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The race is on.
And by the time you read this it’ll be over.
The race I’m referring to is here at Elite Entertainment and it’s simply to match last year. That’s right “match.” I’ve given my sales staff the challenging goal of just matching last year’s number.
As you may know (and if you don’t you might want to switch on the news every once in a while) our economy is hurting. In fact, if you spend any time looking at CNN or reading newspapers, you’ve probably heard scary terms like “recession” and “collapse.” And as I talk to DJs from across the country I am hearing differing reports about how much (or in some cases how little) this is affecting us.
Here at Elite, the social business has held steady (that tapping sound is me knocking on wood.) For example as I write this on November 20th, we currently have over 400 weddings already booked for 2009. 417 to be exact. Last year on this very date we had 416. Eerie, isn’t it?
But the way the economy has affected us most is this December and the corporate work that we usually do. For years December was good for a solid 120-140 events. I had some of my full-timers out every night of the week and those crucial Fridays before Christmas were always booked solid.
That frenzy began slowing down after 9-11. In December of 2001 we performed at 113 parties. That’s a total number and it includes some weddings and other social events but it is mostly Holiday Parties. In 2002 we actually dipped below 100 events but since then we have crept slowly back. Last year we did 110 events in the month of December.
And so this year, in September, I brought my sales staff together and told them simply “match that number.”
I realize that doesn’t make me much of a businessman. I mean what CEO says “our goal is zero growth!” But given the fact that AIG was one of our biggest clients and the five events we did for them every December have obviously gone bye-bye, and also that many of our repeat clients have told us, “not this year” I figured it would be a struggle for us to break last year’s number. My “incentive” to my staff was an extra day off. I told them I’d keep the office closed on Friday December 26th if they could hit that magical number. And since I always close the office on Christmas Eve, that would mean a very nice long break, especially since the guys who work in my office and also DJ are not booked the weekend of December 27th.
So how is the race going? Well as we sit here in November 20th we have 92 events booked for December. We also have 6 outstanding contracts (clients that have requested us but haven’t sent their deposits in yet.) We could certainly get there but it’s going to be close. But the two things my staff has shown me through the years is that they like challenges and they love days off.
Are we as an industry recession proof? That’s such a broad question that it could never be answered with just one article or one man’s opinion. I think we are more recession proof than some industries but I also think if this economy continues to tank that everyone is going to begin to feel it. But for now, I subscribe to the theory that when times are tough, you roll up your sleeves and just work harder. We are showcasing and networking more than ever. We are trying to make that phone ring off the hook like it never has before just to maintain our numbers. We are all over our staff about generating referrals both with the guests at the party and also with the other wedding professionals they work with. When times are tough you can let your business go down and just shrug your shoulders and say “well everyone else is down” or you can refuse to let things slide. I think by challenging my staff to match last year in the month that could be most affected by this economy that I have done just that. And so far, the race is close.
Call my office on December 26th and see how we did. If the answering machine picks up, you’ll know we hit our number.
Mike Walter is the owner of Elite Entertainment of New Jersey and a nationally recognized expert in the area of multisystem company development and staff training. You can contact Mike at

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