Multi System Management

April 8, 2008 by Mobile Beat Staff Writer

Recruitment, Hiring & Training
Recruitment – Where Do You Find Your DJs?Events – This is a prime opportunity to look for new talent. Look for people who are fun, outgoing and good dancers. Introduce yourself, hand them a card and tell them “I think you would be a GREAT DJ!” This flattering introduction often strokes the ego of a potential candidate and breaks the ice to get into a conversation with the potential employee.

Friends of existing employees – using a reward system often gives your employees incentive to look for new talent. The reward should only be given if the new employee completes your training program and works for the company six months.

Flyers – should be placed in locations where the population matches your needs. If you are looking for a more mature Emcee, you may not want to post a flyer in a high school for students to see. In contrast, a teacher’s lounge at the same high school may attract the type of person you are looking for.

Newspaper ads – usually a last resort for DJs, but the first step if looking for an office receptionist. Consider running an ad for a “line dance instructor” if you are looking for DJ assistants. This technique will prompt more women to apply. See attached samples.

**Note – it is important to pre-screen applicants over the phone to qualify them prior to setting up an interview. It is a waste of both yours and the applicant’s time if the applicant doesn’t have a drivers license or isn’t available on Saturdays.

What Do you Look For In An Applicant

Experience vs. no experience – some companies prefer to train someone with no experience, in order to get them to perform “their way”. Other companies recruit only DJs with previous experience. It must be stressed that if a trainee has no experience, it becomes more imperative that you have a comprehensive training program in place.

Personality – outgoing and enthusiastic are usually preferred for a mobile entertainer.

Appearance – often deceiving. Talent is more important than appearance, however, keep in mind that the people you hire must be able to represent your company in a professional manner.

Availability – does the applicant have any commitments that prohibit them from working most weekends.

Drivers License and vehicle – do not assume that everyone has a drivers license and vehicle.

Longevity – does the applicant have any plans to leave the area in the next 12 to 18 months? Can you see this applicant staying with your company for a few years, or do they have a history of being a job-hopper?

Other Skills – ability to sing, acting experience, etc.

The Interview

It is equally important for you to make a good impression on the applicant as it is for the applicant to impress you! This applies to how you present yourself as the owner and manager, as well as the impression the applicant has about the professionalism of your company. If you hope to recruit quality people, they must have confidence that you will be a good person and company to work for.

Begins with the applicant filling out an application for employment.

Make sure your application has the following important information:

1. All contact information – name, address, phone number, etc.

2. Questions about the applicant’s availability on specific days of the week.

3. Questions about the applicant’s experience. If you have a non-competition agreement that is based on you providing a training program to the applicant in exchange for the applicant not competing, you can document that the applicant had no experience prior to being hired by including a question about their prior experience on the application.

4. Question about any pre-existing back or health problems that may prevent them from lifting up to 100 pounds should be included.

5. Several slots for current and previous jobs the applicant has held. This helps in identifying the “job hoppers”.

If the applicant appears to be a viable one, SELL the benefits of working for your company.

Engage the applicant and get to know them.

Outline the main job requirements to avoid future problems. This cannot be stressed enough, and sets the tone with the employee on many of the critical job performance expectations. Here are some of the main things to cover:

Responsibility to be available to work, and the process for requesting time off. Make sure the applicant understands the commitment that is necessary for the job.

The high stakes involved with doing weddings, and the importance of being reliable and professional. Even though you may have back-up assistants, explain that this business does not permit someone from calling in sick because they have a headache.

Training requirements – SELL the applicant that the training program is designed to benefit THEM as well as the company.

Lifting requirements and any pre-existing back problems the applicant may have – this question should also be on your application for documentation purposes.

Compensation for training and performance at events.

Your vision of what the ideal DJ/Emcee is – personality, enthusiasm, dancing ability, ability to learn music, care of your equipment, etc. Use a video that shows an enthusiastic performer and a lackluster performer to contrast the differences and illustrate what you do and do not want in an employee.

Transportation requirements are important, and must be discussed.

