Ever been to a wedding where the DJ got everybody up and dancing?
That DJ might have been Rob Peters, who these days runs his own company providing music, games, and other entertainment for corporate events, special occasions, parties, and more.
He’s passionate about getting the crowd moving.
But as he grew his business he also learned strategies for figuring out what new services the market wants, how to distinguish yourself from the competition, and ways to recognize the customers you want – and avoid the ones you don’t.
Rob is full of crazy stories, but we also talk about…
- The one thing you must do to generate repeat business
- The key to hosting a memorable event, no matter what the occasion
- How to compete with the DIYers and free information online
- Creating a wow experience for customers in every type of business
- And more
David Elmasian: Welcome to the Hub of Success, I’m your host, Dave Elmasian. Today I’m excited to talk to Rob Peters, owner of Rob Peters Entertainment. Rob Peters Entertainment is a full service DJ and entertainment company serving all of New England and offers a variety of services to make your upcoming event exceptional. Rob is one of the most popular and requested DJs in southern New England. With over 20 years of experience, Rob began his career as a mobile DJ in southern Maine while pursuing a bachelor’s degree from St. Joseph’s College. Rob has also worked as an on-air personality at several radio stations throughout New England. His on-air talents and professionalism make any event with Rob a success.
Following college, Rob returned to the Greater Boston Area and eventually started his company where he and his staff of 10 DJ entertainers perform for over 500 weddings and events on an annual basis. Rob has been featured internationally as a trainer and speaker at DJ and wedding industry conferences. He is also a six time All-Star DJ by Mobile Beat magazine. Well welcome to the podcast, Rob.
Rob Peters: Wow. I kind of feel like patting myself on the back after hearing that.
David Elmasian: I think you actually were, weren’t you?
Rob Peters: It’s funny when you pay writers to do that kind of stuff. It’s funny you said over 20 years, we were talking the other day, it’s actually now over 32 years.
David Elmasian: How is that possible? You started when you were 10!
Rob Peters: Something like that, yeah. It’s funny because my first gig ever was when I was at St. Jo’s, I was paired up with an upperclassmen, I was a Freshman, I was a really shy kid. And I grew up here in the south shore, when I went to Maine, Maine was a natural fit. We used to vacation there and I fell in love with St. Jo’s. Went up there, they pair me up with a guy, like two polar opposites. I’m the shy kid from Boston, he’s the outgoing guy who DJs all the events and he’s from a little town called Rumford, Maine.
So he got me to hang out with him, which was really cool. He taught me some stuff. I made friends with his friends. I was really introverted. And then it was the day where he called me up and he couldn’t DJ, he was sick and asked me to fill in. He kind of gave me that reverse psychology and got me mad at the same time to the point where I said, “I’m gonna do it.” And I went and did it and I discovered two awesome things. Number one, I could make some money. And number two, the girls.
David Elmasian: That was a motivation?
Rob Peters: That ironically was a little bit of a motivation. And it took off from there. I DJ’d for a little bit and made my impact Freshman year that I actually started working in downtown Portland for an AMFM combo. And I would DJ on the side and put myself through college doing it.
David Elmasian: So that first gig in college, was that at the college radio station? Is that what it was?
Rob Peters: It was actually a dance.
David Elmasian: Oh.
Rob Peters: And like I said, it just all literally came together that morning.
David Elmasian: So how do you prep for something … obviously it’s changed since then, I would imagine.
Rob Peters: Oh yeah.
David Elmasian: But how did you prep for that the first time, other than being a little ticked off.
Rob Peters: Well, I told him I needed his music because I didn’t own any. The policy up at St. Jo’s was they usually hired the radio jocks to DJ. So I got his music, I got music from the radio station, I kind of just grabbed what I knew was hot and based on what he had taught me, I kind of mocked some of his playlists. And he was really good at … he was good at beat mixing. And for me, I was just a play and fade kind of guy where I’d fade out the first song and I’d play the next one. And I held my own. The prep really was just figuring out what to play, and now we have a formula for that stuff. We know that at a five hour event, we’re gonna probably play about 20 songs an hour. And that’s gonna fill the time. Back then, it was okay, what am I gonna play next? I always had more music than I needed and that’s even a rule today. We go out with hard drives, 4 Terabyte hard drives with 400,000 tracks on it.
David Elmasian: Just in case.
Rob Peters: And we don’t generally need all 400,000.
David Elmasian: I would hope not, it would be an awful long event, I would imagine.
Rob Peters: It would honestly be a second or two of each track. And we still wouldn’t get through it all.
David Elmasian: So that prep process that you go through now, I’m assuming it’s tailored to the type of event and then also do you do like a pre-interview with the people that are organizing the event? Whether it be a wedding or a corporate event or that kind of thing?
Rob Peters: That’s exactly it. It does depend on the event. For a wedding, it starts from the time we meet. We do a little bit of a conversation via the phone. And again, I have ten DJs, so I try to match the bride with who I think is gonna be a good fit for them.
David Elmasian: So what you’re trying to say is the groom is irrelevant.
Rob Peters: Sometimes. And you know what, it’s always about the bride first, but when they get in front of me –
David Elmasian: I’m kidding, yeah, yeah.
