As readers of Mobile Beat know, my column, “The Complete Disc Jockey” is on hiatus. Instead, a new mini-column (the magazine version of a TV “mini-series”) called “From The Ground Up” has temporarily taken over. In it, I detail the complete overhaul of my DJ business of 35 years, Stu & His Crew.
The makeover was necessary for several reasons. First and foremost is Michigan’s terrible economy. While other regions have sprung back, people here have seemingly adopted a “settle for less” attitude, and those who haven’t know they’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to negotiations. Vendors in every facet of the wedding and party industry have to negotiate for every dollar like never before. For me, this dictates two tactics: go “lean n’ mean” and take a radical departure from the norm. As Pharrell Williams said on The Voice, “The same is lame.”
You might also have correctly guessed that such an overhaul is a big job! There are many battles to be fought. Aside from the obvious financial ones, the biggest two are…
1. Breaking free from the “comfort zone.” After doing something for over three decades, saying that one gets “set in their ways” is an understatement. It takes some very honest inward thought and sober reassessment to figure out what has and has not been working. To further keep my own ego in check, I decided to bring in some extra eyeballs to keep me honest. At this stage of the game, my #1 consultant has been my wife, Janette. Being second only to me in having a stake in the business, she can also be my harshest critic. Secondly, I contacted fellow contributor Ben Stowe, of NLFX Professional for his expertise in cutting-edge gear. As I move forward to the marketing and performance areas, I’ll naturally be tapping a few others that you might’ve heard of. (More on them in future articles.)
2. Patience. It came as quite a shock to me that, even though I’ve got the resources to pull off this transformation, not to mention the excitement and motivation to “git-r-dun,” other people just aren’t quite as enthusiastic! It may be due to my preference to bring in the very best. Ironically, while they’re incredible at what they do, this very fact makes them very high-demand people, so they’ve got no shortage of clientele. Further complicating things are frequent back-ups, unexpected situations and, of course, the holidays. That means one thing: get in line.
Yes, my #1 consultant and I agreed right away that we shouldn’t bolt from using the very best vendors just because they might take longer. Some things are just worth the wait. As such, when it was decided to refurbish, rather than replace my trusty cube truck, “Vanzilla,” we weren’t all that surprised when the initial two week estimate for body work blew up into a six week wait. No surprise after that when the one week estimate for the mechanical repairs snowballed into three weeks (so far). All in all, on some fronts my “radical transformation” has been a game of inches. But hey, slow progress is progress nonetheless!
Part of the “sober reflection” is to decide what stays and what goes. Yes, we want to renew, refresh, reinvigorate and even reinvent, but we also don’t want to abandon what works simply because it has a few years on it; change for the sake of change could only introduce new problems. We’ve kept a running list of “keepers” and “toss” items, and one of the former is my name. My very first research for my business plan showed that the majority of consumers liked personalized service; they prefer a real person over a nameless “productions” type of company. Re-researching this today revealed that this hasn’t changed, so the decision was made to keep the name, with just one minor alteration of the tag to reflect the change in status to an LLC. This should also capitalize on the local area recognition we’ve built up over time.
A NEW YEAR, SOME NEW GEAR!
The nexus of the “lean and mean” strategy centers on my new playback systems. Continuing the tradition of downsizing, as when I transitioned the media from tape and vinyl to CD, and again to MP3, the plan now is to transition the gear into smaller, faster, and more efficient form. Gone will be the balky Cortex; gone will be the ubiquitous laptop (too much sameness)! Instead, my new system will be centered around tablets, driven by the latest controller/mixer combo as suggested by Mr. Stowe, all configured into an elegant, hand-carriable unit unlike any currently available on the market. Yes, that means custom! After several hours of fruitless searches online, I’ve found no product that comes close to the picture inside my head. In the past, function always came before appearance. It often had to! But in 2015, I think that maximum functionality can be had without my console having to look like something dropped by the U.S. Army, or tucked behind some decorative façade. Couples spend a small fortune to make their décor elegant – even breathtaking – and my focus will be on making my gear fit into that picture, not disappear from it.
Besides transportation and gear, the other two areas of attention are marketing and performance, and aside from being signed-up for my first bridal show in about a decade and a website overhaul underway, these will be more closely worked on in the coming weeks. If you would like to follow my progress as I go along, please check out my blog at http://www.mobilebeat.com/from-the-ground-up-the-re-invention-of-a-dj-business/ as well as my column in Mobile Beat. As always, your comments, suggestions and constructive criticism are always welcome and appreciated. Until next time, have a safe, happy and prosperous New Year!