Non-Compete Contract Requirements (if any).

Training Program

Should be an organized program that is broken down into individual components for each training session.

Should consist of both a comprehensive training manual, classroom hands-on practice and On-The-Job training.

Should cover all aspects of performance, and be sequenced in a logical order that teaches the trainee what they need to know to perform their job.

Assign the trainee to work with several of your best DJs to get different ideas on performance techniques. Equally important – do NOT assign the trainee to work with someone who doesn’t set a good example.

The instructor should assume the role of a coach, rather than one of a traditional boss.

Don’t throw too much at the trainee too soon! Get them hands-on training ASAP!

Should “condition” the trainee that they are a part of a progressive organization, and that it is critical that they conform to the professional standards of performance you have set.

Use training videos to enhance your program. Video footage of other DJs performances or professional how-to videos that promote professional standards demonstrates to the trainee that these standards are important, and not something that you have simply made up.

Refresher Training – your training program should provide new and innovative ideas, as well as refresher training on the basics to your veteran DJs.

As a multi-system manager, you have the responsibility to network with other multi-system managers, attend conventions and compile this information for your staff. This is essential to keep them and your company on the cutting edge of the latest performance and technology trends.

Business Management & Company Structure

Non-Competition Contracts – Are the enforceable?

***NOTE*** This section of the seminar is NOT intended to be legal advice, but rather, a general overview of Non-Competition Contracts. Please consult with a qualified employment attorney in your state for legal advice.

The enforceability of a non competition contract depends on many factors, starting with the state in which your business is based. Some states are more willing to enforce them than others.

Completing a case-law research in the state in which your company is based is the best method for determining if precedent has been set for non-competition contracts. If you find that courts in your state have ruled against a few non-competition contracts, it is recommended that you determine what the basis was for the ruling.

Just because one (or event two or three!) non-compete contract was deemed invalid in a court of law, does not make them ALL invalid. Remember, some cases are lost because the contract itself wasn’t properly written.

People often confuse their states “Right to Work” laws with non-compete contracts. Right to Work laws have NOTHING to do with non-competition contracts, but rather, mandatory membership to unions.

For the most part, a simple two-paragraph agreement not to compete “for all eternity” will not hold up in a court of law.

Essential elements of a non-compete contract include:

Limit of geographic area must be reasonable.
Time Limit must be specified, usually from the day the employee separates from your company – six months to two years MAXIMUM, depending on the state you live in and the judge’s mood that day!
You must provide a “buy out” clause that allows the employee to buy their way out of the contract. This is IMPERATIVE to countering the argument that you are denying the person the right to earn a living.
A definition of what a “mobile DJ” is should be clearly defined – both technology as well as actual performance.
Contract should specify that the non-competition agreement covers any performance – whether for hire or otherwise, as well as working in any capacity as a DJ as defined (for another DJ company, bar, club or starting their own business).
Terms of contract should remain valid in the event that you have to terminate the employee for willful disregard of the standards of performance contained in your training manual. This is yet another reason to have a comprehensive training manual.
Should contain a Non-Disclosure provision as well as a Non-Solicitation provision as part of the agreement.

One method of strengthening your ability to enforce a non-compete contract is to base the agreement on a comprehensive training program. In order to do this, you must have a comprehensive training program with a training manual. Essentially, the trainee agrees not to compete with you in exchange for not having to pay for the training school you provide the trainee at no charge. This type of contract becomes a “training deferral” agreement more than a non-competition agreement. As always, check with a qualified employment contract attorney IN YOUR STATE. Attorney’s that specialize in employment contracts are usually a better choice over a “general law” attorney who may not have the experience with employment contracts.

One or two person teams

Some companies exclusively provide two person teams, while other companies provide a single DJ/Emcee.

Consider adding “assistants” if you usually provide a single DJ/Emcee. In a company with 6 systems, keeping two or three assistants on staff provides a level within your company to train new DJs and evaluate their ability to become an Emcee.

