The Three Rings of Circus Boss
Why we created the Three Rings of Circus Boss: Our Journey from Overwhelmed to Purpose-Driven Artists
Waaaaay back in the spring of 2015 (back in the days when we could hug and give high fives...doesn’t that seem like a million years ago?!?), ileigh and I sent ourselves on a retreat in Coupeville, WA (on Whidbey Island, one of many quaint islands that dot the coast of Puget Sound). We rented an Air BNB above a coffee shop and bakery and set out for some strategic planning for our business, Animate Objects.
We turned on the gas fireplace, brewed lots of coffee, and began to plaster the table, then the counter, and then the walls with post-it notes of all our company values (artistry, authentic relationships, and sustainability), our dreams and goals, and THEN all the areas that were important to our business. We stayed up very late into the night. There were. SO. MANY. IDEAS.
We needed to work on every aspect of our business.
At the time we were shifting from a single-shingle ileigh-led company to bringing me on full-time, and we had big plans for hiring full-time costume shop staff, boosting our client outreach and networking, not to mention creating new acts, costumes, and outlets for artistic expression. As we paused during a break in the endless brainstorming, we both looked at our hundreds of post-it notes plastered everywhere, and we suddenly became overwhelmed.
What were we supposed to do with this mountain of post-it notes representing everything we needed to do for our business?
How were we going to turn these ideas into a plan for growth?
It occurred to me that if we organized our post-it notes according to our values, we would start to organize our thoughts AND our work. We set out arranging and rearranging (I would love to travel back in time and see this--I’m sure it would be even more amusing now), and slowly a pattern began to emerge.
And it looked like a three-sided pyramid.
At the top were our values that basically defined WHY we were running our company. These flowed into all the areas of our work:
- our artistic expression
- our relationships with our team (performers, clients, and the people and businesses who we collaborated with)
- and it all needed to be able to sustain us and our performers.
After all, what good are creativity and awesome relationships if we didn’t have our finances in order to sustain all this?
Here’s a snapshot from that night’s work, full of post-it notes and scribbles as we made a new version of our organizational chart.
I love this first model of how it all fit together because we recognized the importance of all three sides (each side representing a core value).
"If you took away any one side, the entire pyramid would begin to crumble."
We’ve returned to this model time and time again throughout the years. Every year we’d shift and change and tweak based on new needs and opportunities, but we always let ourselves be led by the values that drove us to form our company.
Now that we’ve circled back, yet again, the pyramid has evolved into rings.
This resonates more deeply with me for a few reasons. For one, there can be a lot of overlap where the intersections of artistry, relationships, and sustainability meet. Secondly, we understand this process is a cyclical one—we’re never done, and we’ll always be adapting our growth as our needs and the seasons change. And lastly, don’t rings just fit so nicely with the circus?!
Most recently, we returned to this framework when the pandemic cancelled all of our events for 2020 and beyond, brining our business to a grinding halt. As we listened to the experts, and looked at our finances, we knew our numbers well enough to know it wasn't sustainable for us to ride out a global pandemic for an undetermined amount of time.
We cried, we mourned, and then we did some work revisiting our relationships and artistic values to figure out where to go next.
Out of that work, Circus Boss was born!
It was a way to carry the relationships and values that were important to us into a new business model that was more sustainable with what was going on in the world, and what we wanted for our lives moving forward.
And we still use post-it notes like they are going out of style!
Our “stage” has changed (that’s ok and we’re ok), but we still hold those same values as our north star for Circus Boss. We’ve been able to take the best parts of what we loved about Animate Objects and use them to help ourselves, our circus community, and YOU.
As ileigh mentioned in our first lesson in Circus Boss Lab :
There’s so much more that goes into being a circus artist and performer besides training, performing, and fun costumes.
To be able to do this well and for a long time, it’s important to know how all the pieces work together, how to balance them, and turn very BIG dreams into very BIG realities.
If you’re seeing lots of areas where you need or want to develop, and it all feels overwhelming, you’re definitely not alone! And you definitely don’t have to do the work alone.
We’ve been there and know the struggle.
We’re here to focus the light with you, so you shine just as brightly behind the scenes as you do on stage!
I hope you’ll find this mindset just as helpful as we have and use this as a tool to align your values with your work to create new opportunities and pursue your dreams.
Want to learn how to apply the Three Rings to your circus career or business?
Check out our Circus Boss Lab!