Leadership / 02.24.21
Lori Garza Is Certain She’s Ready for the Uncertain Future
This story is brought to you by the INTIX Women in Entertainment Technology Program.
For many, the pandemic has meant stagnation, frustration and great uncertainty about the future. For some, though, this past year has also meant reflection, regrouping and reprioritizing. So, has it been for Lori Garza, Patron Services Manager (PSM) for Denver Arts and Venues.
“During this time,” she says, “I have found balance between work and personal life, which is something that those of us in this industry struggle with when we are going full tilt. I have learned that the world will not end if I say ‘No.’ I have had time to be more reflective on what kind of a leader I want to be for my team and what kind of human I want to be for my community.”
And what decisions about herself has she arrived at? “Professionally,” she says, “I have taken this time as an opportunity to strengthen my relationships within the industry, as well as finding ways to give back to an industry that has given so much to me.” This has led to her leading a group on de-escalation practices; providing content and editing reopening guides; and, of course, joining ticketing and live event professionals on weekly INTIX calls.
Keeping busy and staying connected has helped alleviate some of her fears and concerns in the present and given her a more hopeful attitude toward tomorrow. There’s no doubt this past year will have changed live events once the COVID-19 crisis subsides. But those changes are things to be embraced, she says, adding, “I think we will continue to see a hybrid of virtual and live events. I believe there is a place for both once we return. There are many folks out there who want live events, but for some reason — economic, health, etc. — this is not possible. If we look at this with the right lens, we can make events more accessible across the board. While I know that not all performances can have a virtual component, I am hopeful that we will be able to explore what is possible for those performances that can.”
She continues, “I also think the industry has stretched within itself during all of this. We have leaned on our colleagues as we discuss reopening venues and finding ways to cope professionally and personally. We have made connections outside of our own sandboxes. We’ve shared learning and insights. We’ve taken time that we typically do not have to forge partnerships and friendships. It would truly be a shame, and a tremendous loss, if those do not continue once we are on the other side of this pandemic and our venues are once again teeming with guests.”
Before entering the entertainment world, Garza served as a program/grant manager for federally funded projects within both education (Michigan Department of Education Office of Special Education) and agricultural economics (Michigan State University’s Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics). The latter position afforded her the opportunity to travel to Kenya and Zambia as project manager for a couple of large international conferences.
Prior to moving to Colorado and joining Denver Arts and Venues, she was the PSM at the Peace Center in Greenville, South Carolina. Her past career highlights have also included a stint as the Director of Operations for Michigan State’s College of Music where she managed the logistical challenges of two major venue renovations while classes and performances were ongoing.
Her current job has her managing front-of-house operations for the Denver Performing Arts Complex (Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Temple Hoyne Buell Theatre and Boettcher Concert Hall) with a focus on elevating the guest experience without compromising safety and security. “Over the past year, due to pandemic-related staffing changes, I have also been providing guest service support to Red Rocks Amphitheatre,” she says.
There are times when the job is highly stressful. The coronavirus, after all, has changed so much of her duties and responsibilities. How has she coped? “I am fortunate to live in Colorado and have found that hiking and taking long walks help to cope with the anxiety that sometimes creeps up,” she says. “It’s amazing to take a walking meeting and realize the clarity of thought that comes from moving while working through whatever issue needs to be dealt with at that moment.”
She also copes by leaning on her team. “I love watching the team succeed!” she says. “I work hard to create a culture of empowerment, respect and honesty. I’m not always successful. But when it works, you can see the effect in not only your team, but guests as well.”
She’s especially encouraged by the number of young women entering the business and the future that is ahead of them. Her advice to them is simple and straightforward: “Figure out what kind of life you want in this industry. While we are so incredibly fortunate to do what we do in this industry, we all make sacrifices. We miss special occasions, life events, holidays, etc. We sometimes regret the sacrifices we have to make. But knowing what takes priority in your life early on will help you to find balance and guide your decision-making process. Know what your ‘non negotiables’ are — and know that they will change over time.”
Garza herself has made sacrifices. She doesn’t get to fly home to Michigan to see her family as often as she would like, for instance. Then, there are the realities of serving the paying public. She acknowledges it can sometimes be tough “navigating the terrain in a world where the customer thinks they are always right. While I believe this thinking is outdated, many who enter our venues believe it to be true. Finding the balance between taking care of your guest but also supporting your staff can be a delicate task.”
When things get tough, Garza calls on some old advice she received back in her college days when she was a theatre major. “If you make a mistake, own it. We too often believe that perfection is the ideal. But honesty and transparency mean much more when integrity matters. I make mistakes. And I let my teams see me make mistakes. It’s all about the recovery. Am I learning from those mistakes? Am I allowing others to have input on how we can collectively correct those mistakes? It becomes less about pointing out mistakes others are making and more about working together to ensure we don’t repeat those same mistakes repeatedly.”
Looking ahead, Garza says she and her staff will continue to focus on best practices and how to bring guests back to the various Denver-area venues safely. She encourages her colleagues reading this to continue reaching out to others to share and learn such best practices. She also wants to see our industry take every opportunity to educate government officials on “the importance of what we do.”
Garza concludes, “I tend to be a realist, with overtones of optimism. As an industry, we will get through this. We all have been in too many situations where we were asked to do the impossible, and we did just that. It’s how we are wired. Add to that society’s need for the arts, culture and entertainment … how can we not come back stronger than ever?”
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Tags: Leadership , Women in Ticketing