Rob Peters: I look right at the groom and we want them included. It’s funny because a lot of grooms come in and still, to this day, that’s one constant over 30 years, the grooms are like, “I just have to show up and wear my tux.” But weddings, it’s face-to-face, it’s a lot of interaction. We do probably three or four appointments from the time they book to the day of the wedding. As I tell people, we do not get an opportunity to Photoshop the memories you’re gonna experience, so I want to make sure I understand clearly what’s going on. And there’s so many other factors now. Beforehand, you didn’t have to worry about the fact that the groom’s parents are divorced and they don’t get along. Now you do.
David Elmasian: Life’s a little more complicated, right? I get it.
Rob Peters: In corporate world, it depends on the corporate. Some corporates, when they want entertainment, a DJ, it’s pretty basic. It’s getting a demographic, a feel of the demographics, and the ethnic background, because that plays a role. But when we’re doing our game show stuff, it’s a lot of show prep of what questions are we gonna do? Is it PG-13? PG? We had an event last week down in Orleans and it was a group of seniors. And they were doing Feud. And one of the questions I always ask our contact people is if you were to put a film rating on this show, what would you want it to be without getting … without us not doing business in the future? And their answer in this case, and again, group is senior citizens, they’re like, you can go rated R. And I’m like whoa. I’m not sure if I want to see this. But we did it and …
David Elmasian: They grew up in the ’60s, I guess, you can make the case maybe ’50s, ’60s, ’40s, whatever. So they kind of went through that period.
Rob Peters: They were extreme, though. They were a wild bunch and the questions just matched. It’s also a lot of behind the scenes research, it’s things like is all the gear working? Did I buy batteries? Did I download all of my music? Because now, we used to get music by CD mailed to us once a week. Now we have to remember to go online and go into the service and download and requests and watching the music lists.
David Elmasian: Well that goes back to something that we talked a little bit earlier prior to us being on the air here. There’s a belief out there that anybody can do anything, all they have to do is google it, I can watch a YouTube video. And I think that’s almost universal for no matter what business or type of business that you’re in. However, what I’ve learned like in our business, yeah there are some things that you can do and you can do it just fine, but when I’m talking to perspective customers, and maybe you can relate to this, I’ll say to them I could do my own taxes. Could I do it well? Could I not be audited by the IRS? I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not. I’d prefer just to write a check because hopefully the company I’m hiring, you guys won’t cause me to have an audit or something bad happening.
So in your industry, I’d imagine same thing. People feel like hey, I can do this. This is fun. It looks so easy. Like watching golf on TV. You mentioned, you hit upon some of the things that you prep prior to you ever even showing up because you have to be prepared for a lot of contingencies. Because in the case of a wedding, or even a corporate event, you got one shot, right? If it doesn’t work out, can’t do a do-over.
Rob Peters: As I tell people, if you were to look up the true definition of a disk jockey, it is somebody who takes a piece of music, puts it in a media player, and pushes play for the enjoyment of others. By true definition, that’s what a disk jockey does. There are so many different elements in today’s world, the world’s changed. You used to be able to walk into an event, 25, 30 years ago, and maybe say two words on the microphone and just let the music play. At a wedding, they want you to be the Master of Ceremonies now. Jerry Seinfeld does a bit and he talks a little bit about fears we have as humans. And the first, biggest fear we have, is speaking in public. The second one is death. And the joke he makes is we’d rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy. I think that gets overlooked. Anybody can push play on a player for the enjoyment of others. You’ve probably done it at home a million times when you’ve had people come over for a party.
In our case, like I said, it’s about an experience. We want to bring an experience, whether it’s a kids event or a corporate event or a wedding. We want people to walk out of their events and go, “Wow, I have never been to a wedding like this before or an event like this before.”
David Elmasian: In a good way.
Rob Peters: In a great way.
David Elmasian: I’d imagine some of those do-it-yourself ones, that’s unfortunately they walk away saying the same thing but not such in a good way.
Rob Peters: That’s the other thing is it really depends on a client’s expectation. There are always gonna be clients, and I tell DJs this when I teach, there are always gonna be people who are gonna undercut what we do and minimize it. And then try to say … and pull it off, because that’s what the customer thinks they could’ve gotten. It’s when they go from that kind of experience to an event, for example, that I’m doing and they’re like, “Wow.” And you hear this, you hear people say, “Wow. I had so-and-so as my DJ and they were good, but I … Wow, I should’ve hired you.” I wish I had that problem a little more often.
David Elmasian: So like I said, every business has competition and like I said every business, every industry has do-it-yourselfers. So not to make this about me, it’s not about me, but again, in our industry, in tech industry, we get that a lot as well, too. Oh, my brother’s sister’s uncle’s nephew, he’s an IT guy, he does it for is and we’re good with that, or whatever. And it’s tough as a business owner to hear that because many times you say to yourself, “No, you’re not good. I know you’re not good. I know you’re not gonna be good.” But you really can’t say that because you’re trying to convince somebody of that and that’s not always possible. So what we’ve learned is segment our audience, talk in a certain voice, there’s a lot of stuff we could talk about. I don’t want to get, as I said, into a whole technical discussion, but it seems to me like in your case, educating people on, I hate to use the word fear factor, but almost putting a fear factor into potential people that would want to use you to almost to say, “Hey, this is gonna be your wedding, this is gonna be your event, is it about you saving a couple hundred bucks or really having a memorable lifetime moment that we can make that difference?”
