As managing partner of Elegant Music Group, Tom Gambuzza helps the company deliver first-class event entertainment to every occasion, from weddings to corporate gatherings. The company provides live music, DJs, and other professional musicians that can give top-notch entertainment no matter the occasion, and according to the client’s personal specifications.
As he recalls, Tom Gambuzza started out in the events industry right out of college, when he was offered a full-time position at a “small event and fundraising company.” At the time, their customers consisted mostly of elementary schools, and they would oversee their fundraising campaigns during the year. While working for the company, he learned to DJ, which he turned into a side gig, until his customer base eventually grew big enough to turn it into a full-time job.
At EMG, Tom Gambuzza provides deluxe entertainment for parties and weddings while keeping in mind the company’s mission to deliver excellent customer service at the same time. According to his clients, Tom “was the perfect fit,” and “one of the best of the best to work with.” Tom is willing to collaborate with the client so that he could meet all their needs while still being able to create the perfect atmosphere required by the occasion. He also takes the client’s musical vision very seriously, and crafts “an amazing, fun, professional vibe” for the event.
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Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Tom Gambuzza: In the events industry, especially when dealing with performers, there is no shortage of ego. Early on in growing EMG, one of our core principles was to never have ego and self-absorption be a part of our company culture or brand. While others are more apt to dish the “I’s”, for us, it’s all about “we”. It’s our belief that if we take care of the company, it will take care of us. Furthermore, this concept had to come from the top. As a business owner, my partners and I need to practice what we preach and lead by action. For example, when the pandemic first hit, our income streams were, of course, impacted pretty significantly. We huddled up and exhausted all of our options to see where we could nip and tuck company expenses, limit luxuries, and negotiate with vendors to salvage company cash flow. As the owners, we also knew that it was our responsibility to take a pay cut as well, which we did. This helped us retain our employees throughout the mess, and now we are in a much stronger financial position to move our company forward only several months removed from what could have been a much more catastrophic reality.
Jerome Knyszewski: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Tom Gambuzza: Balance is key and focus on what you are good at. Let’s start with balance. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the day to day grind of growing your business and doing onlythat. While putting in the work is important, you need to make time for yourself and for your family. The people closest to you are often your biggest cheerleaders so consuming their energy will help you stay motivated when you’re back in the trenches growing your company. Next, focus on your strengths and hire your weaknesses. Focusing on what you are good at is not only best for you personally, but best for your business. We all possess a unique skill set that can be utilized for pushing the bar forward. Wasting time on things you are subpar at will leave you uninspired and feeling inefficient. Doing things you’re good at, however, will positively reinforce your motivation.
Jerome Knyszewski: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Tom Gambuzza: My wife has been my rock and main support system throughout my journey. I can’t take full credit for making the decision to leave my full-time job because she was the one who inspired me to do so. I remember coming home one night after a series of frustrating days at my previous job and complaining to her about all the things I was unhappy with. She sat me down and told me to go in and resign the next day. My knee jerk reaction was that I can’t simply just do that. What am I supposed to do about a paycheck? It was at that moment she said we’re in this together and we’ll figure it out because my happiness was too important to her. You could see why I asked her to marry me, right? Needless to say, she’s the best teammate I could ever ask for.
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?
Tom Gambuzza: I think a “good” company is one that has been able to establish a solid reputation, has admirable business practices, and lifestyle sustainability. To me, though, it’s more or less a “go through the motions” kind of operation. I think a “great” company encompasses all of those things, but focuses on growth at a few different levels. There’s business growth and then there’s personal growth. On the business side, increased revenue, profits, new hires, and socially responsible initiatives are all markings of a great company. I think a great company also motivates its team to continually grow and prosper individually. When people feel like they are doing meaningful work, comradery is high, and team goals are aligned, the company moves in the right direction and everyone involved reaps the benefits.
Jerome Knyszewski: What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
Tom Gambuzza: You have to become more analytical and not be afraid of being your own worst critic. If the old tricks just aren’t working anymore, it’s time to look inward and audit your operation. For example, a $10 million business has to ask itself much different questions than a $1 million business. Are you exploring new marketing efforts and how are you actively trying to widen your sales funnel? Have you indulged in personal growth strategies or thought about linking up with a mentor? Are you surrounded by others who want to continue to grow with you? Finding new projects and expanding your network with the right people will help you re-spark your enthusiasm and propel forward with vigor.
Jerome Knyszewski: Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
Tom Gambuzza: Having the fortitude to march forward during turbulent times is certainly not for the faint of heart. For many, this current pandemic has presented challenges that no business has had to navigate before which makes everything especially difficult. I think the most successful people/businesses face adversity head on because they know that the alternative is shriveling up, and that simply is just not an option. The main strategy we used was a “buy low” mentality. Luckily, we were in a healthy enough financial position to stave off some of the dips that came with COVID, but we still had to deploy some unique strategies too. We audited our monthly expenses to become more lean, and negotiated with vendors to try and get more flexible payment terms to help with our cash flow. In addition, while most of our competitors adopted a “hoarding” mentality to hold on to what they had, we proactively tried to find new business by coming up with creative ways to expand our sales funnel. We are now forecasting to come out of the pandemic stronger than we were before.
Jerome Knyszewski: In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Tom Gambuzza: My answer to this is always centered around marketing. We all know that it’s important, but I see so many companies doing it incorrectly. Whether that is from a brand messaging or strategy standpoint, there is just always something to learn when it comes to marketing your business, especially now during such a digital age. There’s SEO, PPC, Social, Email, Website, and the list goes on. How do you keep track of it all? It’s no longer enough to just have a great website. We’re constantly making tweaks to our strategies and looking at how we balance the allocation of our marketing budget on a monthly basis. It’s practically a second full-time job!
Jerome Knyszewski: Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?
Tom Gambuzza: I think a great customer experience comes down to accessibility, the resources you give to your customers throughout their life cycle with you, and delivering on your brand promise. Great customer service simply cannot exist without a direct line of contact for your customers. In our business, we pride ourselves on our customers always being able to get a hold of us. The resources your customers have access to are equally as important. This can be an easily navigable website, technology features, and a frictionless buying experience. For us, we’ve invested heavily in the UX/UI design of our site, and we use third party applications to help our clients plan their celebrations more seamlessly. We then bring things full circle with exceptional talent and performers to give our clients an immersive event experience.
Jerome Knyszewski: What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveysof United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.
Tom Gambuzza: I don’t quite share this concern for our company, but I do see why businesses can look at it like this. Social media today is used in a way that wasn’t originally intended, and it certainly has the capacity to open up your business to unwanted exposure. With much more sensitive issues at hand in society these days, it can be confusing to navigate what posts are appropriate or misguided. If your intention continually comes from a good place, I think you can use social media to your advantage and not worry about the associated risk.
Jerome Knyszewski: What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Tom Gambuzza: Trying to grow too quickly without having the proper infrastructure. You will inevitably run into roadblocks, especially when first starting out. Having proper structure and processes in place will help you overcome the speed bumps when necessary without throwing you too far off-course.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Tom Gambuzza: You can find me personally on Instagram @emg_tommy and you can see everything EMG here:
Spotify: The EMG Podcast
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!