New Speaking Engagement Coming up in Toronto!

Back to the homeland later this month and in May to speak about entrepreneurship and leadership!

Details below:

May 5-7, 2016
Canadian Music Week – Music Summit 
Toronto, ON
Details TBA – http://cmw.net

 

Hope to see you there!

xo Sari

ASK SARI! Vol. 4 – The Big Scary Decision: Go Full Steam in to Music or Not?

Hey there! Happy new year!

Sorry I’ve been backlogged on the Ask Sari A’s to your Q’s! Here is the latest instalment.

This question comes from Huma who like many of us faces a tough decision about whether to leave school to be in a band that’s growing or to try and juggle everything. This one comes up a lot so I’m so glad she sent it in! Feel free to chime in with your additional advice in the comment section! And if you have a question of your own, send it on over to AskSari@WeAreAB.co!

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QUESTION: 

Hi Sari!

So here’s my story:
I’m 19 years old, working and going to community college and joined as a singer/violinist in a band about 8 months ago. Since then, we’ve been steadily climbing in seemingly every area be it quality of music/performance, pulling more people at each show, and having found a new and seemingly promising promoter. I’ve also learned a LOT, as the guys in the band with me have been doing this for almost 10 years and have taught me a lot.

I love this band. It’s literally a dream come-true for me.

The problem? I want to make it a top priority, which isn’t too hard with my flexible work schedule, but school is daunting. We want to start upping our number of shows per week, and I optimistically think I can handle traveling and class, but I’m not always sure of that.

Everyone tells me school should come first, but if I want us to go somewhere (which I very much do!!) we all need 1000% commitment. Music and performance has been my number one passion ever since I can remember, and I want so bad to give 1000% of myself.

Do you realistically think I could juggle school, work and traveling and making this band a career? If one of these factors were to drop out of my life, which would you suggest it be?

Thank you so much for any answers you might have for me.

Sincerely,
Huma

ANSWER:

Hey Huma! Thank you for reaching out!

Firstly – Congrats! This is what I like to call a good problem. It’s a great situation to be in when you have a band taking off and getting busier, and a successful academic career all at once. I can definitely understand your want to simplify and streamline so that your focus isn’t so divided. But first take a moment to give yourself a pat on the back!

Secondly, I want to be upfront with you. I can’t wave a magic wand and tell you what to do here. This is truly a decision you need to own and make for yourself. Why? Because this is an important turning point for you that you will look back at for years to come. This decision will affect a handful of side factors that I am unaware of so let me just get that out of the way. That being said, I trust you can do this!

What I can do however is help lead you down the right track to arriving on an answer you can stand behind. Sit down and ask yourself, “What makes me happy?” Then think about yourself in 5 years. In your ideal situation, where are you?

Are you standing on stage in a touring band? or are you graduating with honours? Or are you somewhere completely different? If your answer was on stage – then ask yourself how badly you want that? Also in your vision – how many people are in your audience? Hundreds? Thousands?

I’m not going to sugarcoat it.  To be a successful artist on a stage that size is going to be incredibly hard. 5 years is likely not enough years to make that kind of magic happen. But now ask yourself, “how badly do I want that? So badly that if I don’’t get it in 5 years I will keep trying everything I can to achieve that? or so badly that if I don’t achieve that in 5 years I will go back to school and hang my head in shame?”

However you answered these questions, I urge you to follow your heart.

If you answered that you would be ok if you didn’t see great success in 5 years, and you are leaning towards diving in to music. – think of yourself on stage in 5 years again. But this time you are playing to a room of 40 friends in a cozy local cafe. How do you feel in this vision? Are you happy that you get to create and perform regardless of the scope? or are you sad and depressed?

If you are feeling like in 5 years you would be sad and depressed to be in that situation I think should stay in school and revisit this all-or-nothing approach later in your life. And there’s nothing wrong if that’s what you decide to do. It takes many years of knowing the industry to understand that even if you work super hard, and the band builds, and you try your damn hardest in every capacity, the industry still may not return the favour of awarding you a career with hundreds and thousands of fans. The trick, and lots of older artists will be able to share this with you too, is to be happy regardless of the recognition and fan base. To be happy creating and performing selflessly. If you can say that is you and you expect nothing in return from the industry, but that you will try your hardest to get to the top regardless, then by all means – it could very well be your time to hustle. The sooner you get out on the road the sooner you will be making new relationships and building you career, and thus increasing your chances of success.