Rob Peters: I’m of the belief that when we’re in high school, and I’m going back, there’s a point to all of this.
David Elmasian: 10 years or something like that.
Rob Peters: Yeah, exactly. I think the one thing that should be taught in every high school, two courses. First of all, personal finance. And second of all, sales. Because half of your life, whether you’re applying for a job or working with customers –
David Elmasian: We’re all in sales, right?
Rob Peters: Or running your business, you’re selling yourself somehow. And that’s where the difference is. It would be very easy for me to go, “Oh, you’re looking at so-and-so? They suck.” But where would I be as a business person? If I’m showing a great experience and I’ve got testimonials and references and I’ve got something that they can … that gets them emotionally charged to go, “Wow,” that’s what I want. Those are the clients I want. Clients that I work with that are just all about the money, I tend to find don’t even value the fact that I’m gonna get up in front of their crowd and get everybody into that moment of why they’re there.
You know what? We’re at a corporate event. And you know what? You’ve spent the entire day in rooms learning about stuff. Now let’s have some fun and get you guys, get a little camaraderie going and play a little bit of Fantastic Feud. Or a wedding, we’re here because two people met and fell in love and decided to say, “I do.” And dare I even say this, little Timmy’s fifth birthday. These are, in some cases, once in a lifetime moments. And I think that gets overlooked by people in today’s world.
David Elmasian: Yeah, people get caught up in whatever and I think that’s true. I think what you said really resonates with a lot of people, myself included, which is it’s tough to do because that’s just human nature, but there are always gonna be people that, like you said, it is gonna be about price. And again, don’t get me wrong, I think all of us, we all are aware of price, but really the big question is what value are you providing? One of the things that I’ve learned is someone like yourself, you’re a creative person. And the reason why you do what you do, other than you have to make a living like anybody else is you enjoy entertaining people. You enjoy having them have those “Wow” moments and you see it on their face. I know that. You know that, right? And so for the people that understand that, there will always be an audience and they’ll place a value on that. But it’s so tough when you work with people that, like you said, all you hear is money, money, money, and oh, can you do it cheaper? And all that other stuff. But when you do land those clients that do have that appreciation, then it does make it worthwhile.
Rob Peters: You learn in this business that you have to learn how to communicate properly. I find that when I deal with people that are looking for a discount or a price break or it wasn’t what they expected, it can’t be the okay, well, you know what? Bye. You gotta let them down, it’s like breaking up with somebody. You’ve got to let them down slowly, so you don’t come across as a schmuck.
David Elmasian: It’s an educational process, too.
Rob Peters: And that’s the thing, it’s I think that’s what the difference is with us. I require all of my DJs to go to some kind of training and continuing the education throughout the year because if we were doing the same wedding that we did 10 years ago, we would be failing miserably. I used to work for a company, I left my day job in 1998, I used to work as a … My full time job was a mutual fund transfer agent. And I was used to having –
David Elmasian: That sounds exciting.
Rob Peters: Oh, yeah. It’s like watching paint dry. And the thing is, at the time, I was married, and I needed full time income and benefits. It’s what DJs did and I was a weekend warrior. And what I found was, when I left my day job in 1998, I had more freedom. I had the ability to get that creative process going. And I think it really set the stage for what happened afterwards. It’s been a fun ride. I do a lot of education now. I actually have gone to the other side, I’m not sitting on … I’m not sitting taking notes, I’m actually teaching. Next month, I’m actually at our big conference, which is out in Las Vegas, and our keynote is Mark Summers from Double Dare. The ultimate game show host you grew up with, I get to actually meet and greet with the guy and learn from him. Last year we learned from Jon Taffer from Bar Rescue, and that’s helped an element of my business that I swore 10 years ago I’d never get in.
I was done with working in bars and hosting trivia and karaoke and stuff. Now we’re doing 10 bar nights a week at the moment. And doing trivia and we’ve launched two new products. It’s funny how things have changed and I’ve gone from that whole corporate world into now I can make a living at it. And I can have fun doing it. That’s the best part.
David Elmasian: And that kind of makes it worthwhile. Let’s step back a second. I’m always curious about weddings. Because my experience with weddings is either getting married or attending somebody else’s marriage. And that’s a completely different viewpoint than what you guys see, right? So tell me how weddings were when you started back in the day and how they are today, how is it different?
Rob Peters: It’s different on a couple of different levels. First of all, back when I first got started, my dad always taught me if somebody’s willing to put money in front of you for doing something and you’re not breaking the law, do it. Back then, we were doing weddings, geeze, three, four, five hundred dollars? Now put a one in front of that and that’s where we’re starting. But we weren’t doing, we talked about prep. On the average wedding, I’d spend from the time I meet the bride until the last dance, and even the week after, an average of about 35 hours in that particular event. Back then, it was sit down, get to know them, in some cases we were corresponding by phone, it was before email. We’d fill out the sheet, we’d show up that day, and we would do the show. And back then you could do a lot of cookie-cutter kind of stuff. And it didn’t matter. People just wanted to have fun.
