Poor Leaders End Up Herding Cats Professionally

Life Lesson: Your Ability To Lead People Ultimately Determine the Limits of Your Success


Over the next 5 years as we implemented the wisdom, advice and action steps of Lori and others into DJ Connection we grew exponentially. As we outgrew each space, we were forced to move again to accommodate our expanding business. At last in 2005 we moved into a sprawling 6,800 square foot property that sat on 5 acres. The property was gorgeous and it was ultra-practical for what we did. The office portion of the home was separate from the main house, however both buildings were connected by a breeze-way-style sky bridge. Once we moved in to our new place, life began to change immediately. Almost instantly we started to notice a lot of respect being issued to us from peers (in the wedding industry) who had previously written our team off as a bunch of happy-go-lucky, glass-half-full DJ jokesters (which we were). And in addition to the love fest that we were receiving in the way of congratulatory cards, encouraging e-mails, and voicemails from our past clients, vendor friends, and business associates; we also started to receive yet another round of animosity steered toward us from our DJ competition (who competed with us in the way that the Kansas City Royals compete with the New York Yankees). It was hilarious. We would run in to bitter DJs at bridal shows, and they would just look at us with hatred in their DJ eyes. Our DJs would come back from shows saying, “Such-and-such really hates us. Man, what did we do to those guys?” or


“Yeah, I ran into DJ So-and-So at church, and that guy is really pissed at us.” It seemed like virtually every disgruntled band member and struggling DJ service felt the need to blame us for their lack of success, which I was okay with. My theory was that as long as they blamed us, they would never fix their systems that were producing crappy results. And thus, I sort of liked being viewed as the Yankees of the DJ industry because as long as the customers loved us, the world was well. Every once in a while I would run into a hotel director, a photographer, or a previous client who would comment something to the effect of, “Man, you all have really grown. I wish I would have gotten into DJ-ing!”


These kind comments and attitudes just kept rolling in. Amidst the praise from our peers and the hate from our competition, I started to notice that that something else was changing dramatically as well. All of the relationships that Jerry Jones, Josh, and I and all of the DJ Connection DJs had been developing over the years were now growing to fruition. Almost as if the purchase of this DJ megaplex had stamped us with a big approval sticker that read, “YEP FOLKS, THESE GUYS ARE REAL!”


Bank of America, Bank of Commerce, Arkansas Valley Bank, Bama Pie, Grand Bank, Nordam, Broken Arrow (one of the largest high schools in the country), Bixby Schools, St. Pius, the Vintage on Yaletm luxury apartments, the Holiday Inn Selecttm, and QuikTriptm were all booking or rebooking us with conviction for all of their events. Josh and Jerry Jones were now giving more confident sales presentations. It seemed as though this positive pressure that we had created for ourselves by building a foundation based on a solid reputation now backed us.

Many people in Tulsa were finally starting to talk about DJ Connection as if we were something nearing a legitimate, real-deal company. This recognition meant that we were now a company to be taken seriously. DJ Connection was no longer just a dream on a piece of paper and a statement of faith on my five-year goal. It was a reality.


During this time, we received recognition in Modern Bride magazine as “Tulsa’s number-one disk jockey service,” and from the American Wedding Association as “Tulsa’s best wedding vendor.” The point was being hammered home to our potential customers: DJ Connection was the real deal. Our hard work was finally paying off, and more and more quality people were hearing about us and wanting to become part of our team or use us for their upcoming event. Finally after five years of toiling in the never-ending sea of mediocrity, we were rising to the top; and we were now being pushed by our own momentum. To quote the entertainment mogul and entrepreneur P. Diddy (Sean Combs), “We won’t stop. Because we can’t stop.” With momentum, a business can do anything, except overcome a lack of quality leadership.


