FLASHBACK ARTICLE FROM DECEMBER 2010
I received an email a few months ago from Brian Cahill. He owns a company in Toledo, Ohio, called Ultimate Nights. He started by writing, “I really enjoy your articles in the Disc Jockey News” – and if you want to know a way to get me to read an entire email, that's a great way to start.
Brian went on to say he had some suggestions for future articles. His first one was:
Problems With Your DJs: Have you ever had any significant issues with any of your DJs breaking company policies or DJs who you developed friendships with who then used that friendship to think that specific rules didn't apply to them? Have you ever had to fire anybody who had been with your company for a long time and parted ways on bad terms? Even a friend?
There's a lot there, but I'll take the “friendship” thing first because it seems to be the prevalent theme of the questions.
There is indeed a tight-wire balancing act that you must navigate as an owner of a Multi-Op. Yes, I am friends with most of my staff. However, some are better than others. And Yes, some have used that friendship to skirt some issues or rules. So you, as the owner or manager, have to be aware of that situation and stop it as soon as it starts. If you let one or two “exceptions” go by, you'll be in for many more in no time. But if you sit the DJ down early, the first time you see them “taking advantage,” and have a heart-to-heart with them, you'll probably see instant results. After all, if you are friendly with the person and ask them to respect you in the office or follow specific rules, it should stand to reason that they'd approve.
Another approach I take is to ask the person to “lead by example.” My group photo shoots are a perfect example of this. We take group pictures annually, and they used to be a complete nightmare to organize. There's nothing like 20-30 DJs all horsing around and trying to get them situated. So years ago, I decided to pull a few of my veteran DJs (and closer friends on staff) together beforehand and ask them to help me keep everyone organized. “I'm coming to you because the younger guys look up to you and even imitate you,” I told them. “So if you guys behave and listen to my instructions, they will all too.” And that was the smoothest photo shoot we ever had. And I've done that ever since. Sometimes, reminding guys that you expect even more from them as “friends” is not bad.
I have had to fire DJs, and I've also had DJs quit. I don't know many Multi-Ops that haven't been in these situations, and despite what everyone says about “not taking it personally,” it's impossible not to. My best advice in either of these situations is to do your best to stay calm, communicate why you are letting the DJ go, and, no matter what their response may be, keep your cool and try to make the meeting as brief as possible. The two reactions that I most commonly see when firing someone are anger or sadness. I've been cursed at and had to deal with tears (which isn't easy for any guy to handle!) But if you are prepared for anything and react to nothing (which is easier said than done), you'll find these unpleasant meetings go as smoothly as possible.
I want to end with your first question: Have you ever had any significant problems with any DJs breaking company policies? I can't imagine any Multi-Op answering “No” to that question. Business owners in any field would probably have to answer “Yes” about their employees. The important thing that I have found is to learn from every occasion. One of my DJs left the backdoor to the warehouse unlocked. Ok, what can we learn from this? One of my DJs needed to remember a client appointment at the office. Ok, what can we learn from this? One of my DJs got drunk at an event. Ok, what can we learn from this? Penalties and punishment need to be met, but after that, I use these situations to learn and teach. Even in the ultimate example where a DJ loses his job by breaking a company policy, it's a learning experience for the rest of the staff (as in See, don't do this or else!)
One of the great joys I have in life is working with my DJ Staff. We have good times together; we share everyday experiences, and, oh yeah, they make me money. I keep all those positives in mind when bad situations occur. I remember that we are all human and that mistakes happen, and I also take some responsibility because when a DJ breaks a rule, it could be that I didn't explain or emphasize it enough. When you weigh all the good with whatever bad may come out of these situations, it will help you make the best decision for everyone involved. It usually does for me.
FLASHBACK ARTICLE FROM DECEMBER 2010