Now it’s about an experience and it’s about really personalizing. And that’s what we specialize in. I want my guests … I’m sorry, guests at my weddings, to walk out of there going, “Wow, I went to three weddings this year but this is the one stands out,” and why. The one question I always ask my couples is, at the end of your wedding, when people come up to you and go out of their way to thank you for inviting them, “Thank you for inviting me to your wedding. It was,” what’s that last word got to be and what is that defined for you? We’ve gotten a little more psychological. And we’ve had to because it’s not about just push and play anymore. It’s about providing an experience that people walk out and go “Wow.” And it’s changed. A lot of traditions have changed. We’re not doing a lot of garter, bouquets anymore. Cakes have changed. Not that I miss that many.
But it’s gone from popular places like Montilio’s, there’s a lot of new shops and they’re doing a lot of stuff. And you’ve got shows like Cake Boss influencing that whole thing. And you’re seeing that, you’re seeing a lot of influence from the media. You’ve got Pinterest, I have people who come in and they’ve got their little binder and falling out of their binder is printouts.
David Elmasian: Trust me, my wife, I can’t tell you how many Pinterest boards and pins, I totally get that. I think one of the things that you’re talking about, and I see this like I said in our business and every business nowadays is now the customer is king. Really, truly. Because it’s no longer about separation of a product that you have or a service that you do, it’s all about the experience you provide the customers because now the access to that availability and that information is out there. So now people are competing to say, “Okay, how can we separate ourselves? What’s different about ourselves? Why are we different? Why is Rob Peters Entertainment X dollars and Joe Schmo is X minus dollars? What’s the difference between the two?”
And I think that differentiation, focusing on the experience and how you do things, I think that’s really a challenge to every business but also it’s a huge opportunity. For something that I would think that is very emotionally charged, from the perspective of the potential clients, right?
Rob Peters: It is a lot about that. In our world, as much as the customer is king, we have a certain ideal customer that we want to market to. There are customers who come in and meet with me and I know within, it’s like that scene in The Wedding Planner with JLo, if you’ve seen it. JLo says I can predict whether you’re gonna last or not in the first ten minutes of the meeting. I now know, and I usually try, we have a system in place, where we try to determine this before we get to an appointment. I know three things. Number one, I know if they’re a serious contender or not. I know if they’re a zilla, or have any relatives that are zillas.
David Elmasian: Now you’re referring to bride-zillas? Is that? I don’t know a lot about the wedding industry, but I’ve heard the term.
Rob Peters: You’ve heard the term bride-zillas. I will jump off of this for second. Bride-zillas, we don’t consider them bride-zillas, the media does. For me, they are detail-oriented customers that really have specific things in mind and they want their hand held. Which is great. The third thing I know about them is I know if we’re gonna be a good fit for them or now. We have an ideal way of doing that. If I’m not a good fit for somebody, and say my guy John is, I’m gonna, you know what? I really want you to meet John because I know you would get along. Or Renny or any of my crew. I don’t want to take the job, back then I took the job because everybody was willing to pay. Now, if I’m not a good fit, if I’m gonna take $1,400 from them, I want to make sure that they have somebody who is a good fit.
David Elmasian: But you developed that. It’s not just because time has passed, you’ve learned and made some mistakes along the way, like of us have done.
Rob Peters: We could do a whole podcast on just that. We really could.
David Elmasian: We could do a whole series of them if we’re talking about me as well, too. It sounds like you’ve developed a process that you put into place that you’ve changed over the years as you’ve become more sophisticated and you’ve had more experience. So share some of those things that you kind of look at. And again, I know it’s hard to do because as a business owner myself, a lot of it is up in your head, right? And that’s normal. See if you can talk about some of those things.
Rob Peters: It’s funny because we’re talking about weddings and we still do weddings, but we’ve changed the dynamic of what we do because the industry’s changed. Back pre-9/11, corporate was huge. You were booked so often during the holiday season and I had regular corporate clients. 9/11 came and that went out the window. Believe it or not, our ideal clients now are more corporate than anything else because of the unique stuff we offer. Jumping back to weddings for a minute, we look at where they’re getting married, the age, and it’s not discrimination. My ideal bride, and I’ll put it out there, my ideal bride is any bride that is 28 to 40, maybe it’s their first time, they’re a professional, they work in a professional, white-collar industry. Or this is their second time around and they’ve already gone through the formal wedding stuff and they just want somebody who’s gonna come in who’s a little bit older and knows the music they like and is gonna make that work. Does it mean that the 23-year-old bride that’s getting married, I can’t appeal to her? I know I can. But I also know that they want something that some of my other people can provide.
We look at age, we look at the kind of experience that they want. It’s that work. It’s fun. Okay, well tell me about fun. What does fun mean to you? Does that mean you want people dancing on the tables and doing shots? We’ve seen those. Or does it mean that you want a great experience where your family and friends are on the dance floor, having a great time, and you’re open to the music? And that’s another big thing that we look for, is we look for is the bride asking about a request list? Or is she asking to make her own playlist?
The ones that want to make their own playlist, it’s like me trying to work on a car. Now I have some experience in that, but I haven’t worked in a car, it’s been a while. So what I’m getting at though, is for me to try and do that kind of a job, it binds you from being able to … You might think it’s a great playlist. End of the day, it might be the worst playlist in the world. I’ve had a few of those and I actually now, it sounds crazy, but I won’t take anybody who’s gonna say I want these hundred songs and only a hundred.
