DJ Sees Clients as “Cherished Friends”

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Cranford, N.J.—John DePalma’s story, like so many DJs, starts “in the neighborhood.” He connected with a local DJ who was looking for outgoing, personable people to assist him at events.

“I learned the business very quickly,” says DePalma, who adds that the DJ was so pleased with his progress that he began referring DePalma to many of his DJ colleagues in the area who were also looking for help at their events.

“Within months,” he recalls, “I found myself booked every single weekend for several different companies.”

However, DePalma noticed that the quality levels—of performance and client relations—seemed to greatly vary. “I discovered that each company had a different definition of what a being a DJ/entertainer was vs. still operating an actual successful business, which led in some cases for various reasons, an unhappy client.”

DePalma’s career moment occurred when he moved to Florida to work full-time at the No. 1 entertainment resort in the world, a company that was the undisputed leader in “Creating Happiness.”

“The expectation of their team was the same in every single role on property, to ensure that each and every guest has the most fantastic time possible from every aspect from the beginning to very end of their trip,” says DePalma, who can’t mention the company name for contractual reasons.

Turns out, learning and executing these core values in “exceptional service… every one, every time, everywhere,” that has successfully stood for over 50 years, had literally transformed his mindset.

“I began to execute my roles as if I own the company, and the guests were my own clients.”

He returned to New Jersey after a year, a changed man, and a changed performer. In 2002, he decided to open his own DJ business—All Star Entertainment—one that would focus on the aspect of the business that he saw the industry lacked.

“I would provide not only top-of-the-line professional equipment, but from the very first phone call from the client to the last dance of their celebration, I’d ensure that we’ve exceeded their expectations and that they’ve enjoyed their experience in doing business with us the entire way.”

I asked DePalma what some of the challenges were in starting his business. “Most business owners in any occupation,” he replies, “will tell you that it’s hard to find good people to work for you that will treat your company as importantly as you will. In our case, in addition to that statement, when you’re now adding to the job description, ‘Must have the passion to exceed the expectations to ensure all of our client’s dreams come true,’ it tends to eliminate a good portion of potential candidates from our interview process very quickly. We’re lucky that the four entertainers we currently have are passionate about what our goal is. As they say, ‘Your company is only as good as your weakest DJ,’ so in spite of the challenges in the beginning in finding the right fit, it was certainly worth it.”

DePalma says it was matter of keeping these key principles and values in place, and “eventually it becomes second nature for those working around you.”

DePalma says referrals constitute 75-percent of his business, considering every event they do as an audition for the next event. He quotes Lee Cockerell, a former EVP, who’s published several books on topics from leadership strategies to delivering sensational customer service. “One of his quotes that we live by is, ‘Be careful what you say and do as everyone is watching you and judging you every second.’ From the very point we arrive onsite, we consider ourselves, ‘On Stage,’ since it’s not just an opportunity for the guests to consider your services for their next event, but for the banquet hall to begin recommending your company to their clients as well.”

One innovation that has changed DePalma’s business is the incorporation of uplighting, an addition that happened quite peculiarly.

“My turning point of considering an expansion to add lighting and photo booth services was actually decided at a conversation with a guest at one of our events,” he says. “The client hired a ‘low-end’ photo booth, and the mapping of the room required it to be set up near our DJ area. The photo booth was lacking quality and his presentation was extremely poor. To my surprise, a guest approached me and asked what the fee would be to rent my booth. I had just realized that this ‘low-end’ booth was being mistaken as a reflection of my company. So, just like our audio equipment, we went to the top manufacturers and purchased top-of-the-line equipment. So it’s helped our business in a very simple way with our clients, since if you are trusting us already with your special day musically, then you can trust that the quality and ethics are also in place for our additional lighting and photo booth offerings.”

When I ask DePalma where he see his business in three years, he can only think about it in terms of the success his company has seen to date.

“Our success has been based on the foundation of establishing great relationships with our clients,” he says. “We enjoy planning with them as we become partners in creating their special day, and then we execute their wishes exactly the way they dreamed they would be. Often, after the event, we’ve kept in touch with them, met up with them at local functions, sporting events, etc. So to ask where we would be in three years, if we keep exceeding the expectations of our clients while treating them like ‘cherished friends,’ in three years we’ll have not only more referrals for our services, but we’re going to have a lot more ‘friends.’”