If there’s one word that can be used to describe Vendini’s employees, it’s “passionate.” We’re all passionate about helping event organizers attract patrons and build successful businesses — but we’re also passionate about the arts. In fact, most of us come from artistic backgrounds. And while we may have traded stage performances for high performance technology, we use those backgrounds to better understand and serve our clients.
Tyler Bennett, Vendini’s vice president of sales, is a prime example. Recently we talked to Tyler about his artistic background and how he uses it to inform his sales processes. We also spoke about the importance of a strong company culture that is steeped in the arts and the benefit of working in a place that allows him to “carve out a living while still feeling the lifeblood of the theatre.”
Tell us a little bit about your background.
All together I’ve probably been in around 75 or so musicals. I majored in musical theater performance at California State University, Chico, and did professional summer stock for a couple of years. I was doing four shows in six weeks — shows like A Chorus Line, Honk, Falsettos, and others. It was the first time I had really been paid to do theater.
But, as acting became more like a job — it lost some of the fun. I soon decided to apply my skills elsewhere. I took a job with the Gallo Sales Company, selling wine to supermarkets, and then went on to become a regional sales coordinator for Aflac. Eventually I became director of wine, beer and spirits for Mollie Stone’s Markets.
But my original passion — theatre — was calling me back. I left Mollie Stone’s to become development director at Hillbarn Theatre and Broadway By the Bay, where I first used Vendini’s software. I was finding ways to marry my people skills with my artistic side, a journey that ultimately led me to Vendini.
What are some of the lessons you learned as director at Broadway By the Bay and Hillbarn Theater?
First, producing art is hard. Not just putting on a show, but running a business that specializes in delivering art to the masses.
Fortunately, there are a lot of wonderful and generous people out there willing to support live theater. For instance, at one of our Broadway at the Bay performances I stepped on stage to deliver the pre-show speech, where I made it a point to ask for donations. In response, we received a $280,000 donation from a woman we didn’t know. Through the Vendini database, we found out she was a volunteer who gave out hearing aids. She never bought a ticket, but she heard the speech and thought she could help. That extraordinary example shows how much people are willing to step up to ensure the continued success of their local theaters and art scenes if they know how they can help
I also learned that fundraising, much like sales, is not about talking someone into doing something, but about identifying problems and providing solutions. I believe in offering helpful guidance, not tricks. That’s a mindset that drives all of us at Vendini.
What was it like to use Vendini on “the other side” — as an arts administrator? And how did that experience prepare you for life at Vendini?
It made my job a lot easier. You don’t get into theatre to run reports and analyze data, but arts administrators spend a lot of time doing just that. It can be a tedious task but was made much simpler through the Vendini software. It just helped make the nuts and bolts of the job a lot more manageable freeing up my time to do the things that could really benefit the organization.
My experience working with Vendini led me to start singing the praises of the software to others. I began to realize that Vendini could help others like me become better and more efficient at their jobs. Then, I started to think about how working at Vendini could allow me to combine my preferred professional development path with my passion for the performing arts. I realized that I could help hundreds or even thousands of arts organizations across the country instead of just one. That led me to reaching out to Vendini for a position in 2013. I’ve been here ever since.
How much did you know about Vendini as a company at the time?
Not much, really, but I had a friend who worked here. I asked her about what it was like, and she told me it had a great atmosphere. I came away believing that everyone at Vendini must love performing arts — and I was right. The people here are maddeningly passionate about helping theater owners and directors succeed. My favorite day of the week is Theatre Thursday when we listen to musicals over the company speakers all day and get to know new shows as a group!
In our space, you’re either a technology company that sells to theaters or a live events-focused organization that provides technology. We’re the latter. We’re not trying to be all things to all people. We’re really focused on supporting the events industry – not about building our brand at their expense. And that’s really cool.
Tell us a little bit more about the Vendini culture.
My team is comprised of about 30 people who believe in what they’re doing and care about the solutions they’re providing. People smell truth, and can tell if you don’t believe in the solutions you’re selling. Nobody wants to show up to work and pretend to care. We show up to work everyday, knowing that the solutions we offer to our members help make a difference, one that I experienced firsthand as a customer.
We actively recruit people with arts in their background because they love what we do and have a deep empathy for our clients’ needs. It doesn’t matter if they played the cello in high school or worked in a box office. Everyone just gets what our customers are going through.
And I can’t say enough about the atmosphere. We have a lot of fun in our office…and, as you can probably guess, it’s an eclectic group. One feeling that really stands out is our support for each other. I was in a production of Sunday in the Park with George with another Vendini employee and as a surprise the team rented a bus and came to see the show as a huge group. Supporting the arts while supporting each other is in Vendini’s DNA. It’s who we are.
Sounds pretty great. Any parting words?
Personally, I could never work for a company that I don’t believe in, I don’t want to just trade time for money. I want to be somewhere where I feel like what I am doing matters. I feel very fortunate to have found a way to carve out a living while still supporting the growth and stability of the theatre. For me, Vendini provides the best of both worlds. We’re not selling to people who are simply doing a job, we’re selling to people who are passionate about the art that they are creating. Helping them turn that passion into experiences for their patrons and the communities around them fires us up everyday!