My old micromanagement philosophy of if-you-want-something-done-right-you-have-to-do-it-yourself was now proving to be ineffective when tested against the might of thirty disorganized DJs. Up to this point in time, I would assign a list of tasks for our guys to do on a daily basis, and then I would relentlessly follow-up on them to make sure that they were done. Upon discovering that it had been done 80 percent of the way, I would then put the remaining 20 percent of their work on my plate, and I would do it myself.


For example, I would tell our guys to call through the entire bridal list by 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, and on Tuesday at 5:00 p.m., I would discover that they would only be 80 percent of the way through the list;  then I would begin making cold calls from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. by myself, neglecting my wife and compensating for a lack of others’ performances with my own efforts. I would ask a certain DJ to take out the trash, and he would take out 40 percent of it, and then at night after I had finished making my cold calls until 9:00 p.m., I would then take out all the office trash until 10:30 p.m. I would ask the DJs to arrive at 12:00 p.m. for the 12:30 Sunday appointment, and when I would return from church at 12:30 to discover that no one had shown up to cover the appointment, I would do it myself and so on. I pretty much did 20 percent of everyone’s job, in addition to my own (already overwhelming) responsibilities while paying them as if they had actually completed 100 percent of the work on their own. Each week I was becoming more and more familiar with the employee code-talk phrases and their translations, such as:


“Hey, I will probably be there right at 9:00 a.m.” = (Translation Into Employee Code Talk): “I will definitely not be there on time tomorrow, but I do not want to be confrontational or honest by telling you in advance.”

“Man, I had a family emergency come up, so I can’t make it in today” (cough, cough into the phone) = “Honey, I just talked to Clay to let him know about the last-minute birthday party we’ve been invited to. And he said that it is okay if I have someone else DJ the wedding for me.”


“Clayvis, I feel like I am just not working out in this position because it is too stressful.” = “I really think that although I cannot manage myself personally, I feel as though I could do a good job working in the role of a manager.”


I was completely unaware of the importance of creating a system that rewards positive behavior through quality pay, and one that penalizes lack of performance by withholding pay. Thus, those first few months in our new place were a little interesting. And I am convinced that the time we spent at the Lynn Lane house would have resulted in my premature stress-induced death if it was not for the insight that I gained from reading and applying the principles found within the pages of John Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership while on our second sea cruise vacation.


The irony about my reading this book was that I would have never stopped to read a book on leadership had my attempt to go on a one-week vacation not so blatantly exposed my lack of leadership skills. Havana was around one-month old, and Vanessa and I were in desperate need of some quality one-on-one time. I was working seven days a week, and I literally was working until 9:00 p.m. every night; and then I was going to bed at 10:30 p.m. and waking up to work again at 4:00 a.m. or 5:00 a.m. each day. I had no time to work out. Vanessa and I had no time to talk about anything. I was DJ-ing every Sunday, so I wasn’t going to church (which didn’t bother me too much since at the time I wasn’t too sure how I felt about God anyway). I never had downtime to see my daughter, and I had no time to sit and plan our business’s future.


So after I bought the tickets from Karen Wheelock (our Tulsa travel planner of choice), I found it to be nearly impossible to carve out the seven-day window of time needed to even go on vacation. Thus, I was resorting to giving each member of our team a huge laundry list of things to do that I knew in the back of my mind they were not going to get done. I knew that they would show up to work every day at 10:00 a.m. or 11:00 a.m. while I was gone, and I knew that they were not going to return voicemails promptly. I just knew that they were going to crash the DJ mother ship into the side of a bridal mountain while I was gone, and thus I even booked our cruise during the smallest projected wedding weekend of the year to limit the potential for disaster.


As we finished packing our bags and loading Havana into her car seat for the long journey down to the Port of Houston where our cruise was set to depart, I was having a panic attack. Thus I just kept calling the office guys telling them things like, “Hey, there is one more thing that I need you to do!” or “Seriously, if you do not remember anything else, make sure that you check the voicemails!” or “Josh, brother . . . I am trusting you with the Millennium Falcon here, don’t wreck it, baby. I trust you. But, I don’t trust you. Please tell me you won’t crash the mother ship. Josh are you there?”