Now I urge you when you’re thinking about these questions above to be incredibly honest with yourself. No one is listening to your answers to judge you and these answers don’t affect anyone else’s career more than yours . So be honest and understanding with yourself.

Also I didn’t even want to mention your age. But because you mentioned it in your question i’m just going to make one small comment on it. People are going to tell you that you’re too young to make such a decision but that’s bullshit. I started my company when I was 18 and knew what I wanted when I was 13. Going forward I urge you to disregard your age like you would a dirty napkin and surprise people with your maturity and sense of self.

In terms of leaving school and whether or not you could juggle all these facets – that is for you to really decide. What I can tell you about increasing you capacity and juggling a number of different things is it’s truly amazing how much you can do when you put your mind to it, build some great organization systems, and rely on them. Being able to handle a ridiculous amount of work without letting it affect you and compartmentalizing various facets of your life is an incredibly valuable and transferable skill. Doing it all with a smile is even harder. When I think I couldn’t possibly be more organized, I find a system or tool that allows me to be even more productive. So do I think it’s possible to juggle? Yes I really do. Will it be hard and require some real intense organization and commitment? Heck yes. It will also require a great deal of sacrificing time with friends, family etc. So it’s for you to weigh the importance of.

One of my favourite poets TS Eliot wrote, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” I love this quote and come back to it often. You know yourself and what you can handle. If you want to stretch yourself farther than that, by all means, give it a go and commit. If you stay positive, focused, and find what vices work for you (for me it’s a lot of yoga and a good naturopath) – you can truly do it all.

So to sum it all up, I suggest you read “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert, ask yourself these questions I mentioned above, write down the answers, read them back, and then make your decision. And when you do make it, don’t pussy foot in to it. Make it whole heartedly and go and crush it!

Please keep me posted on where you land!
All the best,
Sari

WANT TO SUBMIT A QUESTION OF YOUR OWN? Email it in or send it via social media:

AskSari@WeAreAB.co
@SARIDELMAR

Embracing the 8 Mile Approach to Finding Success – Channelling Eminem-like Resilience

EminemThis was originally written as a talk I did for M for Montreal last year that I’ve now adapted in to a blog post!

A familiar old tune has been repeating in my head lately… one that I’m sure we’ve all been trying to forget…”What’s the Difference Between Me and You?” Dr. Dre feat. Eminem & XZibit. Ya, we’re going to go there.

I’ve been channelling Eminem lately, while running, working, chilling, you know just truly embracing Marshall Mathers, maybe he’s become my spirit animal?

If you know me, which lots of you do, you know how relentless I can be… and while many people create reasons not to be happy, not to take a huge risk, not to shake things up if they are already going ok, not to disrupt or change things, I refuse to acknowledge those road blocks. All it takes is one good reason to try something new, mess everything up in a good way, and find yourself on a whole new plain of success and happiness.

Of course the key element here is figuring out what you want out of life. Now, that’s a bit of a bitch isn’t it? The only real way around that one is good old trial and error, in my experience.

When I was 12 years old I knew I wanted to work in the music industry. I wanted to do whatever it took to be closer to artists creating art. And so at the time the easiest entry point I saw was to start freelance writing. Something a 13-year-old with an obsession to emo probably had no right doing. But hey, no one knew how old I was and I was persistent as heck. My first writing job was for Bedlam Society (an earlier carnation of Dine Alone) and my first interviews were with Bedouin Soundclash and Motion City Soundtrack. The latter one my parents had to drive me from the suburbs in Barrie, Ontario to Toronto to attend and they wouldn’t leave me in the room alone to do the interview. So cool, right?

By the time I was 17 I had gotten somewhat ok at writing reviews and interviewing bands. I was now freelance writing for Exclaim! and Clash Magazine. I moved to Toronto and started a degree in journalism at Ryerson University, and started an internship at Wind-Up Records Canada where I soon landed a job.

Around this time I started a zine called Audio Blood, named after my favourite song by Oakland, California pop punk band The Matches. When the internet became a thing, I had my friend Maria develop a website for me with $200 dollars from the money I made working part time at Subway Sandwiches in high school.

Audioblood.com was launched. The premise was easy – community first. We built a community that extended far past my small roots in Barrie and then Toronto. We had people sending in reviews and pictures, poetry, and essays from around North America. We had 100 contributors and these people became my dearest friends, mentors, many of them who I still work with today.