David Elmasian: Doesn’t sound crazy at all.
Rob Peters: It’s weird. Corporate, like I said, corporate for us is we’re looking for companies that have a unique culture and value having something like a live, interactive game show. Before I left that day job in 1998, I was a team building instructor. And I’ll never forget this, because I was doing the stuff that I do now with other companies in the room teaching team building. Now, we’ve expanded upon that. In today’s world, things have changed and it happened this year. Not to get political, but the whole Me Too movement has human resource managers really rethinking how the holiday party’s gonna be. Because back in the day it was let’s have a bar, let’s have some food, and let’s have some dancing. And now, that stuff is kind of infringing on people having a good time because they’re afraid of who’s gonna be made uncomfortable.
I was busy this past December from the 1st to the 20th. And out of those events, there was maybe three of them I DJ’d. The rest of them were team building and game show and trivia and all the other stuff we offer. And I see the industry going that way, which is why I changed the dynamic of what I was gonna do.
David Elmasian: So let’s talk about that a bit. I was gonna ask you, how has your business changed in the last ten years, five years, two years, one year?
Rob Peters: Well let’s see, two business partners. Those are gone. And you know what? Those were valuable lessons because what I should have done is hired somebody to help me manage things instead of sharing the responsibility and the profitability. And to those gentlemen, we left on good terms, and I’m still friendly with the both of them, but I probably, I swore after this most recent time, never again. If you want to give me money and be part of Rob Peters Entertainment, that’s cool, but it’s not a partnership. Because at the end of the day, I was left, in both cases, holding the bag. It redeemed me to people who depended on us. It showed people that yeah, you know what? I might not have been the fun owner, but I was the one that got stuff done.
The whole dynamic changed. I started spinning with records and crates of vinyl and two turntables and a microphone as the song goes. Now, it’s … Then it went to CDs. And it was buying every CD that I had on vinyl. And it was funny because I just moved those cases the other day in storage and moved them around and I’m like wow, I haven’t opened this stuff in years. Now it’s literally ripping and downloading. It’s downloading the music. It’s great now because when people are in an event and they ask me for a song I may not have. As long as I have Wi-Fi.
David Elmasian: You got it, right.
Rob Peters: I can download and have it ready to go. A lot of times that’s a good thing. There have been a couple of times where it’s like maybe I shouldn’t have played this or taken this request. But you want to keep people happy. The equipment has changed. The equipment, back then it was a big coffin case about four feet long, about two and a half feet wide. Turntables all padded. And you carried that and then you carried your crates and then you carried your speakers. And an amp. And the amp weighed sometimes a hundred pounds. Now? Everything’s powered speakers. Like my two powered speakers are 12 inch woofers and they each can produce 1,000 watts. It all fits in the back of a SUV. And it’s smaller equipment. The wireless microphones have changed. It’s gone from being VHF and UHF to now we’re radio frequency and that’s all changing because of federal government guidelines. But it’s made it interesting for us because the technology’s gotten better, and that’s really cool.
And I think the customer base, in certain realms, has gotten better, too. And like I said, and maybe it’s because we’ve set up our ideal client to be somebody who knows what they want. Like I said, nothing against the 22, 23-year-old bride, but they generally are in that zone, and when I teach this to DJs, we talk about the zillas of our industry, and we talked about zillas earlier. You talk about things like the bride-zilla, and the brides are in a couple of different phases. You either have that really intelligent bride that knows what she wants and knows she can get it from you and is willing to connect with you to make that happen. You’ve got the zilla that walks in and says you are gonna do this my way or the highway. Or, you get the bride that, and we call them the fantasy land brides. And again, if there are any brides listening, this is more industry talk, but there’s a point to all of this.
And we get the brides who are kind of in that whole zone of look at me, I’m the bride. And they’re kind of floating on cloud nine. And they feel like fairy dust is gonna solve all the problems. Not that they’re a bad bride, they’re not bad brides, but when we have to reel them in a little bit and bring them down to earth and say listen, we understand you want Tinkerbell, but Tinkerbell isn’t gonna fly in.
David Elmasian: But here’s the thing, Rob, I look at that as a positive thing for you. And the reason I say that is because you have enough experience and knowledge to be able to identify those things, what I see that as is okay, you know what to expect therefore you can make the most of that situation rather than turning it into a negative thing.
Rob Peters: Exactly. And that’s been one of our keys to success. We’ve been very fortunate. We work with anybody who calls us. We will work with you and if we’re not the company for you, I’m not gonna waste your time and try to convince you that I am.
David Elmasian: Sure, you can’t be everything to everyone. That’s just impossible.
Rob Peters: It’s totally impossible. For us now, I would rather say to a client listen, I’m not a good fit but you know what? I know who is and let me give you their information. I’ve had an impeccable reputation in Boston doing mobile work for the 30, I’ve been in it 32 years now and I keep friendly with other DJs because I’ve had my life collapse on a Friday afternoon where I’ve had to go to the hospital for a loved one and I’ve had to stop prepping and getting ready and it’s gone from that to a contingency plan of okay, I’m calling my office manager and she’s now filling that event. It’s happened twice in the time I’ve been in business. And luckily it’s only been twice, but the one thing I think a lot of people forget, and that doesn’t matter what kind of an event you’re planning, is at the end of the day, we are human, too. And we have to explain to people we have family emergencies and deaths in our family and we get sick. And we sometimes need a day off.
