M.I.N.M.: SuperFriday Broadcast
Who: David Levin, minister of comedy, Ernst & Young
Players: 8,000 to 10,000 people from E&Y's consulting-services division, along with a live audience of 700 people
Frequency: Quarterly (the broadcast runs about 90 minutes)
Why I Never Miss It: "Professionally, it's a chance to network with people from all over the firm. Personally, as a writer and performer, I love hearing people laugh."
Maintaining a sense of shared purpose is a challenge for any fast-growing, fast-changing business. But for professional-services firms, whose employees are apt to spend more time on the road with clients than in the office with colleagues, that challenge is especially formidable. Which is why David Levin, 26, Ernst & Young's minister of comedy (yes, that is his title), is so serious about the firm's fun-filled SuperFriday Broadcast.
Under Levin's creative direction, the live event features 90 minutes' worth of company updates, financial results, entertainment — and lots of attitude. "As a company," says Levin, "we're committed to innovation and creativity. This show celebrates those qualities and gives them new expression."
Making connections. "The goal is to update people who are out in the field. So we address some fundamental questions: What's new? What have we done that we can be proud of? Where do we need to improve?"
Live and uncut. "With a live broadcast, there's a sense of expectation: Anything can happen. And we try to capitalize on that. Company leaders make fun of themselves, and company issues are treated tongue in cheek. The subtext: 'What we do is important, but we don't take ourselves too seriously.' "
"We broadcast the show from a different city each time — with a live audience consisting of local employees. Members of the remote audience get together in auditoriums at 28 downlink sites."
"Typically, we do a couple of segments highlighting innovative business solutions or client success stories. Then we review our quarterly financial performance. We also break up the show with satiric public-service announcements.
"Finally, we conclude by holding a Q&A session with executives. One time, the Q&A took the form of a game show. The leaders fielded questions such as 'What hit song did Ozzy Osbourne record after he left Black Sabbath?' We try to end each broadcast on a creative high note."
A version of this article appeared in the November 1999 issue of Fast Company magazine.