years old.
I went, looked at your book, and I found a link, and I went to your website, and I saw this letter that you wrote in a class, I guess it was, about how you made $50 with a fellow musician at the Christmas concert.
That was a lot of money back then.
I bet it was. So it was that your first step towards entrepreneurship. And if it was, or one of the first was, how did that lead to you starting a company? Was it kind of a stop and go or it was an organic development?
My first paid performance was when I was 15 playing for the inauguration of our governor. And when you get paid at that age to do something that isn’t raking leaves or mowing lawns or waiting tables, you get paid to do something that you’re really good at and that you’re passionate about. It sets off a little trigger, I think, in your neurons, and it was a little bit intoxicating. So I loved the idea that I could make money by doing what I love to do and that I was good at doing.
And so I think my entrepreneurial spirit ignited then. But then my entrepreneurial need, when I was 16, when I was dropped off at a homeless shelter on Christmas day by my parents, which is all in the book. Then it became a necessity. I had to make money. I had to monetize anything that I knew how to do and that was fairly good at. And ultimately, years later, 21 years ago, I started my formal business, Entire Productions, which is an entertainment and event production company.
So instead of my performing for these corporate and social events, either solo or with my jazz ensemble or with my string quartet, I’m sending out other musicians and other artists and making money while I’m sleeping, basically. I mean, I have to work during the day a little bit, but my team does the rest and then the artists do the rest. So it’s a pretty miraculous situation. And it wasn’t in fits and starts, but I would say the first 10 to 12 years, it was a lifestyle business that supported my performing career.
That’s great, because it’s not easy to make a living as a performer. It can be an extremely tough life. Tell me a little bit about, I mean, you talked earlier about your framework being, I think we called it the entire production project management system. Tell me about this framework and how does it allow you to put up so many events with a small staff?
It’s so amazing. I’m so proud of it. And I didn’t create the system in order to scale and grow my company in revenue or profit or headcount or locations. I did it out of necessity of being efficient and not wasting time or not wasting like double, triple, quadruple entry. So in 2013, I got a Salesforce license and I started programming within Salesforce everything that we did in our company. So if you were going to book us to provide music for your daughter’s wedding. I don’t know if you have a daughter and I don’t know if she’s getting married, but let’s just say you are. Okay. It’s going to happen if it hasn’t yet.
Everything that we do for you from the moment you come into our realm is housed in Salesforce and it’s reflective. So if you’re giving us data, you’re typing it in, you’re not just typing it into an email, you’re actually putting it right into the system so it’s capturing it. So what has that done? It has eliminated the need for me or my team to take what you just said and re-enter it into our system. Long story short, everything that is low touch or repeatable on a regular cadence, we have automated.
And as I mentioned to you when I first met you, that enabled us to produce 777 events in one calendar year with two people in operations. And when I use the term operations, I mean they’re doing all the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed. And all of the information that goes out to our clients and to our vendors, which in our industry we call it advancing, advancing the event. So for instance, 10 days before the event, you’re going to get an email with all the data, all the details about your event, and there are a lot of them, because sometimes events have up to 65 vendors with their own timelines and their own opportunity to drop the ball and make a mistake, right? So none of this, this email that you get with the advancing data, no one has to push send.
It’s coming to you 10 days before your event, whether you’re ready for it or not, or whether we remembered or not. And then after that, after you approve that four days before the event, an email goes to each vendor with their specific details, load in instructions. And again, it’s going out whether we remember to send it or not. So it’s amazing, I’ve been asked to replicate it, to create a SaaS company, to license it. And that’s something that I will consider doing in the future because no one in my industry has such a robust system like this.
So how does it work? Because organizing event, it can be very complex and also it can be labor intensive things because some people on the premises, they have to build it out and they have to ensure that all the vendors know where to go and the audience goes. So, you’re kind of the back office for the event and then the company, Google or Apple, whoever, you do this, their staff is running the events based on your choreography?
Sometimes we are working with their internal planners. Sometimes we’re planning the event for them completely because their internal team is too busy. Sometimes we’re just placing entertainment musicians into somebody else’s event, but still we use this system for both things. Every time someone in my company comes up with a, why can’t we do this or I keep finding myself doing this over and over and again in the application and we will better the system. We won’t just go, oh, this is how we always have to do it. You have to write it down. Like never, that is so, that is against our laws to not improve our system when we think of something that can be improved.
So, all the changes become automatic from the get-go rather than a piece of paper. And at some point, we’ll update the system when we have time.