It’s the perception of juggling all of that to keep everybody happy. And again, my problems aren’t my customer’s problems, but at the same time I want to make sure that we’re covering what we do.
David Elmasian: But that’s also why you’re a professional organization. And again, you and I are not in similar businesses, but again, going back to some of the people that we talk to, like I mentioned, my brother’s nephew’s uncle’s cousin kid brother, well same thing. They’ll say we have a guy. And nothing wrong with a company saying they have a guy for their IT stuff, but is that guy always gonna be available when they need them because that guy has a life? And I remember, when I was a guy, and it was just me, I remember one of our goals was I want to make enough money regularly on a weekly basis to be able to go away on vacation. Well we reach that and guess what? We went away on our vacation and I was miserable the whole vacation. You know why?
Rob Peters: You were worried about your business.
David Elmasian: Exactly. I was worried that one of my customers was gonna have a problem and I wasn’t gonna be there for them. And guess what? When I came back? When I talked to some of my customers, they felt exactly the same way. They’re like Dave, I was kind of worried that if something went wrong, you weren’t gonna be there. And that was legitimate concern. So by having a professional organization, yes, there may be some cost involved with that, but there’s also a huge benefit as well. Because like you said, if you have that event, wedding, whatever, planned for the 15th of the month, you have to deliver. They’re not gonna say no big deal, right?
Rob Peters: You’re exactly right. You brought something up and you talked about change. The other thing that has changed is back then, I used to, when I was off, I used to be able to have a weekend off. And I used to be able to … Now I find, now that I’m older and I enjoy camping, I have to plot my weekends off two years in advance. That’s hard because you don’t want to pass up on the ideal client that’s sitting in front of you, but at the same time it’s that whole balance. And that’s another thing I learned. The other big change we’ve had is we started off as more of a wedding and party company, and approximately 14 years ago, we fell into the kid entertainment business completely, I don’t want to say by accident, but it kind of literally fell into our laps.
My mentor, when I left my day job in ’98, my mentor was a guy named John Allo, he was a DJ out of Rockland, and he was the guy that I really looked up to. I wanted marketing materials just like John’s, I wanted my face on … he used to have his business card with his face on it. I’m like I want that! He took me under his wing and he taught me a lot of things about the business. And we became really good friends and it was great because I lived in Abington, he lives in Rockland, so we’d meet for coffee and stuff. We were driving to Maine to speak, I had just written a book for the DJ industry and I was going to practice my keynote speech on a group of DJs in Maine. Talk about how cool is that?
David Elmasian: Full circle, right.
Rob Peters: And I agreed to drive John. And we’re driving up to Maine and he’s telling me about this awesome concept he had called a bubble party. And he’s like, these are like shooting fish in a barrel, daycares love it.
David Elmasian: That got your attention.
Rob Peters: And I thought about it for a minute, and again, I had a lot of stuff going on, I had just written a book, I was about to be speaking to DJ groups from across the country about how to run their companies as a business. And I’m like yeah, I’m like, “John, that all sounds great.” And he’s like, “You really should get in on this.” And I’m like, “Yeah, well you know what? When things settle down we’ll talk.” And we went out, we did a great job, we drove back, and time went on. About a year later I was coming back from a weekend away, ironically, one of those rare weekends, and he called me, and he said you’ve got to come to the hospital. And I’m like oh, this isn’t good.
And I drove to the hospital and he was in his hospital bed. He had had a heart attack. He had to have a quadruple bypass. And basically, the sheer energy of lifting a 20 lb. case that had a mixer in it would’ve been enough to have ended his life. He was in bad shape. And he asked me to take over his local bubble party business. And I was … I didn’t have kids. And he sat there and he gave me a one-on-one tutorial and he said, “You can go to my house, my wife will meet you there, pick up everything” –
David Elmasian: So hold on Rob, so for those of us who don’t know what the heck a bubble party is, tell us what it is.
Rob Peters: Oh, we’re getting to that.
David Elmasian: All right, go ahead.
Rob Peters: So I go and pick this stuff up and I go and he gave me 15 dates. And it was going to a camp or a day care with kids ages three to eight, and it was dance party so we’re playing music and the kids were dancing and we were turning on bubble machines, and we’re doing interactivity like the limbo and hula-hoops, and having some fun stuff. And I would get out there with a bubble wand and make some big bubbles. And that was a bubble party. And that’s what it still is. We’ve now grown. I did the first one, and he called me up right afterwards and he said come back by the hospital. Because he was still in the hospital. And we sat down and he debriefed me a little bit. And I wound up doing these and I took the entire business over for him. And it was … he couldn’t do it anymore. He started working on something that I wound up taking over after he passed away in 2007 where he developed a plan to sell to DJs around the world on how to do these shows.
But I took the ball and I ran with this and it was literally, I started with 13 shows that day in the hospital. I ended that summer doing about 40 shows at an average price of, geeze, about $125 a pop. The next year –
David Elmasian: Pop, no pun intended.
