Women in Business Q&A: Alana, Juliette and Nicole Feld, Feld Entertainment

Women in Business Q&A: Alana, Juliette and Nicole Feld, Feld Entertainment
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As Executive Vice President and Producer for Feld Entertainment, Alana Feld plays an integral role in the day-to-day management of the company. Alana is also responsible for producing shows under the company's Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® and Disney Live! brands. In this role, she oversees all the creative and production elements of each new show to ensure all aspects meet Feld Entertainment's high standards for quality family entertainment.

As Executive Vice President and Producer, Juliette Feld has dedicated her tenure to keeping the company focused on its core mission of providing unforgettable entertainment experiences for families around the world.

Nicole Feld is Executive Vice President and Producer of Feld Entertainment, Inc., the world's leading producer of live family entertainment. In this role she has personally produced more than 30 innovative shows for the company, including Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey and Disney On Ice, including the most anticipated show of the year, Disney on Ice presents Frozen, as well as all oversees elements of production - from inception to final executions.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
JULIETTE: My sisters and I grew up around our family business, Feld Entertainment. We spent our summer vacation at Disney On Ice rehearsals and December break at Ringling Bros. Winter Quarters. We were lucky to be exposed to the business from an early age and as we represented the demographic, my Dad always asked for our input on the productions. Growing up with this unique childhood brought the 3 of us closer as it wasn't the type of experience you could easily relate to school friends. Whether or not we realized it, we were in training as producers from a young age, watching rehearsals, participating in discussions and helping imagine the possibilities for new productions.

ALANA: Ever since I was young, I can remember my father stressing the importance of thinking for myself and being decisive. On group projects in college and in my early work career, I always found myself taking the lead. Because I had a point of view and was not afraid to make decisions, I would end up running the project.

NICOLE: I learned a lot about leadership since I starting producing shows for the company. Much of my job as a producer is getting a team to work together and guiding them towards a shared vision. Learning to get the most out of people, to create a collaborative environment and to say no without discouragement have made me a better leader.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Feld Entertainment?
ALANA: I worked in marketing research before joining Feld Entertainment. I learned a lot about understanding the consumer and figuring out how and what appeals to them. That way of thinking, of knowing your consumer and figuring out how to reach them is key to what we do.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Feld Entertainment?
JULIETTE: This summer, after nearly 2 years in production and development, we opened Marvel Universe LIVE! This was the first ever live arena tour for Marvel and our largest production ever. We dove into this project learning about Marvel characters and lore, testing new technology and innovating with never before seen stunts. The expectations internally and externally were immense because we were bringing these super heroes and villains to life for the first time without the benefit of movie special effects. Everything we do is live and has to be safe, cost effective and dependable enough to be repeated 8 to 10 times a week. That's a tall order when creating life car chases, record setting motorcycle stunts and free falls from 26 feet. We worked tirelessly to take these fantastical concepts and bring them to reality.

Leading the team was a tremendous learning experience for me because I needed to understand when to push for more and when we were beyond what we could accomplish. The team was remarkable in keeping morale and enthusiasm up for the 2 year production cycle (twice our traditional time!) and 3 month rehearsal process under stressful circumstances and long hours. We work hard for opening nights and seeing the audience reaction for the first time always validates the effort that goes into our productions.

ALANA: In the eleven years, I've been with the company so much has happened and changed. Here are a few of our biggest achievements: The acquisition of a motor sports company in 2008, creating Feld Motor Sports, which includes Monster Jam, Monster Energy Supercross and Amsoil Arenacross, among other freestyle motocross events. This grew our live family entertainment portfolio tremendously and has created new and exciting opportunities for us to reach more families.

The creation of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation. In 1995, my father, Kenneth Feld, established the Center for Elephant Conservation in order to help sustain the endangered Asian elephant. This facility focuses on the reproduction, retirement and research of Asian elephants and we are proud to currently care for the largest sustainable herd of Asian elephants outside of Southeast Asia. 26 baby elephants have been born the center was founded.

Our company's latest production and biggest to date - Marvel Universe Live, which launched this past summer. This incredible show features the largest gathering of Marvel superheroes and villains in an original storyline. This show has changed what is possible in live entertainment by having performers doing movie-style stunts before fans' eyes.