However, I will say, I do take a look at the request for changing our system and improving it, and I weigh the outcome with the cost and the time and, you know, is this a one-off situation or is this a repeating situation, and then I will make that decision.
So, just to really simplify it for my sake, so is it like a supercharged CRM, a Salesforce CRM which communicates and schedules all the vendors, the audience, the staff members, everything, who has to do what at what time? It’s basically a basic task management, ERP, whatever you want to call it, system that essentially orchestrates the whole event and people just execute whatever is dictated by the system?
It’s a very robust project management tool that I built in the confines of a CRM. And Salesforce themselves say, this is more sophisticated than we even use it internally. They say, you’re using it in a way that we didn’t mean for it to be used, and you’re going to break the system. And I never have broken their system. So, you know, I could take it outside of Salesforce and build my own platform with developers and such, which I may do someday, because there has been a request for this in various, you know, from caterers, from decor rental companies, from planners. And so that is on the horizon in the future?
Yeah, I remember about maybe 10, 12 years ago, I was looking to use Salesforce for CRM. And I think the basic subscription was $25 a month. And there was this other company that designed, basically customized the CRM for specifically the type of company I had, which is an investment banking firm. And they charge $250 a seat per month. So just by customizing the 10 times the value of the application, which was really mind-boggling to me, and they were a very successful company growing fast.
Obviously, it was a very popular solution. So I’d like to switch gears, but stay with the topic because one of the things that I’m very curious about is automating processes. So obviously, we’ve been talking about systemizing, systematizing companies by defining the processes and ingraining it and simplifying, optimizing. But the ultimate step is when you automate it and you make it completely touchless. So in your experience, Natasha, what are the success factors for successfully automating workflows?
The success factors are, you need to make sure that you have the ability to capture all the information that you need and not leave anything unturned. Because what will happen is if you have 90% of the information that’s needed, then the cost of having to fill in the blanks of that extra 10% kind of negate the whole system. So making sure that you have all the details and you can make sure that, you know, if one detail isn’t really pertinent to the event, then it doesn’t have a required, right? If you do that, then you’re gonna ruin everything.
Because some people don’t know that they can write not applicable, or, you know, this doesn’t apply to me or whatever and then they’re stuck and then they don’t submit You know their their data So that’s one thing and then really thinking about the cadence the timing of the automations When do they really need to go out? What is the best? So for us I Just use the 10 days for the client right because a lot of events, unfortunately, like to change details right up to the last moment.
We tell our clients no changes whatsoever two weeks before the event, because we can ensure a really good experience that way. If you’re gonna make changes after that, then excellence is not guaranteed. So 10 days before the event is a safe spot, right? Cause we know you’re probably going to make changes, but we know also that you’ve got to have 99% of your event done by 10 days. So if we gave you 14 days or even more days, there’s more wiggle room for you to change your mind.
And that’s more. Complexity. Right, complexity and potential for losing data or too many troubles. Now again, on the flip side, the vendors get the data four days before the event. And we had thought, let’s just give it to them the day before so they don’t lose it. Well, the day before isn’t enough time for them to see the details and say, oh gosh, I don’t have that generator. Or, oh goodness, they hired a string trio, but they actually, now they’re saying it’s a quartet. They didn’t, you know, maybe we made a mistake or maybe the client changed their mind and we didn’t tell them.
So this gives them bandwidth to solve for whatever challenges may be there. And then on the day of the event, we still need to touch base with these people. But nobody from my team has to pick up the phone or type an email or send a text. They get an automated SMS text. Right, so we did have that four days before for the vendor, we had it a little closer to the event and we moved it back. So when you’re asking what you would need to do for full proof, for full proofing your system is really think about when things need to drop.
That’s very good. And basically, what I’m hearing is that it’s all about planning and thinking through all the steps in advance and basically engineering the whole process so that everything drops at the ideal moment and all the scripts are complete, all the data is captured, everything is flawless, and then you just press the button and it executes itself.
So this is great for my business, right? And it is great for our client, but imagine you as a client, a corporate client, that’s going to do 10 events with us in a year. They know from their experience when to expect something, and then there’s comfort in that. They know that it’s going to happen, and if they see it one, two, three, four times, then they know for sure, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. So that gives them peace of mind, and what does that do? That strengthens the relationship between us and them. It’s that sticky secret sauce that you can’t, it’s like irrational loyalty, although it’s not that irrational.
A couple of big events and it is the most stressful and thankless task to organize an event because if it’s perfect, no one notices it.
Anything goes wrong, then you know, everyone is-
All fingers are pointing at you.
