Archive for May 21st, 2008

Trust Me – When I Turn Down Work, There’s A Good Reason

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

I used to attend church with a sweet lady who – upon learning that I’m an itinerant musician – said: “Oh, I’d love to be like you, and only work when I want to!”

What that dear lady failed to understand is that, every single time the phone rings, I want to work. My wish is that I’ll be available on their date, my hope is that my fee will be within their budget, and – most of all – my fervent prayer is that my talents will be a good fit for their needs.

Alas, it is not always so.

I’m fortunate that usually, when I’m already booked on their date, most clients will accept that fact and allow me to recommend other acts. And – on those occasions when their budget is too low for us to reach an accomodation – the majority of my callers understand if I must decline. Where I run into problems constantly is with the third category – my talents fitting their needs.

It is a wonderful compliment when a potential customer thinks I can do almost anything. Would that it were true. But the sad fact is, no performer is right for every occasion. And – like many of my competitors – I’ve learned (the hard way) exactly how far the outer limits of my ability to please a crowd can be pushed. I know where the boundary line is, and I’m very careful not to cross it. That’s why – if what you are seeking doesn’t sound like me to me – I am going to politely (but firmly) decline your sweet and generous offer.

This is for your sake and mine. You are the immediate beneficiary. When I say no to you, I will try my best to point you toward someone who is as close to perfect for your needs as is within my power to do. So you are a winner in this transaction. But saying “no thanks” to your money is ultimately a good business decision for me, as well. No responsible professional knowingly puts himself into a situation where failure is virtually guaranteed, because it is toxic to future employment.

Unfortunately, even when I am convinced that it is in both the client’s and my best interests to pass up a job offer, the customer frequently fails to agree. I had such a caller today. She was absolutely convinced that I would put on the best of all possible “Oktoberfest” programs. No matter how articulately I pointed out that our town has many fine oom-pah bands (complete with lederhosen and dirndls), she still wanted yours truly. After about 12 negative responses, she did get the message. But I don’t think she ever got the point: if I’d thought I had any chance at all of getting away with being “Herr Dave And His Majik Accordion,” I would have gladly agreed to do the job. I said “no” for the simple reason that I would have been terrible.

So, the next time you call me (or any other entertainer), and the “no” you receive has nothing to do with a prior booking or finances, take it from “Herr Dave:” I’m honored that you called, and I hate like the dickens to have to turn down your beautiful money. I did it to keep me from ruining your party.

Some day – you’ll thank me.