Photo by DAVID ALBERS, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo
The word "circus" has fallen on hard times.
In recent years, this seemingly happy, child-focused event has often been subject to less-than-favorable use in describing such activities as a "media" or "political" circus. Essentially, a beloved symbol of childhood has become an oft-used synonym for "chaos."
If you think your office is like a "circus" — probably because you and your co-workers struggle to keep several balls in the air simultaneously — try actually keeping several balls in the air simultaneously and think again.
In the case of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, "chaos" would be the last word to describe their time-honored business practices. In fact, the meticulous planning and preparation necessary to transport 300 people and 95 live animals from town to town is nothing short of a creative and logistics miracle.
To understand the true meaning of this circus, you must first substitute "order" for "chaos."
Feld Entertainment has owned and operated "The Greatest Show on Earth" since 1967. The Feld family's operation includes a sophisticated mix of traditional business savvy coupled with a new generation of creative thinkers. In fact, the Felds have owned the legendary brand longer than Barnum, Bailey or the Ringlings did.
Nicole, Alana and Juliette Feld literally grew up with clowns, acrobats and elephants serving as a backdrop for their childhood.
As parents, Feld Entertainment Chairman/CEO Kenneth Feld and wife, Bonnie, stressed the importance of education and encouraged their daughters to discover their individual passions. While Nicole insists she and her sisters weren't groomed to follow in their father's and grandfather's footsteps, Alana suggested: "Perhaps we were groomed our entire lives and didn't know it."
Kenneth Feld's most important lesson was one of respect — for the business, the employees and the audiences. Even when the young sisters asked to perform, the practical patriarch insisted on a regular three-show performance day.
"We were not circus brats; we were taught to respect what everyone did," Nicole recalled.
For many of us, lines can easily blur between parental and managerial skills. However, when one is in the "people business" with a focus on family values, nothing beats good parenting.
As young adults, the sisters ultimately entered the work force but eventually began to recognize the opportunities inherent in joining the family business.
As key decision-makers now helping to guide the company's future, Alana appreciates their unique situation: "We are the only three people in the world who have the jobs that we do."
Though many family businesses struggle with the concept of integrating new generations, Nicole, Alana, and Juliette Feld literally bring a lifetime of experience — as both impressionable children and educated adults — to a business whose sole purpose is to celebrate a child's imagination.
Nicole acknowledged: "It's a huge responsibility to take care of a brand that is a national treasure."
The Feld sisters are clearly poised and ready to steward the beloved organization for the next generation.
As with any business, there will undoubtedly be challenges — but what good is a circus without a balancing act?
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey presents Fully Charged, Gold Edition, at Germain Arena in Estero on Jan. 3-6. For information, visit ringling.com.
__ Randall Kenneth Jones is the creator of RediscoverCourtesy.org and the President of MindZoo, a marketing communications agency headquartered in Naples. He can be reached at Randy@mindzoo.com or 239-304-9611.