After my short-lived tenure at Ryerson, a stint at a music PR company, a merch company, and a jaunt across the country in a tour van – I found myself back on home soil and feeling like I needed a new challenge. So here’s where things get a bit 8 Mile so to speak or was Dre would say, “I act on what I feel and never deal wit emotions… I’m used to livin’ big dog style and straight coastin'”

I was 18. I had $500 dollars in my bank account. Why not start my own company? Why not be my own boss? So there I was drafting a business plan, and by that I mean, staying up all night every night scribbling all my wild ideas in a notebook.

January 2009, Audio Blood was reborn as a music PR and marketing company. To say I’ve grown up with this company is an understatement. Running this baby has been the hardest thing I’ve ever committed to. But it’s also been the only thing I’ve truly committed to on this level and for it I would do anything.

In year one we sold out the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern for our anniversary party.  In year 2 we threw parties at the CN Tower with Joel Plaskett and Hollerado. In Year 3 we landed some significant contracts with PledgeMusic, Google Play, Canadian Music Week, M for MTL and more. Year 4 I got to travel the world speaking at conferences, we expanded our team to 12 staff members and moved our office into a beautiful loft space. Year 5 the Globe and Mail called me a “music mogul” – very weird. In Year 6, we rebranded the company from Audio Blood to AB Co., we redefined our services to be focused on digital, lifestyle, and communications marketing! And I moved to NYC to open our US offices. Oh and I get to sit here and lament about Eminem and doing whatever you truly want to in your life cause I am living proof that if you fight like hell, find balance, are a good and honest business person – you can probably have it all.

And I’ll fill you in on another little secret, having it all,  or whatever that means, is truly a state of mind not a destination. So you might very well already be there. It sometimes is just hard to let ourselves notice.

Sure, there are concessions and as the company grows larger I can’t just wake up every day, blast some Dre, and tell everyone to get outta’ my way. You have to be strategic, you have to consider all the angles, and then you can proceed with caution. But always with a strong sense of purpose and leadership. Always guided by what is best for my clients and my team.

This year the move to NYC was prompted by a trip I took to Iceland in February with my best friend. It was my first true vacation as an adult. As I stood on the black sand beach and looked down at glaciers the size of small cities – I saw things in perspective. It occurred to me how very small I am in a world of places I want to go and see. And if I wanted to do that I would have to work even harder and with more focus than I had been up to this point. And I’ve been working pretty damn hard.

I realized I was truly at the start of my long career in music. It became very clear that the worst thing I could do is get comfortable. We need to grow bigger and stronger, the company, and myself as an individual. So I dreamt up the rebrand and I committed to myself that last year was going to be there year that I change everything for the better. I pushed past comfort zones and I waltzed in to new terrain.

In NY they make decisions with their wallets, the music industry resembles the stock market more than anywhere I’ve ever seen. It’s much more cut throat. That’s a change for me, one who has made most decisions with my heart and likely always will. But I’ve learned there needs to be a balance. If I want to grow and make a larger impact for artists and the music community I need my reach to be wider. Money and success will afford me such privileges. So I’ve started to find balance between being a cut throat business lady and a big hearted hippy looking out for the community. I’ll be honest it’s tricky. Every day there are decisions that push me to dig deep within myself and question how I will approach and resolve them. But I continue to fight through and not let up.

So whats the difference between me and you? Nothing! I have insecurities, I have bad days, I have stresses and responsibilities. I choose to fight through them and find a way despite all odds to do what it is that makes me happy every day and what brings good to the community. There is literally zero difference between me and you. As you would have learned if you watched 8 Mile the whole way through … It’s your choice. Are you going to be the Eminem in this situation or make like XZibit and fade away? Whatever happened to that guy?

Haters are gonna hate of course. That’s what they do. They told me I was too young, inexperienced, and in retrospect they were pretty on point in some ways. So I put my head down. I worked my butt off. Every day I learnt something new. I read, I found new mentors, I asked a million questions. I didn’t get discouraged and I stayed focused on the long game. I slowly won over new clients and the industry one by one. I learned how to make mistakes. I slowly learned how to manage a team and get the best out of them every day. How to truly find a life balance and bring your best ideas to the table every day. How to manage my inbox so that  it didn’t run my life. I did what i wanted to, and still do, on my terms.

As I evolve alongside the company, I never for a moment take it for granted -my hard working team, my generous and brilliant clients. I would have nothing without them. I always say actions speak louder, just go and do whatever it is you are longing to do. And when you do, do it whole heartedly and fight for it like you’ve never fought before.