Then they totally agree with you. So kudos for you to figure that out. Now, the other aspect of this process that I’m fascinated with is the delegation piece. So you must be a really good delegator. It must be a superpower for you. So how did you discover this superpower? And what is your brand of delegation? So how do you do it?
I did not discover it. I learned how to do it. It wasn’t a natural trait. And I really did believe that I neededto be talking to every client, that I needed to look at every single thing. And that was just actually immaturity, right? I grew into my delegation. And the funny thing is, is I wouldn’t have said back in the day that I was a delegator, but I was asked by Inc Magazine to take a strengths finder test because they wanted to survey the Inc 5,000 list of fastest growing companies and see what made them tick.
And what happened was that I rated highest on delegation at that time. Now had I taken that StrengthsFinder test 10 years ago, I would not have even ticked the box on delegation, right? And thankfully I took that. By the way, here’s a message. If any major media publication sends you a survey or asks you a question, answer it. Because I was then published in the magazine with an article. And if I didn’t take that test and I just clicked Delete on the survey, maybe I wouldn’t have known that my high quality is delegation.
As I started to delegate, let things go to an employee, and saw the success that that person had, you know, it gave me confidence and it gave me freedom. So why wouldn’t I continue? And I’ll tell you, this is sort of a rhetorical question. I think the people that don’t delegate might have an ego that’s too attached to the outcomes and they want all of the adulation. That could be one reason. They could be so, they might be perfectionist and they really believe if they don’t do it, it won’t be as good.
And nobody needs perfection. Nobody really wants it. And everyone describes perfection differently. Your idea of perfection and mine are going to be different. So going for that is ridiculous. And I just think I learned that my life was so much better and my company couldn’t scale and grow without delegation, that I ended up giving it all away. I now, today, work 20% on my business, not in it day to day. I’m not talking to clients. I’m not responding to RFPs. I’m not doing all of our marketing or hiring. I’ve really, I’m an expert delegator.
I think that’s probably the most important, it’s one of the most important skills as an entrepreneur to be able to delegate, otherwise you won’t be able to grow the business, you won’t be able to up-level yourself. So that’s super important. If you don’t delegate, then you just have a job. And that’s fine if that’s what you want. If you don’t wanna scale and grow, if you wanna stay flat and you’re happy there, there’s nothing wrong with that in my opinion.
No, it’s a personal choice. I like to tell my clients that if you want to grow this company, then for this leadership team, that I work for the leadership team, this leadership team has to become, you want to grow a company from 10 million to 50 million, guess what? You as a leadership team, each of you has to be five times more impactful in order to do that. And you can only do that by delegating.
And I think what is difficult about delegating is that it’s very, it’s stepping out of the comfort zone by doing something you’re not good at and letting go of something that the other person is not good at yet. So you have to balance these two risk factors which, which can be unnerving to people ask you about is this whole being a musician or having been a musician, how did that impact your entrepreneurship? Do you find that because of your having been a musician you are a better entrepreneur or it’s more of a neutral?
I think I’m a better entrepreneur because as a musician you have to book yourself, you have to practice, nobody’s going to tell you to practice, you have to put together a band, you have to do the arrangements. It’s logistics, right? And then you have to promote. If you get a gig, that’s wonderful, but you’ll never get another one if no one comes. So now you’re learning branding, marketing, publicity, media relations. That’s pretty amazing, right? It’s an incredible education leading up to.
And I would say any musician is probably an entrepreneur, whether they would call themselves that or not. Now, some musicians know that their creative side is really the dominant side, and they couldn’t figure out logistics or branding if their life depended on it. And if they’re good enough and they have good relationships, then they find management and agents, right, that take that piece away from them and also make a piece of, you know, the revenue.
Yeah. So do you see many musicians who become entrepreneurs? I mean, is this a grooming ground for entrepreneurs being musicians? You see this with athletes. Successful athletes also become entrepreneurs.
But I don’t know if that’s the case in performing arts.
I don’t know many professional musicians that have broken away from performing as their life career into another business. I do know a lot of entrepreneurs that have musical abilities and that have been musicians in various times in their life, but they’ve dropped that part and moved into their business. They may still be playing. They may still perform professionally upon occasion, but it’s really hard to do both at the same time.
Yeah, and when you’re an artist, then maybe the whole idea of organizing a business and holding people accountable and managing it, it’s not as attractive to you. And maybe it’s less likely to have both skills. So let’s talk about your book, Relentless, Homeless Team to Achieving the Entrepreneur Dream. a relentless, homeless team to achieving the entrepreneur dream. Tell me about your book. How did that come about, and what is the message? What is the most important message in this book?
