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By Jimmy Lee.
It all kind of just happened, and I have loved it entirely, so I feel incredibly grateful for the life DJing has given me. Perhaps because I started so young – and already had a seven-night-a-week residency in a holiday park’s over-21s nightclub when I was just 17 (that kind of stuff happened in the 80s) – I have always been looking towards the inevitability of retirement. Doing so much so young meant I felt the end must be coming quite young too. I never would’ve dreamed of still doing this in my mid-50s!

I met my better half when I was 32 and knew I wanted to settle down. In my naïve mind, DJing was not conducive to settling, so I took a day job whilst still gigging in clubs every weekend. The managing director at one of those day jobs still reminds me every time we speak that in the interview I specifically stated the reason I wanted that job (22 years ago) was because I needed to think of my future and look at retiring from DJing.

Today it couldn’t be a more opposite story. However, what made that change was not me deciding to just carry on or realising that I wasn’t as old as my youthful self had envisaged. It was the decision to build an exit strategy. At one of the brilliant Pro Mobile Conferences in Solihull, one of the keynote speakers mentioned a word that struck a chord with me. He didn’t use it in the context I interpreted it, but I latched onto the word nonetheless as being the best adjective for what I was (and still am) trying to build. That word was ‘legacy’.

I want my brand to last beyond me, as well as sustaining my family and I in our old age. As a small business owner, the desire to leave a legacy is deeply rooted in our entrepreneurial journey. Beyond the daily grind of managing any business, we have a unique opportunity to create something enduring and impactful, something that very few of us can achieve through ‘regular’ employment. I realised that to achieve that aim, I had to go multi-op.

Jimmy Lee Entertainments had been a well-known and fast-growing agency when I lived in West Yorkshire in the late-80s to early-90s, before I traded it in for an Ibiza residency. Back then, DJ agencies were so different to what I have now that I had largely forgotten this era of my history until preparing this article.
Having an agency back then was quite a cliché. Most of the work was for pubs and birthday parties for highly competitive prices, with any agent earning a wafer-thin slice of the action in exchange for being very busy and extremely stressed. Today, our industry is transformed. We can be so much more professional, especially as we build appreciation of the value of branding.

A big step towards becoming a multi-op is to recognise that you may be the driving force behind your brand but you cannot be the brand itself any longer. You need to develop something that is bigger than you, and nurture that. This was why we moved away from being Jimmy Lee Entertainments (2015 reboot version) to register, trade mark and protect our brand as Devoted Events in August 2018. That was when I became more of a figurehead representative, rather than the ‘name’ people wanted or expected when they bought into our services.

In October 2018, I was starting to worry about the coming year’s bookings (this feeling was an annual event around this time but I still wasn’t used to it). I had the huge fortune of two separate venues contacting me within a fortnight of each other, who wanted meetings to discuss residencies.

Time has shown it would’ve been impossible to do these residencies on my own; each provides around 60 to 70 bookings per year. I’m sure you understand the frustration of turning away duplicate bookings one weekend whilst the following or prior weekend you’ve got nothing – gigs are just like buses in that sense.

My Devoted Events rebrand meant I was already growing the business to include multiple DJs, which meant buying my second rig. The hard part of starting on this path is that it’s understandably difficult to keep subcontractors engaged in the early stages when growth is stuttering and sporadic. You can’t get the gigs without the staff but you can’t keep the staff committed without plenty of gigs, so it’s a chicken-and-egg scenario.

These two venues utterly transformed my situation. I could plug gaps in my own diary with them (and still do) and earn a share when other DJs fulfil the bookings. In my mind, the latter was the most important for the growth of the business.

t wasn’t earning commission that motivated me initially, but keeping our DJs busy to try to engender loyalty. At the same time, we wanted to make ourselves important cogs in the running of the venues we supply. Of course, the commission was pivotal to the plan, but initially it was all about building for that long-term goal. Those residencies have helped us build to a position where I can be a bit choosier about the bookings I do personally, focusing more on our larger package bookings.

Recruitment comes with its own issues. As I’ve...

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