Sari Delmar is the Founder and CEO of AB Co., a North American digital, lifestyle, and communications agency that specializes in music programs and events. Sari has spoken at international conferences (Big Sound, Canadian Music Week), sits on the Toronto Music Advisory Council and the Women in Music Canada board, and was profiled in the Globe and Mail Small business column (“from Music Fan to Music mogul”) in 2014. In 2015, Sari was awarded with an International Women Achievers’ Award in the Entertainment category and named as a Rising Star in ProfitGuide and Chatelaine’s Top 100 Canadian Female Entrepreneurs list. Learn more about the work AB does at: http://WeAreAB.co.

Another Year, Another Mushy Gushy Letter from Me to You – 7 Years of AB!

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“For we have pulled the stars down to our will” – Ezra Pound  

The years, they have started to move so quickly. It feels like just last month I was sitting down to write my annual mushy gushy letter about reaching our triumphant 6th year in business. In that letter I recapped honestly a year that was a bit rough around the edges, that threw me for loops and pushed me. 

This year, year 7, I will spin a different tale. 

It all started for me in February this year. I stood on the enchanting black sand beach in Iceland and was overcome with a pit in my stomach. You see, that pit manifested into a vow which I made in that moment to myself that this year I wanted to mess everything up. I wanted to approach everything differently than I had. I wanted to move to New York, September 1st, and I wanted to inflict big change on the company and in turn my life. I carried this vow over the ocean and to my dedicated and bright eyed team who alongside me endeavoured to reshape the company in to something stronger, leaner, and more fierce. 

In April of this year we announced the rebrand from Audio Blood to AB Co. and the expansion in to the US. In September, as promised to myself, I opened the New York office in the heart of Manhattan.

To say these changes have been positive, would be an understatement. My initial fears of making so many grand moves away from the brand we once were, slowly subsided daily. And the AB7 party last weekend, where I was greeted with all your beautiful faces still supporting strong year after year, marked the end of any doubts I had about this transition from cool young company to sleek refined digital, lifestyle, and communications agency.

The ride has not been without its long hours of work, spent by myself and my jubilant and beautiful hardworking team. As I’m sure you can imagine, it takes a lot of time and energy to shift and steer. Jonathan, Sacha, Courtney, Geoff, Erin, Brandon, Chloe, Hana, Adela – truly you can’t even begin to understand how much your selfless hard work means to me. Your willingness to be flexible, shift, and grow in to our new skin, is invaluable to the fabric we are together weaving for the future of this company. Your patience and commitment to our high standards every day is admirable and I never for a millisecond take it for granted. To the team members who are no longer with us this year, who left to pursue other inspiring walks of life, thank you as well for the time and energy you invested. To the interns who have travelled far to come in each day and work hard with a smile, thank you endlessly. 

All of this would be a moot point if we didn’t have the undying support from our truly incredible clients. In you we have found the partners we have always dreamed of having and as we have grown, refined, and seen you do the same, I could not be more proud of the relationships we have cemented over the years. You give us the power to evolve and grow and do our best work. We look forward to growing together farther and reaping the benefits together of our collective hard work, when the time comes. 

Our big and bountiful AB community, you got us here. 7 years, thriving, surviving, and pushing the envelope when it comes to creative music marketing and PR. Thank you for coming along on this ride. Thank you for celebrating our wins with us, coming to our shows and parties, supporting our clients, and being all around the best humans I know! As we all grow a bit older, and our needs change, the company grows as well right with you. At the AB7 party last week, I saw so many faces that I know have been coming to each year-end bash year after year. It means so much that you are still here and supporting, and this year of great growth belongs to you just as much as it does to me, truly. 

Personally this year has been my very best yet. While in the spirit of growing and shifting the company, those values bled over to my personal life and I made some significant changes there as well. I started doing a lot more yoga and taking better care of my health. I learned how to still my mind in ways I didn’t know fully existed and I embraced a new work/life balance I never afforded myself. I learned how to work smarter and use my hours more diligently. I learned how to get the best from myself every day and what head space I want to live in, and I fought and strived to maintain that ruthlessly. While at the same time, finding my inner zen, I found myself more pointed and ballsy in business. I refined what it is to me to be a leader, and took each meeting and call as a chance to ensure I was always being clear, on point, and fighting for a better future. While on travels to Vancouver, Austin, London, Brighton, Cannes, Paris, Chicago, LA, San Francisco, Montreal, alongside my regular jumping between Toronto and New York, I was able to wrap my head around the girth of this great world we live in and come up with new ways to evolve in to the adult I am becoming. I am so lucky to be surrounded by such great friends in every city I go to and your love and support means so much to me.