NICOLE: The biggest challenge is breaking through the clutter to appeal to families. Today there are so many entertainment options from other shows, movies to video games and sports. We challenge ourselves with each new show to be different and push the boundaries of possibility in order to offer families the best in live entertainment.

What advice can you offer women who are seeking to work in their own family business?
JULIETTE: Our Dad created a policy that each of us was required to work outside the business before joining the company. It allowed us to pursue our own interests without feeling the pressure of coming into the business and also helped us establish ourselves independently. When I did join the business, it was clear that I'd made that decision even though I was capable of having an outside career and I had valuable experience to bring.

NICOLE: I'd encourage anyone joining their business to act with humility within the company. Even if you grew up around the company, there is so much to learn and the view from within is a lot different. Other associates have years of experience from which you can learn and grow.

ALANA: First, take time to think about the decision. It is not just switching jobs, it becomes a way of life when you work for your own company or your family's company so you have to be sure you are ready for that. It also helps to lay down some ground rules with your family in terms of how you will communicate about work matters to family decision making. Some families even make it a point not to discuss business at family events in order to maintain healthy personal relationships.

Second, be sure to find a role within the company that really suits your past job experiences, education and interests. It is not always easy joining a family business and you want to be sure you are really contributing new ideas and an expertise from the start.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
JULIETTE: With a new baby, work/life balance is an ever increasing issue for me. I don't believe you can have it all at the same time, every day. I love traveling to see our productions and meet with our associates. To balance that, when I'm at home, I set boundaries by not working in my bedroom and stopping work after dinner unless something urgent arises. My husband and I both work at home, so we are fortunate to eat lunch together often and catch up during the day.

NICOLE: The great thing about being in a family business and this type of business will be getting to bring my daughter to our events, showing her what we are creating and eliciting her very important feedback on our new productions. My sisters and I grew up surrounded by the business, spending weeks at rehearsals, performing as clowns at Ringling Bros. and sharing our input as the key demographic. I'd like my daughter to be a part of that as well.

ALANA: Being a new mom, finding my work/life balance just got a whole lot harder. I try to prioritize my time better to get more out of the day so I can spend the time I need to at work and still find time to be with my husband and daughter. I also make an effort to put a hard stop on work in the early evening so I can spend time with my daughter and put her to sleep each night. The great thing though about my company is that our productions are for families, so my husband and daughter can come to work with me quite often!

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
ALANA: Thinking there is an issue. I'm not saying gender issues don't exist in the workplace, but making assumptions or looking for issues will just distract from doing your job well. I believe if you are smart, willing to learn and work hard, you can be successful. Entering the workplace worried about an issue that may or may not arise will hold you back. I've been lucky I guess that my gender has never impacted my career, but I also never paid much attention to it and have always tried to stay focused on my responsibilities and growing the business.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
JULIETTE: My father is definitely my biggest mentor and growing up around the family business my professional education started way before I ever realized. I think that really benefited me I started with the company, the institutional knowledge from watching my father work since I was a young child.

ALANA: In addition to my father, Mike Shannon, the President and COO of our company, has been a wonderful mentor. Mike joined Feld Entertainment about 8 years ago with a long and impressive background in a multitude of businesses. I've been able to learn from him tremendously, especially in areas like leadership, organization, negotiation and more. Mike is a great resource and sounding board and having the ability to learn from someone with experience outside our business has been extremely helpful.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
JULIETTE: I admire Ivanka Trump for her ability to grow within her own family business while establishing herself independently. She also speaks out about balancing work and family which is a big priority for me. While I have not met her, I follow her on social media and in the news and am impressed with how approachable and relatable she appears.

ALANA: One woman I admire is Ivanka Trump. She not only has found a way to standout in her family business and start her own, but she seems to manage her work and family life extremely well and that is impressive for a working mother running her own company.

What do you want Feld Entertainment to accomplish in the future?
ALANA: Recently, we moved our company headquarters to central Florida to a 600,000 square foot facility we call Feld Entertainment Studios. For the first time in our company's history we are able to run the business side as well as the production and operations side in one location. This has opened up so many more possibilities for the company like research and development on new products, equipment and machinery, more production on-site with our state-of-the-art scenic, costume, electrical and engineering shops and the ability to rehearse multiple shows at once.

NICOLE: Feld Entertainment can take advantage of more opportunities now and it is an exciting time for the company.

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