Soccer team in a huddle

The Serious Business Behind the Cirque du Soleil Mystique

June 8, 2015 by John Ward 0

How would you describe a Cirque du Soleil® performance? Is it theater, the circus, a surreal musical? For those who have experienced Cirque du Soleil in person, you know it’s all of these things rolled up into one.

And the combination is nothing less than magical.

From its humble beginnings in rural Quebec some 30 years ago,Cirque du Soleil has transformed itself into an international phenomenon.

“Our shows transcend nationalities,” says Cirque du Soleil’s Chief Operating Officer Charles Décarie in a recent video, “they literally speak to any audience in the world.”

The remarkable talent and hard work of the Cirque du Soleilathletes, singers, dancers, clowns, and other performers is always center stage. But there’s also a lot of serious business that gets done in order to make these transcendent performances possible.

From Costumes to International Logistics

Cirque du Soleil is scheduled to tour about 18 different countries this year – everywhere from Estonia and Sweden to Columbia and Australia. And resident shows in Las Vegas, Orlando, and Riviera Maya will entertain audiences on a daily basis.

Managing the business side of this global operation is an enormous undertaking.

Cirque du Soleil, for example, procures hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of goods every year and works with 16,000 active global suppliers. In the costume workshop alone, there are approximately 300 full-time employees who will produce around 18,000 different costume items and use close to 50 kilometers of fabric.

Business as usual at Cirque du Soleil also involves managing the logistics of international travel, dealing with multiple currencies, and handling the day-to-day living expenses of some 4,000 performers, technicians, and support staff deployed around the world.

A Common Business Language

As the video describes, SAP software helps provide the business backbone needed to support these extensive operations. This includes the SAP ERP application, SAP BusinessObjects business intelligence solutions, and cloud-based solutions from SAP companies Ariba, Concur, and SuccessFactors. Collectively, these solutions support a common business language.

And what you might not know is that universal languages play a huge role in the Cirque du Soleil story.

Many of the troupe’s most famous shows – like Mystère™, for example – feature songs written in what is essentially a made-up language. Often dubbed “cirquish,” these non-nonsensical lyrics have their advantages onstage. The songs “translate” equally to everyone around the world, and they invite each listener to create their own meaning.

But when it comes to making business decisions, multiple interpretations are the last thing that the company’s executives want. As Cirque du Soleil’s Director of Marketing Intelligence Axel Bedikyan explains, that’s why Cirque du Soleil relies on a consistent and centralized view of its business data.

“There is one version of the truth,” says Bedikyan, “everyone speaks the same language, and has the same information to work with.”

This common understanding is particularly crucial when it comes to making key financial and marketing decisions – like which shows to continue or what cities to include on future tours.

Taking a Well-Deserved Bow

So what new surprises does Cirque du Soleil have in store for its global fans? Only time will tell.

“I cannot say what the future will look like,” says Décarie,“but what I know is that we will need to carry on innovation. Simplifying the sheer complexity of Cirque du Soleil will be instrumental to growing the business in the future.”

One thing seems clear – Cirque du Soleil definitely combines unforgettable artistry with an innovative approach to business.

Both deserve a standing ovation.

And join me on Twitter at @JohnGWard3.

This story originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.

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