SOTM – AgileImprov: From Theatre to Forming Their Own Training Company
Editor note: This post is part of our business owner of the month series, where Incfile highlights a different business owner from a variety of different industries. These owners will share their insight to inspire other entrepreneurs. To make your own entrepreneurial journey successful, consider getting your LLC with Incfile.
Rachel Ben Hamou is a facilitator, coach, and improviser with a background in Agile Product Management. She uses applied improv methods to super-charge organizations like Riot Games, who want to harness the deep and enduring value of play.
As a facilitator, Rachel turns dull meetings into action-focused conversations that drive change. Each brand’s detailed training covers topics such as building collaborative high-performing teams, leadership development, communication and public speaking, emotional intelligence, creating and developing trust, advanced creativity and storytelling. If you’re looking for a fun and entertaining way to change your work environment and help build a cohesive team through play, AgileImprov is the solution.
1. What made you decide to start your business? What need did you see it fulfilling?
RBH: In my early 20s, I took improv theater training and studied a post-grad in coaching. During my improv training, I realized it was really allowing me to flex muscles I had long forgotten about. I was able to think better on the fly, solve problems more creatively, approach relationships and communication with more positivity and handle conflict and negotiation with much better outcomes. I started my business when I realized that many adults have lost the connection with the part of their brain that allows them to play and be creative. I was already doing a lot of facilitation and training work, so incorporating improv principles and methods into that work was a natural progression.
The need I fulfill as a facilitator is to help groups of any size have effective, efficient, and enjoyable conversations and meetings. When I offer training to individuals or groups, the need is usually around improving communication and collaboration in a fun way that works.
2. What has been the hardest challenge as a business owner and how did you handle it?
RBH: The hardest challenge as a business owner is getting your head around the fact that a lot of your time will not be spent doing the work you love (for me, that’s the facilitation and training). Because of the need to generate that work for yourself, a good chunk of energy is devoted to networking, marketing, research and so on. I didn’t handle it well at first, and I tried to ignore it. I wanted more than just word of mouth referrals, and I wanted a more diverse client base — so I began to see it as a creative challenge and approach it using my improv mindset.
3. As a business that rides the line between theater and corporate, how do you ensure these two spheres work together to create something great?
RBH: Business is really about the people: It’s people having ideas, collaborating, creating, selling (to other people) and growing together. Without people, business doesn’t exist. Because of this, it’s actually very easy to bring these two worlds together. Theater and improv are about communication, collaboration, and storytelling — all of these are essential parts of everyone’s day-to-day lives.
Businesses tell stories all the time. Take a moment to think of any brand. You can probably personify it, give it characteristics and hopefully (if it’s a good brand) understand its story.
Sometimes I meet people with a very narrow understanding of improv. They think it’s stand-up comedy or just fooling around, but anyone who experiences the training will say it’s deeper than that — particularly the branch of improv that AgileImprov uses. It’s called Applied Improv, so it’s much more focused on the ways you can apply it to business and life vs. the stage. It connects with us on this very basic level. As humans, we learn about the world through play, but as we get older we forget that. My job is to remind people that play is a powerful tool to leverage (not to mention a very nourishing experience for the soul!).
4. What was your biggest learning curve when it came to the financial side of your business (e.g., estimated taxes, expenses, etc.)?
RBH: Figuring out what kind of expenses are eligible for tax deductions was a lot of info to learn and remember. Another aspect was understanding common terms and conditions for payment (when to ask for a deposit, how long to give the client to make payment, etc.).
5. What advice would you give to new business owners?
RBH: A very practical piece of advice would be to think about how you will manage data. In this age of digital overload, it’s easy to get into a muddle. Think about the types of data flowing in and out of your business: client info, ideas you have, presentations, invoices, business licenses, accounting, images for social media, etc. You need a way to organize it that doesn’t cost you too much time and energy. Some tools I use are Evernote and Dropbox on desktop and mobile. Find something that works for you!
- Be present and listen
- Start anywhere and embrace uncertainty
- Make offers, be bold and fail proudly
- Yes and, be committed and express gratitude
- Empower others, be kind and cultivate generosity
If you’re looking for bespoke training packages to take your business and staff to the next level and create a healthy and motivating work environment, reach out to AgileImprov on their website, through Facebook, Instagram, or on Twitter.