Rob Peters: No pun intended. And that’s what a bubble part is. It’s a kid’s party, ages three to seven, we do them outside, mostly, or we can go inside in a room with carpeting. And we do a lot of movement, interactive dances, music the kids know, and we bring out two big bubble machines that produce about 200 bubbles a minute and we let them play in the bubbles. And it’s now gone educational where I actually do a little bit more about how a bubble is made and I give the kids an opportunity to have some fun. And we’re actually expanding the show this year where we’ve got some new toys that’ve come out in the industry that allow us to do more with the bubbles. So it’s a lot of fun.
David Elmasian: Good, clean, fun.
Rob Peters: No pun intended. And it’s taken off. And what’s great about this, and this is where the big change with my business went, I was finding that the same people were booking year after year after year. And I’m like wow. I go out and do a show and they’re already calling me back for next year, and I don’t have to market to them, I don’t have to do an expo, I don’t have to in most cases meet with them.
David Elmasian: A beautiful thing, right?
Rob Peters: And I used to work at Disney. And one of the things that we found at Disney is 75 to 80% of the people who go to Walt Disney World this year will go next year. It’s the same thing with these bubble parties. And that was one of the biggest changes we implemented at RPE all the way around. We’ll still take the one-shot, the one moment in your life, your wedding, your Bar or Bat Mitzvah, your 40th birthday. But we are now focusing on working with customers where it is an annual thing and they’re coming back to us year after year after year and going what you got that’s new? I have an event coming up, and it’s funny, I’m working with the woman right now. Last year, she calls me up and she says, “You did my wedding, we had so much fun, this is what we do. A bunch of us get together, we have a big weekend at our house. And we usually do like a game night or something like that, we cook food and we have a big slumber party and it’s all grownups.” I’m like, “Sounds like fun.” She says, “We want you to come in and do Feud in our living room.”
So, we show up at this house, we pull everything in, we plug into her TV, and there were all on, it was guys versus girls. And we did Family Feud in the living room, we call it Fantastic Feud. And it was a blast. And she’s like we absolutely want to have you back next year, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And that’s always humbling to hear. It’s even more humbling when they call. And she called me in the beginning of the month and she says to me, “We’re planning our date, hold the date, what do you have that’s new?” And it’s customers like that, not that we don’t want the other ones, I like moving the business in this direction.
David Elmasian: How many people who are gonna get married, most people are gonna get married once, twice, maybe three times?
Rob Peters: We never get the second wedding, for some reason. We never get the third one. Although we did get a couple of calls for some divorce parties and that’s a whole other story for another podcast.
David Elmasian: Right. But no, like you said, that recurring business, the recurring revenue, like you said, your customers that have had that experience with you, you don’t have to sell them again. Like you said, you have to change what you’re offering slightly to keep it fresh, keep it up to date, but they’ve already bought from you. They’ve voted with your business, in a sense, so why not, like we’ve said, work with those people because again, it’s not a one-shot deal.
Rob Peters: It’s the best feeling in the world. Even with the brides, and I’ve knocked that around a little bit. It’s great when you get a phone call and I saw you at Bill and Tammy’s wedding and you were phenomenal and are you available? You’re exactly what we want for our wedding. It is so humbling, it’s nice to be at that point, and I’ve always wanted to be at this point. I feel like I’m sitting on top of the world most days and doing what I do. The kid stuff just fell in our laps and now we’ve expanded. We now have magicians and face painters and clowns and we’ve expanded it into we actually are launching our own kids expo in Kingston coming up in April. It’s great to be able to be in this industry this long. I’ve seen a lot of my counterparts have to leave and take day jobs, retire. I’ve had a couple of them, unfortunately that due to health issues and stuff have had to leave the industry all together. It’s great to still be here. I’m having a lot of fun. And I guess that’s the big thing. I’m having a lot of fun, I’m making a great living at it, and I see being around for a little while longer, I guess you could say.
David Elmasian: Well I’m sure. And again, it goes back to what I was saying about being a creative person. People appreciate, because not everybody can do the things that you can do. Now I’m not talking about the technical aspects of it, but the creativity and, like you said, even just being able to get in front of a group of people. Most people, I would say a very high percent, like you mentioned about the whole Seinfeld quote, would be deathly terrified, or worse, they’d be terrible at it. And I think that’s the part to me that I think is that missed opportunity and it’s so frustrating because every business has customers that you know that they’re the perfect customer but they don’t get it. And you get it, but they don’t get it. And that’s just so frustrating because you know there’s a better way. But what are you gonna do?
Rob Peters: It’s interesting when we bring in new talent. And there are times where we, like we’ve been working on new trivia hosts, because our bar business, 10 nights a week, I don’t want to be working 10 nights a week, or 10 events a week for that matter. I want to be sitting at home and –
David Elmasian: If you can work 10 nights a week, let me know. That’s a great productivity tip there.
Rob Peters: But to bring them in, it’s funny because we look for, there are certain things, you talk about looking for things. You look for actors, teachers, and comedians that can all stand in front of a crowd. They can all change at the drop of a hat. And they can basically speak in public. There are people who come in and you sit there and you’re like wow, okay. Wow factor. And there are some people that come in and it’s like –
David Elmasian: Not a wow factor.
Rob Peters: Well not even a wow factor, you might not be a good fit for this job but the funny thing is I try to make so that, for example, my DJs are all versed on how to run a photo booth because there are times where I need a photo booth person and my photo booth people are either out sick or not available.
