In my middle-aged life, I’ve learned quite a few first hand lessons. Others by observing others. Some lessons need to be experienced, first hand. Others don’t.
Here is the first, in a series of scenarios and solutions that should cause you to do more than think. They should motivate you to act (if you haven’t already done so).
In the wake of Saturday Night Fever, my first mobile DJ business, Music Man, was a huge success. My business partner, Scott Foell and I, had moved into a sparkling new office-warehouse and we’d bought our first new van, only about 7 months after opening our doors.
Coming back from a gig in San Francisco’s East Bay, just a few miles from our Burlingame office, I was rear-ended by a 2-ton Army truck. The driver his took his eye off the road for a moment, and did not notice traffic was slowing to merge into one lane, due to construction.
Wham! He hit me. I hit the car in front of me. A turntable came flying out of the DJ console, whizzed by right ear, and landed in the front seat. I envisioned the headline: DJ decapitated by flying turntable. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.
Lesson #1: Safety First Henceforth, all vans were be equipped with safety grates behind the driver and passenger seats, across the width of the van. It made equipment easier to secure, and it prevented possible decapitation or other injury. Cost: About $150 for grate (as I recall). Self-installed.
Even though the van was shortened about one foot by the impact of the collision, I was able to drive it the last couple of miles back to the office. Probably shouldn’t have, but I did. I can still see the shock on Scott’s face.
Needless to say the van was out of commission, and eventually would be totaled by our insurance company. Not without some wrangling. They wanted to take a new vehicle (just a few thousand miles on it) and repair it. not bloody likely.
Lesson #2: Don’t take no for an answer: My partner Scott was/is a mild-mannered guy. However, he turned up the heat on the main man at the body shop. Essentially, he said, “If you want to repair this van, it will be the best job you’ve ever done, because we will not accept any less. Are we clear.” The body shop manager was, as in A Few Good Men, “crystal clear.” There were no future brownie points available for being nice guys, so we stood our ground until we had agreement. This was simply a situation where a backbone and a firm voice were required.
Lesson #3: Have car rental coverage. To be honest, I can’t remember precisely what our coverage was, but I’m sure it didn’t quite cover the daily rate for a van rental.
Further, we were constrained by the tug-of-war with the insurance company and the body shop while they decided whether or not they would total the van, and how much they would give in replacement dollars.
Typically, rental coverage runs 30 days, maximum. So, time was of the essence. Once we got a positive ruling and money from the insurance company, we still had to buy a new van, and outfit it properly, for our use. If that ran past 30 days, all the rental money would come out of our pockets.
Lesson #4: Have commercial vehicle coverage. Many businesses start small, in their home or garage, and grow from there. That’s fine, but you best have business coverage on a vehicle used for business. If a vehicle is used for delivery of goods or services, it’s quite obvious that its use is for business.
Music Man had its vehicles insured properly. Had we not, all coverage may easily have been disallowed.
Lesson #5: Owners are not covered by Workers Comp, so you need to have proper health insurance. Health insurance can be purchased on its own, AND supplemental coverage can be a part of vehicle insurance.
I was fortunate that I only received a whiplash. I wear seat belts, always. Had I not, I would be history.
A quick visit to the emergency room told me that nothing was broken, by I did have to wear a collar to constrain my neck movement for a couple of weeks. And, as the show must go on, I was performing the very next day.
Lesson #6: Have back up gear. At that time, we were booked heavily. And except for that one flying turntable, everything looked OK. But who really new? Scott checked everything, but we really could not be certain.
We did have back up equipment, to substitute, immediately.
So what does all of this have to do with wedding marketing?
Plenty! One of the biggest issues in business is reliability. There are many factors that are not under your control. There are a half-dozen issues outlined (actually, I’m sure there are more I don’t recall) that you can have complete control or heavy influence over.
Any business can look good when the sailing is smooth. When there are challenges, and I mean extreme challenges, what you’re made of, really shows through.
Occasionally a nervous bride would propose a scenario such as “What if you get in a car accident? Who will do my job?” – I would recount this story, closing with my performing the very next day, even though I was constrained by a collar and pain. I felt that hammered home our work ethic.
Then I’d pause and say… “But if were to get killed on the way to your event, that’s something I wouldn’t be able to control. Of course, that would leave me worse off than you.“ I’d follow this with a rehearsed chuckle. That did the trick.
Gallows humor? Oh yes, but it made a simple point. Our business did everything it could do to plan and execute entertainment services, including important things the client could not see.
It’s up to you to develop a reputation of reliability and preparedness. And then live up to it.
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