Sonja's Blog: The Benefits & Struggles Of Being An Executive Momager
I have been in the entertainment business for two decades and in recent years, I’ve seen that more people are getting involved as an artist manager with their family members. It’s always great to have a trustworthy member of your family involved in your career. However, the key is ensuring that they have a full understanding of how to conduct business and that they have the fundamental management skills and principles to conduct business. Many artists today are represented by their crew (i.e. homies, cousins, extended family who are really just a part of their entourage) and are not prepared to take on the task that being a manager will demand.
You must be aware that most people in the entertainment business won't respect a family manager in the beginning; you’re just not received well and there is often a very long road to convincing those in the business that you know what you’re doing and that you can truly enhance the career of your family member. One of the ground rules that must be established in the parent-manager relationship, is that you must never barter, leverage or bargain your artist…I never played that game. I wouldn’t sell my artist or my family member out for the benefit of money or to establish a relationship with other people.
As a parent-manager, you have the personal insight into what your artist is truly about. In terms of my children, I know who they are personally; I know what they like and dislike and have always prided myself in being a manager that is adept at building careers. I’m not in it for the short term or a quick lucrative payday. In fact, in my forthcoming book, I cover the various types of business executives that I’ve dealt with over my many years as an executive and how to deal with their personality models…this will include the managers.
Personally, I have prided myself on being what I call an “Artist Manager”; this means that my artist comes first. It’s my job as their manager to seek and secure those things that they ask for and at the same time provide information and guidance in areas that will enhance their career. As an executive, I have to run a business and as a mother, I have to run a household…not easy, but you get the hang of it and find that the roles aren’t so different from each other. They all require great management skills!
"As a parent-manager, you have the personal insight into what your artist is truly about."
On the flip side, being the mother and the manager comes with a very different set of struggles and obstacles than those that a traditional manager would have to face. In addition, I also had to learn to balance the art of being a female in a male dominated industry. It required me to toughen up and as they say, get thick skin…I also had to learn to take risks and drive my way through the unfamiliar areas to gain respect. As an entrepreneur and executive, I had to learn to play the game of business in the same way that everyone else in the business does, but as a mother, I refused to play by the conventional management rules when representing my children.
One of the hardest things for me early on was learning to decipher when I was the mom and when I was the manager. When you have children that are under 18, you have the privilege of handling many of their career decisions along with their involvement, but at such a young age, they lack the understanding of the intricacies of doing business. So, when you go to them and ask them if they’d like to play a role or be a part of a project, they embrace the opportunities but they don’t understand all of the underlying issues that go into making that project come to fruition and making the best deal for them.
Although "Mama Said" – “Never do business with family”…because it’s almost impossible to separate personal from business when it involves family, it has worked successfully for me. You will find, before you make decisions, you have to put all of your options on the table and look toward the future. The consequence of making the wrong decision, especially as a parent, can be particularly brutal when dealing with family. In those situations your family client may place more blame and scrutiny on you for making a wrong decision, than a client would in a non-parental business relationship.
In spite of the tumultuous road, personally it has been rewarding for me to see Brandy and Ray J blossom and grow as business people and artists. It’s also been a new learning experience, as I have to watch as they may make their own mistakes, now that they are making their own decisions...good or bad, they must deal with it. The same goes for me now that I have my own brand. I too am learning a new side to management, as I now not only manage, but at times I have to be managed. We all have our individual opportunities but I support my family as a manager and as a mother; realizing that with growth comes struggle, but in the end the decisions we make will help us all become sharper business people for the future.