Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It's been a weird week.

Hallmark, the 99-year-old company where I've worked except (for three years) since 1989, is suffering from the same economic realities as so many other businesses. Add to that the struggle to stay relevant when there are so many new ways to communicate—and a million other challenges specific to the greeting card industry—and here we are. After about a 10% "workforce reduction" earlier this year, we found out last week there would be up to 250 more layoffs—80-90 of them in creative.

No one is being let go because they aren't good at what they do. There just aren't enough people buying our product. Which means there's not enough work to go around.

Meetings to let people in editorial happened today. Design folks will find out tomorrow. By the end of the week, the carnage will be over—for now. Everyone is shaky. So many folks losing their jobs. So many more nervous, sad and scared. So many leaders having the worst conversations you can imagine as a manager.

In a place where people are hired in large part because of their ability to empathize, it's a special kind of awful.

Still, in the middle of everything, we're hopeful. The layoffs come with the most aggressive reorganization our company has ever experienced—one that just has to be big enough to destroy our self-imposed barriers and release our potential and creativity. Which there's plenty of.

At times like this, it's a little weird to go straight from Corporate Monolith to Tiny Company. Tantrum rehearsed tonight, two days after we held our annual business meeting and celebrated our second year as a troupe. We're a professional group, and it's work to do what we do—not just the rehearsals, but in promoting and producing shows—but the "stakes" in our success are almost non-existent.

Like in most troupes who play in other people's spaces, if you don't make a profit for long enough, you just stop doing it.

This month has been an interesting one. As most troupes are, we're working to build an audience beyond our family and friends. We've started to feel real momentum, thanks to some savvy decisions and lots of effort. But economic realities kick in for us, too. The improv festival, which raises awareness of what we do and (we hope) exposes us to more people, may have cut too wide a swath in our core audiences' wallets and over-exposed improv for a little while. The coming holidays are making people think twice about what they spend on weekends—any time and any where, really.

Which is why Tantrum has a special deal on our website. If half-price tickets make it easier for folks to get out and laugh, count us in.

My intent is not to use this blog as therapy, but I'm realizing this post probably comes off as a little melancholy. It's times like this I'm extraordinarily grateful that the thing I spend most of my free time doing feels—most of the time, anyway—a lot like recess from the real world.


  1. "My intent is not to use this blog as therapy, but I'm realizing this post probably comes off as a little melancholy."

    So what? It's your blog to do with as you see fit. Why deny yourself that catharsis? Please understand that this comment is not directed at you specifically, but IMHO, it's misleading and unhealthy to constantly pretend "It's Always Sunny In Improv-land" (or anywhere else for that matter).

  2. I don't think I've even tried to pretend it's always sunny in improv land. My purpose for this one-dimensional blog (see header) is to talk primarily about improv. I link here from my professional profile on Linked In, and anyone who googles me can see what I write about. I don't deny myself catharses—I just get them in private.

  3. I think you're missing my point, but we can discuss this in private.

  4. "It's your blog to do with as you see fit."

    Seems to me that's NOT what you're saying Pete. "Vent, spew and emote in whatever way 'helps'" seems closer to your point.

    Trish's blog isn't THAT type of blog. Or at least that's how I see it.

    If she makes a post that is non-improv heavy, she may not be holding true to her one-dimensional intent...but I'll stick with it to get to the button.

  5. Getting laid-off from Hallmark (four years ago this month, to be exact) stung. Even when one knows there are legitimate reasons for it getting laid-off still sucks. I was very fortunate to not only work for a company who gave me a great severance package, but to have been laid-off before the economy tanked. I feel for everybody, on all sides, having to go through this. It's hard to be let go, it's hard to let people go, and it's hard to see your coworkers and friends have to leave without their own choosing. I'm sending warm thoughts your way.

    On the upside, life has a crazy way of sorting everything out.


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