Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Business Manager: How Do You Manage The Manager?

I am married to my business manager.  Now, in saying this I do not mean that my business manager and I work together so often, and are in each other's lives so deeply, that my husband says I might as well be married to her or him.  No.  My husband is my business Manager.  I often refer to him as The David.

Here we are in our younger, cooler days

How did he become my manager?   Well, thirteen years ago my husband gave up his job as a social worker in the Duke University Hospitals System, and I gave up my job as the full time homemaker and primary caregiver of our two children.

He came home, and I went back on the road.  Eight months after that, he took up the post of business manager.  I will spare you the bumps and bruises of that would make a good story, though.

Fast forward to a year after he took up the job.  We turned into a C Corp called DLW Storyteller Inc.
It exists separately from us, and has its own life, which is weird.  On March 1, 2015, we will have been a company for twelve years.

Over the last decade, we had to work to figure out what each of us is responsible for in the business.  We've gotten help from Merle Davis over the years.  I understand Paula Lepp, does her bit, Jim May's daughter was in it up to her ears when I first started in this business, Diane Ferlatte's husband picks up the slack, and Ed Stivender's sister manages his work.

Diane Ferlatte

I can't speak to how any of them manage their managers, but I can tell you how The David and I roll.  There are some hard and fast rules we follow when it comes to who does what.  For instance:

1)  I am not allowed to book anything.  I can't even pretend to promise.

2)  I do not handle travel plans.  I can suggest, but I don't make the arrangements.

3)  I do not meet with the lawyers or accountants by myself.  Ever.

4)  I don't quote prices for anything.  Ever.

One might be tempted to ask why there are such strict rules about what the artist isn't allowed to do.  Simple, when control freaks work together, they do not do a good job controlling the same things.

When The David became my manager, I'd already been in this business for fourteen years.  I was used to doing everything a very specific way.  David doesn't think, behave, organize or consider things the same way I do.  Our first year was one fight after another until I finally let him manage the business part of the business.  This was a very hard thing to do.

Saw a bunch of these pithy sayings about letting go.  Chose one at random.  They all apply.

There were many up sides to giving up control of the day to day operations.  I no longer have to worry about lots of time consuming details.

The David:

1) Takes care of targeting, distributing, and managing all of the PR

2)  Books all of the shows and fields all of the phone calls from clients

3)  Works out fees for block booking and sends out the contracts

4)  Responds to the emails

5)  Mails out the education packets

6)  Deals with people who think they want a storyteller when what they need is a magician or other type of performer

7) Consults with people who are putting festivals together for the first time, or who are new to the world of PTA cultural arts representation

8) Works with our accountant

9)  Arranges studio time for recordings

10) Cuts checks for everyone

11)  Manages accounts for the business

12) Does the taxes

13)  Works out where I'm going to be in the world and when

14)  Organizes the number and type of charitable events we do every year

15)  Makes us look good

16) Tracks deadlines for conference submissions, and proposals

Heavens, you might ask, if he is doing all of that, what on earth are you doing?

Me?  I get to be an artist.

1)  I write the PR copy, in fact, I usually write the base for all of the copy that comes out of the company

2)  I write stories

3) I read tons of material both fiction and non-fiction

4) I manage our social media presence

5)  I write non-fiction articles for books, magazines, and blogs

6)  I create workshops, write up their descriptions, create blurbs for them, and teach them

7)  I learn new stories

8)  I go to conferences where I take classes, and do the whole Networking thing

9)  I teach at conferences

10) I keynote conferences, and various other events

11)  I mentor new tellers and confer with colleagues

12)  I write this blog

13) I travel all over the world

14) I do author appearances

15)  Every now and then I show up in Unitarian pulpits

16)  I tell stories

This morning as I was getting into the shower, I was lamenting that Thursdays are my non-fiction day.  I spend the morning creating copy for things.  It is not my favorite way to spend the day.  I prefer fiction or picture books or reading or well, most of the other elements of my job.  The David scoffed at my complaint.

"Oh, poor baby."  He mocked.  "One day of the week where you have to write stuff that isn't fun.  Awww!"  He made a dramatic sigh.  "I've got to go upstairs and write out eight contracts, work on the taxes, and book four hotels.  So, go sit down and commune with your blog while I do the parts of your job that you hate."

I looked at him while wearing my shower cap and nothing else, "My job?"  I replied in melodramatic shock.  "That's your job, buddy."

So, that is the way I describe dealing with a business manager.  

The David describes his job differently:

"The hours are awful, the pay is terrible, and my boss sexually harasses me on the job."

And now all the world knows working with me is hell.
(Originally, I was going to put a pic of a woman in leather with a whip right here, but I just googled those images, and I'm pretty sure I'm not old enough to be seeing material like that, so I chose a lovely picture from Dante's Inferno instead)

For the record, I did enjoy writing the last part.

Happy Working!

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