Leadership / 01.26.22
Ticketpro’s Bulman Sticks to the Plan, Even in Crisis Times
This story is brought to you by the INTIX Women in Entertainment Technology Program.
There is an old Yiddish proverb that goes, “We plan, God laughs.” At different stages of our lives, we strategize and visualize what life will be like when we have reached a certain end game — when we have “arrived.” Of course, things rarely turn out exactly as we hoped or imagined. Just ask Quebec’s Ticketpro President Guislaine Bulman. She started working in ticketing at a Ticketmaster call centre in Montreal right after college. In a recent interview, she said it was just something she did to earn money while she looked for a “real job.”
But she stayed there for a while, leaned the ropes and was eventually offered a position at the Théâtre St-Denis, managing their call centre and customer service operations. After a few years, she built their first website to start selling tickets online. “We were among the first theaters in Montreal to sell tickets online, and it’s so funny to look back at that time,” she says. “My boss thought it was just a fad, and I was wasting my time. Eventually, we developed our own ticketing system. Shortly after that, we purchased Ticketpro Canada and developed the Ticketpro network in Canada.”
At that time, her official job title was Director of Software Development. She was promoted to General Manager a few years later. Six months before the pandemic, she was elevated to President. “It was quite an eventful first year!” she says with a laugh.
Indeed, the COVID-19 era has tested her leadership skills. Once it became clear that the pandemic was not going to be resolved quickly, she and her staff had to prepare a medium- to long-term plan. “I knew immediately that my priority would be to get through to the other side with my team intact and help my clients and partners make it through, as well,” Bulman says. “I knew we were going to have to be creative and was expecting that to be a challenge. What I wasn’t expecting was the sheer unpredictability of the situation and the wear and tear on everyone’s morale. We have operations across Canada, and every province has different requirements that constantly change, so there is a lot of ‘hurry up and wait’ going on.”
Bulman has felt it important to check in on her team regularly and make sure they have what they need and their stress levels are not “through the roof.” She says, “It’s hard, and [it’s] a continuous learning curve figuring out when to step in and when to butt out. I would definitely say that trying to support my team in an honest and steady way in this unpredictable time has been a test of my skills. And if I never hear the word ‘pivot’ again, it will be too soon!”
Through it all, though, Bulman has not lost the joy for her job. The work keeps her going. She says she particularly enjoys collaborating with staff to solve problems. “It’s just so satisfying to sit down with a bunch of people to tackle a problem and then work together to find a solution,” she says. “It feels really productive in a way that so many other things can’t match.”
But there is no denying the challenges of leadership, especially in crisis times. Thinking about these last two years of challenge, Bulman says, “I always thought that there is a solution for everything if you just look hard enough. But, of course, that isn’t always the case. A few years ago, [INTIX CEO] Maureen Andersen mentioned in an interview that ‘No’ is a complete sentence. She didn’t make that up. I had heard it before. But for some reason, it really resonated with me in the context of her interview, and I thought, ‘Well, if Maureen can say no, so can I.’ Thanks, Maureen!”
While ticketing has been a business that has said “Yes” to her more times than not, Bulman recognizes the challenges women face in the industry. To survive and thrive, she stresses having a clear head and staying realistic as to what this business is and isn’t. “Ticketing is fun, but it is also hard,” she says. “It’s an industry that is often overlooked, overworked and misunderstood. We do so much that is invisible to people who aren’t in the trenches with us, which can lead to being undervalued. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself, to bring attention to the value that you bring to the organization. Advocate for yourself the same way you would advocate for a client, a customer or a co-worker. If you find that difficult, like I did, remember that by advocating for yourself, you are also advocating for those who will follow you.”
She adds, “Ticketing is often the first contact that a patron has with your company, and ticketing brings in the revenue. That your job has value is a given. If your organization does not see that, then it is up to you to show them.”
Bulman also urges all colleagues reading this to stay hopeful even in these tough times. And keep in mind, this is coming from a ticketing professional who is based in Quebec, which has pretty much been in lockdown for the last month as omicron cases surge.
She concludes, “Honestly, I am optimistic, which might sound a bit nuts as it kind of looks like we haven’t progressed much in the past two years. But we have learned so much in those two years, not the least of which is how much people really want and need live entertainment. During that glorious window when things were on sale and events were happening, we had record sales. Frankly, from what I saw, there weren’t that many outbreaks at live events. So we’ve learned what to do and how to communicate regarding safety, and we’ll continue to apply those lessons and continue learning and adapting. I think this year will be better than last year, and next year even better!”
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Tags: Leadership , Women in Ticketing