‘Learn to Say No’: Lexy Dobbin Reflects on Her First Year in Business (Opinion)
Today marks my one year anniversary in business.
One year as Alexia Dobbin Enterprises moving with the times, developing a company from scratch, learning hard lessons, developing concepts, creating strategies, and keeping clients, managers, executives and employees excited and encouraged to never give up – no matter what the world throws at them.
Today I sit here on my one year anniversary as not only a woman in business, but as a woman who started a talent and partnerships company with nothing, and in the midst of a global pandemic.
I worked every single day during lockdowns in Australia, totalling nine months over two isolating years. Most people watched Netflix, got paid time off work, got some government support, or hung out with their families. I didn’t have these options.
I had musicians, athletes, big corporation CEOs, former employees, managers, and industry peers seek my help, my services, my inspiration, my advice, and my expertise to help keep them afloat and inspired. I turned up every single day because I didn’t know how to say ‘no’ to people with dreams and people I cared about, and in return thought cared about me.
Due to this, I scaled my business far too quickly. I failed at things, I put my clients before myself, I burnt out (I still am), and I learnt just how expensive legal fees are in order to protect yourself, your assets, your intellectual property but most importantly your peace.
Over the last 12 months I’ve learned a lot of hard lessons, but most of all I’ve realised my worth. Every email, every client call or text, every Zoom request and every opportunity to help someone stay creative and passionate about this industry, I turned up for. That was until I realised this industry needs a major reboot on how people, behind the scenes, should be treated and valued.
Over the past year, I’ve had multiple clients take advantage of me, hold paychecks over my head, use and belittle myself and my team and manipulate me. Some have also had the audacity to say that my services, my relationships, my global industry experience, my connections, my creativity and most importantly that because my words (which 100% of the time are engaged directly by the client not the other way round) aren’t tangible – they shouldn’t have to pay for the service.
I want to sit here and say with urgency the industry needs to be educated on the value of executive input to the day to day contribution to teams and artist-driven projects. In the same way that we don’t question the cost an Uber to get from A to B, talent should do the same for those on their team.
In today’s age we are far too accessible and I wholeheartedly believe that the entertainment industry needs to normalise not responding to texts, not answering every call, not responding to emails within 20 minutes, without someone following up and then blowing up on Instagram – unless urgent, but even then 000 is the number.
I’ve finally started saying to clients, ‘If you don’t email it, it does not get done. If you don’t pay for my time, you are not a client.’ Why? Last time I checked clients don’t pay hourly, they don’t pay for your phone and they damn well don’t pay to interfere with your peace or to prioritize their careers over your own health and family.
By no means do I intend for this article to come across negatively, but I do want to take a strong stance to encourage change for those behind the scenes so we can be used to the best of our abilities.
Imagine being an artist and while you’re trying to perform on stage, your phone, your texts, your emails, your Instagram DMs, your WhatsApp and your headspace are constantly being invaded – you wouldn’t be able to perform to the best of you ability. So why does this not apply to those working behind the scenes?
Call me old school, but I truly have realised in my first year in business the power of saying ‘no’. No, I am not available at the drop of a hat. No, I am not jumping on a Zoom or consulting on a call and giving away my “talent” for free anymore. And, no, if you don’t respect my boundaries and pay your bills on time my business, my bank account and my sanity do not need you as a client – nor do they want you.
Burnout is too present in this industry and if someone doesn’t stand up and encourage change for the people behind the scenes, so they can best serve, I guarantee it will be an industry with one of the highest turnover rates. People are not designed to function around the clock.
I started a business that made more profit than loss in one of the world’s most damaged industries due to this pandemic. For the first time in my entire career, I fear no one. I finally stand behind my values and I know that the world can throw your plans upside down within a second, people you trust can walk all over you, and take advantage of you.
Even when you’re at breaking point, know that you can come out stronger, more gracious, more powerful and, most of all, more successful and honest than the people who you once looked up to.
If this article inspires just one person who is considering quitting or closing down their own small business because it’s become too hard and they can’t seem to catch a break? Please, don’t give up. Want to quit completely? Please don’t! I’m saying this because I’ve been there, I’m still here, and I’ve considered all the above. You just need to be less accessible and learn to say no.
This letter is to any female or male executive wanting to start their own business: Please so it, but you simply must go into it reminding yourself that you and your team come first – not your clients.
Here’s to another year of Alexia Dobbin Enterprises not breaking rules, but making them (all whilst telling people where to go when they deserve it).
This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.