The seed and the compass: Remembering Rick Lester
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The seed and the compass: Remembering Rick Lester

Jill Robinson | July 18, 2016 12:15 PM

We think of legacy as something finite—the thing, within measure and boundary, that someone leaves behind.

Sometimes it is—a building, a cherished heirloom, a constellation of memories.

And sometimes, among the things that are left behind is a seed, small but powerful.

In the case of our founder and friend Rick Lester, his legacy feels less finite, more expansive. It’s impossible to believe that this month marks three years since he passed unexpectedly while riding the Courage Classic in to support Denver’s Children’s Hospital in the mountains of Colorado. Yet, he started a company that continues to innovate and grow beyond what he’d built. And he’s left more than an office and group of inspired, intellectually curious people.

He also left us a seed.

Rick believed that teaching and passing on knowledge is critically important for our field. It’s evident in his role as distinguished visiting professor at Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts. Here he brought his passion, sense of humor and data-driven discipline to the students in the arts management masters program through his Audience Development & Marketing in the Arts course.

Rick also felt that continued investment in our learning at TRG is critical. In 2007 he created and led what we then called TRG U, a formal internal training program that inspires our approach to this day.

He envisioned more, though. The seed he left us has sprouted this year, when TRG launched its Center for Results (CFR), a destination and set of professional development initiatives.  Case studies, webinars, classes at the Center for Results, TRG consulting… Rick’s belief in the importance of learning is at the center of all of it.

That’s why he’s literally at the center of the Center. Part of the design, right in the literal center of the floorplan, is our Rick tribute wall. It’s a daily reminder that Rick created a company, but also gave us a compass. His ideas, his intentions for our business still ground us. We see them every time we toast a milestone, as we plan our future, as we celebrate our past.

The Rick Lester tribute wall at the TRG Center for Results

I can see Rick’s vision so clearly as our first intensives and workshops prepare to launch:  

·        This week, 12 executive leaders will join our CFR faculty for our two-day Executive Summit designed to get CEO’s talking about leading toward sustainable revenue growth.

·        In August, 16 marketing and development department heads will attend a two-day boot camp to build integrated revenue management capacity in their organizations. Both the Executive Summit and the boot camp are sold out, but you can register for upcoming repeat sessions by clicking on the links above.

·        We’re also tickled that Ben Cameron is joining me to launch our first three-part on-line workshop series, Data-driven artistic planning, that examines the relationship between artistic programming and patron loyalty. Registration is still open, but space is limited.

I believe that Rick would have loved these initiatives, and he would have loved teaching participants, and us, in the process. While that is not to be, he is our compass and his ideas our seeds, reminding us that passing it on is part of our ethos at TRG.


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Case Study: Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma

Annual operating budget up 32% in 5 seasons

Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma 
 Photo: Joseph Mills

After a poor year for earned revenue in 2012, Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma (LTO) had rebounded and was experiencing a growth spurt. In 2013, Director of Marketing Danyel Siler had turned her attention to single tickets.

Her hard work had paid off, but season tickets were still a challenge. “Season tickets were steadily declining,” she said. “The season ticket campaign had been done the same way for years, maybe even decades. And we blamed the fall on the trend that subs were declining everywhere. Our executive director, artistic director, and I all knew something needed to change, but we didn’t know what.”

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