Robert J. Smith, BBA, MBA, MFA, Ph.D., is a business consultant and founder of Robert J. Smith Productions and Smith Profits.
Orson Welles was a hyphenate. In other words, Mr. Welles routinely performed more than one job function at a time. For example, in what many consider to be the greatest film of all time, Citizen Kane, Mr. Welles served as writer-director-producer-actor. Although there has been much debate over whether the bulk of the script was written by Herman J. Mankiewicz, you get the point of the hyphens.
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,” Mr. Welles once said. “My name is Orson Welles. I am an actor. I am a writer. I am a producer. I am a director. I am a magician. I appear on stage and on the radio. Why are there so many of me and so few of you?”
Having made scores of films as a writer, director, producer and actor myself, I can honestly say there are two differences between one of my heroes and fellow hyphenates, Mr. Welles and myself. Those two things are both fame and fortune.
So, what does this have to do with business? A lot. For one thing, Mr. Welles made a very handsome living as a hyphenate while he put many people to work. How about you? Have you ever considered yourself as one of us, even unknowingly? Have you ever referred to yourself as “chief cook and bottlewasher?” If you have, then you, my friend, are also a hyphenate.
There are more of us than one might think for the simple reason: As the saying goes, a business owner must wear many hats. At any given time, an owner works as a manager, an accountant, a sales trainer, a customer service representative and at a host of other jobs.
While there are times a business owner must step into various roles, the company benefits most when its leader spends as much time as possible in productive activities. Of course, writing, directing, producing and acting are just as essential in business as they are in the film industry.
Show business is like any other business.
Welles on writing: “I know that, in theory, the word is secondary in cinema, but the secret of my work is that everything is based on the word. I always begin with the dialogue.”
The success of all businesses largely depends on the written word. Written business plans, marketing plans, mission statements and sales scripts are essential to the success of any business.
Welles on directing: “My kind of director is an actor-director who writes.”
A director fully immersed in all major aspects of production is optimal. The bottom line is that leadership is crucial to any business. From the creation of the company’s vision to seeing that all directives are carried out, one person and only one person must take ultimate responsibility.
Welles on production: “I look back on my life and it’s 95 percent running around trying to raise money to make movies and five percent actually making them.”
The work necessary to capitalize on one’s company might not provide the same intrinsic rewards as the production of one’s product or service. Nevertheless, capitalization is necessary. Once that necessity has been accomplished, sales and other teams must produce at optimal efficiency.
Welles on acting: President Franklin D. Roosevelt once told Welles, “You and I are the two best actors in America.”
Business owners become actors every time they give a speech, every time they attempt to persuade and, quite literally, every time they are featured in a television commercial for their business. A perfect example is one of America’s most prolific pitchmen for his own business, attorney John Morgan, founder of Morgan and Morgan. The chairman of the largest personal injury law firm in the United States is also featured in my upcoming book about becoming No. 1.
Actor Joseph Cotten said, “Orson Welles lists Citizen Kane as his best film, Alfred Hitchcock opts for Shadow of a Doubt, and Sir Carol Reed chose The Third Man – and I’m in all of them.”
I know how that great actor felt when he made that statement. While it might not be modest, it is rewarding to know that you’ve contributed to the great works of modern masters at great companies. For Cotten, it was with Welles at RKO, Hitchcock at Universal Pictures and Reed (also again with Welles) at StudioCanal (France).
For me, it was reaching No. 1 in production out of thousands of agents with Mutual of New York/AXA, setting records at John Hancock and being part of a great New York Life team that was recognized for 50 consecutive years of leadership in the Million Dollar Round Table. While it’s no star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, it is an honor to have my name on a plaque in the lobby of the New York Life Building on Madison Avenue with all of the others who contributed to reaching that milestone.
What is your masterpiece?
Many consider one of my less commercially successful comic books to be my masterpiece. The reason is that I’ve used that specific work to volunteer to teach elementary school students the art of writing for years. Although I’ve had more commercially successful works to date, one cannot put a price on teaching America’s youth an indispensable skill. Either way, I’m not satisfied as of yet. I’ll reproduce each of those works in other forms of media. I’ll keep creating other works as well.
How about you? Is your current business your masterpiece? Is a former business your best work? Was your masterpiece something else that you created? Is it something new that you are working on now?
Take an inventory of the roles that you play in your business. Are you a copywriter-sales producer-marketing director-television commercial actor? If your inventory looks anything like this, you are also a hyphenate.
Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?
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