The need to Keep Commitments - FAQ

If you are wanting to build your business you definitely need to learn to KEEP COMMITMENTS. It is a pet peeve of mine as often times with the personality type of an artist, one also gets the character trait of the lack of follow through. For those natural artists out there, I do not mean to offend, but if you are in the process of hiring other face painters to help you meet commitments, you will find there is a direct relationship in their great artistic skills and their tendency to be a bit flaky. Before you get riled up, I'll go on record that many talented artists have learned to organize themselves and have excellent follow through. I'll cover some organizational tips in a future FAQ.

If I had the choice to hire an excellent artist or someone that needs the work, I personally would prefer to hire the person that needs work simply because I feel I could work with them and bring up their current skills to meet my minimum artist standard for a given event. Most of you know with some training and repeated practice one can take a mediocre painter and make them into a great painter. There now are so many resources for classes, books and videos to learn. We have come a long way in ten years in the ability to improve the skills of painters. I've dealt with many that said "I can not draw a stick figure" and with some effort they are above average painters in less than one year.

I've seen this pattern of the lack of follow through too many times to count. I've been in the mode of hiring face painters now for over ten years and that alone gives one a track record. Give it some time and I'd wager you will agree with me. Recently, I had a need for painters for an event that would be held in Boston. Because it is not cost effective to pay airfare, hotel and other travel accommodations (from Texas) I opted to hire local face painters. I worked on these arrangements a couple of months in advance. I found one worker right away and the second one about a month in advance of the event. I of course, will not mention any names here for obvious reasons. I checked out their artist skills and covered clearly what I was willing to pay for the event.

I've done this enough times that I know what is called "the commitment pattern". I do not put down a firm name to the open position until there is a PERFECT UNDERSTANDING of the agreement. I keep looking until someone says FIRMLY "YES". I almost always put this in writing. I suggest you do the same. This is what you will be doing for me and this is what I will be doing for you. Do you have any concerns at all with any of the agreement? With this agreement can you tell me with a FIRM COMMITMENT YOU WILL BE AT THE EVENT? Again, if they can not say firmly yes, then I keep looking. Once I have filled all of my slots I then count the event as properly prepared and move on with my busy life.

Often, depending on the event, I will do a couple of follow-up e-mails or contacts just to make sure everyone is on tract and any concerns like time, directions to the location or the like is taken care of. The more follow up you do, the better you might sleep at night.

Then I get the bomb a short time before the event, "I really hate to tell you this Gary, but I can not come to your event because I have been given a great opportunity on that same date." or "I did not look at my calendar before I gave you my commitment and realized I promised to paint at my church's fund raiser" or any variation of the above. If you stay in this business long enough you will hear just about everything.

Then there you are, days before your event and you are short for YOUR COMMITMENT because your so-called FIRM WORKER is flakey. You have to go in panic mode to fill the open position or positions. Generally this means stress, loss of valuable time and often greater financial costs. If not that, you have to compromise for a worker with skills below what you had originally intended for that event.

What happen in this case is you scramble and do your best to do your duty and fill the slot. The flakey worker goes and does their other
event and people think they all live happily ever after.

With that said... you should always be thinking of possible back ups. When you are an individual painter booking your own gigs it can get complicated. You might be booked for little Suzy's birthday party to paint faces four months in advance where you are going to get paid $200 for a two hour event. Then one month before, you get a call from company XYZ that is wanting you to paint in their booth for a three day event for ten hours per day at the same hourly rate. What are you going to do? Do you call little Suzy up and say, tough luck, I have to turn down your $200 party for my $3000 event?

I can tell you, when you back out of any event with some reason, other than a major crisis in your life, it will come back and haunt you for
years to come. If you back out on my Boston event or you back out on Suzy's birthday party it is going to bleed and probably leave a scar. People will have a memory of you burning them for an event and more likely than not, they never give you a future opportunity and if someone ever asks you for a reference, one can be assured it will not be a friendly or supportive one.

In the British, now International face painting organization (FACE) one of their guidelines for joining the professional organization is other
members must be comfortable with referring you for events. In other words members of the organization look out at all members to see to it that the minimum standards are being met. This can be everything from do they use safe face paints, are they honest, or do they keep their commitments? Now I do not know how effective this particular creed is, but I do know if my worker flakes out on me it is very unlikely that I could recommend them to a future event. Effective or not, the creed to maintain basic standards is a good one to have as professional face painters. I might not go out and badmouth the person by name but if anyone asked me if I've ever worked with so-and-so I would reply with a grimace and an honest reply.

I can promise you that I'll leave off my list that particular name the next time I travel to Boston. I assure you if you do not show up at little Suzy's birthday party you will be getting a reprimand of fire from an angry mom as you hear the child crying in the back ground on the
phone. Once you burn those bridges it can be very damaging to your future business.

So here is my suggestion for you as professionals. When you are given an opportunity, look carefully at your schedule. Consider all of the pros and cons of doing that particular event. If you think it is a fair deal and you want to do the event, then stand firm no matter what event comes up. With this said, use some common sense. If you come down will some major illness, there is a death in the family or some other real personal crisis, give the person a call. Give as much notice as possible. If possible, suggest several other people that they might be able to use to fill your particular position. Do everything in your power to do some damage control. The world can be a rough place and we all understand that things happen. Just make sure you have done your part to keep the commitment. Don't sell your reputation because you are not thorough in your appointment records or you sell out to a better paying gig. Once you say you give a FIRM YES then stand behind your word. If you don't, the pain in the future might be worse than the pain of keeping your word. People remember when they are burned.

Bottom line is... your word should be something you can be proud of or you will not be successful long term. The world is getting smaller and smaller as it becomes easier to travel and easier to communicate through mediums like this discussion list and e-mail. The internet makes a bad experience flow so much quicker. Always do your best to follow through on every commitment. In the end you will come out much better off.

Gary Cole

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