It came about four years ago when I was at a conference with eight- and nine-figure entrepreneurs. We’re all there to mentor each other, to learn how to scale and grow more efficiently, and spend quite a bit of money to realize that I had to write a book. But that’s what happened, and I’m very thankful for that. I also learned a lot about business. But I thought it was the right time in my life because the largest inflection points, the large and low inflection points, and some of the large high inflection points were in my past and I could reflect on them with some wisdom and space.
And I think the message in the book really is, it is not enough to be resilient. Resiliency is going from where you are, dropping down, maybe at a rock bottom, it doesn’t even have to be rock bottom, and bouncing back. That’s wonderful, that is important, but to get ahead in life and to get to your dreams and successes and goals, you have to be relentless in the pursuit of that. And so that is the overarching story of my book, because I really did come from a place where not only was I not supported by the people that should have supported me, I was beaten down, right?Resiliency is going from where you are, dropping down, maybe at a rock bottom and bouncing back. Click To Tweet
So resiliency wouldn’t have been very good for me, wouldn’t have made much of a difference because bouncing to a not healthy place isn’t going to get you anywhere. I had to be relentless. And the book really is the story of my life. You could call it a business memoir. If you are interested in business or entrepreneurship, you certainly could. But I find that other people that aren’t in business are still appreciating the message. And really, when you listen to the book on Audible or you read it, depending on where you are on your life path, I hope to impact you in some way.
So some people might be impacted a little bit. They might get a little nudge of, you know, inspiration. Or if you’re in a situation that’s negative or hard or you just aren’t getting to where you want to go, you read this book and you’re like, oh my goodness, if she can do what she did, I can definitely do this thing that I don’t think I have access to.Success is not enough to be resilient; to achieve your goals, you must be relentless, with an internal drive, focus, and a commitment to overcome distractions. Click To Tweet
So, what is this ingredient that makes a person relentless as opposed to just resilient? I think resilience is a big, it’s a really big trait and it’s a big skill, but what is the extra ingredient from going from resilient to relentless and what is the mindset of relentlessness?
It’s a drive. It’s an internal drive. I don’t think you can be relentless unless you have that internal drive. And it is being diligent. It’s being disciplined. It’s having laser focus and letting the other things that might take you away from that fall to the wayside. It could be social things. It could be physical things. It could be things that just keep you from going to where you want to go. Now, people have families, they’re in relationships, they have extracurricular activities. Some people might be working at a business and trying to become an entrepreneur. Those are some of those outside things that can get in the way.I don't think you can be relentless unless you have that internal drive. And it is being diligent. It's being disciplined. It's having laser focus and letting the other things that might take you away from that fall to the wayside. Click To Tweet
Now, you can’t really shun your family, right? But you can carve out time where you say, I’m not, I am not available. Unless the house is burning down, or, you know, something is catastrophic. For these two hours, I’m not reachable. And for those two hours, for instance, it could be longer, it could be shorter, you’re going to focus on what you need to do to get to the next level and not be checking Instagram and not be answering texts and not be, you know, spending your mind thinking about that vacation that you’re going to go, right? You don’t want to interfere with this groove that you’ve gotten yourself into. And that’s how I found success.
So it’s basically being very focused on your vision and you’re having the drive to deliver on that vision and use this to essentially alleviate the distractions and stay.
You’ve got to ignore and alleviate distractions because that’s really the thing that, you know, you can get in your own way and you can also let other things get in your way.You've got to ignore and alleviate distractions because that's really the thing that, you know, you can get in your own way and you can also let other things get in your way. Click To Tweet
Well, that’s a great message. So if listeners would like to learn more about you, about your book, about your work, where should they go? Where can they find you?
Sure. Officialnatashamiller.com is my website. You can find the book from that website. You can also find it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. I would love for you to listen to it on Audible. There’s music woven throughout the narration, which is actually a different experience. And I think it heightens the text and the message. And then if you’re interested in entire productions, it’s simply entireproductions.com.
That’s awesome. Is there a way to learn about your project management system? Do you have any white papers or?
I don’t yet.
Have you written about it in your book at all?
I do talk about it quite a bit in the book, but there’s no white paper. And there’s right now we’re using it internally. We’re being very greedy and not sharing it with the world. But at some point we will do that. Awesome.
Well, Natasha Miller, the founder and chief experience designer of Entire Productions, a three-times Inc. 5000 company, thank you for coming on the show. And to you listeners, if you enjoyed this episode, please don’t forget to rate and review us. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and stay tuned because next week I’ll have another exciting entrepreneur coming on the show. Thank you.