Meanwhile, my wife was coming to the conclusion that I was going to be running the office remotely via my cell phone during the entirety of our vacation. As we boarded the cruise ship, I am sure that she was delighted when I was informed by one of the crew members that it was only possible to contact land in case of an emergency via the ship’s satellite phone at an astronomical fee; thus my cheapness would prevent me from calling the office once the ship departed.


And once the ship departed, I was forced to come to grips with the fact that I was not going to be able to call home again, and thus I attempted to have a good time in a distracted mentally-not-present kind of way (for the first day or so). Somewhere around day three of our seven-day cruise, I started to calm down a little to the point where I was no longer focused on what apocalyptic scenarios might be unfolding at the DJ Connection office, and then I allowed myself to have a good time.


During the evenings after Vanessa and Havana had gone to bed, I would religiously go out on the deck to listen to the sound of the ocean, to consume a large $8 raspberry-flavored adult beverage, and to take in the fresh smells of the sea as I read John Maxwell’s leadership bible. As I read his book, I started seeing myself through the perspective of the various leadership examples, which his book so richly provided. I started realizing his theory on the “law of the lid” directly applied to me.


His law states, “Leadership ability is the lid that determines a person’s level of effectiveness. The lower an individual’s ability to lead; the lower the lid of his or her potential; the higher the leadership, the greater the effectiveness. To give you an example, if your leadership rate is at an eight, then your effectiveness can never be greater than a seven. If your leadership is only a four, then your effectiveness will be no higher than a three. Your leadership ability, for better or worse, always determines your effectiveness and the potential impact of your organization. To reach the highest level of effectiveness, you have to raise the lid of leadership ability.”


Essentially, John Maxwell’s leadership book called me out and said, “Hey Clayvis, you have a leadership rating of three. You can inspire people, but you can’t provide continued direction without having to micromanage them, and you are only attracting people that like to be micromanaged because you are a micromanager.” Oh this truth was tough to take from my lawn chair amidst the princess cruise boat, but because I was half-drunk, I think I was able to take the harsh criticism that this moment of self-analysis was forcing me to endure. And thus, I encourage you to do the same thing right now. Ask yourself, “Self, how high is my leadership ability? Honestly, how would I rate myself? Would I enjoy working for me? What is my leadership number? With 10 being Abraham Lincoln or Vince Lombardi, and a 1 being that dude who can’t manage his own snow-cone stand, where do I stand? What is my leadership number?”


Long story short, our sea cruise vacation was everything it was supposed to be and more. Our cruise director was awesome. The entertainment was great. The food was legendary, I learned leadership while out at sea. Thus, I returned home re-energized, fired up, and with a renewed focus on the next important step that DJ Connection had to take if it was going to grow to the next level. This step involved a need for dramatically improved leadership (from me).

Listed below is list of the leadership qualities that I determined to develop within myself and our team as a direct result of reading John Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and revisiting Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich while on the cruise. Review this list of leadership qualities, and then candidly grade yourself on how well your leadership style exemplifies these leadership qualities:


Unwavering Courage

Self-Assessment Letter Grade (from A – F): __________________________

What will you do today to begin practically improving your leadership abilities in this area? ________________________________________________________


Self-Assessment Letter Grade (from A – F): __________________________

What will you do today to begin practically improving your leadership abilities in this area? ________________________________________________________

A Keen Sense of Justice

Self-Assessment Letter Grade (from A – F): __________________________

What will you do today to begin practically improving your leadership abilities in this area? ________________________________________________________

Definiteness of Decision

Self-Assessment Letter Grade (from A – F): __________________________

What will you do today to begin practically improving your leadership abilities in this area? ________________________________________________________

Definiteness of Plans

Self-Assessment Letter Grade (from A – F): __________________________

What will you do today to begin practically improving your leadership abilities in this area? ________________________________________________________