It also provides “insurance” should one of your emcees become sick or leave your company unexpectedly.
Assistants can be trained to perform special functions – such as setting up lighting systems, portable PA’s, etc.

Employee or Subcontractor?

Multi-system owners must be aware of the requirements the IRS sets to define a sub contractor. Failure to properly classify your DJs could result in fines and back taxes. Check with your CPA.

Subcontractor: Owns their own equipment and are not given specific instructions on how to accomplish a job. The Subcontractor is usually given a 1099 at the end of the year.

If you use true sub-contractors, it is highly recommended that you have a contract with the sub-contractor for each event they are assigned. This reduces the potential for misunderstandings and communication problems, and reduces liability in the event the sub-contractor fails to cover the event.

Employee: Uses your equipment. Company withholds taxes, social security and workers compensation, paying a portion of the employee’s social security and workers compensation.

Rental Method – One company claims to have survived two audits on the status of their sub contractors by creating a paper trail of renting their equipment to their sub contractors for each event. Check with your CPA.

Equipment & Storage

Multi system companies appear to be equally split on storage of equipment. Many companies assign a sound system and music library to a DJ and allow the DJ to keep it at home, while others require the DJ to pick up and return equipment for each event.

An inventory of an assigned sound system is critical to hold the DJ accountable for any missing items.

If at all possible, assign a DJ a complete basic sound system and music library that no one else uses (even if you do not allow the DJ to take the system home). If DJs share equipment and something comes up missing, they will point the finger at others who have used the system.

Many DJ companies provide a checklist of equipment to ensure that the DJ doesn’t forget to load anything. Standardizing each of your sound systems allows you to create cubicles to contain all of the components for each basic system. With the cubicle method, equipment from one system is not as likely to be mixed up in another system, and the DJ would be less likely to leave a critical piece of equipment behind.

If assigning each DJ a system is not possible, standardizing your systems becomes more beneficial.

Transportation

Of the numerous multi system companies that were surveyed, about 35% provided transportation, while the remaining 65% required the employee to provide transportation. The companies that provided the transportation were usually located in mid to high end markets where the revenue to pay for a fleet of vans was available.

Compensation

One of the most commonly asked questions of multi system operators is how much they compensate their DJs.

The amount of compensation a multi system company provides their DJs depends on a variety of factors:

The compensation paid to a DJ is relative to the typical fee charged for an event. DJs in markets that command top dollar received top dollar.
Sub Contractors who owned their own equipment are usually paid more than a DJ employee using the company’s equipment.
Experience – the more experience a DJ has, the more they are usually paid.
Transportation – DJs who use company vehicles typically get paid LESS that those DJs providing their own transportation.
Event Planning Responsibility – DJs who are required to provide all of the event planning services to the client are typically compensated more than DJs who work for a company that provides most event planning to the clients.
Overtime – most companies give most or all of the overtime to the DJ. In many cases, the client is required to write the overtime check directly to the DJ. However, there are many companies that do not give all of the overtime to the DJ, especially if all of the revenue must be claimed by the company.
Gratuities are usually kept by the DJ. Many companies suggest an optional gratuity for the DJ to their clients. This greatly depends on the customary fee charged for an event – a company that commands $1200 is less likely to find it appropriate to suggest a gratuity compared to a company that typically charged $600 for an event.
Pay Scale – most companies have an entry level pay rate for new DJs and a “top out” pay rate for their more experienced DJ/Emcees. It is highly recommended that you NOT start a new DJ out at the highest rate you can afford to pay, but rather, start them low and provide FREQUENT pay raises for above average performance. Pay increases can apply to their base rate AND overtime rates. See evaluations below.

Additional Services – Experience shows that if you ask an employee to carry more equipment than usual, and arriver earlier to set it up, they complain about having to work longer hours for the same salary. Many of the multi-system companies surveyed indicated that they do not provide additional compensation to their DJs for heavier workloads. Providing additional services raises several important issues:

Is it fair to pay an employee the same for six hours of work for an event that only requires a standard sound system vs. an event that requires the employee to arrive one hour sooner, and stay one hour later to set up a trussed lighting system and upgraded sound?

