I’m looking at your picture with your purple top hat and cape and evil eyes and wicked goatee and mustache. That’s quite a profile photo, scared me down here.
CP Riddlesbrood: I’m not such a bad guy once you get to know me.
David Brower: Outstanding.
CP Riddlesbrood: But I had to use the evil eye on salespeople sometimes. You never know.
David Brower: Been there, done that. I totally get it. You started with your dad back at a dinner theater and then started your own touring company in 2000, right?
CP Riddlesbrood: That’s right. When I grew up, both of my parents were involved in the entertainment industry for a long time. I grew up laying on the, I guess, you’d say, bench seat of a restaurant or a bar, waiting for my mother to finish her set and head home around 2:00 in the morning. I grew up helping carry lighting equipment around, helping backstage ever since I was very young, so I definitely grew up in the industry.
David Brower: You were the youngest roadie ever to work in New Jersey.
CP Riddlesbrood: Yeah. I’m sure I’m not alone. I’m sure there’s a lot of entertainers out there that have used their kids as free labor.
David Brower: Absolutely right, but the cool thing about that, I would think, is what you learned just by hanging around with your folks in osmosis and what they may be able to have taught you at such a young age. It almost allows things to be kind of natural, doesn’t it?
CP Riddlesbrood: It most certainly does. Ever since a very young age, I spent a lot of time with a bunch of really strange, weird people that love to crack jokes and get in front of people and do anything to get attention, so that definitely, probably had an effect on me as I was growing up, but it definitely prepared me for a life in the entertainment industry. No doubt about that.
David Brower: Well, personally, you’ve been in over 5,000 shows. You’ve performed over 1,500. Let’s see. You even got some three large broadway style shows for kids and teens. Tell me about that. That’s kind of cool.
CP Riddlesbrood: Sure. Well, we have Arts on the Move program, and it operates in several different locations in New Jersey. Basically, unlike our normal dinner theater, murder mystery type of shows, these are a little bit more conventional community theater productions, where we’re getting a lot of the people in the community, a lot of parents and kids into the show, so they can have a wonderful experience and really feel like a part of the season, especially Christmas time seems to be one of our biggest times of year and we do a very large-scale Christmas carol every year. It’s always been very successful.
David Brower: How fun. How fun. It’s so great to expose young kids and teens to the arts no matter how you do it. That just sounds like a kick in the pants. That sounds like fun for you and them.
CP Riddlesbrood: It most certainly is fun, but it’s also good. It’s good for them because one of the things that people sometimes overlook about theater and performing in general is the confidence building aspects of it and public speaking.
I’ve seen very shy kids get involved, and within a few weeks or even a few productions, depending, really come out of their shell and really get confident. Those are the kind of things that we love to see because it’ll prepare them for life beyond the theater.
David Brower: Wow. What a payoff. I remember growing up as a only child and the ultimate introvert and all those things, and then for whatever reason, I decided to go onto radio, and so that brought me out of my shell and the rest is history, but the first 20, 25 years was really challenging. If I could’ve have had an opportunity to be exposed at what you do with these kids, wow, that would’ve changed my life earlier for sure.
CP Riddlesbrood: Yeah. Especially in this day and age, you really have to be a mover and shaker in order to get things done, and you really got to be able to put your back to the grindstone. The good thing about theater is you’re trained from a very early age to take the idea of a script. It’s just an idea. It doesn’t really exist, and then within about eight weeks, you rehearse it. You repeat it. You do it over and over again, and then out of nowhere, you have a whole world. You have a whole, entire fake reality that exists.
David Brower: Yeah. How cool. You relate to what you do, the entertainment, the storytelling, the entrepreneurship. There’s a lot of things that you relate to help business too, right?
CP Riddlesbrood: Yeah. Well, that kind of was thrust upon me just by being an entrepreneur. When I first started the company in 2000, I really didn’t know what the heck I was doing. I grew up in theater, so I knew a lot about how to be an actor and how to do jokes and all that kind of thing, but from the point of view of “Boy, how do I actually pick up the phone and try to get people to pay me to do a show,” that part took a little while to get used to.
17 years later, I’m happy to state that we’re strong and in control, but back then, it wasn’t so easy, and that was helped along by being an actor because if there’s one thing an actor knows how to do, it’s public speaking. It’s getting in front of people without being shy in trying to persuade them and trying to get them excited about what you’re excited about, and that’s exactly where a salesperson and probably a young entrepreneur needs to learn how to do.
David Brower: No question about it. Obviously, just listening to you, that experience has just given you such confidence and your voice and the speaking style is so engaging. It’s no wonder that people tune right into you right away, but it took you a lot of time to get there, I would think.