The Habit of Doing More Than What’s Paid For

Self-Assessment Letter Grade (from A – F): __________________________

What will you do today to begin practically improving your leadership abilities in this area? ________________________________________________________

A Pleasing Personality

Self-Assessment Letter Grade (from A – F): __________________________

What will you do today to begin practically improving your leadership abilities in this area? ________________________________________________________

Sympathy and Understanding

Self-Assessment Letter Grade (from A – F): __________________________

What will you do today to begin practically improving your leadership abilities in this area? ________________________________________________________

Mastery of Detail

Self-Assessment Letter Grade (from A – F): __________________________

What will you do today to begin practically improving your leadership abilities in this area? ________________________________________________________

Willingness to Assume Full Responsibility

Self-Assessment Letter Grade (from A – F): __________________________

What will you do today to begin practically improving your leadership abilities in this area? ________________________________________________________


Self-Assessment Letter Grade (from A – F): __________________________

What will you do today to begin practically improving your leadership abilities in this area? ____________________________________________


When I returned home, I discovered that non-DJ Garrett was now working in the office nearly fifteen hours per day to compensate for the fact that several key people did virtually nothing while I was gone. Forty percent of the guys who were supposed to chip in to do the office work bailed out. I found out that Curtis was a workhorse and that Josh did a much better job than I thought he would do. I returned home to find a sort of organized chaos although Garrett was super mad because he felt that he had been carrying DJ Connection on his ill-equipped shoulders for the entire week while I was gone. Around this time, Jerry Jones was also discovering that he had ambitions and dreams that did not parallel themselves with DJ Connection’s anymore, and thus he was looking to move on.


After I returned, my mind was still racing with the stories about how Winston Churchill had boldly stood up against the Nazi regime in a final stand for the free world against brutal dictatorship. I was inspired from reading how Coach John Wooden had turned UCLA into a legendary basketball powerhouse. And with this new inspiration fueling my passion, I was determined to turn DJ Connection into the most dominant wedding entertainment company in Tulsa. I was inspired like never before, and I was determined to ride out this wave of inspiration while I was still feeling the positive passion chi.


As part of my new leadership initiative, I immediately set up a required Monday-morning meeting to build a sense of candor, coherency, and planning for our young organization. I began writing and posting tangible, ambitious (yet attainable), company goals everywhere that our employees worked. I was now working ninety hours per week (and I am not exaggerating here), but we were becoming very profitable. Oh, this two-year stretch at the Lynn Lane property was stressful, but it also came with moments of extreme joy like a good epic movie (only our movie never seemed to end).


During the next two years, as we continued to relentlessly implement John Maxwell’s proven leadership principles, we started to realize unprecedented growth, and the secret was that we had successfully grown the organization from “‘me’ to ‘we’” as Magic Johnson was reported to say in Maxwell’s book. WE were waging war on mediocrity, and WE were beginning to see victory in our sights. During this time, we set records for overselling by booking 31 events in the same day and DJ-ing over 75 events on the same weekend.


We tripled the number of DJ systems we had from 11 to over 35 all during this time period. DJ Curtis came and went, and DJ Jason Bailey successfully found us. We were assembling our dream team, and I was beginning to realize that the only limit on our company’s growth potential and our speed of growth was our ability to find good quality humans who were looking to be a part of a dream team. We DJ-ed for Aaron and Tina Smith’s wedding, and through the process, Aaron decided to join the team. We DJ-ed for Andy Simmons’s sister at the mysterious Scottish Right building, and he was inspired to join the DJ nation after seeing DJ Jerry Jones perform and entertain at the wedding (and after his mom told him over the phone how fun our company sounded). We just kept finding more and more quality people. And as we added new people, each individual added a new skill and a new passion to the company. We were like a bunch of batteries that when connected to each other actually doubled each other’s combined output. This time of expansion was fun; however, at the same time this exponential growth posed new problems


With eight guys (working out of our house) we were again finding ourselves surrounded by DJs whose expansion was unintentionally encroaching upon our personal space. With so many people to manage, I was finding that perpetual lateness was becoming the norm. With eight type-A personalities all working in close proximity, I was finding that NHL-style fights were beginning to break out on occasion, and I was also beginning to notice that everyone was starting to gang up with their combined dislike for DJ Achilles.