Not only is the employee working longer, they are working HARDER.

If your company requires the employee to provide their own transportation, and they can easily transport a basic sound system in a mid-size car, how can the company give the employee incentive to maintain a pick-up or van to transport lighting up-sells?

Evaluations

There are two types of evaluations for DJs:

1. Client Event Feedback Forms – form sent by the company to the client to get their feedback on how the DJ performed.
2. Employee Evaluations for DJs by Management – this is important to the DJs development, and in many cases is tied to pay increases. Employee evaluations should cover all aspects of performance and essentially be a review of the most critical performance standards.

Managing Employee Behavior Problems & Improving Employee Performance

Your leadership and interpersonal skills greatly influence the frequency with which you will encounter employee problems.

Not everyone is cut out to be a multi-system manager.

Managing part time employees is more difficult than full time employees.

In most cases, your DJs will have a part time status with your company, and hold full time jobs elsewhere. Usually, DJs who work with a multi system company do not rely on their part-time salary to pay their essential bills.

Just because you own the company and have the technical title of being “the boss”, doesn’t mean that you manage your employees like a military drill sergeant.

The most successful multi-system managers rely less on their power as “the boss”, and utilize positive coaching techniques to motivate their employees.

Performance problems generally fall into two categories:

o Job performance problems

o Behavior problems

Job performance problems include manipulative skills that are lacking, or work habits that do not meet the standards that you have set for your employee.

Behavior problems include inappropriate attitude, difficult personality, conflicts with other employees, personal problems or substance abuse problems.

Steps for Dealing With Employee Problems:

1. Do not approach an employee at an event with a problem, unless it is absolutely necessary.

2. Avoid approaching an employee with a problem if you are angry.

3. Focus on the performance, rather than on the employee.

4. Use a problem solving approach, rather than a rigid disciplinary or punishment-oriented approach.

5. Identify the performance problem. Document the specific behavior or performance that did not meet your standards or expectations. Be sure that you are analyzing performance, not personalities or personal style.

6. Review the performance problem with the employee in private.

7. Ask the employee if they realized that there was a problem, and ask if they have any reasons as to why they have not met the standard.

8. If the employee has not given a significant reason to justify their actions, review the standard or company policy – it is helpful to have most of your standards in writing in a company or employee manual. By demonstrating that the employee is in non-compliance to an existing standard or policy, it is obvious that you are not making a personal attack on the employee.

9. Next, praise the employee for the positive aspects of their job performance as a whole, explaining that you value them as an employee. Review the effect that the performance problem has on the company, projecting a positive attitude toward the employee that your only interest is to bring their performance back up to par. This step is especially important for employees who normally have good work habits or when there is a minor infraction.

10. Use coaching techniques to help the employee identify the problem, and explore solutions to the poor performance. Ask the employee to offer their own solutions to the problem, if appropriate. This is especially effective, because they will be more likely to conform to their own solution, than one that you have set for them.

11. Take into consideration any previous Job Performance problems the employee has had to determine your approach.

12. Reach an agreement on the behavior to be changed or the performance improvement required.

13. Establish an improvement plan and a timetable.

14. Discuss the consequences, such as potential disciplinary action (if applicable).

15. Document the conversation, and what the employee agreed to do to solve the problem.

16. Follow up by providing support and monitoring the improvement objectives and timetable.

17. If the employee fails to improve, initiate disciplinary action – if applicable, or more coaching and positive reinforcement to assist the employee improve.

Use common sense – if one of the above steps do not apply to the situation, then eliminate that step from your meeting.

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Mobile Beat Staff Writer (228 Posts)

This is the general editors account for Mobile Beat Magazine and Website. Who reads Mobile Beat online and in print and attends Mobile Beat events? DJs, VJs and KJs to start with, especially those who own and operate mobile entertainment services. They provide music, video, lighting and a myriad other entertainment choices for corporate events, wedding receptions, dances and innumerable other gatherings.


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