CP Riddlesbrood: Well, you know what, being on stage and being in shows, especially the kind of shows that we do, because most of the shows we do are in a dinner theater comedy format.
David Brower: Okay.
CP Riddlesbrood: What that means is you’re not 25 feet away on a big stage, without being very close to the audience. In our shows, they’re very interactive. You’re walking up to the tables, grabbing people’s shoulders, giving them a back rub, making fun of people’s outfits maybe.
You’re right there in the trenches, and it doesn’t take very long for you to do that before you start … You either have to become really good or you just run away. There’s not too many people in the middle, to be honest.
David Brower: That makes all the sense in the world and really, salespeople are the same way. They’re either going to figure out a way to hit a home run or they’re going to head to the dugout.
CP Riddlesbrood: If you’re going to handle a heckler, a drunk heckler, specifically, then you can handle any cold call. No doubt about it.
David Brower: Absolutely. In addition to your storytelling, your shows, your dinner theaters, your mystery theaters, all those kinds of things, do you train business people or train salespeople or have abilities to help those folks? What do you do in that arena, if anything?
CP Riddlesbrood: Well, actually, not really much, other than getting on these types of interviews, which I really enjoy doing, getting some of this information out there that I really think would be very, very useful to people that are starting their own business, especially a service business, but as far as logistically, no, we’ve not really set up anything in order to train salespeople or anything like that through theater, but that’s an interesting idea.
David Brower: Isn’t it? Yeah. It just strikes me that … I mean, in your spare time, of course. You know?
CP Riddlesbrood: Oh, certainly. If somebody calls me tomorrow after hearing this and said, “You know what, we want you guys. We want to pay you guys to do this,” we will make it happen.
David Brower: Of that, I am sure. Well, let’s talk about small entrepreneurs, service business, those kinds of things. In communities like mine, it’s, what do we got, 65,000 people. There’s two or three dinner theaters in the area. There’s lots of arts, lots of acting opportunities for kids and adults.
You would obviously know this much better than I, it would seem like exposing yourself to the arts, even a classroom environment, to help build up your speaking abilities and your confidence would be really important.
CP Riddlesbrood: Yeah. If you are starting off and you have a small business or you’re selling a service or even if you’re just a salesperson working for another company, especially maybe if you’re a real estate agent or something like that, where you’re kind of pretty much like your own business …
David Brower: Right.
CP Riddlesbrood: Those types of folks, particularly, could really help themselves by getting involved with a local community theater or even a murder mystery company or a dinner theater because within a short period of time, through repetition, they’re going to be forced to be thrown into the lion’s den.
Through that process of bubbling over there with the audience and trying to remember your lines and trying to deal with the fact that every once in a while, you’ll say a joke that might not get a laugh and you’ll feel embarrassed, you go through that process and you know what, you’re going to come out of it a lot stronger because when you go into, in my case, a restaurant, and try to explain to them how they could be benefiting from doing a special event like a murder mystery, you’re going to be a lot more confident doing that, and that’s going to work for you if you’re on the phones, hitting them every single day, calling prospects. Whatever you may be doing, that’s going to help you.
David Brower: No question. Confidence, it’s an interesting thing because it permeates from you in a personal one-on-one. It permeates through a telephone conversation or a Skype conversation like we’re doing now or a telephone conversation that a salesperson might be doing. People are going 120 miles an hour, but with that said, if they’re talking to somebody that really encourages them to get engaged, they’re going to stop what they’re doing and listen.
CP Riddlesbrood: I definitely have found that if you are the type of person that can control the inflection of your voice, the presence, the tone, all those type of things really project a psychological confidence. It’s not just in you, but also in the listener. If you’re calling somebody out of the blue and they have no idea who you are, the only information they have to judge you by is the sound coming through their phone.
David Brower: Right.
CP Riddlesbrood: You have to learn how to control that and also be a very good listener because if you don’t hear what they’re saying and you’re not really listening to them, you’re not going to know how to spin the rest of your dialogue when you’re making a sales call.
David Brower: No question. In fact, I used to train salespeople in radio back in the day, and one of the things I always told everybody was “Look, you got two ears. You got one mouth. You got to learn to use them proportionately.” You know?
CP Riddlesbrood: Oh yeah. Yeah.
David Brower: I’m sure that works in your arena too, where you’re interacting with the audiences and those kinds of things. You’re really paying close attention to how they’re interacting with you, aren’t you?
CP Riddlesbrood: Well, actually, it’s kind of funny because you actually spend a lot more time, at least, a good comedian or actor should be, spend more time analyzing the audience than you do saying your own lines.
What I mean by that is your lines, you know, they come instinctively, but what you’re doing is you’re spending the whole time looking at the front row, looking at the back row. Is there somebody in there that might look like a celebrity? Is there some joke or opportunity to engage them that I’ll find?