Personally, I liked Achilles a lot when he first came on board. He professed to attend Rhema church, and he always wore a suit. He looked like a young Orlando Bloom, and he was a quick learner and hard worker in the sales department. However, from the other guys’ perspectives, he was a lead hog. He was divisive. He was argumentative. He was unapproachable, and above all he was insincere. He was superficially religious. He was a suck-up, and he was stealing commissions through his less-than-ethical sales techniques. Because I had not yet read former GE CEO Jack Welch and Suzie Welch’s management book called Winning, I had no idea how to manage various personalities that could not coexist without extreme management skill. And so to fix the problems caused by the personality clashes as well as simple work-related problems, I (right or wrong) did the following:


I implemented a $20 late fee. If you were late to work by one minute, I got your late fee. Over time, this rule had to be further clarified with disclaimers stating that if you were not in the office on time, you were late (dudes liked to say that, they were “around the corner.”) Later I had to again clarify with the disclaimer that, “If you are stopped by a cop or if you are sick, you are still late.” It was unbelievable.

I implemented an inbound phone time-sharing policy. Basically everyone got equal time on inbound sales calls so that no one could be accused of hogging the phone by making no outbound calls and always lingering around waiting for those easy inbound sales calls.


I implemented the “shut the hell up and get back to work” policy, which consisted of me yelling, “Shut the hell up and get back to work” numerous times per day. When I spotted DJs interacting with each other via instant messaging and myspace.com instead of working, I would simply yell, “Shut the hell up and get back to work!”


I implemented the “Stop being WEAK SAUCE” policy. This policy officially classified anyone who ever called in sick for any reason as WEAK SAUCE. Thus they were openly out of my favor.

I had our guys build dividers and cubicles everywhere so that people wouldn’t intrude on each other’s conversations.

I arranged for weekly one-on-one meetings with the guys (this was a horrible idea). I have since determined that everything must always be out in the open all the time.


I implemented the “no pot heads are allowed in the office” policy. This resulted in the replacement of a few key people, and took care of claims that I was only enforcing this policy on people that I wanted to get rid of. However, the truth be known, I did not want to know who was smoking pot. I sincerely felt as though about 80 percent of our staff was smoking pot, and I later found my suspicions to be correct.


I implemented the “no pellet guns in the office” policy. I kid you not, the guys actually brought pellet guns to work.

I implemented the “no personal e-mails” policy. At this point, I was starting to feel like I was becoming yet another corporate-America-style business that I used to detest.


And so with these new policies in place, we marched forward over the occasional background noise created by Eric, Aaron, Jason N., Andy, Achilles, Nate Mosely, Garrett, Shawn, Josh Smith, Jason Bailey, and Raj Mahal duking it out. Eventually the “yelling on the bus” got too loud, and I had to replace multiple people for things ranging from theft to pot smoking to drinking on the job to driving on a suspended license to using the DJ Connection business credit cards to fuel their personal boats, to guys just being jerks on a consistent basis.

Eventually, Keith, DJ Hugo Chavez, and DJ Mike E. were brought on to replace certain people. And then more people were brought on replace more people. And the more serious I got about quality, the more people I had to replace. Essentially I discovered firsthand that Sam Walton was correct when he once famously said, “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everyone from the CEO on down.”


