Thinking About Business

   Posted by: Faith   in Everything Else

Writing, for many of us, isn’t just the hobby we sometimes make it out to be: It’s a business, and in many cases we need to treat it like one. We send in resumes and proposals (ie. queries) and wait for our interview (ie. partials or fulls) and hope to get “hired”. It’s joyful and exciting when we succeed, and sad when we don’t — but giving up isn’t an option. We keep pushing forward, with the knowledge that if we continue searching and putting ourselves and our work out there, eventually (providing we also concentrate on upgrading our skills) we’ll find the success or measure of acceptance that we hoped for.

In that sense, it’s a business.

But what about the people on the other end?

This topic comes to mind as I struggle with a conflict at a particular place of employment, which I won’t name for the sake of making sure this doesn’t come back to bite me later…

As many of you know, I’m heavily involved in a local subset of the dance community, and I also teach classes at various locations. One day while at a studio (which I shall refer to as “StudioAwesome” for the sake of this post), the owner asked some people whether they could recommend anyone who would be appropriate to come in and teach an appreciation night for StudioAwesome’s instructors. She wanted to hold a private event, at StudioAwesome, offering a fun little dance routine in a style none of us know… it just so happened that I knew a few people who taught the particular dance style, so I recommended a few names.

One of the names I recommended works for a studio that I shall refer to as “StudioExclusive” for the sake of this post. I mentioned that Instructor X would be an excellent choice for StudioAwesome’s appreciation night, as Instructor X had the experience and knowledge necessary to teach the dance style and work with experienced dancers. I also mentioned that since Instructor X was currently employed with StudioExclusive, hiring might need to be done through StudioExclusive. Sounds reasonable, right?

From my point of view, I…

  • gave a personal recommendation for an instructor at a non-competing studio
  • promoted StudioExclusive through recommending their instructor
  • mentioned the instructor’s potential prior obligation to StudioExclusive

I did nothing but PROMOTE StudioExclusive through my recommendation.

The owner of StudioAwesome proceeded to contact the instructors I recommended, just as a business owner is expected to, in order to find the best fit for her appreciation event. She wanted to find the right person for the job, to put it bluntly.

A few days later, the owner of StudioAwesome received an angry email from the owner of StudioExclusive, accusing the StudioAwesome owner of “going behind her back” and trying to “steal her instructors”, etc etc. Naturally, the StudioAwesome owner was beyond shocked… these two studios are non-competing, and have cross-promoted each other for some time… and rather than the instructor writing back with a simple “hey, I’m under a specific exclusivity contract, would you mind contacting my boss instead?”, the instructor notified the owner who took a defensive and possessive stance, immediately throwing out accusations.

This, my friends, is no way to run a business. In a case of a potential misunderstanding, you don’t throw out accusations of trying to undermine the other person’s business — you need to clarify the situation first, then discuss things in a civilized manner. Beyond that, StudioExclusive claims that anyone who had ever taught that dance style for her, regardless of whether they were employed with her now, and anyone who had ever taken a class in that dance style at her studio cannot teach that style anywhere else, for the rest of eternity, according to an exclusivity contract they sign when they attend the class/are hired.

(I can tell you right now, I took that class ONCE about five years ago, and I certainly didn’t sign any contract like that. I put my signature down under the understanding that it was a health/safety waiver, like all other studios have.)

It made me think about all the places we submit to, and the way we get our writing out there… when we submit our work and it’s published in Magazine A, magazine A retains rights to that particular story for some time… but that doesn’t mean we can’t submit more of our work elsewhere. In fact, if we have a bio line in magazine B, we’ll probably mention that our work was previously published in magazine A, therefore promoting that other magazine to anyone who liked our work. Then, what will the reader do? Likely, search out our work in both magazine A *and* magazine B. It’s cross-promotion at its finest.

So, why would someone demand that their CONTRACT EMPLOYEES work exclusively for them, if they have the time to teach elsewhere in a non-competing capacity (ie. an appreciation night, a magazine with a different audience) if it’s only going to benefit both businesses?

To me, that’s an issue of control that takes things way too far. That only makes the second business (ie. StudioExclusive) look bad, and reflects poorly on them in the long run… and it loses money for them, because they lose out on the potential new customers that would arise from the cross-promotional work.

Needless to say, StudioExclusive will not be receiving my recommendations in the future, and I plan to cut ties with them as soon as my own contract is up. Not only is the control issue extremely bad business on their end, but the accusations thrown around without even an attempt to clarify the situation is unacceptable.

Yes, I know this post wasn’t entirely about writing… but sometimes it’s good to think about the business side of things too, as a situation perhaps not dissimilar to this one might come up for you someday in the writing world (or even in your day job). We can’t always separate business from our writing, but we always need to be aware of good business practices, and how to communicate effectively with one another in delicate situations.

This entry was posted on Monday, April 26th, 2010 at 3:46 pm and is filed under Everything Else. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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