I owe so much to my incredible mentors and advisors. Your selfless and always on-point advice has helped make this year truly instrumental. Benji Rogers, Jeremy Black, Marie-Alicia Chang, Ben Webster, your time and energy is so profoundly appreciated.

This year didn’t come without it’s dark moments. The biggest one of course being loosing a dear friend and member of the AB and Dee’s family – Big John. Now you see, Big John was and always will be very special to AB and me personally, for many reasons, but mainly for the selfless generosity and love he shared with us. Big John renovated and built up our Toronto office in literally 2 weeks. He worked all day and all night, took off work, drove me to Home Depot to pick out my favourite wood stains and paint colours, and built us a work sanctuary that I am so proud to call our home and headquarters. It was horribly sad to loose him this year and he will be in our hearts forever. 

This year I also promised to read more and in a moment of divine intervention I happen upon Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book Big Magic. A read that was highly inspirational, in line with my new outlook, and one that I would intensely recommend to any artist/creative/human looking to free themselves of the inner turmoil we all carry around each day. Her soft and funny delivery and all too real take aways make it a book I will continue to flip back to for many years to come.  

And of course this year didn’t come without it’s beautiful songs. This year my listening tastes evolved in to new terrain while still heavily routed in nostalgia (like any true emo kid). I’ve made a playlist for you on our AB Spotify page, it’s a bit mismatched but so is life. You can give it a listen here. I will give a notable shout out to The Matches who released new music this year, for the first time in years. The Matches are the band that wrote the song “Audio Blood” and have had a profound impact on me ending up in music altogether. Their songs aren’t available on Spotify so they aren’t on the playlist but I highly recommend you watch the video for “Life of a Match” here. In the spirit of truly coming full circle, we are proud to welcome them in to the AB Fam this year. 

And on that note, I will wrap up with the words of one of my favourite poets T.S. Elliot –
“You are the music while the music lasts.” 

Friends, whether you are literally making the music that feeds this communities hearts and souls, or you are on the sidelines working it and supporting it, lets not forget how truly lucky we are to do what we love, be surrounded by such passionate and wonderful people, and always fight for change, the good kind. The industry may change shape, and we may change along with it, but at the heart of it you are the music, my friends. And that will never change. 

From the bottom of my little red heart – THANK YOU. Thank you for affording me this year of change and transition. It has been most illuminating in all the best ways and we can’t wait to share the strength and success it affords us with you in years to come. 

Enjoy your holidays, you deserve it and lets do some great things together in 2016. 

Love you. lots.
XOXO SARI 

Photo: taken of the Iceland sunset. 

10 Tools That Will Make Your Life as An Artist So Much Easier!

Hey artist friends!

Guess what? As Bob Dylan once sang, the times they are a changin’ — and it’s all for the best. Gone are the days of booking your tours with typewriters and fax machines! There are some truly amazing tools out there in the market that you ought to be in the know about! That is if you are anything like me and are obsessed with being efficient and truly productive with your time!

Here are my favourites that I highly recommend with links and a quick overview of why I think they will help change your life for the better! I’ll keep my descriptions short and to the point so you can just get on with giving them a test whirl!

#1 – Artist GrowthArtist_Growth_logoWhat: Artist Growth is a backend software that helps you organize all your tour info, finances,  and calendar as an artist or manager. This tool truly streamlines your life and there is a place to keep track of everything.  The app brings it to mobile seamlessly.
Why: Worry less about forgetting the millions of details you need to oversee as an artist, manager, or tour manager and put them all in an organized place. Invite your band or team in to the app and ensure everyone is on the same page. What’s not to love?
Link: https://artistgrowth.com

#2 – TrackdtrackdWhat: Mobile recording studio for tracking demos. Record quick ideas direct to the phone. Share them with your bandmates and producer easily within the app! Jot down lyrics and record rough cuts quickly.
Why: Because you are still using voice notes to record your precious song ideas, and that’s just whack! Time for an upgrade! Also the Trackd community is pretty strong and you might find a new collaborator if you play your cards right!
Link:  http://trackdmusic.com/

#3 – SparkplugSparkplugWhat: A network of musicians renting gear out to each other for short term use. Like the AirBNB of music gear!
Why: Cause you broke! And you spent so much money on that gear that ends up sitting around when you’re not using it. So why not make some cash money off it?Link: https://www.sparkplug.it/

