When I first started performing hypnosis, it was a hobby that I happened to get paid for it. I had fun doing it, and it put some money in my pocket. Then it started to grow organically. I had part time jobs working at Zellers and a radio host. Soon those part time jobs began to stunt my growth. The hardest thing was to take the leap of faith and quit those jobs. I could only call in sick so many times, or use vacation dates. So I did just that – I quit. It was the most terrifying decision I ever made. No more guaranteed income or benefits. I was on my own. My stage hypnosis career was now in full bloom. Bookings were coming in from all over the place. It got to a point where my schedule was full though. Most people only want shows on a Friday or Saturday. So as with the laws of supply and demand, I upped my booking fees. Eventually it leads to me producing my own shows and very little bookings from others. This way I can control my own destiny. I can manage what dates I want to work and where. That was 24 years ago, and I haven’t looked back since.
What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture or to make significant changes in an existing business? How did the idea for your business come about?
Math is what ignited the spark for me. I would often get booked to perform in theatres literally everywhere. Some of the theatres would be as small as 500 seaters, some would hold over 2500 people. I would travel to these theatres by car or fly do the show and go home. A few days later the promoter or agent would mail me a check. I would be on such an adrenaline rush after performing for all those people. Then the check would arrive. What a downer. I would do the math. I would know that X theatre holds Y amount of people and they paid Z amount of dollars per ticket. There was a lot of money sitting in those seats. Sure I know the theatre rent had to be paid, the marketing, and all of the other little expenses, but my pay seemed to be a small footnote in the balance sheet and was the reason people were there! It didn’t seem fair. So I reversed the whole situation. I rented the theatre, and did my own marketing. I eliminated the “middle man”. In showbiz they call this four-walling. The venue just provides you four walls, but you own the show.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
The biggest hurdle was fear. What if people didn’t come to the show? What if they did come to the show but didn’t like it and would never come back. Fear is good though. It keeps you motivated. If we didn’t have any fears I feel we would just rest on our laurels, at least for me anyways. Embracing the fear and taking the leaps of faith was the only way for me to overcome them. You have to go with your gut instincts. Only you know whether your business is right for you. No one else can tell you otherwise. I think one of the biggest traits that entrepreneurs have in common, is being able to rely on their instincts.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits?
How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
My family was a little bit apprehensive at first. When I say family, I am talking about my mom (and grandmother and aunts who raised me). They thought I should be getting a “real job”. In their defense though, they were right. The odds of someone having a healthy, rewarding career in showbiz are very slim. It’s not impossible but just very hard. I didn’t handle it very well, I took it personally. They were only really looking out for my best interests. I didn’t realize it back then and I should have. Once things started rolling they slowly came around.
Friends still make little remarks to me. They think I sit around all week, and then just go work on weekend performing my show. The easy part is performing the show; the hard part is getting bums in the seats. Showbiz is 1% show, and 99% biz. Now that I am older I have my own family. Without my wife’s support the show wouldn’t go on. We have two kids and she has to be a full-time mommy. Not only does she offer moral support, but you will often find her on the front lines, taking tickets, greeting people, or returning phone calls.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
Travelling to Vegas and once again, doing the math. On any given night there are around 20,000 seats for sale for a show. They range from little small 50 seat lounges to 5,000 arenas, and most of the time they are full. It was mind blowing to me. I saw all the little things they did to fill those theatres and I’ve tried to duplicate those things here in Canada.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
I wish I learned practical skills in high school and college that could have helped me. When starting a business you need a logo, a website, photos, and in my case videos, and music. All these things you can do yourself. I taught myself Photoshop, HTML, Premier, After Effects, Audition, SEO and a bunch of other software so I can do most of this work myself. Otherwise you will be stuck spending 1000’s of dollars on these necessities. Nowadays, these things are being offered in your local high school.
What advice would you give to an upcoming young and old entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Go for it! Go big or go home. If you are going to give it a shot, actually try hard. Put all of the eggs in the same basket. This is the best way to keep yourself vested.