Here is a cute true story I would like to share with the community "Here Come the Spare Dogs!" offering valuable lessons in customer-vendor relationships that I once learned containing a strong moral fabric.
If you read my previous blog post, you'll know Off the Hook Entertainment contains the brands Kaju’s Off the Hook, NYC’s Most Exciting Party Band, Stony Rollers, and Walk This Way, which all sprouted from a classic rock band called The Air Dogs.
A Rude Awakening Concerning Absentee Ownership
Back in the day we used to be called The Air Dogs and we played classic rock and Top 40 at a club called Burke’s in Yonkers, NY where we were having a successful weekly run for almost one year. Seldom if ever did I change the lineup, and there were only a few occasions when that happened.
On those few occasions, I would substitute 1 to 2 musicians at most during the rare cases a band member happened to be ill or had a conflict. The crowd at Burke's always loved us regardless of the lineup, as I always “subbed out” competent experienced professional musicians; and the proof in the pudding was they would always demand “one more song” at the end of the night.
One particular October night, our bass player was out sick, my drummer was out of the country, and our singer was doing a show elsewhere. That same day I decided to take the night off to go to a house party of one of my wife’s friends and subbed a friend of mine as a replacement on guitar who was a fabulous live musician. He was so great he would perform his own shows as a one-man band!
So now there were 4 non-band members of the Air Dogs performing – all great musicians and entertainers – but not one regular band member on stage.
On the next morning I received a message from my guitar player replacement that the band “killed it”, the crowd loved the music and masterful performance from this unique “sub” band. They demanded two encores at the end of the night.
However, later the sub singer who performed the gig shared an interesting subplot of events that occurred that night at Burke’s involving the owner and the band.
The singer noticed the owner of the club kept staring strangely at the band all night long while cloaked in shadows next to a curtain near the back of the room. The owner’s odd behavior was also very noticeable to the rest of the band from the very beginning of the first set.
It was now the start of the 2nd set, the band was well into their first song and their performance was on fire. The engaged crowd was rocking and absolutely loving the music!
All of a sudden, the owner ran up to the front of the stage with an 8” x 10” black and white photo clutched in his hand. He stood there shockingly looking down at the band photo, then immediately peered upward staring incredulously at the band onstage. He repeated this action two times more, the last time shaking his head in bewilderment and disgust.
The first song ends. The crowd cheers wildly then after thirty seconds the loud cheers slowly faded.
That’s when the owner cried aloud to the band,” Where are the Air Dogs?”
The sub singer immediately responded, “We’re the Air Dogs, sir.”
The owner harshly replied, “You guys aren’t the Air Dogs – I am definitely giving you a new name. You’re the Spare Dogs!!”
Wow, what a statement!
Our agent called me to tell me I should contact the owner immediately. He needed to speak directly to me. So that evening I called the owner, and while displeased he was gracious enough to offer me his candid assessments of what went wrong.
Valuable lessons in client-vendor relationships
Granted, the owner acknowledged our new “Spare Dogs” band he first witnessed having earned its new moniker performed excellently and his crowd very much enjoyed the entire night’s performance. He then almost simultaneously reprimanded me.
He said, “Place yourself in my shoes. How would my customers feel if I suddenly changed the dinner menu to something else and didn’t tell them? I bet they certainly wouldn’t like it. If I did this, do you think we would stay in business very long? I think not! I would lose loyal customers by the masses due to lack of trust.”
He was absolutely right. I learned a GREAT lesson from our talk, and this is what I gained:
a) Communicate effectively and let your clients know early if a change is coming.
b) Never change the “menu items” or prime components without informing the client first.
c) The more frequently you can effectively manage your client’s expectations, the greater long-term success you will have and the better your client-vendor relationship will be
d) If you MUST make changes to a successful formula, whenever possible only make small changes
e) Never bait and switch, this will only backfire and lead to failure.
f) I would rather cancel the event early if I am anticipating there could be major problems and protect my reputation
g) If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.
Quickly I learned that I could continue to sub out 1 to 2 players whenever needed as long as I myself or a recognizable authority that I pre-informed the client about was present on the gig. Someone who was recognizable to ownership as an authority figure always needed to be available on hand to field questions and exercise damage control.
I became acutely cognizant of the importance for me to not to be an absentee leader at an event and to be present on the gig almost all times. The few exceptions are being on my death bed, being involved in a serious accident, or other “acts of God.”
It is one thing if I am on hand at the gig (job) and using substitutes, but it is quite another if as a leader I am absent. From that day forward, I rarely missed a club date or an event.
The moral of the story: Represent your product strongly and proudly. As Woody Allen once said, “80% of success is just showing up.”
Cheers to YOUR success,