As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Charles Eide.
Charles Eide is the founder and CEO of EideCom, a full-service production agency based in Minneapolis, MN. Charles is a visionary, leading a talented team of professionals who create large-scale event experiences all over the world. Entrepreneur, thought leader, and innovator, Charles is an industry expert dedicated to growth and community.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I began my career in the production industry at a young age, when I first borrowed my father’s home-audio equipment for a school dance. I really started getting into the work when I worked as an apprentice with Howard Spector of Ashley Events, and pursued my passion, growing my knowledge of audio/visual technology for large-scale events. Then in 2003, I partnered with my childhood friend Mike, to create EideCom. We started with the vision of impacting others through events, and it’s humbling to see how much it has grown and now be an internationally known leader in the events world.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I don’t have a ‘funniest mistake’ per se. I did learn a LOT when Mike and I first started out. We tried to find a way to do it all. The biggest lesson I took away from our early years is that you can’t be good at everything. You can try to understand everything, but this pride will only hold the business back. If you empower others to be experts and take ownership, it creates a better business and environment.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Mike Danielson, my business partner and one of my closest childhood friends. He’s a middle child, so he really is a peacemaker. When we first started out and were working for St.Thomas, he was just willing to help and follow and do the work that needed to be done. He’s someone who bought into the dream and the idea along the way, and he still does today.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
Our purpose was to help GOOD causes create live experiences that moved people. To this day we want to see good causes on our stages, people who are doing good things. We constantly go back to; how is this helping the world? The vision has always been to lift people up and create community. We have a responsibility when we literally put people on stages with mics, spotlights, and an audience. We need to be a light.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
To be a leader during difficult times, you must lead with confidence. The past year was one of the most challenging for the production and events industry, but you need to be able to tell your team it’s going to be okay and be strong enough to lead them through it. This really means that you need to be self-aware. Knowing how to communicate and be present with your team goes a long way to building trust and confidence.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
It’s human to question giving up and feeling challenged and frustrated. But the thing that keeps me going is our team. When I see us get energy and happiness from turning our work into something, that fuels me. You’re borderline nuts if you don’t question what you’re doing, but you can’t be a visionary without being optimistic. You must be optimistic. Looking back at the accomplishments we’ve had, the brands that have trusted us, the things we have achieved as a group, that’s what motivates me to keep doing great work.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
The most critical role of a leader is to simultaneously keep your team focused on the activities that produce results, and the core values that are the company’s forefront. If you can help your team balance these initiatives, it keeps the wheels moving and everyone on the same page -it gives your team drive and purpose which is a huge part of being a leader.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
I have found that the number one morale booster is checking in with everyone and making sure they are focused and bought into the core values. Our core values are: Positive, Creative, Effective, Team Player, and when morale is low, these missions help to inspire and keep pushing us forward. Of course, we also love to spend time outside of our normal work routines. We’ve implemented a weekly Taco Tuesdays, where we order lunch and all eat together. It’s activities like this that build trust, rapport and respect for each other.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
Transparency, honesty, and a plan. You must make sure you provide a strategy to reassure them this doesn’t happen again. After these steps, it’s all about prevention and staying vigilant. As a CEO, I can’t let things pass me by. You must be detail-orientated, especially in this job where equipment is dangerous, expensive, and impacts a lot of people.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
You must find common truths that are unchanging. You must find something that doesn’t change and then rest on that. For our business, I know humans will always want to get together, and that’s what we do. We facilitate meaningful experiences and help big companies bring people together to connect and share moments. People need community, and that’s what we do.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
The number one principle you can use to guide your company through tough times is a strong vision. Many companies fail because they don’t have a strong vision or leader to carry them through tough times. If you stick to your business’s core values and mission, it will help your team rally around a cause and set of principles. This is at the foundation of a strong business and it’s how you can achieve anything great.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
- They give up and quit on their vision and goals
- They retract. During hard times lean in, don’t lean back. I was previously a firefighter. You’re taught to run into the fire and if you need to save someone, you’re prepared to run into the fear and face it.
- Not taking care of their people and not sticking up for values. When I work, I want to be like a Momma Bear. How can I take care of my people and build a business of opportunities?
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
Focus on new top-line sales. As a visionary, top-line sales have a greater effect on the business than cutting expenses. Cutting expenses, there’s a floor, you can only cut so much. But there’s no ceiling on top-line revenue. And, of course, being different from your competitors. If you provide something unique, and people know about it, they will seek you out.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Commitment to your mission
- Innovative mindset
- Love for your team
- Willingness to be wrong
Commitment to your mission
I’ve always believed that a mission will transcend individual desire. We all face individual frustrations every day that have the potential to make us question what we are doing. I truly believe companies fall when there is no shared mission. At EideCom and Second Stage, we believe that being together and connecting is the essence of the human spirit.
Without looking through a positive lens, the world can seem dark. Being positive is a core value that allows us to be successful at everything we do. By approaching every situation with a solutions-oriented mindset, it solves problems and creates value. I try to spend a good portion of my working life acting like a cheerleader for my talented team, showing them that even during tough times I can remain positive, and so can they.
An innovative mindset
Change is unavoidable. Just because we’ve done things one way, doesn’t mean they can’t be done a different way. The platform we created, Second Stage, it’s all about gathering people and connecting people across the globe. Building technology had to happen in our industry to continue moving forward. Without being open to the idea of new innovations, accomplishing our mission would be impossible as the world changes. Second Stage is the perfect example of this.
Love for your team
I have learned that if we serve each other, our customers will get a better experience. As a leader, nothing is more important than loving and caring for the very people that make the mission possible. Creating a culture of transparency creates trust, and this is the foundation of a healthy organization. Pat Lencioni says this and we follow his lead in all aspects of healthy organization building.
Willingness to be wrong
Leaders aren’t perfect. We are just people. You make mistakes all the time just like any other person. I believe many leaders look at being wrong as being weak. It’s not true. With accepting new truths, comes pain and embarrassment at times, but it builds respect and trust. Nobody likes being wrong. My friend, keynote speaker and mentor Keith Mercurio taught me that being wrong isn’t bad. Denying reality is bad. Therefore, I also hire and surround myself with people who are smarter than me. You must be willing to grow, learn and fail in order to get better.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Anything you can imagine is real’’ — Pablo Picasso. I love this quote because that’s what EideCom does every day. This captures everything that I am and that I hope to do with our team. I spend so much time during my day thinking of things that don’t even exist yet.
How can our readers further follow your work?
Eidecom.com, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, secondstage.events