His world’s a bit of a three-ring circus, but call us captivated. Last week, Daniel Lamarre joined our Outer Spaces stage, where he lifted the curtain on how Cirque du Soleil is still flying high, even as other long-running big tops come down across the country. Hint: It’s got everything to do with creating remarkable guest experiences today and pushing the bounds of what’s possible tomorrow—and it’s a lot like what we’re doing each day to raise the bar for our guests.
Meet the ringmaster
So what’s it like to head up a company founded by fire-breathers with gravity-defying shows in 350 cities around the world? It’s a bit of a tight-rope act…
“You can’t be a traditional business person when you run a company like Cirque,” says Daniel. “You have to understand—and love—the artists, the creatives who leave their heart and soul on the stage every day. But at the same time, you have to focus on strong finances, new technology, and think outside the box to open doors we haven’t been able to crack before.”
That balancing act seems to be working. Over 10 million people around the world reveled in a Cirque production last year. But Daniel and team aren’t resting on their proverbial top hats. “We’re only as good as our last show,” he says. “We have to constantly push the bounds of creativity—what can we do in our next show that is impossible today?”
Intrigued? Here’s more wisdom from Daniel’s talk with the Target team...
On what trapeze artists, traveling circuses and Target have in common
Today, people aren’t looking for transactions. They’re looking for experiences. At Cirque, everyone—whether they’re in a costume shop or our executive offices—is in the business of creating unforgettable experiences. You guys do this too. Target’s not just a store... Right now, the trend is buying online. But the counter-trend? People still want to go into a store for a direct relationship—for an experience. You’re bold and gutsy in going after the counter-trend. That’s why I like you.
On who really runs the show
When it comes to the big ideas, what will work and what we’ll take on next at Cirque, it doesn’t matter what I think. What’s important is what our guests think. In today’s world, you have to listen, to create a relationship with your guests every day. And I’m lucky—I have 5,000 amazing employees on the ground all around the world. They’re our eyes and ears, and they’re the ones who talk with guests and shape their experience of Cirque. And of course we spend a TON of time researching, doing focus groups. Because we know that loyalty is built through relationship, and a relationship is built by a conversation.
On making the magic happen
When you have a great show, you have a great business. But if the show isn’t great, you have no business. The pressure’s always on. And we have incredibly high standards—no one wants to be the first to produce a bad Cirque show. But that doesn’t mean we shy away from risk. We take risks all the time—that’s the only way our shows work. My team will come to me with these completely crazy, over-the-top ideas. I’ll say ‘love it—do we have the technology to pull this off?’ And they’ll respond ‘not yet…’ Then together we go after it and figure out how to make the impossible a reality for our guests.
On the power of purpose
I was at Stanford recently, and they’re studying happiness. Turns out the number one reason people are happy? They have a purpose in their life. That simple statement sums up my mission. Everything I do as the CEO of Cirque is to create the right climate so my team can live and breathe our purpose—putting smiles on our guests’ faces every day. After all, it’s people working with purpose that are going to change the world. And we at Cirque are ready to play our part.
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