David Brower: Right.
CP Riddlesbrood: You’re constantly looking for opportunities to interact and participate with them directly, so that takes up a lot of your focus.
David Brower: That makes a lot of sense.
CP Riddlesbrood: Mm-hmm (affirmative). It does.
David Brower: Especially, when you catch somebody off guard like that, they might surprise themself how much fun they’re going to have, all of a sudden.
CP Riddlesbrood: Oh, sure. You know what, that’s why it’s so important even for a salesperson to get that skill because you might call up a prospect and you’re talking to them. You and your mind think that, “Oh, you know what, these guys are going to be perfect for this product or this service,” but then if you’re not paying attention, they may have given you clues that that wouldn’t work for them, but this other thing that you do would, and if you’re not paying attention, you won’t pivot and say, “You know what, you’re right. Actually, we have this other thing that would probably work great for you guys too.”
David Brower: Absolutely.
CP Riddlesbrood: You have to listen.
David Brower: Absolutely right. How about writing? How does that help you stay focused or help business people stay focused on their success?
CP Riddlesbrood: Well, I think, writing, for me, besides being therapeutic in a way, you get your thoughts out on paper, I think the biggest, most important benefit from writing is clarity of thought because a lot of entrepreneurs, they may have a great idea, but you know what, when you sit down and start trying to write out on paper what you do, you learn that you really don’t know a whole lot about what you thought you knew.
David Brower: Right.
CP Riddlesbrood: Because you can’t even get it out. The process of writing it down, especially, not even a full business plan, but just a decent little narrative about what you do, how the process is of doing your service, driving to the client, getting out of the van, getting your equipment together, whatever it may do, writing it down really makes sure that you know exactly what you’re doing and you can predict in the future how a possible booking or an event or a gig or whatever it might be, how that will go.
David Brower: Makes perfect sense. The other thing, too, I would think, if you are an entrepreneur and you find yourself having some success in bringing on a few employees, having something written down that illustrates exactly how you feel about the business, so you can easily convey that to them and make sure you’re able to get them on the same page with you would be invaluable.
CP Riddlesbrood: Yeah. How many times has it ever happened to you, where you have an idea and you’re pretty sure you know the in and out of your idea, but then when you start telling somebody else the idea, you realize that you have to make up some things on the fly.
David Brower: Right.
CP Riddlesbrood: Sometimes, at the end of that, you’re like, “Boy, I’m glad I told that person that story because now I know it even better than I did before.” You know?
David Brower: Well, that’s where the storytelling comes back in, doesn’t it?
CP Riddlesbrood: Yeah. Certainly. It’s been proven that people receive information and really internalize it a lot better when the information is conveyed through the channel of a story.
David Brower: That makes sense. Not unlike … How did we learn the alphabet? With music, right? The arts has always been, in some way, shape or form, real important to how we learn and how we communicate.
CP Riddlesbrood: Yeah. Honestly, the very same fundamentals that work when you’re trying to entertain a crowd are often the same fundamentals that you’re going to use when you’re doing a pitch or if you’re working with a client or if you’re going to a Chamber of Commerce and you’re the speaker and you’re trying to get them to give you a sponsorship or whatever the case may be.
David Brower: Right.
CP Riddlesbrood: Telling things through a story is going to be more effective than sitting there and giving them bullet points. That’s going to be boring.
David Brower: Yeah.
CP Riddlesbrood: But if you can say, “You know what, that reminds me. Three weeks ago, I had a client,” and blah-duh-da-duh-da-duh-da-duh-da. If you can put it to them in that way, they’ll be much more engaged and they’ll remember it.
David Brower: No question about it. The last thing you want to do is be a human PowerPoint presentation.
CP Riddlesbrood: Yeah.
David Brower: Yeah, I’ve sat in front a couple of those guys. It’s fascinating, man. I wish we were closer, so I could see some of your shows. We’d love going to dinner theater and we love supporting the arts. I just really admire what you’ve been able to do with your family and owning your own company in 2000, and I truly appreciate you sharing your experience on how that can help business people.
CP Riddlesbrood: Thank you and it’s been a pleasure. Listen, you might still be able to see our show. If you have any super rich millionaire friends, just tell them to hire us. We’ll fly out there, and we’ll do a great show right in your area.
David Brower: We could put it in my backyard.
CP Riddlesbrood: There you go.
David Brower: Our special guest has been Clyde P. Riddlesbrood of the Riddlesbrood Touring Theater Company in New Jersey, and what a wonderful conversation. What a great life you’re enjoying, man. Thanks for sharing some of those stories with us. Really enjoyed it.
CP Riddlesbrood: Thank you. I did as well.