Sight & Sound is the largest faith-based theatre in the country. Founded by Glenn and Shirley Eshelman in 1976, early productions were slideshows of Glenn’s nature and landscape photos set to music. Eventually live actors were added to the shows, and in 1987, Behold the Lamb debuted as the first full-length live stage production at the original Sight & Sound Auditorium.
In 1991, Sight & Sound Entertainment Centre opened to create capacity for larger audiences. This facility was destroyed by a fire six years later. An all new, 2,000 seat facility was built in 1998 and, ten years later, a second 2,000 seat theatre opened in Branson, MO. Currently, the organization’s original stage productions draw over one million guests each year.
Sight & Sound is an organization with a clear and compelling mission statement and core values that motivate leaders and employees alike.
Sight & Sound was referred to North Group by the organization’s banking and accounting professionals.
Initially, we were asked to evaluate the viability of the proposed management plan for operating the theatre under construction in Branson, MO. In addition, the founder wanted the business to be family-owned and led, yet there was a gap between generations. The second generation, while willing and talented, needed development and guidance.
Working with the family and existing team, and with great respect for the Sight & Sound mission, we began the development of an approach that would bridge the first generation to the second. Teams, leaders, systems and a trust-based culture needed to be developed. While the founding family had four daughters who were very supportive of the mission (and serve on the board of directors), they were not interested in managing the organization on a daily basis. Fortunately, two sons-in-law were already employed in the organization, gaining valuable experience and the trust of their colleagues.
After an initial period of assessment and evaluation, the family chose to engage North Group and its president, Roger North, as interim chief operating officer of the organization. This allowed North Group a unique opportunity to develop this organization from the inside with a hands-on operational and developmental approach. We focused on the development of a cohesive leadership team, clarifying organizational values and culture, and the development of sustainable systems to support the organization’s large-scale biblical stage shows.
We enjoyed a close and trusting relationship with the founders, Glenn and Shirley Eshelman, who supported our work throughout the process.
We accomplished the family’s objectives. While the organization’s building project and the recession were factors in the transition taking longer than originally planned, they are now well-positioned to deliver on their mission, sustain profitability and plan for mission expansion.
On 1/1/15, the second generation officially took over with the promotion of Matt Neff to CEO and Josh Enck to President and Chief Creative Officer. North Group maintains an ongoing consulting and coaching engagement with Sight & Sound.