I was learning that allowing mediocre people to exist in my organization was de-motivating our top performers, killing our profits, and killing off our loyal customers. Thus on January 1st of 2005, I fired about ten weak sauce DJs as their Happy New Year’s gift. I had started out wanting to fire about two of them, but once I got the firing flamethrower out, it just seemed appropriate to go ahead and kill the remaining discontented underperformers. And while the embers were still smoldering, our top performers began rejoicing. Jason Bailey was scared out of his mind because he later said that he thought that I was going to fire everyone (because I had that Back-To-The-Future-Doc-Brown-crazy-look in my eyes). Eventually, he came around to see that the removal of the negative people was freeing up more energy and resources to invest in our quality people.


During those two years, we had our struggles, but the attitude and culture of the office generally remained constant. It was always high-energy, fast-paced, work-with-haste, dial-and-smile DJ phantasmagoria. After we experienced our New Year’s firing spree, everyone seemed to understand that I was serious about quality and I was serious about DJ Connection. During this time of rapid expansion, we painted DJ vans and trailers. (This was a horrible idea). When people see our company vehicles, they think, Hey, I could sue these guys. We purchased six unlimited-calling-plan Crickettm cell phones, we installed three landlines, and we experienced DJ Derek’s ability to overheat and destroy the engines of two old-school vans in a period of less than one month. He drove them as though he was racing these 150,000-plus mile vans on the NASCAR circuit.


We turned the garage into Havana’s playroom because the DJs had moved in to our living room to accommodate our non-stop expansion. We threw a ridiculously large Super Bowl party of epic proportions (that my wife made sure she was conveniently out of town for) in appreciation of our customers. This event lead to numerous visits by the City of Broken Arrow who was appalled by my blatant disregard for the zoning laws governing our five-acre DJ house.


DJ Hugo Chavez dumped trash into someone’s storage units that they thought were dumpsters. This act of idiocy resulted in thousands of dollars of damage being done to the new carpet that had been stored in these units and was supposed to be installed in a local apartment complex. The carpet was apparently ruined by the Skoaltm brand chew spit that spewed out of our trash containers.


We have witnessed countless crimes against humanity from DJs who have bailed out on shows one hour before someone’s wedding (which we were narrowly able to cover). I have fired more people than many shooting squads due to the complete lack of decency that many American workers now seem to have. It has always amazed me that people get intense and nearly violently angry because you fire them for drinking on the job. They can’t seem to understand why they would be fired for smoking pot. They always say exciting things like, “Hey, that was never in the company manual.” To compensate for DJs oversleeping and for DJs forgetting to write down their show dates. Andy, Jason, Josh, Eric, Keith, and Nate all had to pull extensive “all-nightuhs” where they would literally DJ a wedding that went until 3:00 a.m. only to discover when they arrived to unload their equipment that they had to fill in for a DJ who called in sick, and their show had a 6:00 a.m. setup schedule. Without Redbull I don’t think that we would have made it.


“Knowledge without application is meaningless.” – Thomas Edison


Please do not allow this chapter to be less meaningful and useful to your daily life than that incredibly expensive set of knives you bought after watching some super-compelling infomercial on how those stainless steel babies could cut through your shoes and a hammer. Thus, ask yourself the following self-exploring questions:


How would I rate my overall leadership abilities on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the highest)?

What are my strengths and weaknesses?

What can I do to improve my weaknesses?

Can I deal with the reality that business growth will force me to become everyone’s boss, and not everyone’s friend?

Do I have it in me to fire people that will not perform according to the standards promised to our customers, even if they are my friends?

Treat yourself to extra $1,000,000 of lifetime income and go out and buy John Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership book. Apply the principles found in his book, and watch your team grow.

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  • Founder of DJ Connection
  • Founder of Epic Photography
  • Founder of the Tulsa Bridal Association Wedding Show
  • Founder of Make Your Life Epic Marketing / Advertising Agency
  • Founder of Thrive15.com
  • Former Owner of Party Perfect (Which is now PartyProRents.com
  • Co-Founder of Elephant In The Room Men’s Grooming Lounge
  • Co-Founder of Fears and Clark Realty Group
  • Co-host of the Thrive Time Business Coach Radio Show