#4 – Show.coShowCoLogo
What: Beautifully designed direct marketing tools made with artists in mind. Their tool box boasts an email for a download, or social unlocks among others. Truly useful tools that are easy to plug in to your website and social media.
Why: Because data capture is truly important and if you are going to giveaway content you should ask for something in return! And why not ask with a sleek Show.co widget? Check out Ghost’s active campaign.
Link: http://www.show.co/

#5 – MusicGluemusicglue

What: Online store platform and artist tools to help you make the most of your direct-to-fan online sales!
Why: Because we all need an online store to make money, and this one looks great and is easy to use! Sufjan Stevens, Mumford & Sons, and Enter Shikari are already onboard.
Link: https://www.musicglue.com/

#6 – PledgeMusicpledge

What: Direct-to-fan and pre-order platform that allows you to reward your super fans for their loyalty through exclusives and experiences!
Why: Direct-to-fan is the way of the future and bands who truly embrace it are already seeing the benefits in the form of thousands of dollars that could have been otherwise untapped in your career. PledgeMusic has created a tool that will help you identify your superfans and communicate with them directly. In the music industry today this is a powerful thing!
Link: http://www.pledgemusic.com/

#7 – TunestarsTuneStars

What: A social media aggregator that helps fans follow their favourite artists across a large number of platforms in one organized feed! Comment and like in-stream without having to open 200 apps.
Why: Because this is the future of consumption! Apps like Tunestars make the fan experience concise and manageable. Sign up for your artist account and be a part of their growing community early.
Link: http://tunestars.com/

#8 – Bandsquare
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What: An artist touring tool that helps you see real time data about ticket buyers, locations, and allows fans to ‘request’ tour dates in their markets so artists/managers can assess if there is an overwhelming demand in a market that is not listed on their tour dates.
Why: Data is king and Bandsquare’s dashboard provides you with oodles of it! Start mapping out smart tours!
Link: https://www.bandsquare.com/

#9 – Next Big SoundnextbigsoundWhat: Music data analytics aggregated from all major social and streaming platforms. Next Big Sound helps you measure online impact and growth.
Why: Because like I already said – Data is king! Of course too much data could hold you back, but what’s great about Next Big Sound is they present helpful info in a clear way that you can truly implement in to helping map out your artist development, PR, marketing, and touring strategies. There is no reason to be going at it blind anymore!
Link: https://www.nextbigsound.com/

#10 – Wix MusicWIXWhat: A tool that lets you build fun and engaging artist websites really quickly and most importantly, cheaply!
Why: Cause your website had better be slick!
Link: http://www.wix.com/music/website

Have fun with these and thanks for reading!

– Sari


Sari Delmar is the Founder and CEO of AB Co., a North American digital, lifestyle, and communications agency that specializes in music programs and events. Sari has spoken at international conferences (Big Sound, Canadian Music Week), sits on the Toronto Music Advisory Council and the Women in Music Canada board, and was profiled in the Globe and Mail Small business column (“from Music Fan to Music mogul”) in 2014. In 2015, Sari was awarded with an International Women Achievers’ Award in the Entertainment category and named as a Rising Star in ProfitGuide and Chatelaine’s Top 100 Canadian Female Entrepreneurs list. Learn more about the work AB does at: http://WeAreAB.co.

10 Rules of Effective Delegation: Increasing Capacity and Getting the Best out of Your Team

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I meet many very talented entrepreneurs who are great at what they do. Often I’ll hear them using that common phrase, “if you want it done right, do it yourself”, and upon further discussion they’ll almost always reveal that they struggle with the act of delegation. It can be an incredibly hard concept to embrace sometimes, and I can surely empathize. We entrepreneurs want to own our output and are often very independent by nature.

The control freak in all of us is part of what makes us successful, no doubt! But that very same control freak can stunt our growth if we don’t learn how to scale and get the most out of the team around us. Delegating has provided me with freedom and focus I could never have dreamed of. Now, 7 years into owning my marketing and PR agency, I am starting to establish some best practices that I wish I’d learned earlier on.

Giving up some work and control is worth it for the payoff. As the leader of your team you must fight to make sure your time is spent on the most valuable areas for the company’s growth. So if you want to go big, you’ll need to jump aboard the delegating train! Here are some tips for embracing the awkward feeing that comes along with delegation and increasing your capacity to do great things!