David Elmasian: Or booked, or whatever. Sure.
Rob Peters: Exactly. It’s nice to be able to give that opportunity and to have some … Again, it’s about having fun and that’s the one thing I try to tell the public is planning your event, whatever it is, should not stress you out. You should be working with professional people that you trust. And if you trust them enough, they’re gonna make doing what you have to do beforehand fun. And if you can do that, the day of your event, you’re not gonna be sitting there going how’s this Rob Peters guy gonna do for us? You’re gonna be like oh my gosh, Rob, we are ready for the best time. Go make this happen for us. And the results end up speaking for themselves.
David Elmasian: And that’s really what it’s all about. We’ve got to wrap things up, Rob. I know you and I could talk for a very much longer period of time.
Rob Peters: Sure, why not?
David Elmasian: We’ll squeeze in one last segment, which is the one we always put in all our podcasts because I am a geek at heart. No tough questions on this, I promise, all right? The stuff you could ask me would be a lot tougher then. So are you a Mac or a PC guy?
Rob Peters: PC.
David Elmasian: PC. Okay. How about iPhone or Android?
Rob Peters: I started with an iPhone, but I feel a little more comfortable with Android.
David Elmasian: All right, okay. Let’s do social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, all of the above, none of the above?
Rob Peters: I am very proficient with Facebook and LinkedIn. I have tried my hand at Twitter, just can’t do it. And my Instagram account was actually managed by my office manager. So we have a presence, but I’m more comfortable with Facebook and LinkedIn.
David Elmasian: Okay, how about Netflix or Hulu?
Rob Peters: Netflix. Absolutely.
David Elmasian: I’m always pulling for Hulu. Nobody ever answers Hulu. Poor Hulu.
Rob Peters: I’ve looked at Hulu but I haven’t been able, I haven’t done enough research, I guess you can say. So it’s got a fair shot in my house.
David Elmasian: You don’t have to explain, everybody picks Netflix. I just like rooting for the underdog, I guess. How about Roku, Apple TV, or Chromecast?
Rob Peters: Neither.
David Elmasian: None of the above?
Rob Peters: Because I don’t use any of them.
David Elmasian: Okay, all right, that’s good.
Rob Peters: At all. And I probably should look into that because I’m sure that there are ways for us to implement that.
David Elmasian: How about, now we’re getting a little Geeky here, but that’s okay. Gmail or Outlook? Do you use any one of those?
Rob Peters: I’ve got to say yes to both. Believe it or not –
David Elmasian: He’s ambidextrous.
Rob Peters: I have nine different emails.
David Elmasian: I believe it.
Rob Peters: And it’s everything from my personal email to for bubble parties, for the business program we sell to DJs, to I have bubbles@robpetersentertainment, photo booth, I mean I juggle that many. I average, on the average day, about a hundred emails and most of them are junk.
David Elmasian: C’mon, you’re talking to the wrong guy on that one. Nine emails? Nine emails is what I do in a day as far as accounts, I’m not even talking about the emails. No, I’m joking. All right, now how about this one? And I’m going out on a limb a little bit on this one, I could be way off, but I’m gonna take a shot. Yamaha or Presonous, am I saying it right? Pre-S-O-N-O-U-S?
Rob Peters: I’ve never heard of Presonous.
David Elmasian: So how about Yamaha equipment as opposed to Bose, or what kind of equipment do you feel like hey, if budget was not a consideration, I would buy?
Rob Peters: And you know what’s funny is this week is the NAM show, which is the big show where all the manufacturer’s show off their new toys. I’ve used Yamaha. I had a really good run with a set of Yamaha powered speakers when I converted. And they lasted me four or five years and they were powerhouses. Now, I do a lot of stuff with EV, Dead on DJ makes a lot of stuff that we use. And Sennheiser for the microphones because I find that I can go from where we are right now into the parking lot with my wireless mic from Sennheiser and not have a single drop out.
David Elmasian: And that’s kind of important.
Rob Peters: It’s kind of important depending on where you’re going and leaving it on. Going to the men’s room and leaving it on, probably not a good idea.
David Elmasian: Not a good idea, no. Well, Rob, what a story, I know we can talk very much longer. But we’re out of time. Before we finish up, how do people get ahold of you if they want to do business with you?
Rob Peters: You can go to one of my nine email … no. Real simple, you want to call our office. If you’re gonna do it by phone, 781-848-4235. You can email me at, the best one to get me at is firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find us online, we have every brand that we have, every service we have is branded. So think of Coca-Cola for a second, Coca-Cola has Sprite, Diet Coke, Mug root beer, it’s the same thing with us. Rob Peters Entertainment’s kind of like the big one, but we have funnyfacephotobooths.com, bubblemusicman.com, bubbleparties.com.
David Elmasian: See, too many to list.
Rob Peters: Game Shot Parties of Boston is gameshowboston.com. Just go to Rob Peters Entertainment, our new website’s gonna be able to direct you to where you want to go. And we’d love to help anybody listening make their events exceptional because that’s what they should be. They should be fun enough that your guests don’t want to go home.
David Elmasian: Well thanks for joining us on the Hub of Success and sharing your story, Rob.
Rob Peters: Thank you.