“I strongly believe in my own constant development and am always reading business magazines, blogs, listening to podcasts and taking classes, as well as going to conferences to open my mind to bigger ideas to be a better leader. Just when you think you know everything is exactly the time to remind yourself that there’s so much more to learn and to improve upon.”
Natasha Miller isn’t your average CEO — She is a hyphenate entrepreneur who began her career in entertainment as a celebrated jazz artist with seven records released on Poignant Records (a record label she also currently owns and operates). Having founded Entire Productions in 2001 when she was still performing, she built a multi-million dollar company from the ground up. Today, Entire Productions is the premier experience design and entertainment agency headquartered in San Francisco, CA with offices in Los Angeles.
Natasha’s vibrant personality and superior client management prowess is at the core of the EP’s brand and esteemed reputation. Their client roster boasts blue chip clients such as Apple, Google, Gap, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co, Salesforce for whom they execute a slate of high-end social and corporate special events. She also credits her ability to select and hire top notch staff as one of the many reasons EP remains as the go-to source for experience design and performance talent. EP is also known for producing some of Northern California’s most epic annual music events including the Oakland City Center and the Kaiser Roof Garden series.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I always thought I’d only be a performing artist. I’m a classically trained violinist and jazz vocalist and that was my main focus — what I considered my “calling”. I recorded 7 CDs, toured and made a name for myself in the music industry. Slowly I was being asked to perform on the same date- sometimes by multiple people and instead of turning down the gigs, I asked the client if I could bring in and manage another group that’s like me instead because I was already booked. This was when I was 19 and continued for years until I made a “real business” of it. In 2001 I opened Entire Productions officially. I didn’t have an employee until 2013 and now I have 15! We’re now bringing in talent of every genre and discipline to high-end corporate special events and social events. We’re also planning these functions as well and growing every year.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
My company once worked on someone’s birthday party where the planner had 3 individual movie-like sets created for different cities the client was from. We brought in over 75 performers including Chinese models, people from Chinatown playing Mahjong, a Steely Dan cover band, makeup artists, 20 zombies and a 20-person Michael Jackson Thriller dance mob, and a 10 person variety band. This event was so over-the-top and the people working it including the caterers, servers, talent, etc. outnumbered the guests! I’ve never seen anything like it and likely never will again. The look on everyone’s faces (ours included), was that of astonishment and awe.
What was your biggest challenge to date either personally or professionally and how did you overcome it?
In this economy trying to find and hire great people to work here is the most difficult challenge- so many people already have great paying jobs and it’s so competitive. Personally, when I was a sole-proprietor I became very ill and was hospitalized and unable to work for about 4 weeks. I didn’t lose any business and nothing went wrong because I had friends and family that really pitched in and kept it afloat.
What does leadership mean to you and how do you best inspire others to lead?
Leadership to me means giving guidance, “bumpers” and letting people grow into their best ability. I believe in immediate and constant development with everyone in my organization. We give them a solid on-boarding and training experience then encourage them to be entrepreneurs in their role. Leadership means being there for them if they need guidance as well as applauding their innovative ideas and performance and speaking matter-of-factly about the areas they need improvement in. I strongly believe in my own constant development and am always reading business magazines, blogs, listening to podcasts and taking classes, as well as going to conferences to open my mind to bigger ideas to be a better leader. Just when you think you know everything is exactly the time to remind yourself that there’s so much more to learn and to improve upon.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I met my business advisor who specializes in HR via the non-profit Pacific Community Ventures. Her name is Cindy Kaczmarek and she has been a God-send to me. Both for my business and HR-specific elements but also has become a dear, close friend. She helped shape my approach to hiring, creating job descriptions, a compensation and commission plan, culture and so much more. I can’t imagine where my business would be without her guidance. I just spent 4 hours with her yesterday and the time flew by. I’m so lucky to have found her!
Was it difficult to fit your life into your business/career and how did you do that?
It has not been as difficult as it could have been. That’s probably because I was divorced when my daughter was 2 years old and she spent 1/2 of the time with her dad who always lived very close to us. That meant I had serious quality time with her when she was with me, but then I had 1/2 the time to devote to my career and business. I don’t think she’d ever say she came in 2nd to my job ever because being an entrepreneur gave me the flexibility to be extremely present for her. I never missed a play or a game because I scheduled my time with her as a priority and my company came after that, but it never put my business in jeopardy.
Did you find that as your success grew it became more difficult to focus on the other areas of your life?
When Entire Productions became more successful, I didn’t have the heart or energy to perform or record anymore. It’s so emotionally draining to perform and manage a band, etc., so I gave that up a couple years ago and I don’t really miss it. When and if I do begin to miss it, I can always go back to it.
Can you share five pieces of advice to other leaders about how to achieve the best balance between work and personal life?
- Schedule a time for yourself to do “you” time and stick to it. If it’s yoga, a walk, a massage, etc. put it on your calendar, make it “private” so your team knows you’re not available but not able to see the details.
- Try not checking email after a certain time- 6 or 7p and on weekends. There’s likely nothing pressing enough that can’t wait until the next day. If an emergency happens, that’s different.
- Make sure you balance your conversations outside of work with talk of what you’ve been doing at work, but also other things- what you’ve been reading, what you want to do. Ask questions of your friends about them and what they’re interested in instead of focusing only on your job. 4. Make sure you let your team know when you’re nearing burn-out. They might not know and it’s more important that you’re able to be relied upon rather than need significant time off or want to quit because you’ve done too much. 5. When you find yourself obsessing about your job, look for ways to offset those feelings- enroll in a pottery class, go to a lecture series or a concert. You need to be the driver in your own life.
What gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment and pride?
For me it’s being a mother to my 23-year-old daughter Bennett. Nothing compares to that. In my work, I’m so proud to be able to employ incredible people that love their work, be able to have artists and musicians working and that I’m able to own this business. It’s a big rush!
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’d bring together leaders in a think tank to work on a single subject. Likely the homeless crisis in San Francisco which many people are trying to approach but little impact is being made.
What is the best way for people to connect with you on social media? Instagram @natashamillersf @entireproductions
About the author: Jacob Rupp is a coach, author, speaker, podcaster, and rabbi. He is the founder of Lift Your Legacy, a community that helps people live a more authentic life. He has a regular, syndicated column that appears in ThriveGlobal and Medium magazine. To learn more about him or to listen to the Lift Your Legacy podcast, search iTunes or visit his site: liftyourlegacy.live