#1 – First Make Sure Your Team Loves the Work They Do

This is important because if this baseline isn’t underlying all the work you are delegating then you are going to feel resistance from your team in weird ways. If they are excited by the work you are sending their way this sets the stage for a successful hand off! Get to know your team and their personal preferences. Tailor who you delegate what to based on what you know they are interested in and excited about. Of course there are always going to be tasks that don’t get the heart racing, but ideally the great tasks outweigh the grind to make for an enjoyable day’s work. A good way to make sure you are hiring the right people who genuinely love the work you are doing is to see where they have already integrated similar activities in to their lifestyle – for example do they already volunteer at a radio station and you are running a music agency? If they spend their spare time going to see cult films, then they are likely a great fit if you run an indie production company! Seems obvious, but sometimes we zip past this important piece of the puzzle when we’re slammed.

#2 – Set up a Strong Training Program & Support their Professional Development

Ideally you can set up a training plan that will stand the test of time and help integrate new hires in to the team in a really thorough way right off the bat. Having a team handbook or guide will be useful and save you time.

When setting up new team members I start by having them shadow their direct supervisor. Then we have them start to draft some emails/work product for their supervisor to use. Slowly, as the supervisor assesses that they are ready, they can start to send those emails directly to the outside partners/clients, etc. Finding the best system that works for you and your team is important. Yes, it’s going to take an extensive time investment off the bat but it is an important investment in to the strength of your team and your company’s future. I would say the first month of a new role should be highly structured and focused on training. After that they can start to spread their wings!

But that’s not to say after the first month you should turn a blind eye to their professional development. This is something that should always be on your mind for all team members. How do you keep them engaged and growing at all times? Constantly learning? This is something that should never rest, else your employees become disengaged. Giving them opportunities for their professional development – whether it’s getting to come to an important meeting with you and stand in, or sending them to a conference or workshop, will go a long way and set the stage for them to be constantly working on their own development in their spare time as well. Circulate articles often and ask them to do the same, share books, etc. The more confidence you can instil in them the more you can rely on them!

#3 – Make the Company Standards and Core Values Known, and Remind Your Team Often

Founding principles are so important and need to be embraced daily. Having standards on how you do things and a way to speak about the “Company X way” internally is crucial. When you have set the stage and explained clearly how you wish to handle clients, important conversations, and other crucial items, that tone gets passed through the company and you will begin to see other team members start to manage it for you. You will also be able to identify if someone is not a fit and remove them quickly.

That being said we are all humans and everyone needs a refresher every one in a while. Make sure your team’s core values are circulated often in a positive way. By being clear about these important aspects of the company you are setting your team up for success. They will know what lines never to cross and what your expectations are in a big picture sense.

#4 – Give On-Going Feedback, Both Positive and Constructive

I don’t believe in the old school structure of yearly or quarterly reviews! How is someone supposed to react quickly and do their best work every day if their manager is keeping a laundry list and only bringing these things to their attention every once in a while? Feedback in my opinion should be integrated on a daily basis and part of the way the team communicates with each other. Positive feedback can be powerful and inspire your team members to work late and push through a challenging situation – so be sure to dish it out generously when it’s deserved.

Constructive (not negative, ever) feedback should be also frequent. You want to employ the type of team who wants to grow and do their best. They should be humble and open to learning every step of the way. Integrate straight-up and honest and feedback into your work flow.

If it is a sensitive matter take the feedback conversation behind closed doors in a quick one-on-one chat to ensure it’s best received.

Oh, and most important about this tip – ask for feedback for yourself and show your team that you can receive it maturely, honestly, and implement changes often. When they see you leading the feedback game in this way they will be quick to receive your feedback with the same level of professionalism! It is a two way street.

#5 – Give them Space and Let them Own Projects

If you do your job well as a leader you ideally want to surround yourself with people who are much smarter than you and are experts, or that you grow into experts, in different fields. This means you need to take a step back and let them do things their own way. You need to trust that if they hit a roadblock they will come to you for help, but micro-managing or forcing your techniques down staffs’ throats is not going to allow you to get the best out of them. Give them space to develop as a professional voice and truly take ownership of projects. Allow them to take credit for their wins when they do crush it. Once in a while there may be setbacks or a disappointing moment – let them fight through those as well. Be there to mentor, support, and step in where needed alongside them, but allow them to see through the project from beginning to end as a lead and you will be surprised how invested they will become in its success!

#6 – Have an Open Door

I literally don’t have a door on my office! Whether it’s figurative or literal, make sure that you are approachable to your staff and fair minded when they come to you. Be supportive, reactive, and sensitive. This will mean they come to you in important moments and trust your lead and advice.

#7 – Be Ruthlessly Consistent

Be consistent in how you manage everyone on your team, your core values and standards, and your daily protocols. Never let something slide one day and then the next day crack down on someone for the same thing because you were having bad day. You set the bar with your tone. People will always look to the most powerful person in the room to understand what they can or can’t get away with. If you are a tough, no-BS boss every day, be consistent in how you manage and your team will be able to understand the do’s and don’ts of your work space and embrace them truly.

#8 – Be Intensely Aware of their Workflow Preferences, Strengths and Weaknesses

Get to know your team and ask a million questions about how they do things. This is how you will know what the right tasks for them are. Some tasks take certain people 3 hours to complete, while it would take someone else on the team 5 minutes. I personally keep Evernotes on each of my staff about their preferences and work flow. This helps me keep these items at the front of mind as I’m delegating day in and day out. Chances are you aren’t going to change the instrinic work ethic and nature of the people who work for you, so play to their strengths and not their weaknesses. Build them a team that supports and compliments these. Set them up for success by delegating in a forum that computes with their workflow.

#9 – Share Information

This is a big one that I see causing unneeded frustration on great teams all the time! You receive some new information from a client but were too busy to pass it on, and down the road you find yourself in an embarrassing position when not all of your team is on the same page. It’s just unprofessional and makes everyone looks bad. The tricky thing is the bigger your company gets the harder this is to keep up with. So I suggest really embracing and relying on some internal systems – some of my favourites are Slack, ASANA, Evernote, and Google Docs. Have protocols and systems for sharing information across the team. When you find out important news try to make sure it is distributed to the team quickly! If you have an assistant, make it their role to listen in on meetings or calls and then share notes with the team – a great and easy way to delegate an admin task that will take something off your plate AND help you be a master delegator.

Project management software is really important to being able to delegate without stress. When you assign a task and set a deadline within a program it will automatically remind your team member of the due date when that project is at risk of becoming overdue. This is one less thing you don’t have to worry about. Less nagging means more time in proactive conversations moving your business forward!

#10 – Have the Final Approval on Sensitive Items

I understand the worry that junior staff may not handle a sensitive situation quite the way that you would, and I can agree that in those moments its very important you are involved and your years of expertise as the leader are leveraged. Have certain protocol and standards so your team knows when to bring you in and when to have you do the final approval of an email or document. If you spend your time approving and editing rather than drafting every email you can scale appropriately and begin to truly feel the power and freedom that great delegating skills will provide! That being said, be sure to set the guidelines on the types of things you need to approve or trust the team to move ahead without you.

I can not stress enough the importance of the elements above. Since I’ve embraced them my life has improved 1000%. I’m less stressed, more focused in my day to day work, and seeing major growth in the company. I get to work with a positive and inspiring team every day. Delegation, I believe, really is a secret weapon to any great leader’s success – assuming, of course, that you’ve surrounded yourself with a great team. But that’s another blog!

Thank you for reading!
– XO Sari

Pictured: Team AB by Amy Buck


Sari Delmar is the Founder and CEO of AB Co., a North American digital, lifestyle, and communications agency that specializes in music programs and events. Sari has spoken at international conferences (Big Sound, Canadian Music Week), sits on the Toronto Music Advisory Council and the Women in Music Canada board, and was profiled in the Globe and Mail Small business column (“from Music Fan to Music mogul”) in 2014. In 2015, Sari was awarded with an International Women Achievers’ Award in the Entertainment category and named as a Rising Star in ProfitGuide and Chatelaine’s Top 100 Canadian Female Entrepreneurs list. Learn more about the work AB does at: http://WeAreAB.co.

Techweek Los Angeles 2015!

Hi All!

So excited and honoured that tomorrow I’ll be in the Los Angeles for LA TechWeek! I’ll be speaking on the panel “Creation & Consumption: The Future of Music Tech“, with fellow music lovers and industry heavy hitters Jason Feinberg, Head of Artist Marketing at Pandora, Kevin Wayatt, Business Development Director at BandPage, and moderated by Bettina Sherick, Founder of Hollywood In Pixels.

For anyone able to attend, the panel will take place on the Santa Monica Pier Summit Stage on Thursday, November 12th, 2015 from 1:04pm to 1:34pm.

Hope to see you there!